Thursday, July 06, 2006

A Canterbury Tale: U.S. Episcopalians in Manufactured Schism

Peter Laarman holding forth on today's The Huffignton Post


Whose side is the Archbishop of Canterbury on?

That's what some moderate and liberal Episcopalians would like to know in the wake of Rowan Williams' rather chilly response to goings-on at the recently concluded Episcopalian convention in Ohio. Those goings-on included the election of a new Presiding Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Katherine Jefferts Schori.

The worldwide Anglican Communion, headed by Williams, certainly appears to be giving American liberals the back-of-the-hand treatment while extending a generous right hand of fellowship to dissident U.S. conservatives. There is some possibility that Williams will not even allow the new Presiding Bishop to participate in the 2008 Lambeth Conference -- a global gathering of all Anglican leaders that takes place once each decade. That would be a humiliating rebuke to the U.S. church.

On its face the fight is all about gender and sexuality. According to the Washington Post, Jefferts Schori once dared to use the expression "Mother Jesus" in a sermon; far worse in the eyes of conservatives, she allowed same-sex blessings to take place in the Diocese of Nevada, which she headed prior to her election, and she voted in the House of Bishops to endorse the consecration of openly gay V. Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire.

Alleged deviations like these have caused American conservatives to declare a state of schism within the U.S. church. Six of the denomination's 111 dioceses already say they do not recognize the new Presiding Bishop's authority. More are expected to do so before Jeffords Schori is consecrated at Washington's National Cathedral in November. So who will shepherd these departing American dioceses? The heroic defender of true faith among conservative Episcopalians is Bishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria. The wily and ambitious Akinola has been busily extending his reach in the U.S., even appointing some American clerics (mainly those with big and wealthy parishes) to be his junior bishops in setting up what amounts to an alternative denomination. So here is a rich historical oddity: while conservative Roman Catholic hierarchs recently declined the idea of an African pope, conservative Anglican hierarchs actually seem to have selected one.

How very Evelyn Waugh to see some pink-white American church leaders, many of them xenophobes in their secular politics, eagerly putting themselves under the jurisdiction of an African prelate! But the irony isn't much discussed among progressive Episcopalians, committed as they are to a multicultural vision. After all, they must be thinking, we once "missionized" most of the conservative Africans, Asians, and Latins who now hold the balance of power within worldwide Anglicanism; we gave them the Bibles they now quote against us; we need to hunker down and try to make some kind of peace over this.

It's the old liberals' dilemma, ecclesiastical version. They fight dirty; we don't. They organize; we temporize. They seize the pendulum and give it a rightward shove; we wait meekly for the pendulum to swing back.

The liberals could at least point out -- and I hope that Bishop Jefferts Schori will be the first to do so -- how shamelessly the rift within the U.S. denomination has been manipulated and exacerbated for many years by a little-known but well-financed and quite deadly operation called the Institute for Religion and Democracy (IRD).

Created by cunning Schactmanites and by ex-CIA operatives during the time of Reagan's dirty wars in Central America, the IRD's core work plan has always called for dividing and disabling the larger Mainline Protestant denominations -- the Episcopalians, Presbyterians, United Methodists, and Evangelical Lutherans -- using any means necessary. The means that has worked best by far is relentlessly flogging the issue of homosexuality and accusing religious progressives of departing from the true faith by preaching that God really does love everybody.

Thanks to the IRD's skillful fingering of this hot button through the different front groups it operates within each body, all four national denominations have been pretty much AWOL from the more urgent moral debates this moment: e.g., imperial wars of choice, torture, civil liberties, Katrina, climate change, and economic terrorism from above. The denoms just don't have the energy. Nearly all their attention and focus have been consumed by internal debates on matters Levitical.

I was reliably informed that the IRD operated right out in the open at the Episcopal convention back there in Columbus. And why shouldn't they crawl out of the woodwork and get kinda jiggy at this point? In Ohio they scored their biggest coup in a quarter-century of patient stalinoid boring from within.

One final irony: several of the guiding spirits in forming the IRD went on to create the intellectual foundations of the Bush-Cheney "dominance doctrine." So it's not that these folks doubt for one minute that Americans should rule the world; they are in fact quite passionately committed to taking up the White Man's Burden. It's just that in order for American dominance to be secured against all possible sources of domestic opposition, the liberal churches needed to be silenced. And for this purpose, what better CIA-like cover could possibly be contrived than multicultural deference to the spiritual interests and biblical views of the very same ex-colonials -- Africans, Asians, and Latins -- whose material interests and worldly aspirations our peerless American Empire will continue to shunt aside with total and utter contempt.


BabyBlue said...

Tin Foil Hat Alert!

John Gibson said...

Good piece. Particularly the tie-in between the primitives and the lunatic fringe.

GL+ said...

Conspiracy theory does nothing to further our conversations or understandings. (IMHO) Nor does name calling - on either side. Primatives? Lunatic fringe? Tin foil hat alert? How about brothers & sisters in Christ?

