Monday, July 06, 2009

"Reforming" the Episcopal Church

Today marks the formation of yet another conservative coalition (the ecclesiastical version of YACC) - the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in the United Kingdom. I believe that, overall, this is a good thing. But it has been tried ad nauseum in the United States with limited success.

The problem with YACC is that conservative Anglicans tend to not be focused on political wrangling nor on long term strategy or even tactics. When it comes to political groups, I'm not much of a joiner. I like politcal wrangling far too much and I enjoy the cut and thrust of parlimentary debate. These are necessary and good things, but they can be so time consuming that I lose focus on Jesus as the goal.

Theology aside, that is my major critique of the liberal/progressive side of the Church. They are politically astute and they organize and plan and strategize much better than the conservative side does. They make their goals clear and their goal is not reconcilliation with God through Jesus Christ. Their goal is the success in implimenting a political goal using the methods learned in the Civil Rights struggles of the 50s and 60s - political activism and civil (ecclesiastical?) disobedience.

The conservatives cannot fight the progressive political machine using the progressives' tools. Reform of the Episcopal Church is a lost cause when we attempt it using political means - especially at the national (General Convention) level. If we are to concentrate on political actions, we need to concentrate at the local levels - vestry members, diocesan convention delegates, members of the Commission on Ministry, Standing Committee, and Executive Committee of the dioceses in which we worship.

But more important than local political wrangling is personal reformation and catechesis - instruction in the faith - for both the laity and the clergy. We need to return to God and let God fight for us. There are so many "conservative coalitions" that are trying to fight politics with politics. We need to recover the goal of union with God through Jesus Christ. Before we can fight politically, we need to fight spiritually. We need to remove our egos from the struggle and work to follow Jesus only. We are too much like the Church in Corinth with different leaders and different factions. I fear that we are repeating the Continuing Anglican mess of the late 70s and 80s where personality conflicts caused a fracture in what could have been a good movement.

So, I remain in TEC. I am not called to reform the Church - that is God's job. I am not even called to reform my diocese or parish. Again, that's God's job. I am not even called to reform myself. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. What am I called to do? First I am called to be faithful in prayer and study of Scriptures to more fully know the mind of God. Second, I am to help others become faithful in prayer and study so they too can more fully know the mind of God. Third, I am to help lead my congregation and my diocese out into ministry in the world. I am to help the Church recall her baptismal covenant and repent where she has fallen - especially the first promise to continue in the Apostles' teaching and fellowship.

Unfortunately, I doubt many on either side of the progressive/conservative divide will listen to me. But, again, my job is not to make them listen. My job is to be faithful in proclaiming God's Word and to help lead the Church to recover what she has lost so she can go into the world and make disciples.

Phil Snyder


Robert said...

I am very concerned about the results of this General Convention. I have a feeling that the liberal leadership is going to use it to hammer in more inroads against the conservative diocese's government of their own diocese.

However, I confess that I don't know how much power the convention has. COULD they "legally" do something that severely affects the individual diocese's ability to make their own decisions on theological matters? I don't know, maybe you could fill me in?


TLF+ said...

Hi, Robert, GC has great power to make theological change, because it can change or replace the Book of Common Prayer.

I think that there is at least one resolution to make the marriage rite "gender neutral."

Also, GC can change the Constitution and Canons - and the proposed disciplinary canon revisions have some really slipper, subjective stuff that could allow for actions that cross diocesan borders - including the harrassment of people for theological reasons.

We also hear rumblings about "revenue sharing" - making dioceses which are preceived as having "much" hand it over for the use of those w/ "less" (but if it passes through 815 2nd Ave., NYC, don't expect the whole amount to get passed on).

Anyway, GC isn't always felt day to day, especially at the parish level. But its impact on the church is considerable.

plsdeacon said...

Legally, does GC have the authority to change the Teaching of the Church? Well, that depends. According to the constitution, TEC is supposed to uphold "The Historic Faith and Order" of the church. But GC does not seem too intent on doing that. I would submit that it lacks the authority to change the faith of the Church and has authority to change the order of the Church in so far as it can set the requirements for ordination, approve dioceses joining GC and other issues of Church order. However, in practice GC has taken on the "tyranny of the Majority" in that it does all sorts of things that are outside of its "brief" or purpose. So, can it do these things? Well, if we let it.

Phil Snyder