Monday, February 27, 2006

Sauve Qui Peut?

Newbie Wannabe Anglican is predicting heavy fallout from the 2006 ECUSA General Convention. I’m not as convinced as he is that there will be a dramatic, communion-splitting outcome; I have more confidence (if that is the right word) in the ability of the bishops to split hairs and to produce lengthy statements that appear to offer reform and yet say nothing of substance. (I'm not dissing the Newbie’s prediction; that's more a comment on my own cynicism.)

He does, however, raise a worry that I share:

Here in the U. S., what the orthodox in ECUSA will do is not so clear cut. There will surely be a conservative walk out at GS ’06. But many conservatives will stay in ECUSA, including perhaps even Network leader Bishop Duncan. And, as the comments on that link indicate, the conservatives themselves would then sadly split with not a little acrimony.

The revisionists are a cohesive group in their, well, revisionism. A conservative walkout will leave them with a further diminished, completely whack, but still structurally intact church. They can go on making up religions until the Lord shows up.

The primary thing holding the ECUSA orthodox together, however, is their opposition to the theological wackiness of the revisionists. The orthodox are an amalgam of Evangelicals, Anglo-Catholics, Reformed, Charismatics, and any other ecclesial persuausion you can think of. Some accept females in the priesthood; some don’t. Some like the ’79 prayer book; some will die for the ’28. Some will venerate an icon; some will burn it. Once they leave the umbrella of the organizational church, lacking any external cohesiveness, the conservatives are likely to disintegrate into the ultimate Protestantism of “one man, one church.” That has historically been the problem precluding unity among the multiple Continuing Anglican churches as well.

Newbie is more hopeful than I am, and not without some reason. The Reformed Episcopal Church has recently joined with the thoroughly Anglo-Catholic APA. The Episcopal Missionary Church is entering communion with the primarily black Anglican Church Worldwide, which in turn has a concordat with the Diocese of Thika in the Anglican Church of Kenya. Who knows what things will look like in a hundred years? A century's not a long time in church history

A hundred years doesn’t do much for those of us now breathing, however. In the short term, it looks like sauve qui peut for the orthodox. I’m hunkered down in a thoroughly faithful continuing congregation; one where I can actually worship without gritting my teeth. On Wednesdays, I can sit in on a beautiful Maronite service that reminds me that God is God and I’m definitely not. I have friends who have found sanctuary among the Orthodox, Catholics, Lutherans, and Evangelicals. I also have friends who are riding it out in ECUSA. As the top disintegrates, it’s the local congregations that will keep the Light burning. And it’s those sorts of cross-denominational bonds of love and friendship that will keep the disintegration from being permanent. Lucky us, to live in such interesting times…