Saturday, March 31, 2007

Speaking of ...


Readers of this blog will not be strangers to the argument that the current challenges facing the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion have virtually nothing to do with sexuality, precious little to do with theology and everything to do with power.

It used to be a little lonely on this particular bandwagon but our numbers are growing. In this op-ed in today's Salt Lake Tribune, Michael Mayor outlines the steps-toward-schism and arrives at this conclusion:

Regardless of the primates' intent, this is nothing more than a power grab by one faction. It is the very thing against which the United States fought its Revolutionary War, and it moves Anglicanism far away from its origins by seeking to impose the authority of foreign bishops, an ironic twist since the Church of England's foundation came out of refusal to accept the authority of the Pope.

Meanwhile, Fr. Jake has just posted "The Subversion of the Church From Within" -- an excellent refresher course for those who missed some episodes of "As The Anglican World Turns" and are now asking "who are these people and why are they messing with my church?"

Jake offers a MOST clarifying "step-by-step" walk down memory lane including this bit of an email from Diane Knippers of blessed memory:

"I'm still on the SCER (Standing Committee on Ecumenical Relations) - but not because I could honestly represent the Episcopal Church in ecumenical dialogue ... I'll resign when I need to, but I would like to hang in there as an obstinate and contrary voice a bit longer."

He also points to Jim Naughton's most excellent "Following the Money"as background for the whole Network strategy, leading Jim to ponder "Me, I am still puzzling over reports that a significant number of our bishops were unaware of the material he is covering until the task force on property disputes put it in front of them." As I commented on his blog, "You can lead a bishop to information but you can't make 'em read!"

Finally, a little off the beaten-blog-path I came across this little clarifying gem in a blog entitled "an undercurrent of hostility" written by a self-described conservative Episcopal priest, Anne Kennedy. (And yes, before inquiring minds have a chance to inquire, she is related to Matt Kennedy of Stand Firm Fame ... they're married.)

Anyway, nestled in her comments last week about the sad state of affairs in Colorado around the Don Armstrong mess was the gem: "That Armstrong wouldn’t have consolidated power and got rid of people who were happy to undercut him seems unwise."

And there you have it. As my seminary mentor used to say, "Just because you're not paranoid doesn't mean people aren't out to get you." And now, out of the mouths of babes -- or conservative bloggers -- is affirmation that what we think they think is actually what they DO think!

And so here we are -- a church that has for years worked toward reconciliation with those who held minority theological perspectives within it faced with the grim reality that there has NEVER been any interest in healing, bridging divides, finding via medias or living our call to be reconciled in Christ by those leading the conservative fringe faction.

Instead, the M.O. of those fomenting schism in this church has been and continues to be, in the words of Ms. Kennedy, getting rid of people who are "other." Let the well-meaning deputies who voted for B033 in Columbus in the sincere and misguided hope that one more olive branch -- one more scapegoat -- one more sacrifice of gay and lesbian vocations -- would bridge the gap take note. It's not about sex. It's not about theology. It's about consolidating power. And it's time for it to stop.

It'll be time to elect new General Convention Deputies for 2009 before we know it. Let's make sure Jake's "Subversion of the Church From Within" is required reading for anybody standing for election. And let's commit ourselves to a church committed to spreading the Gospel rather than obsessed with consolidating power.


Fred said...

Interesting you should mention the election of deputies for GC09. In the Diocese of Los Angeles, all the clergy voted against B033, and the laity were split two, two...which counted as a NO. Interesting.... or confusing....the two YES votes.... were gay deputies who had no problem voting to discriminate against their gay brothers and sisters in the church. IMHO, these deputies should not be re-elected. They did not represent this diocese, which has since protested and voiced strong disagreement with BO33. That should hold true in any diocese where the deputies caved into the frenzy of the moment. Many have since regretted their vote. If we have learned anything in this struggle in the last few years, it should be not to trust those who betray you. I sincerely hope they will not be re-elected.

Anonymous said...

