Friday, October 07, 2011

The Episcopal Church's Ecclesial Scorched-Earth Policy

Most gentle readers are probably churchy enough to be familiar with the sorry state of the Anglican Communion's fellowship in the United States. While the American Episcopal Church's hierarchy has gone all-in for same-sex sex since the ordination of an openly practicing homosexual in 2002, individuals and congregations belonging to the denomination have been leaving in wholesale numbers, with no sign that the trend will abate.

Today's WSJ offers a snapshot of the internal workings. Episcopalians live in a system where property is deeded to the denomination, not the congregation. So if the congregation decides to leave the denomination (it is, after all, still a free country), the property remains with the denomination, who can try to start another congregation or sell the property to whomever.

So what might you do if you are a dissenting congregation leaving the denomination? Offer to buy the building from the denomination, of course!

Which is exactly what the Episcopalian hierarchy refuses to do.

Author Mollie Ziegler Hemingway quotes:

"We can't sell to an organization that wants to put us out of business," said Bishop Jefferts Schori, who added that her job is to ensure that "no competing branch of the Anglican Communion impose on the mission strategy" of the Episcopal Church.
 So no sales to anyone will use the name "Episcopal" or "Anglican" in any way, shape or form. "Baptist," "Muslim" and "Urban Outfitters" are copacetic. Thoughts of a dog in a manger come to mind.

So congregations are either leaving their facilities while the denomination takes a haircut on the real estate, or they're agreeing to a five-year gag order on anything that lays claim to the Anglican tradition. In the battle of wills, the dissenters are agreeing to the cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face strategy of their former spiritual superiors. But the policy continues.

SWNID, an admirer of the Anglican liturgical tradition who would start a believers-baptism-only, non-bishop-appointing wing of Anglicanism were we of an organizing ilk, finds this battle instructive. When churches lose their grip on the gospel, they lose their grip on any sense of mission or even identity. As a result, they become more sectarian, not less.

We are connected to a wise fellow who is a member of the national governing board of a well-known mainline Protestant denomination, despite the fact that he does not hold membership in the denomination and is deeply antithetical to the current beliefs (or non-beliefs) and aims of the denomination. That is in itself indicative of the sorry state of mainline Protestantism. But he reports to us that within the board itself, if not among the denomination's adherents, the explicit goal is for the denomination no longer to exist in twenty to thirty years.

Certainly the Episcopal Church is on a trajectory to realize a similar goal.


Anonymous said...

... believers-baptism-only, non-bishop-appointing wing of Anglicanism ...

It's surprising that no one (to my knowledge) has tried this yet, especially with all the evangelicals-gone-Episcopalian out there.

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

Let's you and we form an additional Anglican communion, then! You bring the vestments; we'll bring the book of common prayer!

JB in CA said...

Who's going to bring the wine?

Ba-dum bum CHING.

Jim Shoes said...

Episcopalian Priest: "There's something wrong with this microphone."

Congregation: "And also with you."

JB in CA said...

Jim Shoes: Yeah, it gets distracting watching Star Wars with Episcopalians.

Obi-Wan Kenobi: May the Force be with you.

Episcopalians: And also with you.