Monday, January 28, 2008
I have been catching up on my mail and blogging while I have been nursing bronchitis. It is sometimes hard to keep a laptop on one’s lap while coughing. And with the server dumping me off with some regularity… add writing block and it ends up being a thankless effort.
That said, I have been reading about the move by the national church to assist those in San Joachin Diocese to claim their independence from the bishop who has been inhibited for trying to take the diocese out of the Church. I then went to blog of Via Media Ft. Worth. My good friend Tom Woodard+ has done some good work in that diocese by providing members of the Diocese of Ft. Worth some correction to
+Iker’s rhetoric about the Episcopal Church (TEC).
The thing that is so poignant about Ft. Worth is that no matter what you tell some people, they won’t believe it. You can tell them that TEC is not demonic, but they have been fighting for so long, they don’t know how to stop. And as a diocese, they have been in opposition to whatever the national church says since their inception. There is no way that they can ever trust outsiders to tell them what the truth is. When John the Baptist pointed at Jesus and said “There is the Lamb of God”, obviously some of his followers said, “No, he’s not.” We can only be thankful that St. Andrew followed Jesus.
One of the most obvious things that Ft. Worthians have to learn is that the bishop is not the lord of the universe. This is hard when for years you have been told that only the bishop and HIS clergy are able to articulate what the Church is. Now, this worked in Ft. Worth before northern businesses began to relocate in the sunny south. But the move of many folks from different regions of the US has brought varying understandings of Church to the diocese of FTW. And these folks ‘have seen Parii.’ They know what it means to be a part of a Church with clergy, lay and episcopal voices speaking differently and coming to compromise respectfully.
The myth taught by Iker and his ilk is that this whole thing about democracy in the Church was an experiment that failed. Now wiser and voices from higher up should prevail. Is this not what the Archbishop of Canterbury believes? Is this not what the Primates believe? Is that what the Pope has said? Obviously we Episcopalians are wrong. All these checks and balances on the power of bishops are wrong; the Holy Spirit doesn’t happen by election!
The sad part of what is happening in the Church is that +Iker, and +Schofield and the like will be gone, but the myth they have taught has spread. All too often I hear—“We must listen to the wisdom of our bishop,” or “I know that OUR bishop must understand this better than I.” or “Whatever MY bishop says, I will obey” come as a cop-out for being competent about the events of our Church. It is a way to abrogate our duties as clergy and laity to govern ourselves. It is the same phenomenon that has been going on in our national government since the Boomers came into their own. “Let the other guy do it as long as my ox is not getting gored.”
The Diocese of Central New York is becoming like Ft. Worth in my youth. We are becoming a bit of a backwater. The Southern Tier is not so because escape from NYC still filters over the southern border. But new blood is not coming into our area. The majority of new clergy is coming from our own in-diocese training programs. This means that we do not have images of the Church by those who have seen it work in other places, in cities, in small towns, in rural areas. We cannot depend up on a sole voice to speak the needs of the people of Central NY. It must be the voices of us all speaking—often disagreeing with one another, but at least speaking, to hear the voice of the Spirit in our midst.
The Episcopal Church is not an experiment. It is the only mainline, catholic-minded church in which difference can be tolerated. May it always be so.