Anonymous said...

I am a member of a church that has sought refuge with other elements of the Anglican Communion; we are not part of a worldwide conspiracy.

We are simply convicted that Holy Scripture is the final word on the cultural issues of the day, and that there is no reasonable intepretation of Scripture that allows some of the innovations that you and others believe are merited. We believe that we are no longer one church, and that the infighting that we are seeing is destructive.

I recognize you disagree, respect your ability to do so, and admire your obvious intellect and writing and speaking skills.

Can we seperate in peace?

revsusan said...

anonymous ... good questions ... but good questions not for me but for those calling the American Church "a cancer" in the body of Anglicanism and those insisting that it is not possible to live with differences ... those insisting that nothing short of voting us off the Anglican Island will suffice.

Let's ask those whose stated, on the record reason for remaining in the Episcopal Church is "I like a good fight" to account for the destructive infighting that is indeed getting in the way of the church -- all of the church -- getting on with its call to be the Body of Christ in the world.

GL+ said...

Many - on all sides of the current "mess" - agree that ++Akinola's statements are beyond the pale. Many on the "conserving" side of the aisle also cringed at Anderson's statement of liking a "good fight." That is certainly NOT a good reason for staying in the church (or anywhere else, for that matter). The question remains of where can we find common ground?

John Gibson said...

"Can we seperate in peace? "


John Gibson said...

"How about brothers & sisters in Christ? "

As far as I'm concerned, we left that in the dust about the time they started advancing the "plumbing theory" of appropriate sexual attraction.

It would be nice if this were all tea and cucumber sandwiches, but it isn't. Hasn't been for years.

Lorian said...

gl+ said...

"The question remains of where can we find common ground?"

How about gathered around the Table, drinking from the same cup and eating from the same loaf on Sunday morning?

This, to me, is the epitome of common ground. Everything else is just noise and dust and empty space.

Keep still; hear the silence; reach out with the heart. I am a member of one Body, along with Rowan Williams, Peter Akinola, Susan Russell, James Dobson, Lou Sheldon, George Bush, Katharine Jefferts Schori, Robert Duncan, David Anderson, Benedict XVI, babyblue, gl+, John Gibson, and everyone else who joins together at the Table, who reaches out to touch the Divinity, who stills the soul before the Creator.

Weiwen Ng said...

although I come from the far-left side of the theological aisle, I have to agree that some of the assertions made against the IRD sound like consipracy theories. however, some of the assertions are also credible.

Following the Money, a report available on the Diocese of Washington website, is a report about the IRD and some of its activities. it asserts that the IRD was initially founded by neo-conservatives to counter the perceived liberal or socialist policies of the World Council of Churches, and started off by attacking liberation theology. considering the amount of vitriol directed against liberation theology, I find this one assertion plausible.

however, it is important for all of us to remember that disagreements about homosexuality would be present without the IRD. they have aided conservatives in the Anglican Communion, but there would still be calls for a split without their aid. Christians of sincere faith have come to quite different conclusions about homosexuality.

it is my hope that as anonymous said, we can separate in peace. I also hope that we can work together in missions where we find common ground: the Millenium Development Goals would be one instance, I hope. perhaps the IRD is trying to distract us from ending war and poverty, perhaps it isn't. but what they are or are not trying to do should not be allowed to distract us.

tony said...

John, you sound pretty angry. I'm not feeling the inclusive love from you. Please explain. And, by the way, are you a cradle Episcopalian? I like to find out who it is who is inviting me to leave the church I was raised in.

DF in Massachusetts said...


I can't speak for John. But as for me people who have been clamoring for decades to leave are welcome to do so. I hope they find a suitable home.

My hunch, however, is that this segment fears leaving because they know the tactics they've used to alienate others would soon be turned against them by their own "allies" once they left. It's quite clear that they prefer to be an irritant to others rather than authentically live what they preach. They prefer this because it's safer for them, and it's safer for them because they realize deep down that daring to be vulnerable and broken with other Christians is simply too personally painful and humiliating. How very sad that this self-styled "orthodox" segment is so ashamed of being vulnerable that they feel compelled to try to inflict pain on others.

As for the "cradle Episcopalian" business, give it a rest. We have no canons, resolutions, or anything else in our church that differentiate between someone baptized as an infant in The Episcopal Church as compared to someone who was confirmed an Episcopalian last Sunday at the age of 85.

Episcopalians are Episcopalians... trying to manufacture a wedge based on when when people were received into the church is un-orthodox, un-biblical, and downright bad form.

John Gibson said...

"John, you sound pretty angry."

I have no tolerance for pointless wrangling. We don't agree. We never will. End of story.

"I like to find out who it is who is inviting me to leave the church I was raised in."

