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Tuesday, August 31, 2004

On running a proper schism

Many Episcopalians are awaiting the word of the non-Lambeth Conference taking place in Lambeth over the American Episcopal Church's decision to recognize V. Gene Robinson as bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire even though he is currently in an open homosexual relationship. On the conservative side, some are hoping to be given the reins of the American Episcopalian Church by the Anglican Communion. On the liberal side, we see the (liberal) Bishop of Los Angeles threatening legal action against two parishes who have disaffiliated themselves with his diocese and joined with a diocese in Uganda.

Unfortunately, American Episcopalians have very little experience in schism. While the Anglican faith was born in an act of schism under Henry VIII, repeating that experience would attract police attention these days.

Roman Catholics, on the other hand, have a long and diverse experience with schism, and are getting better and better at handling it. When Catholics have their schisms, the side opposing the Pope rents or borrows space from a local Protestant church until they scrape together enough funds to build their own building.

There is a lot to say for the ECUSA and the Anglican Communion to stay together, and there are powerful arguments that differences on homosexuality should not force any sort of split among Episcopalians. For the purposes of this essay, such arguments will be ignored and a schism considered inevitable.

We have no Pope, so who would the referee be? I'd propose the local bishop, since ECUSA norms offer some input from laity and parishes as to whom the bishop would be and there's relatively little chance that most parishes would find the local bishop obnoxious. The bishop would lay down the policy, and parishes would decide individually whether to accept (wholeheartedly or reluctantly makes no difference) or reject the discipline. Dissenters within a parish should choose another parish. If bonds of Christian affection should unite parish with diocese or parishioners with each other depsite disagreement on these issues, that's fine as well. Should ECUSA be cut off from the Anglican Communion, then it would fall to the Anglican Communion and parishes who leave the ECUSA to set up new dioceses and seat bishops. (For now, the ECUSA rules plus a "no gay bishops" clause should suffice for such a diocesan structure.)

Property that belongs to the ECUSA should remain with the ECUSA. Parishes generally are organized as non-profit corporations, and their bylaws are sovereign. Don't try the civil courts unless you wish to spend lots of money on lawyers to be told by the court that it has no jurisdiction. The anti-Tito Serbian Orthodox Church's dissenters found this out the hard way. If there is ambiguity in the ownership of some real estate or artwork, then let the property in question be sold and the proceeds given to the poor. This said, Christian charity and justice would require that should any parish participate in a pension or insurance fund, it get its money back to invest as it pleases.

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Saturday, August 28, 2004

NYC protests

On August 27, NYC Indymedia reports that an impressive Critical Mass bike ride took place this evening, comprising 5,000+ riders and extending 45 (really short) blocks. Critical Mass stages monthly bike rides in cities during the evening rush hour. They claim 264 arrests; a lot of them took place as the riders returned to St. Mark's Church. Please note that Indymedia may not be the least biased source on this event.

One claim I've heard is that 11% of New Yorkers plan to participate in a protest -- thats 880,000 people.

NYC Indymedia

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Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Abu Gharib and the Alamo

Just why do we remember the Alamo? Texas independence was actually won at the Battle of San Jacinto. But the Alamo is a story of brave Texans who fought to their death and the massacre there rallied Texans to fight.

Of course, the Texans were given no chance to surrender. When Santa Ana sounded the Degüello, that meant that mercy would not be extended nor expected. There is some evidence that several Alamo defenders did survive and were taken prisoner, among them Davy Crockett. Santa Ana killed the prisoners and Texas howled with the cry "Remember the Alamo!"

Our current President would do well to remember his Texas history if he wants victory in Iraq.



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Tuesday, August 24, 2004

God forbid, we're approaching 1,000 dead Americans in Iraq

When that happens, this site will be dressed in mourning for 72 hours.

Stereotypes crushed at St. Stephen's

The old stereotype about Episcopalians as the Country Club denomination was joined (at least in my mind) by that of a church that has forgotten about God and despises the country, of Sodom and Gomorrah under the steeples.

