a postmortem on the ECUSA in the wake of the
1991 General Convention held in Phoenix, AZ
by David McMannes
"so fight I, not as one that beateth the air" -1 Corinthians 9:26 -
On July 9th, 1991, I watched a two hour boxing program on
television. Seven fights were scheduled, and all seven ended
in quick knockouts. In less than an hour and a half the show
was over. There were no more fights scheduled and no more fighters,
so the two color commentators spent the remainder of the time
rehashing the night's events before they signed off.
day the Episcopal Church in the United States of America
- a.k.a. the ECUSA - began its general convention down in Phoenix
- A partial eclipse of the sun greeted the conventioneers' beginning
deliberations. Was "Mother Goddess Earth" (see below)
angry at the impending deliberations? Watching with interest
what took place, it reminded me a lot of that night of t.v. boxing.
Here's what some color commentators and participants had to say
about the ten days of fighting...
on the tone of the convention...
"Problems? We have them. More than enough for a lifetime,
let alone ten days." - Presiding Bishop Edmund Browning
a new "Preparation for Mass"?
"A Medicine man from Fort Defiance chanted at the large
altar as he consecrated the space for worship. 'To the great
Mother Earth,' said Alfred Yazzie Sr. as he gently sprinkled
herbs from a pouch. 'To the great Father Sky. To the Great Father
above, and to the wonderful spirits of this universe, the great
spirits.' Nearby was Yazzie's cousin, Bishop Steven Plummer of
the Episcopal Church Navajoland Area Mission..." - Kim Sue Lia Perkes, in The Arizona Republic
at the first mass - on anger...
"Do not make the mistake of thinking that the presence
of anger here in this meeting is a sign that the church is in
danger. The presence of anger is a sign that the church is alive.
The opposite of love is not anger; the opposite of love is indifference." - Bishop Browning
from the liturgy...
[the people are urged to] "...ache because of the decision
to meet in Arizona. .. [to be conscious of the winds of change
leading the church to seek] "... full status for lay women,
liturgical change, racial equality, the ordination of women to
all orders, the remarriage of divorced people, the rights of
gays and lesbians..." - the Prayers of the People
another"from the liturgy"...
Leader: The hoop, the circle, has been broken by hurts,
wars, massacres, discrimination and racial jokes. By stereotypes
and mean words and suspicious stares. All the people have hurt
others and have been hurt by others. People: Lord, mend the hoop, the circle of your people. - American Indian Mass, July 13
"I find it incredible that 93 members of this house voted
against our Lord's own words on marriage and sexuality outside
marriage." - Bishop John-David Schofield, after the House of Bishops voted
down - 93 to 85 - a call for clergy to abstain from sexual relations
"It [resolution passed by House of Deputies] doesn't guarantee
you'll be ordained, but it means you can't discriminate against
someone who wants to enter the ordination process, on account
of age, sex, height, and weight, handicap or sexual orientation." - Fr. David Bailey, delegate from Arizona (in The Arizona Republic)
"The Love of God is not the indulgence of God." - Bishop William Frey
"My vocation is to preach the Gospel as received by the
Church... I am not aware of any new revelation." - Bishop Clarence Pope
on the "inclusive language" liturgy ...
"Current proposals... include changes to the Doxology
that omit the offending words, "Father, Son and Holy Spirit".
Suggested substitutes in the Daily Office include: "God...
the Eternal Word... and the Holy Spirit" and "the holy
and undivided Trinity, one God". In other changes, "God"
is substituted for "King", "The Lord" is
changed to "Christ", or "our God." Eucharistic
rites are also subject to similar changes. The opening acclamation...
"The Lord be with you" becomes "May God be with
you" ... "Lord" changes to "Savior",
"he" is now "the one." The covenant now comes
to us through 'Abraham and Sarah." Jesus is described as
"child of God." - Jon M. Lindenauer
"...the inclusive language liturgies differ from those in
the Books of Common Prayer in that they consciously rely upon
the insights of modern culture for doctrine as well as for linguistic
style. Thus it is not only a matter of revision of the way the
Church has named and addressed God, it is also the revision of
classic themes of salvation and redemption to fit modern secularism...
