In a meeting last week in Pittsburgh, an international panel of prominent Anglicans has called for an open break between members of the Anglican Communion and what they view as the wayward Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States. The meeting was hosted by the Bishop Duncan of Pittsburgh and presided over by seven archbishops from the West Indies, South East Asia, and Africa.
The collapse of the authority and membership of mainstream churches in the United States has paralleled the collapse of the influence of other institutions from the media to academia as a yawning gap has continued to open up in the past half century between their actions and their announced goals.
The sad huddle of affluent bedwetters, thumbsuckers, treehuggers, social climbers, homophiles, quavery ladies, and chronic petition signers that makes up the current Episcopal Church is no exception. Historic hubs like lovely Grace Cathedral in San Francisco or St. Paul’s in Richmond, Virginia, have been turned into bizarre nests of homosexual and “peace” activism, complete with rainbow and peace flags hanging in the nave and lesbian and homosexual priests ramming their agenda down the throats of the congregations along with the communion wafer.
Many think those activists continually demanding a more “inclusive” church might have paid a little attention to the majority of its communicants. The majority had proven itself perfectly willing to include minorities with equal rights. But the radical minority didn’t want inclusiveness… it wanted to dominate. And if success is dominating empty churches by driving out their congregations, they have succeeded.
The reality of the “inclusiveness” of the radicals was brought home a year ago by an idiotic abuse of power by the Bishop of Washington, D.C. against a tiny tidewater Maryland parish and its brave priest. Now the radicals are the majority many places. And they control the lovely churches, seminaries, and the all-important church pension plan.
Those who have left the Episcopal Church, or are being included out, are, in a sense, “Neo-Puritans,” just as they are accused of being by those trying to keep PECUSA together.
So were those part of the Reformation movement spread by Martin Luther and his successors and the original Puritans themselves. But they were protesting innovations and abuses by the hierarchies in the reigning churches of their day, including the Catholic practices of simony, benefices, the selling of indulgences, and, in the Puritans’ case, the conversion of the Anglican church from a institution of God to an institutional extension of the Stuart Monarchy’s recently asserted “divine right.”
Their problem was a “trahison des clercs.” Congregations weren’t trying to reform the basic tenets of the church. If anything they were trying to return to them. Few of the Episcopal laity had any problem with the 39 Articles of Religion at the back of the Book of Common Prayer, but dozens of their bishops and priests did.
In fact they so objected to the Book itself that they destroyed it with a “revision” in the 1970s. The basic language of the BCP somehow had served almost 500 years of Episcopalians from Tudor times to Jimmy Carter’s presidency, and suddenly it failed the clergy’s “inclusive” test.
Besides, prominent bishops like Spong and Robinson disagreed with some of the most basic elements of the Nicene Creed, the heart of Anglican belief. Some they considered minor matters of definition, like the divinity of Christ. It made one wonder why, if the radical clerics shared such contempt toward these unfashionable tenets of faith, they hadn’t left their unenlightened laity to more orthodox priests and moved on?
The American Episcopal Church itself is a byproduct of the Reformation. It proudly called itself the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States to make that point after the American Revolution. It intentionally dispersed its authority originally through a series of local parishes that owned their own property and selected their own priests under bishops of dioceses of limited power. That way the parishes could reflect whatever the local people wanted, from “Low Church” “plain altar” evangelicals of the Puritan tradition to lush “High Church” parishes with their “smells and bells.”
Over the past 50 years radical priests and allied bishops have systematically gutted parishional authority and taken over their property as one diocese after another has swung into line with the new authoritarian radical clergy. In short, the protest meeting led by the courageous Bishop of Pittsburgh was a reaction to a half century of peculation — embezzlement led by the church establishment. But on whose behalf?
Fortunately a healthy religion is able to renew itself from time to time as required. When it isn’t, a black hole like the Islam of today results that becomes the enemy of reform and enlightenment itself.
What a wonderful irony that Third World members of the Anglican Communion are more vital in this renewal than the Mother Church of England itself, much less the incredible, shrinking weirdo Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States.
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