The Bishop of South Carolina, the Rt Revd Mark Lawrence, is currently under investigation by the disciplinary board of the national Church on charges of having “abandoned” the Episcopal Church (News, 14 October). He is charged with a variety of omissions and commissions, including failure to take legal action against a parish in his diocese which had realigned itself...
The Church’s crusade against conservative dissenters is pointless, wasteful, and self-destructive. And, although Dr Jefferts Schori has defended her actions as necessary to protect the Church’s assets, it is hard to understand what material benefits the Church’s programme could reasonably achieve. If the Episcopal Church retains the properties of departing congregations, it will be stuck with church buildings that the few (if any) remaining loyalists cannot afford to maintain. In the best-case scenario, it may be able to offset the cost of litigation by selling them for use as mosques or saloons.
The Episcopal Church has plunged into a maelstrom of institutional turmoil and litigation, alienating some of its most committed constituents. Representing less than one per cent of the American population, it has not affected the attitudes of the general public, or benefited gay men and women, who are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves. And it has not impressed the secular élite, who are as contemptuous of the Episcopal Church, for all its political correctness, as they are of all Christian groups, whose members they regard as superstitious ignoramuses.
1. Dan Crawford wrote:
While the Episcopal organization may be alienating some of its members, it is no secret that quite a few others experience satisfaction and even glee at the filing of every lawsuit and disciplinary charge.
November 20, 10:56 am | [comment link]
2. Cennydd13 wrote:
Dr Baber is right, of course, but what she didn’t say is that the Episcopal Church complains about those whom they erroneously call “schismatics,” yet they have only themselves to blame for the situation they’ve created. They have a lot of nerve calling us “schismatics;” they should look in the mirror.
November 20, 12:39 pm | [comment link]
3. Bookworm(God keep Snarkster) wrote:
“Unlike advocates of slavery or ethnic cleansing, conservatives who hold that sex outside heterosexual marriage is immoral are not bigots or persecutors of an oppressed minority: they are just (so I believe) wrong-headed”.
We’re not “wrong-headed”, we’re Christians following the traditional Faith and teachings. I’m not quite sure what revisionists are up to, save attempts at remaking the Faith in their own image. And there’s no reason why I should expect a PhD secularist to believe any of it either, but at least her stance appears to have more integrity than the “twist it to suit me” M.O.
And, I’ll say it again for the 95th time—just because society/culture is doing something doesn’t make it right, and just because something is civilly legal doesn’t make it Christian.
But, yes, the KJS Scorched Earth Policy for the Church has not really won many friends or influenced many people, except in a negative way.
November 20, 2:47 pm | [comment link]
4. Bookworm(God keep Snarkster) wrote:
PS—Anybody out there make T-shirts? I want one that says
November 20, 2:50 pm | [comment link]
5. Br. Michael wrote:
Why are they complaining? They got rid of the opposition, which was their aim.
November 20, 4:06 pm | [comment link]
6. LogicGuru wrote:
FYI I am not a secularist. I buy Christianity metaphysics, as articulated in the Nicene Creed (without Filioque). I’d argue however that “Christian ethics” is no more legitimate than Christian biology, Christian cosmology or Christian astronomy. I have yet to see a compelling argument for the claim that the metaphysics implies the ethics. And of course there is a very powerful argument in support of the conclusion that you can’t deduce ought from is—not even from a metaphysical is.
When it comes to ethics I am a plain old utilitarian. And, let’s be fair, that isn’t simply a matter of unreflectively buying into whatever society/culture—or “the best people”—believe. I’d argue that restrictions on homosexual practice are wrong-headed because the costs, in terms of people’s utility (understood as happiness, desire-satisfaction or whatever), outweigh the benefits. But I argue in my piece, also on utilitarian grounds, that beating up on people who hold this view, litigating about church property, and such is also, on utilitarian grounds, wrong-headed because the costs far, far outweigh the benefits.
My fellow liberals in the Church don’t like this position because they’re by and large either too doctrinaire, too cynical or too stupid to recognize the difference between rejecting the Episcopal Church’s policy of punishing conservative dissenters and agreeing with their dissenting views. But I have no sympathy with conservatives because as far as I can see, ironically, you have tacitly accepted the secularist assumption that what matters about religion is ethics and so assume that because I disagree with the traditional views about sexual conduct I must be a “secularist.”