It is probably wise to remember two little bits of wisdom. They aren't always accurate, but the exceptions are rare. "Follow the money". It will lead to the source of what you a trying to understand. When the source is found, it will quickly become clear that "it is usally about power". Who has it? Who wants to keep it? Who can force whom to obey?
We often make the classic mistake of liberals, to ascribe the best motives to those with whom we contend. Does anyone seriously think that there will be any reconcilation short of capitulation to the conservatives. We may be willing to live and let live. They are not. Sad to say. But, we ignore that inconvenient information to our risk.

Unknown said...

Bingo, Fred.

We saw power at work at General Convention and frankly, it wasn't from the progressives or the orthodox, but from the institutionalists (of which those two LA yes voters, gay as they may be, could be). Bishop Chane and a large number of bishops totally distanced themselves from B033 after the vote and of course, the orthodox did too. In an unprecedented move, the newly-elected Presiding BIshop strolled into the House of Deputies and through her power drove the vote directly the opposite way was it was headed - to the horror of both the progressives and the orthodox. The institutionalists ran that vote (remember who wrote the final B033 - Bishop Peter James Lee, a major institutionalist). Louie Crew had just given an impassioned address against B033 and in comes KJS who sways the vote the opposite way. That must have been humiliating for Louie. I couldn't believe it - it was an abuse of power. The institutionalists ruled the day. Would you that's possible, Susan?

I've watched our major institutionalist, Bishop Lee, (remember his "heresy over schism" quote? Heresy can mean many things, whether you are progressive or orthodox) swing back and forth so many times I am dizzy. Now he comes back from the House of Bishops quoting Bishop Howe (a first, since John Howe used to be booed at VA Diocesan Councils and BIshop Lee did nothing to stop the booing). Times change if you want to keep the institution going - those of us (on whatever side) that are operating from principle (which I believe Susan, you are doing - you have principles and you are working from those principles) can easily be used by the institutionalists.

The day may come when we find the progressives and the orthodox on the same side - especially if the institutionalists sell their gay and lesbian folks down the river to keep TEC in the Anglican Communion. If the HOB sides with the Primates, the gays and lesbians walk (how could they stay - unless they too are institutionalists without principle?). If the HOB sides with the progressives, then TEC walks. But someone's walkin'.

Just remember who actually has the power. It's the institutionalists - not the tinfoil hat IRD-conspiracies on the left or the gay/lesbian infiltration-conspiracies on the right - the institutionalists hope we'll be so busy fighting with each other that the they will win the day. Am I wrong?

See - some of us orthodox are moderates (we're just not institutionalists). Carpe Diem!


Muthah+ said...

Gari has a point. But it isn't because we are liberal that we try to ascribe the best motives, however. It is because we have traded the word "nice" for "Christian" and therefore find it quite difficult to attribute such motives to those who would conspire to undermine the Church.

Power isn't "nice" to Christians who have tried to put into practice the powerlessness of Jesus Christ. And we Episcopalians must be "nice" first and foremost.

I was very appreciative of the tone of the HOB communication. It was differentiated. It was clear and faithful, but it was not what I call "nice." There was meat on those statements.

Scott said...

And yet, doesn't Jesus command us to turn the other cheek? We make ourselves vulnerable by giving offenders the chance to prove their best intentions, but that vulnerability is the strength that God wants us to use to make the world better (in my opinion).

Anonymous said...

Scott, IMHO we already -have- turned the other cheek--that can be seen in participating in the Windsor process and in B033. However, there are limits in that "hard saying" of Jesus that aren't immediately obvious. At that time and place, "turning the other cheek" was a way of shaming someone who was abusing power by embodying the marked contrast between the powerful (the one who struck) and the powerless (the one with the struck cheek). Turning the other cheek is not the answer to every situation, and is only ultimately effective when the people in power still have some real conscience. Judging by the money trail, the lobbying, the outright lies, and the political maneuvering, those intent on schism have left their Christian consciences far behind.

Anonymous said...

it's naive to think power, politcs and religion are ever or have ever been divorced, whatever language of "powerlessness" you associate with Jesus. Just plain naive.

I'm not sure what either side wants is truly to live and let live, either. That seems deceptive, perhaps self-deceptive but there it is.

Anne said...