That got swept away Sunday morning. Fr. Blakslee gave me his email address on his card, a card showing him as chaplain for the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Four people in the Armed Services are on our prayer list, in a parish where about 50 people attend Sunday services. I get the impression that the congregant has no lack of devout Christians, but that could be an error caused by the presence of moderately devoted people in both faiths: while a Catholic who didn't want to be at Mass goes anyway (or else!) and ducks out after Communion, the Episcopalian just stays home.

In short, I get the impression that St. Stephen's is full of people that take following Jesus quite seriously, with a pastor who applies considerable care to the understanding of God's word. Other members probably devote similar care, and come up with opinions that flatly contradict Father, but that's okay.

I think I found a new home, at least for now. Time to request an envelope.


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Saturday, August 21, 2004

Becoming an Episcopalian

Sorry I've left you alone, dear reader, but I've been spending way too much time at Daily Kos reading about the latest Bush blunders and Kerry virtues. I'm also attending a different church, St. Stephen's Parish in Hobart, Indiana.

Through July, I started to feel, during Mass and especially as Communion approached, that I really should not be at a Catholic Church, that my communion with the Roman Catholic hierarchy was attenuating. Maybe it was Bishop Sheridan in Colorado Springs threatening to deny Communion to Kerry voters, or Cardinal Arinze. The pederasty scandal and the Vatican's overeagerness to blame America first for it came to mind as well. So I started to look up the other small-e episcopal faiths; only the Anglican Communion had most of the sacraments and very little involvement in the Balkan horrors of the last decade.

The morning of August 1 I sat down for a few minutes before Mass and read a news report about the latest pronouncement by Cardinal Ratzinger -- among other things, it stated that feminism caused homosexuality. (With 15%-50% of the Catholic priesthood gay, one would think that Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan spent their weekends running seminaries.) I could not go to Mass that morning, I was so angry. That evening I read the document, and it talked at some length about the absolute necessity of women in all societal roles, how women so necessary to make us men proper humans -- and it struck me that depriving priests of such wonderful companionship was cruel, especially now that priests cannot pass on their parish to their sons (what triggered the discipline of celibacy).

The next Sunday, I went to St. Stephen's Episcopal in Hobart. The website says that an average of 61 people attend services, a third of them children in Sunday School. Episcopal Mass and Catholic Mass are very similar. The Episcopal Creed is the Nicene Creed.

(N.B. Until October, Episcopal = Anglican. Then watch this space.)

At St. Stephen's we kneel a lot more than most Catholics, and some of the pre-Vatican II Catholic ritual has been retained. I was surprised to see a Communion rail between the congregation and the sanctuary. Just like Catholics used to, we knelt at the communion rail to receive the Eucharist. While not required, everybody received Communion in both species; most of us took the Host in our hand, then dipped it in the chalice and ate. After a few seconds for reflection, we returned to the pew. Instead of a Communion hymn, we sang a hymn (on our knees) after everybody had eaten. Most parishioners stayed in the church for a short time after Mass, then we had Coffee Hour in the hall.

Anglicans generally deal less with intermediaries than Catholics. Anglicans may adore Mary, but Marian prayers for intercession are a minority preference. (Traditionalists might wave one of the 39 Articles of Faith at you, but gay bishops have their attention at the moment.) In general, I get the impression that where at St. Andrew's we drank from the water fountain, at St. Stephen's we drink from the fire hose. Having God that close to me (as opposed to the BVM or my Guardian Angel) can be, well, nerve-wracking. It shouldn't be, but it is.

Anyway, I'm following a friend of mine in my apostasy. His Catholic parish, though given two years of RCIA time with him, apparently did not make the Catholic position on divorce and remarriage (DON'T DO IT) very clear. In effect, his First Communion on Holy Saturday was also his last. Going to the Episcopal faith, he did not feel very welcome at a parish that shall go nameless, though its new $2.2 million edifice should be visible from space when it's completed.

Ah, the fun of being Episcopalian in the USA. On one hand, it's considered the most upper-crust of the mainline Protestant faiths, connected with patricians and country clubs and WASPs who trace their family back to Jamestown; the hymnal is particularly stolid. On the other hand, Episcopal theology and practice is extremely diverse and the more outré elements are mediagenic to boot -- Bishop Spong and gay bishops come to mind.




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