Friday, January 23, 2015

The trials of TEC: the right wing gloats

The right wing is seizing on the tragedy of Bp Heather Cook and the hit-and-run death of TOm Palermo and it is very unseemly.  And as JCF said in an earlier comment, it all comes down to liberals, gays, women, and bishops.

Item: An article in Religion Dispatches rather incoherently wanders around quoting anti-TEC voices and somehow using this tragedy as evidence of a church that is "reeling". 
For decades, right wing Anglicans in the U.S. and elsewhere have blamed the Episcopal Church’s precipitous slide in membership on its captivity to liberalism and liberation theology, and especially to the “agendas” of sexual dissidents and radical women. There’s no credible evidence linking the Church’s alarming stats to its embrace of liberal policies, but that hasn’t stopped the right from relentlessly hammering the claim.

The most spectacular flare-ups in this war have also been about bishops: the consecration of the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, in 2004, and the election of Katharine Jefferts Schori to a 9-year term as the Church’s Presiding Bishop in 2006, the first woman to hold that post. ....
The right has folded the story of vehicular manslaughter into this narrative of left-wing captivity and declension–sometimes subtly, at other times blatantly.
Well, of course they have.  You'd think that they had better things to do, now that they left, but not so much.

But it's hard to take that gloom-and-doom about the future of TEC as anything other than sloppy journalism.  We know that all denominations are losing membership overall, and all , being huma institutions, have proven to have feet of clay.  The Episcopal Church will be what it is.

Item:  SOuthern Baptist convention leader also attacks TEC. 
A Southern Baptist Convention leader says that rather than representing two points on a spectrum of Christianity, evangelical Christianity and liberal Protestantism are different and competing religions.
Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said in a podcast briefing Jan. 13 that two recent scandals in the news demonstrate “the depth of the chasm that separates evangelical Christianity from more liberal Protestant denominations, in particular the Episcopal Church."
“When you’re dealing with orthodox Christianity and Protestant liberalism, we are not dealing with two variants of the same religion,” Mohler said. “As Machen correctly said, judged by orthodox Christianity, we’re actually looking in this case at two rival religions, and these headlines, not to mention the stories behind them, make that point all too evident.”
 The Southern Baptists aren't exactly holding on to their membership either.     And while there are clearly some different values at play,  they have nothing to do with hit and runs. 

Indeed, there are some notable Evangelicals (Rachel Held Evans, Ben Irwin, Jonathan Martin, Lindsey Herts) who have blogged on why they headed over the Thames to worship with the Episcopalians.  It's the attraction of the liturgy, the silence, and the acceptance, it seems....You should go read their reflections, when these sorts of news articles make you frustrated.

The Episocpal church will be what it is.

THe waters ebb and they flow.


PseudoPiskie said...

One of the best aspects of TEC is knowing that you are free to worship without having the obligation to hate anyone.

8thday said...

As an unbiased observer of many different religious sites, I have to say that no one beats the Episcopalians at feeling superior to other religions and people. Even a commenter on your blog acknowledged that Episcopalians love to look down their noses at others. I’m sure you could easily go back through your posts and check all the times you have bashed the Catholic Church for one thing or another. So it is no surprise to me that other religions are now jumping all over the Bishop Cook tragedy in that schadenfreude kind of way.

What does sadden me is that religion seems to have become a competitive sport, with everyone vying for butts in the pews. You’re now doing posts about evangelicals moving to the Episcopal Church. The Catholics are glowing about how Episcopalians and others are returning to their church, especially in light of the new and improved Pope. Every time the Episcopalians crow about their inclusiveness the Lutherans jump in yelling "we are too!!!, we are too!!!" The whole thing reminds me of barkers at a carnival. What I really don't understand how the simple teachings of an itinerant preacher devolved into such a sideshow.

I recently saw a sign at a rally for sustainable economics. It read :

We were all humans until
race disconnected us,
religion separated us,
politics divided us
and wealth classified us.

I truly believe that labels are killing us.

JCF said...

"Even a commenter on your blog acknowledged that Episcopalians love to look down their noses at others."

Is that self-acknowledgment a bad thing? You make it seem that way.

If you started "The Church of 8thday" maybe THAT one would finally be perfect. Unless and until, the Episcopal Church just seems *to me* to be the best one *for me*. YMMV and Vaya con Dios, et cetera...

8thday said...

JCF - I’m not saying it is a good thing or a bad thing. I am just suggesting it is one of the reasons that others are taking so much delight in the troubles of the TEC right now.

I am very happy that the TEC seems the best one for you. That is as it should be, yes? Just as the “Church of 8thday” is the best fit for me. I have no issue with people inviting others to try their church to see if it fits. I was invited to try the TEC and found it to be too rich for my blood. Others enjoy that pomp and ceremony. Whatever floats your boat.

But when the discussion starts devolving into “your church is wrong because (they don’t allow women clergy, they drink too much, they don’t fear God enough, they are too conservative or too liberal, they call God by a different name, etc, etc, etc.) or gloating that other churches are losing numbers, or my God is better than your God, well, then, I do have a problem with that. Why can’t we just be happy that people have found a good spiritual fit for themselves, warts and all, and leave it at that? Does putting one church down make another church better?

IT said...

Oh, please, 8th day. I am not looking down my nose at anyone. I am not putting down any church as a church and it is willful misreading to say so. (indeed, it looks like you should take on Albert Mohler more than me, as he's the one drawing divisions .)

