Saturday, December 13, 2008

Saturday in Advent 2--St Lucy's Day

Isaiah 8:1-15
v. 12 Do not call conspiracy all that this people call conspiracy, and do not fear what it fears, or be in dread.

I had said to myself when I began these reflections that I would avoid any current controversies in the church, but I just cannot do it today with this verse that leapt out at me from an otherwise very difficult reading. So here goes a little reflection on the state of Episcopalianism.

On December 3, a group of dissident Episcopal-related bishops, clergy and lay people (some dissident for as long as 130 years) declared themselves to be a new Province of the Anglican Communion--"the Anglican Church of North America" (there are some Canadians in this movement; no Mexicans that anyone is aware of, and, yes, Virginia, there are Mexican Anglicans). Within a couple days the leadership of the Communion (including the Archbishop of Canterbury's office) said they had no application for such a province to be created, but that there was a process for the recognition of a new Province, one that would take many, many years. This process, however, includes the express permission of the "primate" of the Province in whose territory (the church does very much still think of itself in terms of geography) a new Province would be "carved out." Our Presiding Bishop or the Archbishop of Canada are likely to do that when pigs fly (whether they are or are not wearing lipstick).

In the meantime the dissidents exist, it seems, not so much to be honest dissenters (I have been one before and still am in some respects from certain policies of our larger Church--it's a rather jolly good place to be, actually), but arrogant noisemakers. Their potential new "archbishop," the former (now deposed) Bishop of Pittsburgh, Robert Duncan said this on December 3:

Question (from a reporter): Is the goal of this new enterprise to replace The Episcopal Church or to form a parallel structure?
Answer (Mr. Duncan): The Lord has been replacing The Episcopal Church for 50 years.

Now that could be the new definition of arrogance in the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. As my friend Canon Mark Harris said on his blog, Preludium, "It is the height of arrogance to declare that the Lord Jesus Christ is somehow directly responsible for the size or shape of The Episcopal Church or any other ecclesial body in the actual world of principalities and powers." Episcopalians have always known better than to speak about God in that kind of language. Besides arrogant, it is theologically blasphemous and practically foolish (one always ends up being wrong when one makes such stupid pronoucements).

All of this is to try to keep our pot stirred. Keep Episcopalians' anxiety high and keep them focused on the issue that causes the most people the most horror across the world: two men or two women sleeping together. [Pause to allow the time for your required shudder].

So here comes Isaiah with advice for the Episcopal Church, loud and clear, "Do not call conspiracy what these people call conspiracy and do not fear what they fear or be in dread." God I love being a biblical Christian.

In other words, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Go out into the holy city, click the heels of your ruby slippers together and tell the good news to Kansas.

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