Posted by Christopher Johnson | Tuesday, August 7th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 34 Comments
I said once before that if one of the marks of a genius was the ability to drive otherwise-sane people absolutely bat crap, then Pope Benedict XVI is Albert Einstein. Come to find out that some Episcopalians are STILL bent about the Ordinariate. Last weekend, Religion & Ethics Newsweekly did a story about a Maryland Episcopal parish that recently swam the Tiber:
In Bladensburg, Maryland, the Catholic service unfolds smoothly, a comfortable routine for priests and parishioners alike.
But one year ago, members of St. Luke’s parish were devout, devoted Episcopalians. This is the first Episcopal church in the country to convert to Catholicism under Vatican rules designed to attract disaffected Episcopalians.
Father Mark Lewis and his congregation preferred Roman Catholic order to the Episcopal tendency to make crap up as they go along.
We left the Episcopal Church not because we were running away from the issues of the Episcopal Church. We left the Episcopal Church because we were running to the Catholic Church. We came to the point where we realized the theology of the Episcopal Church is what was lacking. The theology of Rome, the authority of Rome, the unity in the Holy See and in the bishops: that was appealing to us.
As did Father Scott Hurd.
There is a real hunger amongst some Episcopalians and Anglicans for authority. It was the question of where can true Christian authority be found that was a key element in this community’s journey.
There wasn’t one particular reason, said congregant Stephen Smith. There were a whole lot of reasons, each building on the last.
There’s not any one real incident you can point to, but it’s like the strands of a rope giving one by one, and each one weakens the rope as a whole.
Anne Marie Whittaker agrees.
All of a sudden it was do-your-own-thing mass, and there was a lot going on, for instance, a clown mass. I would come in and someone put a red nose on me! I saw children circling altars. One by one, parishes started to succumb to some of these practices in order to attract people, and it made it difficult for me to worship in that atmosphere.
Maryland Episcopal Bishop Eugene Sutton tried hard to be diplomatic.
I like to say that we are really one spiritual family. We believe about 90 percent of things in common. Where we disagree is on matters of authority and some other spiritual matters. But the important thing is that we are not fighting; we are not in competition with one another.
On the other hand, the Rev. Ian Markham, president and dean of the Virginia Theological Seminary, didn’t even try to hide his anger at the papists.
There’s quite a lot of traffic currently going both ways between the two traditions, especially at the level of congregants. What’s interesting here is you’ve got entire congregations and clergy making the shift. So, yeah, I think the Roman Catholic Church is a threat, because we’ve lost the sense of our theological understanding and identity.
There was a perception that this was poaching by the Roman Catholic Church of Anglicans around the world. It was discourteous, it was stealing sheep, it was unecumenical.
Stealing sheep? Unecumenical? In what way?
It’s viewed as not recognizing the value of and integrity of our traditions.
I’ve been covering the Current Unpleasantness since it began nine years ago. And while some of you might feel the need to get into a theological argument with that line, I have arrived at a point where words like those just make me smile.
I wonder if Markham realizes how pathetic he sounds; I can’t conceive of an Orthodox or Roman Catholic Christian uttering those words or ever feeling the need to. Because those words could not possibly occur to any person who is confident about his or her Christian tradition as Markham seems to imply here.
I think this could be quite a healthy movement for the Episcopal Church, because what it does is it keeps the Episcopal Church focused on providing a theological rationale for the things that we do. Too often we couch our changes in terms of policy or positioning on questions like sexuality, in terms of secular discourse. We as a tradition need to be as self-confident as Roman Catholics are. We need to be equally robust in saying, look, we actually think we have discerned what God requires of us as a community in the world. And we need to put our vision up against the Catholic vision.
Essentially, Markham is demanding that the Vatican recognize that the Anglican tradition, of which the Episcopal Organization is a part, is a Real Apostolic ChurchTM so that Rome must, to paraphrase Eric Cartman, “RESPECT MAH ECCLESIATICAL AUTHORITAY!!” And that’s just not how it works.
I think Rome has finally figured out that the Episcopalians are universalists who wear miters and carry croziers. Any “ecumenical” talks between the Roman Catholic Church and the Episcopal Organization are merely attempts by Rome to get Church Center to convert to Christianity. Father Hurd confirms that the Ordinariate is nothing more than Rome showing hurting Anglican traditionalists where the front door is.
I think it’s very important that this initiative is identified as a response and not an offer. You know, we’re not trying to steal sheep or to poach. We’re trying to pastorally respond to those who wanted to come in this direction for some time.
And leave it to a lay person to jack one out of the park. If the Episcopalians had been doing what they were supposed to be doing, says Anne Marie Whittaker, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
Let me tell you something about sheep stealing. You cannot steal sheep if the shepherd is doing his job, and that’s the bottom line. If the shepherd is doing his job, the flock will stay.