Stay if you wish; just understand that gay or lesbian Episcopalians are going to be fully included. I personally don't care what you think about my sexual orientation, even though it seems to bother you powerfully.

RudigerVT said...

Tony, I'm a 3rd-generation Episcopalian, which for an Okie, is practically back to the middle ages. My grandfather's name is on the charter of the church that raised me -- a church later destroyed by a misbehaving deacon who took a bet that he could incite a scism. As you might imagine, my Mother's church thus became pretty uncomfortable for her; she left. It basically disintegrated.

So please, don't talk to me about who's got the ECUSA bona fides or about who's losing or lost the most.


tony said...

John, it has been said often and ignored by you and others that the issue is not orientation; it is behavior. Gays and lesbians will always be welcomed in God's Church on God's terms as God has revealed them in Scripture. If you or your church dispense with what God has revealed you may be in a church, but you're not in a Christian one.

btw - you didn't answer my question, are you who wish me to leave the Episcopal Church a cradle Episcopalian?

tony said...


I'm sorry it offends you that I ask about a person's length of experience in ecusa. My thesis is that most of those agitating for change in ecusa are converts. Obviously from your post you are not and neither is Susan.
But again, sorry for the offense to you, and with all due respect, I will continue to ask the question.

John Gibson said...

"it has been said often and ignored by you and others that the issue is not orientation; it is behavior."

Sorry, Tony, I'm not celibate. Never have been. I just don't find women - any of them - sexually attractive and never have.

"are you who wish me to leave the Episcopal Church a cradle Episcopalian? "

I'm not telling you to leave; you seem to feel that you don't want to stay. But if you do and if you do on terms acceptable to the rest of us, please do.

"My thesis is that most of those agitating for change in ecusa are converts."

Well by all means, let's get rid of THEM! I mean what's the point if you invite just any old body to join.

Anonymous said...

And, to Tony's point, we should welcome them (gays and lesbians) into the church and then stone them, because that's what the Bible says to do.

We should also make sure that the damn women keep their mouths shut, because that's what the Bible says to do.

We should also treat our slaves nicely, because that's what the Bible says to do. (Note to self- go get some slaves so I can treat them nicely).

We should also not get married because Paul didn't like it and only saw it as a very final step if you were just bursting with sexual energy and couldn't contain yourself, because that's what the Bible says to do. My, we have an awful lot of straight folks who can't contain themselves, don't we? Who can't uphold the Biblical instructions for when to get married?

I'm for it. Let's uphold these Biblical truths. Tony, you first. Where would you like me to meet you so you can stone me? My place or yours? And will you have your wife gagged during the process or not? Or, are you not married because you are so self-controlled that you were able to follow Paul's recommendation on this matter of marriage and sexual fidelity?

Oh, I forgot Tony- you are a cradle Episcopalian. That gives you the right to be a hypocrite. Sorry, never mind. I thought you were just a mere newbie, like me. Forget about it.

inked said...

The ABC would seem to be on the side of the faithful through time and space and not merely those concerned with one issue - autonomy. That would put him on the side of the angels, Tradition, faithful ANGLICANs and Jesus.

John Gibson said...

anon (3:03), you forgot divorce! Divorced people who remarry commit adultery and we know what happens to them!

Peter M. Vermigli said...

Rev. Susan, you said "Let's ask those whose stated, on the record reason for remaining in the Episcopal Church is "I like a good fight" to account for the destructive infighting that is indeed getting in the way of the church -- all of the church -- getting on with its call to be the Body of Christ in the world."

So, when the AAC's representative defends his point of view, it's "destructive infighting". When you fight to defend your point of view -- is that "destructive infighting" also?

On another point, the consensus of the left seems to be that it is time for the traditionalists to leave. I'm very sorry to have to tell you that I, for one, intend to stay.

John Gibson said...

"I'm very sorry to have to tell you that I, for one, intend to stay. "

No need for you to apologize. I'm sure we're all glad you're staying.

Peter M. Vermigli said...

John, thanks for the kind words. Though there's not much we agree on, consider me your conservative brother in Christ

inked said...

Ah, but now that General Synod has voted to have women bishops, will the ABC try to hold the line or go on with it to the total destruction of the relations with the Greek and Roman Churches? What a time to live in, eh, Rowan? Surely in your life, as well as ours, is fulfilled that Jewish blessing/curse: "may you live in interesting times"!

And, what's another conspiracy theorist like this author of "manufactured schism" to make of the funding of the liberal inclusivist funding machinations? Does he have a 'theory' about the 3rd shot in Dallas he would care to share? Or you to buy?

On perusing the blog entries today I find that I, for holding reasonably to Traditonal views and arguing for them, am categorized as an "ilk, primitive, lunatic fringe" person. I am tempted to stand and not leave for catholic quarters with Greek or Roman churches until we get some decision regarding the ECUSA status within the AC, but before I decide, would it be too much to ask if I should be drawn and quartered for my conscious stance should I try? Just asking...