Posted by Christopher Johnson | Wednesday, March 24th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 41 Comments
Former United States Secretary of State James Baker III loves the Episcopal Organization not wisely but too well:
As an Episcopalian who is concerned about the fracturing of our church, and one who desires to hold it together, I fear our dwindling church will continue to shrink unless we find a way to bridge our differences. Further breaking apart of our denomination would be extraordinarily regrettable, but in my view probable if we continue on our present path.
And he’s concerned about its future.
It does not have to be this way. Rather than choosing between the absolutist positions where there is one “winner” and one “loser” with respect to those issues, I believe that there is another more practical approach worthy of consideration.
Basically, Secretary Baker proposes to make the Episcopal Organization even more theologically and intellectually incoherent than it already is.
Therefore, I suggest that the best approach going forward would be for both sides of the controversy to agree to disagree, with each side expressing respect for the good faith of the other.
What practical steps would this involve, Mr. Secretary?
Such an approach could be called an “all are welcome” or “local option” approach and would promote a church of authentic inclusivity. It would be a reasonable and democratic solution. Under this approach, each parish would be able to decide by majority vote of its communicants the position it would take on these issues of sexuality. Those votes would be conducted for the first time in 2012 and thereafter only in general convention years when a particular parish was presented with a petition in writing signed by 50% or more of the communicants of that parish requesting another vote on the issue. Parishes that voted in favor of same-sex blessings/ordinations could be referred to by one designation and those voting against by some other designation. All would be deemed to be parishes in good standing in the Episcopal Church of the United States. Bishops in exercising oversight of the parishes in their diocese on issues of sexuality would do so in keeping with that particular parish’s most recent vote.
Leaving aside the fact that this idea doesn’t stand a chance because there’s no longer any reason for Episcopal liberals to allow it to ever see the light of day, I hope you grasp the fundamental problem here.
Bishop Smith is a straight-down-the-line Episcopal liberal. But Bishop Smith has three parishes in his diocese that are virulently opposed to homosexual bishops and same-sex marriage and, under Secretary Baker’s proposal, so designate themselves.
If episcopal oversight must be exercised “in keeping with that particular parish’s most recent vote,” Bishop Smith must preach that homosexual activity is a sin whenever he visits any of those three parishes. When he visits any other parish, Smith can say what he truly believes.
In effect, Baker’s proposal doesn’t just ask Smith to lie, it orders him to. Which doesn’t seem like it would be particularly effective way of proclaiming the Gospel. Of course, that’s just me and I don’t particularly care whether the Episcopal Organization continues to exist or not so take that for what it’s worth.
Yeah, I know, there are Episcopalians in Roman Catholic drag out there. But for the most part, your average Roman Catholic could move from London to Webster Groves, Missouri or from Paris to Webster Groves, Missouri or from Rome to Webster Groves, Missouri or from New York City to Webster Groves, Missouri, walk into one of the numerous Catholic parishes around here and feel spiritually at home.
But Secretary Baker? If you ask someone, “What do Episcopalians believe?” and he replies, “Depends on what building you’re in,” that is not a selling point. Indeed, Christians tend to run, not walk, away from answers like that one and the churches who give it. Because of, you know, the whole Laodicean thing.