Thanks for the link. I've returned the favor. God Bless.


Anne ... God bless back. And good luck with the morning sickness. My youngest turned 22 in February and I still remember that part like it was yesterday ... yuck!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Susan for your blog, keeping me focus, informed. Maybe some of these people should just become Roman Catholic. While people like myself will become Episcopalion. I have a lot of hope, faith and love. This is Lent, I want to respect that. We will move forward, no longer will we let hate or injustice overcome, God is and will be the one to judge. Maybe some of the Primates look for work in the Corporate World or Wall Street, some of them will fit right in..........

TheWickedWoman said...

I posited that power was behind Archbishop Akinola's actions and words concerning LGBT over on the blog A Guy in the Pew in the comments to the post Gays, Lesbians and the Episcopal Church. In a later comment on to that same post I further added that the breakaways did so because they lacked the power to change the majority position in TEC. I said this in opposition to the position that some of the breakaway parishes and dioceses did so out of conscience. It seems very plain to me that power was the impetus for all of this--Akinola's mad grab for power and the breakaways' feelings of powerlessness, leading them to align with the like-minded and powerful Akinola.

I will repeat here what I said in the above-cited comment. I believe that Akinola has positioned himself to gain political power within Nigeria. I wouldn't be at all surprised if he saw himself as president one day. And he'll do it on the backs of that country's LGBT population. Or what's left of it if the proposed Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act passes. He is one very scary man.

Father Doug said...

How long can you keep playing the powerless card when your side has won all the battles? You've got all the power in the PB, the bishops, even the courts (except perhaps in Calif.) Never mind that the Convention once agreed not to make the decision about gay sex unilaterally; when the moment came, your side had the votes and unilateral was the order of the day.

Nobody's deposing Bp. Robinson. Openly gay priests are accepted in most dioceses. The Executive Council is solidly in your camp. Meanwhile, S. Carolina can't get the bishop they want.

You've got the power, sister. The rest of us are watching closely to see how you use it. Judging by the rejection of the Pastoral Council by the HOB, yours will be a "take no prisoners" approach.

Hint: it's not seemly for those with real power on the ground to disparage those they have vanquished as being power-hungry.


Doug ... I'll quit playing the "power" card when those responsible for this schism-mongering which has been distracting the church from its mission and ministry for WAAAAAY too long now quit blaiming the "tear in the fabric of the Anglican Communion" on those of us who have been stitching like mad to keep it together.

As to how we'll use whatever power we've got ... I hope we saw a foretaste of that particular banquet in the actions of the House of Bishops last month: we'll continue to claim our heritage as Anglicans, be totally bummed but not destroyed if the rest of the family votes us out of the family reunion at Uncle Rowan's next year and we'll get on with being a church where everybody is welcome ... even those who choose to exclude themselves because their criterion for being included is being agreed with.

The door's open, bro ... ball's in your court.

Anonymous said...

Doug, Susan does not play the powerless card, nor does she preach about gay sex. Susan is a wonderful priest, lady, human being, a great teacher and most importantly a Christian woman. Susan loves God and follows Jesus Christ. Not only that, she works hard for many people and is a good example of what Jesus would want the world to be like, at peace, full of love, full of inclusion, no hate, no war, no discrimination. So what card are you playing?

Anonymous said...

Dear Susan,

Three to four years ago, while I was serving on the local church vestry here in the Diocese of Springfield, a concerted and poorly explained push was on to sell off all of our church's real estate, except for the church, itself. We prevented the wrecking ball from coming upon the adjoining apartment building owned by the church and succeeded in having it renovated by a local landlord. To the strangely voiced dismay of certain church members who are closely aligned with our bishop, our church is now a half million Dollars more valuable because of our effort.
Because of this preservation, you would have thought that I had committed murder.

I now believe that the bishop may have all-along been preparing for a fight with TEC over church real estate by attempting to reduce the value of property held, which will become the focus of what the bishop believes that he can orchestrate to take with him as he tries to lead the Diocese of Springfield away from TEC. If he has to buy church/parish real estate from TEC, he is going to have to pay much more than just the uncomplicated appraisal value of the stand-alone church.