To state the fact that the SBC is losing people, as is the Episcopal church, is not gloating, it's simply a fact: organized religion is losing numbers in this country, as we've discussed many times. Conservatives (like those cited in this post) frequently claim that the loss of numbers in TEC is due to its liberals; this fact points out that the loss of numbers cannot be ascribed to political views, so it is a valid point to make.

I don't particularly care what churches do in their own space (with a few exceptions). For example, you won't see me say that the Baptists or the Catholics should marry gay folks in their churches; of course I'd like to see it, in a dispassionate kind of way, but it's their decision to marry whom they want and that's as it should be.

BUT if churches do put their views into the public space to influence civil policy, then damn right I can take issue with them. For example, the Roman Catholics advocate for civil laws against my interests as a woman and as a gay person. They put it out there; I can take it on.

And there's nothing wrong with TEC folks feeling good that people from other traditions find something attractive in the Episcopal church practice. I like the testimonies from the visiting Evangelicals because they appreciate something that I also appreciate. That is not gloating, it's being glad of something that we share.

One wonders why you bother to read this blog if you take umbrage at what the blogger says.

8thday said...

Once again our discussion seems to have run off the rails. I was responding to your post where you seemed surprised, or dismayed, that “the right wing” was gloating about the Bishop Cook tragedy. My comment was a reflection of why, after reading many references to the incident, from many different religious points of view (not just from the right wing) I thought TEC was experiencing this kind of ugly push back.

I then wondered about why religions seem to compete with each other and feel the need to knock each other down. I think you make a very good point that when churches use their views to influence public policy, then they are probably fair game for that type of criticism. But again, I believe TEC has also used its considerable resources to move liberal legislative agendas. So again, I’m not sure why you are upset when the conservatives do the same thing the liberal religions do. Or vice versa.

I absolutely agree that there is nothing wrong with folks feeling good about their religion or being proud that others find it attractive. After all, why belong to a denomination if you don’t think highly of it. In fact, your post today I thought a perfect example - Rachel Evans explaining what she enjoyed about TEC without saying even one tiny negative thing about someone else’s religion. So very refreshing! Believe me, it is the exception on religious blogs.

Why do I bother to read your blog? Seriously? A self professed atheist who spends a considerable amount of her time and talent being an ambassador for a religion? I find that an absolutely fascinating perspective.

(I didn’t realize that I was suppose to agree with everything a blogger had to say to read their blog. How very boring that would be)

JCF said...

"But again, I believe TEC has also used its considerable resources to move liberal legislative agendas."

Let's accept, for the moment, that were true (FTR, I don't think it is).

I know, 8thday, you pride yourself on being an "unbiased observer" and all, but climb down in the muck for a sec. As someone---I believe it was Jesus of Nazareth---once asked, "Who do YOU say that I am?" In other words, your neutrality might seem superior HERE, but it won't get you through the proverbial gates of heaven (or "Eye of the Needle"). To be even more frank, I think that TEC does a *better* (no, not perfect) job of living Christ's Gospel than, say, the Southern Baptist Convention does. Do you agree or disagree?

[And a big part of that Gospel, I might add, is letting other people live as they choose. We may object to our FUNDING homophobia in Africa, but you won't see an Episcopalian say we should invade Uganda for it!]

If you want to criticize TEC for being unfaithful to the Gospel, 8thday, OK---but OWN IT! However, if you want to criticize TEC for being hypocritical, you have to be prepared for someone to ask, "And you? Are you never hypocritical?"

Pax et bonum.

IT said...

8th day, of course you are welcome here, and apologies if I misunderstood, but it does seem sometimes that you disagree with nearly everything I write.

I agree that people shouuld not bash one another's beliefs but I am tired of my being, being bashed by certain religions.

8thday said...

Wow JCF! Are you now also in charge of who gets through the proverbial gates of heaven?

Yes, I most definitely agree that the TEC lives closer to what I think of as Gospel than many other churches. As I think I said earlier, if I enjoyed all the pomp and ceremony (which I don’t) I might join myself. But I prefer a much simpler connection to my God. It works for me. But I am very grateful that there are so many options available for people to find a comfortable place to worship, even though I am forever amazed and dismayed that a simple ministry, with a simple message (my opinion) has spawned so much dissension and hatred.

I apologize if you interpreted my comments as the TEC being unfaithful to the Gospel. That was certainly NOT my intention nor is it my belief. My comments were meant to point out that if Episcopal bloggers criticize other churches, which they seem to do quite often, then they shouldn’t be surprised when other bloggers/churches criticize them when their own slip is showing.

IT - It's not so much that I disagree with you, it's that my hackles go up whenever I read language that seems to foster division rather than work towards our shared interests and humanity. I should probably just stay away from social media because, as JCF says, there is a lot of muck.

IT said...

Well, unfortunately if you stay away from social media there's no chance of overcoming the muck, even if it's a labor of Hercules to try to do so.

JCF said...

"But I prefer a much simpler connection to my God. It works for me."

Hey, 8thday, my ancestors (some of them) were Quaker: I think they're awesome. Quaker silence worship is truly beautiful (and you can't get any simpler).

Worship is so much a matter of personal taste, IMO. There's no objective ("orthodox") Better or Worse, there's just what you like.

It's the DOING of the Gospel---the following of Jesus---where the rubber-meets-the-road. I know that good-faith Christians are going to disagree on some things (See re abortion!). There are gray areas.

But when a Christian commits/advocates VIOLENCE, I'm gonna call it. It's just WRONG, period (See re using State force to outlaw abortion!)

"Love God, and do as ye will" ("nonviolently", adds JCF)