For the Episcopal Church to continue to authorize work on inclusive
language liturgies (as presently understood) is to vote against
authentic Christianity. It is to reject that for which the martyrs
have died and the Church has stood firm for nearly two millennia.
It is to prefer modern western, secular culture to the way of
Jesus Christ our Lord. It is to push the church over the Niagara
Falls into an abyss of confusion and disintegration, worshipping
the cosmos instead of "our Father in heaven." - Fr. Peter Toon
a dubious declaration...
First Prize goes to bishop (sic) Barbara Harris, who declared
at the first day's meeting of the House of Bishops that she had
not used the Norplant contraceptive.
do muddy waters cleanse the soul?
"Everyone today is describing the church as dysfunctional,
and it's true. The Church doesn't really deal with the core issues
of its own life. If only it could, it could begin to bear great
witness to the glory of Christ. Sometimes I feel like I'm stepping
through mud. It's very hard to get through to the spiritual meaning
of anything." - Bishop Alden Hathaway
on sex, again...
"I'm 19 years old, I'm a virgin, and I'm proud of that." - Jennifer Craycraft, college student, speaking before the Standing
Committee on Human Sexuality.
"God is not a God of culture, He is a God over culture,
and we need to be faithful to his commandments." - Jennifer Craycraft
on ordaining practicing homosexuals...
" This is an issue that never should have come up. This
really isn't an issue. .God said its a sin and it shouldn't be
condoned. .Decisions like this should be made from the top down...
not from the bottom up. " - Chod Bush
let's quiet down and pray...
"At this general convention God will be hard pressed
to get a word in between the resolutions and disputations."
- Rev. Dr. James Forbes
after two hours talking about sex...
"After an extended period of silent prayer, the bishops
engaged in a frank and spirited discussion of those issues which
divide us and those issues which unite us in our common ministry
. The bishops listened politely to one anther. At times, this
was painful, but all in all, it was a healthy exchange. It was
good for us to spend time together. Hopefully it will enable
us to work more effectively in this convention. And, in itself,
it also set the stage for us to deepen our level of trust, thus
establishing a positive tone for the future." - House of Bishops press release
What Barbara Harris said...
"Conscionable acceptance breeds accommodating complacency.
We cannot be complacent in the face of what is happening to our
people today." [NOTE: Right on, Ms. Harris! Complacency has brought not only
your people but your church to where it sits today, too!]
another Barbara Harris-ism...
"You will still be 'queers' to many if not most, just
as I am still 'nigger' to many if not most... The Church is willing
to use your time, talent and tithe, but not your humanity...
They don't want you to leave, or they'll have no one else to
beat up on... We must choose our battleground, and it isn't in
a confused church." - speaking to Integrity, ECUSA's homosexual rights group
Who's holding whom "captive"?
"It has been reported to me that yesterday the choir
was asked by the Integrity lobby not to sing the verse of the
opening hymn, "the King of Love my Shepherd Is," which
begins "Perverse and foolish, oft I strayed." This
illustrates the Babylonian captivity this Church is in by minority
pressure groups." - Bishop Edward MacBurney
Democratic platform or Episcopal resolution?
"This convention questions the inordinate and enormous
military expenditures, which have the effect of transferring
wealth from the public good to the private enrichments of a few,
thereby robbing the poor and the middle-class, and placing the
nation under the tyranny of the military-industrial complex,
of which President Eisenhower warned in his farewell address.' - one of innumerable socio-politico resolutions
on the two religions of the ECUSA...
