mardi, décembre 19, 2006
Lines in the sand
After the children are on their school buses and I have my early morning cup of strong British tea in hand, I get online and read the New York Times. You never know, when you open up the paper, what news will greet you. Often it is tragic, sometimes it is bizarre, occasionally touching. Now and then it is regrettable but entrancing-I must admit I've been avidly following the fall-out from the Knicks Madison Square Garden brawl with the Nuggets. Often the stories are distressing-but rarely are they personal. Over the past few days, though, I've been going around with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. When my denomination makes the front page of the newspaper, and the articles hit the top of the 'most blogged' list, it's not a good day for the Episcopal Church. Though it seems like a long time since the national church got good press, this week has been a particularly bad one. On Sunday, the congregations of two historic, large Episcopal churches in the Diocese of Virginia voted (along with some smaller Virginia churches) to leave the denomination and ally themselves with the Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola. The reason? Members of these suburban D.C. parishes, Truro and The Falls Church, thought that the Episcopal church had abandoned fidelity to Scripture and to church tradition by assenting to the consecration of an openly gay bishop and by winking and nodding at gay unions in various dioceses. Naturally, given the pragmatic and worldly politics practiced by all sides, the churches will fight tooth and claw to keep their extremely valuable real estate. It is particularly distressing that the Bishop of the diocese, the Rt. Rev. Peter Lee, is a moderate who had made many attempts to accomodate the conservative churches. Observing what occurred, liberals could wonder whether it is worth attempting to accomodate conservative congregations if the result is that they end up leaving, anyway. Evangelical and conservative congregations in other dioceses will probably be impelled to take another hard look at the cost of staying and to weigh them against the risks of leaving. One thing is for sure-the schism will proceed. And, in the end, this small denomination, whose governance modeled on the bicameral American legislature, may become a parable for what happens when men and women of good faith are deaf to the call of the Gospel for reconciliation, self-sacrifice and mutual forbearance. Katherine Jefferts Schori, the New Presiding Bishop, has her work cut out for her. Frankly, I would not want Archbishop Akinola for an enemy-the firebrand prelate is well acquainted with how to use power-and has no hesitation about deploying it. Time alone will tell if he is on the side of the angels-or just another power player who has convinced himself that he is God's chosen, the scourge of the West and preserver of the faith. Crusade, anyone?