Posted by Christopher Johnson | Tuesday, March 30th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 12 Comments
The Reverend Dr. Russell Levenson, Jr., rector of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church of Houston, Texas, thinks former Secretary of State James Baker is on to something:
As you can see from Secretary Baker’s article, he brings his own perspective and insightful proposal out of, not only decades of experience in laying the groundwork for lasting peace and civility in a wide variety of arenas[Such as? – Ed], but also a faithful member of the Episcopal Church and out of his deep and abiding devotion to our Lord and this Church we both love and seek to serve.
Levenson describes himself as a traditionalist.
I have, for years, been open (as I was instructed to do at VTS), and have attempted to live into what Dean Markham calls “generous orthodoxy.” That said, I do so from the place of one who believes that the revisionists’ (I do not use this word pejoratively, but descriptively) position around human sexuality is not only inconsistent with the Biblical and Traditional teaching of the Church, but has been the chief cause for our divisions and the present anemia we see infecting most of TEC since the mid-1970s, (a time during which we have lost roughly 1/3rd of our membership).
But he has an awfully funny way of displaying his traditionalism.
But if I am completely honest, I must admit that I realize that these issues of deep concern to revisionists will not go away. These issues have dominated virtually every clergy conference, Diocesan gathering, and General Convention I have att ended since my ordination over two decades ago. But I am an Episcopalian and I love and seek to serve the Episcopal Church. I have not been called away, and feel that my position on these matters has (or should have) as much validity and authenticity as those who may sit on the “other aisle” (to borrow a political term) than I do.
Insofar as he feels the need to trot out the usual tired Episcopal bumper sticker about conservative Anglicans.
In a letter Thornton Wilder wrote in the 1930s, he offered the following: ”The fundamentalist tradition in American Protestantism has made into fixed hard laws the substance of the Gospel…All that is censorious…and joyless in the Calvinistic-Methodist-Baptist tradition is based upon a misreading of the New Testament and a failure to see that most of the tone in the Old Testament is expressly superseded in the New…”
And lament the fact that there are winners and losers in the Episcopal Organization.
I will confess that is has been a long time since many of us have experienced authentic “joy” in what we know to be the structures of the Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church. Some may have experienced some measure of satisfaction if his or her “side” won some specific victory, but is one part of the body “winning” and the other “losing,” really something worthy of joy?, (cf. I Corinthians 12). I would suggest that “joylessness” is rooted not in experiencing an open expression of freedom and authentic diversity, but instead a denomination increasingly dominated by strident liberals and conservatives running from grace into the pseudosafety of fundamentalism.
The liberals get a huge kick out of this, Russ. But Levenson isn’t done insulting conservatives yet.
I want to suggest that we are now witnessing this kind of “framework” in what we could easily say is a “church split apart.” The response to this increasingly divided Church is the kind of fundamentalism to which both Wilder and Solzhenitsyn refer. Conservatives have taken up the arms of schismatic and pietistic separation from those deemed unholy. Liberals have returned the favor by failing to include the conservatives fully, often deeming them as a dying breed that needs to catch up, convert, or move on.
What should we do about all this? Basically, Russ thinks the bishops should recommit to the moratoria they just finished relieving themselves all over.
Another controversial General Convention has passed and the spin that key resolutions that were passed did not contradict the voluntary period of gracious restraint offered through resolution B033 in 2006, has not held water with election of the Suffragan Bishop of Los Angeles and the approval of same-sex marriage in the Diocese of Massachusetts and same-sex blessings in the Diocese of Bethlehem, with more proposals en route. The period of gracious restraint for some – though not for all — has ended. Now what if, (thinking out of the proverbial box here) the majority of Episcopal Bishops, hopefully with the support of the Presiding Bishop, sought to find a middle-way that honors authentic inclusion. In order to do so, they would have to re-commit to Solzhenitsyn’s “self-restraint.”
That hot college-aged blonde is the last one, honey, I swear. Twelve extra-marital affairs is enough, believe you me.
They have to listen to the larger Anglican voice. They would need to honor the called for moratoria around revisionist proposals concerting human sexuality and have to absolutely reject foreign incursions that disrupt our internal unity. Thus, again, we return to that call for self-restraint. Put simply, what if a majority of our bishops took the lead by calling the greater church to simply hit the “pause” butt on with a firm finger and do nothing more to finish the tear in our fabric that has just about destroyed our Anglican family.
Then what? Nothing in particular.
This “pause” could be until our 2012 General Convention. In that interim, this majority of American Bishops, in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Consultative Council, coupled with leaders of our theological seminaries could work with a broad spectrum of openminded-hearted rectors and lay leaders to develop a solution that respects not only the autonomy of individual bishops and their dioceses, but also of clergy and their parishes.
The problems with this idea have been discussed before and should be obvious to anyone with a functioning intellect. There is no reason whatsoever for TEO’s dominant liberals to grant these proposals and every reason in the world for them not to.
To people like J. Jon Bruno, John Chane and Gene Robinson, the conservative position is not legitimate and cannot be permitted to be. Because once planted, the idea that maybe Robbie shouldn’t have gotten that pointy hat in 2003 might grow into the idea that maybe Robbie shouldn’t have that pointy hat right now.
Besides, to declare that an Episcopal bishop is the bishop of this Episcopal parish but not that one or must preach one doctrine in this building and another over there would make Episcopal worship meaningless and turn Episcopal theology and Episcopal witness into even bigger jokes than they already are.
It’s difficult for me to get too angry about any of this anymore. Like James Baker, Dr. Levenson is yet another Episcopal “conservative” in name only. Indeed, Levenson seems scornful of orthodox Anglicans who actually believe things, hence words like “fundamentalist” and “pietistic” and “schismatic.”
Levenson claims “conservative” positions but won’t push them too hard or too stridently or in any other way that might make someone angry with him. All he wants is for the liberal majority to continue to tolerate his existence in the Episcopal Organization.
Which TEO quite happily will, secure in the knowledge the people like Russell Levenson have no influence in the church, never will again, and cannot affect its decisions in any way. Hope you enjoy your parish, Russ, because it’s as high as you’re ever going to go in TEO and in the future, there will be fewer and fewer such opportunities.
That’s the payoff for laodiceanism.