"One religion is traditional Christianity. To this not
a few bishops, priests, and laity belong... The other religion
may be called "experientialism" or "secularism,"
and it uses traditional Christian terminology for its untraditional
content... God is viewed in a variety of ways: as the hidden
principle of the universe from which comes the progress of human
evolution and experience or as the deity whose body is the world
and whose identity is iNext
ricably intertwined with human history...
because this religion is wholly anchored in this world and has
no concern for the "invisible world"... its agenda
is wholly this worldly. A right relationship with God is having
right views about current topics. To remove racism, poverty,
injustice, and to bring peace and justice are the goals of the
gospel. For example, lesbians and gays are to be affirmed and
not healed. People are to be fed but not evangelized. The strength
of this approach is that it has immediate appeal to those who
are rightly concerned about human affairs and needs. But it has
little to say of sin and repentance - and thus does not truly
serve human affairs and needs... Gone in the Episcopal Church
is the comprehensiveness of which Anglicans here once boasted...
At best, there is a double comprehensiveness: a probably doomed
attempt to hold together in one church two irreconcilable religions.
But at some point they will clash over practical matters, like
who may be ordained. That is what we have seen at this convention,
most strikingly in the debate on sexual morality and ordination.
The situation is not only serious, it is frightening."- Fr. Peter Toon
a pitifully pithy truth...
"Denomination Reflects Views of Mainstream." - headline for article on the convention, in The Arizona Republic
"Jesus gives me porpoise" miscellany - animal t-shirt sold at convention
why political activism?
'As the Episcopal Church becomes less and less secure in its
knowledge of who Christ is, and of the importance of Scripture
and tradition in its future, political activism provides an avenue
for its energies... " - Cameron Humphries
the post mortum...
Although there were several knockout punches delivered at
the convention, the ECUSA's condition today has to be seen in
conjunction with what has taken place in the years preceding
this gathering, in the same way a fighter's ability to take a
punch is directly correlated with his past fights.
Of the more noteworthy knockouts of the past, the ECUSA laid
face down on the canvass when it got hit with women's ordination
in 1976, the '79 prayer book and its inherent heresies, the sociopolitical
agendas of the 60's, 70's and 80's, all of which claimed supremacy
over the true mission of the Church, the 1988 "consecration"
of Barbara Harris as a bishop, the 1989 ordination by Bishop
Spong of J. Robert Williams, an open homosexual, and the ordination
in June of 1991 of an active homosexual woman, by the bishop
of Washington, D. C., Ronald H. Haines.
To be sure, that is not a definitive list of past knockouts,
but they do serve to show the ring history of the ECUSA during
the last few decades.
Then came Phoenix and its barrage of heresies: the 500+ resolutions,
almost half of which had to do either with sexual or socio-political
issues; the approval of New Age, "gender-neutral" liturgies
and Psalter; the refusal to forbid homosexual ordinations or
the blessing of same-sex "unions"; the refusal to censure
(at the very least!) heretical clergy the likes of Spong and
Haines; and the various and sundry socio-politico resolutions,
issues, and agendas which continue to drain the denomination's
power and focus from the mission of the Church - and you have
the reasons behind the decline and decay of the Episcopal Church
in the United States of America.
In short, neither a boxer or a church can "rope-a-dope"
through that many fights without consequences. And that's why
the ECUSA acts more like a brain-damaged, punch-drunk old boxer
than part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
The ECUSA's future is much like the last half hour of the fight
telecast I watched on July 9, 1991. It has but one thing to do:
to fill the remaining time with talk before it, too, "signs
off" the air for good. So brace yourself for more gibberish
from Spong and Company. But don't be fooled by what they say.
The ECUSA's show is over. Will the last one out please turn off
the lights? Thanks.
Tuesday Night at the Fights has been brought to you by Budweiser,
the king of beers. Reminding you, "Know When To Say When.
" Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona eis requiem. Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona eis requiem. Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona eis requiem sempiternam.
(All quotes are from The Source - a publication of the
Prayer Book Society of the Episcopal Church and the Episcopal
Synod of America - unless otherwise noted.)