November 20, 4:34 pm | [comment link]
7. wmresearchtrianglenc wrote:
Dr. Baber’s article deserves the widest dissemination because it presents something very important with much insight and succinctness: that differences between professing Christians SHOULD NOT and DO NOT justify an adversarial and fighting spirit but SHOULD instead result in a spirit of regret, a continued search for wisdom and guidance, and a spirit of charity towards those with whom there are differences. When ANY religious denomination in the country has a fund of $22,000,000 dedicated to—and used for—the pursuit of litigation against professing Christians of whatever persuasion, instead of helping fellow human beings in this world, ANY such denomination witnesses to any open-minded individual, whether Christian or non-Christian, that it is misusing the resources which God has placed in its hands. The world is indeed SICK of the misuse of resources, and open-minded individuals will rightfully look upon such misuse by ANY religious group, Christian or non-Christian, with negativity. The overarching question for the Episcopal Church is: Given the denomination’s litigious actions, how in the world (pun intended) can it expect to be accepted by open-minded individuals as truly representing an instrument of Christian unity?
November 21, 1:59 am | [comment link]
8. Hakkatan wrote:
I did not leave the Episcopal Church because of its new stand on sexual morality, although I believe that this new position is both anti-Scriptural and contrary to common sense. Rather, I left because of the theological chaos and ignorance which has produced this new stand, among other things. The revisionists are “trinitarians” only in name, being modalists at best, deny the authority and reliability of Scripture, deny the reality of the Incarnation, the efficacy of the Cross as an atoning death, the reality of the Resurrection, the sinfulness of humanity, the reality of redemption, and hold a host of other heterodox and heretical positions. It was wretched, inadequate theology that led to the new moral position on sexual practices - and that is why, in the end, I left.
November 21, 10:41 am | [comment link]
9. pastorchuckie wrote:
Eight years have gone by, and articles in the secular press (the AP, for example)—and evidently articles written for the UK church press—have to include in their introductory paragraphs a phrase like “...because of disagreement with its policy in support of the ordination of sexually active homosexuals and the blessing of same-sex unions”... as if that were the sole issue. That was trite and simplistic when it first came up, and it’s still trite and simplistic. It would be more correct to say, as Dr. Leander Harding wrote recently in a book review for The Living Church, that an issue like same-sex unions is the sort of issue that you can’t pick up all by itself; you also pick up issues like the authority of Scripture; the doctrines of creation and man; sacramental theology, etc.
A second point: Following the widespread attention that Mollie Ziegler Hemmingway’s October WSJ article on “Twenty-First Century Excommunication” has received, lines like this have been circulated as if they were verbatim quotes: “...Jefferts Schori has stated that she would rather have these properties become Baptist Churches or saloons.” No such verbatim quote exists, that I know of. A few weeks ago on “Anglican Unscripted,” Fr. Conger or Kevin Kallstrom—one or the other—helpfully clarified this.
Evidently, in depositions related to these property suits, KJS has been asked by lawyers about what restrictions she would place on the use of the properties of congregations leaving ECUSA. When specifically asked whether she would object to their use as saloons or strip-tease joints, she has repeatedly answered to the effect that she would place no restrictions on their use other than that she would not permit them to be occupied by a congregation claiming the name “Anglican” but not affiliated with ECUSA.
This might seem like a subtle, petty distinction, but in the spirit of being trustworthy even in small matters, it isn’t right to twist the truth by overstating what KJS supposedly prefers, if we know better. I can’t remember now the whole story as set forth on “Anglicans Unscripted,” but it seemed implausible when I first heard it that KJS would explicitly say, “I’d rather those properties become Baptist churches or saloons,” and as far as I can tell she never did say exactly that.
November 21, 2:03 pm | [comment link]
Hulls Cove, Maine
10. LogicGuru wrote:
Oops. I should have made it clear that I, LogicGuru (see above) am Baber, responding to comments on my piece.
November 21, 2:50 pm | [comment link]
11. GBob wrote:
This message is another signal that the ECUSA is in a downward spiral. The exodus will only grow more quickly. The question in my mind is can conservative Dioceses and Bishops, such as Mark Lawrence, save it.
