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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Forward

The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America (as it is legally known) today invested her new presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori. As an Anglo-Catholic I cannot accept women in the clergy as there is no scriptural basis for it. Nevertheless, I watched some of the proceedings today on the Internet (scroll down) with the hope I might see some hints of the "reconciliation" Ms. Schori has spoken of and advocated so ardently and frequently since her election. They were not there.

What we got instead was a touchy-feely, happy clappy, new-age spectacle but with just enough references to Anglican services of old, via some of the hymns mainly, to painfully remind us the magnitude of what we have lost these past thirty years. In her homily Ms. Schori's made occasional obeisance to Christ and the Gospel but seemed far more concerned with what seems to be her real gospel, the United Nations Millennium Development Goals; that and world peace (something I support whole-heartedly and you too, I predict). Following the sermon a gathering of young women carrying large urns, containing holy water I think, danced around the picnic table altar then poured the water, with elaborate gesturing, into the baptismal font. To my naive eyes it seemed more like some sort of wiccan rite so I left the computer and went for a walk on this beautiful crisp fall day in Manhattan.

I fear there is no saving the Episcopal Church. The heterodoxies, beginning many years ago with the so-called ordination of women and the spoliation of the Book of Common Prayer continue unabated, with offences big and small, and culminating three years ago with the consecration of an adulterer as bishop of New Hampshire. Ms. Schori enthusiastically supported his consecration thus her election as presiding bishop served notice the Episcopal Church is not going back on any of these "innovations." However, as an institution it is sere and spent. Its membership is declining precipitously and consists primarily of aging baby boomers who will soon be dying off. With the declining membership comes declining pledges thus church leadership resorts ever more frequently to dipping into the capital to pay its bills. The coffers, once ample, are diminishing; the people who filled them are long dead and their progeny have stopped coming to church. Statistically, if the decline in membership continues at the present rate (a big assumption considering events of late) the last Episcopalian in the United States will be buried in 72 years. All of this is bad news for the Episcopal Church but it is not bad news for Christ�s Church.

Our Creed states "one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church." Only one. And while I grieve as much as anyone over what has happened to the Episcopal Church I love, the Church of which I am a cradle member, I do not despair over her demise for good will come out of it. If there is to be only one church, there will have to be, to use modern business parlance (and forgive me for it) many mergers and acquisitions. Look around you. It is happening, via realignment within the vastly larger worldwide Anglican Communion and, and to me even more astonishing, the lion lying down with the lamb, the Evangelicals joining with the Catholics: the Common Cause Partners.

Where all this leads only God knows but I think it is all for the good. The Episcopal Church, sadly, is or soon will be history but if the result of her demise is the unification of her diverse surviving factions, that is cause to rejoice, for it is moving us in the right direction, albeit on a long and difficult journey: to one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

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