November 22, 1:21 am | [comment link]
12. robroy wrote:
What is significant is that the author is a far left type. She almost comes close to saying the real fear of the liberal remnant of the TEO: “The Episcopal Church has plunged into a maelstrom of institutional turmoil and litigation, alienating some of its most committed constituents. “
Liberal denominations go in a single direction: down. When the conservatives ruled ECUSA, they tolerated the liberals. In contrast, the liberal cabal has launched a “crusade” (Baber’s word) against the conservatives. They are now seeing the cost of “victory”. The parasites have killed the host.
P.S. In reference to “Logic” guru’s utilitarian ethics: May we all pray that the ghastly utilitarian ethics never takes hold in the United States. The concept is based on innumeracy and is proof positive that a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. Starting with some crude pictures of inverted parabaloids in multi-variable calculus, it assumes there is a quantifiable notion of utility and that this is a numerical function of other non-numeric but assumed to be numeric variables (“logic” guru lists: happiness, desire-satisfaction or whatever). One then decides ethical questions by supposedly maximizing utility. Should we kill off grandma who is suffering from early Alzheimer’s? Well, look at the functions:
utility(Grandma dead) versus utility(Grandma not dead)
Whichever is bigger, that is the ethical decision.
Of course, this is all gibberish. There is no calculating of any quantities, just hand waving. And of course, it is the liberals that decide what is more utile and they then claim they are being scientific.
In contrast, Christian ethics is certainly rational. One starts with various premises or axioms. One then develops an ethical system that is far more compassionate and acceptable than the repugnant utilitarian ethics which leads to killing off undesirables (for the common good!).
November 22, 9:12 am | [comment link]
13. New Reformation Advocate wrote:
Thanks for the testimony. I would say something similar, except to expand on it a bit. I finally left TEC formally in 2009 (several years after detaching emotionally and ceasing parish ministry in TEC) because both Doctrine and Discipline had become fatally compromised, and TEC had become so toxic an environment for me that I had to escape. The rot and decay had advanced to the point that heresy wasn’t merely tolerated and condoned but had become the norm, so much so that active defenders of orthodoxy (like me) were being harrassed and driven out. Sexual ethics was only the tip of a very large iceberg.
As usual, I basically agree with you. But I’ll also offer a nuance in your case as well. Like classical theologians such as Thomas Aquinas or Richard Hooker, I’m a strong proponent of the Catholic theory of Natural Law. There are objective, universal moral principles that God the Creator has written into the fabric of the universe, and that we humans violate to our peril, like trying to defy the Law of Gravity. The kind of moral values and principles rooted in Natural Law are discoverable through human reason, even apart from divine revelation through the Holy Scriptures or Christian Tradition. Thus far I’d agree with you and with LogicGuru (#6).
However, that’s not the whole story. There are also, I believe and we Christians have always taught, some distinctively Christian moral values and behavioral norms that are virtually unique. One is the unnatural ideal of loving your enemies as Christ did. Another is that the lists of virtues and vices in Paul’s letters occasionally feature items that for Paul are virtues but which to pagan Greeks were vices, or vice versa. A notable instance is the Christian virtue of “meekness,” which to pagans smacked of a contemptible sort of servile willingness to be mistreated and walked over like a doormat. That said, I heartily endorse your main point.
However, as I read this short piece, I was left wondering why in the world an obscure philosophy prof in San Diego was selected for publication in the Church Times. Why would the CoE establishment vehicle feature an op-ed essay by an American instructor at a secular school, when she has no known status in Anglicanism?
Unless, of course, it has everything to do with the need to demonstrate how moderate and reasonable the CoE Establishment is, unlike those ugly American fanatics across the Pond. And unless the driving concern is to reassure leaders in the CoE that Christianity’s “cultured despisers” (Schliermacher’s term) don’t despise all Anglicans alike. Now isn’t that comforting??
November 22, 4:24 pm | [comment link]
16. Hakkatan wrote:
A note for LogicGuru - I am not a trained ethicist, but I would say that there is indeed such a thing as Christian ethics. It is not based simply on the ontology of God, but on God’s commands and on his character as revealed in Scripture.
History shows that when Christianity enters an area and evangelizes, the culture becomes more compassionate and human life is treated with more dignity. (Not that it becomes perfect, nor that either the evangelists or the new believers are models of consistency.)
December 1, 4:33 pm | [comment link]