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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Episcopal transformation

Episcopal Church Takes Action Against the Bishop and Diocese of South Carolina, from Titus OneNine, via Ad Orientem.

The US Episcopal church has apparently deposed the bishop of South Carolina in its crusade to scour all conservative Christian theology from its aging, ex-hippy ranks and complete its transformation into a unitarian book club. I no longer have a dog in the fight, other than academic curiosity about what might have been had +Rowan decided to act like an actual Archbishop and tell the US church it was no longer welcome at Lambeth.

In the Orthodox Church there would of course be no question: the locks would be changed and the dissenters would be out the door, never to be heard from again. But the US Episcopalians never had a 'national' church. The diocesan bishops were the ultimate hierarchs, and elected one of their membership to preside. There is no equivalent "metropolitan" or "archbishop" in the US denomination. Following the trajectory of most human organizations, the national representative bodies sloppily passed a sloppily drafted canon purporting to acquire title to all Episcopal parishes. Several state courts, with their constitutional wariness about getting involved in church fights, have upheld the canon against their own property laws. Sad, but inevitable from the moment Henry VIII left Rome. Apostasy begets apostasy.

The reaction of many conservatives has been to restyle themselves as "Anglicans." ("Episcopal" was the term the US church came up with after after the American Revolution.) Historically, the "Anglican" Church simply meant the church of the English nation. As modern Americans (and the English themselves) now recoil in horror from the idea of an ethnic church, they have detached the term from its organic roots, and are crafting a new doctrine for the purpose of binding their communion and calling it "Anglicanism."


Unfortunately, the conservatives will find this a slender reed. Is there a checklist of beliefs? Is it dogmatic? What is their ecclesiology? In a few years, I expect they will see the schismatic process play out again, with differences over female clerics, Eucharist with non-Anglicans, marriage and divorce, Anglo-Catholic beliefs and other issues.

1 comment:

Visibilium said...

Anglicanism's apostasy consisted in separating from Orthodoxy at the Norman Conquest. Henry Tudor's asserting his church's independence from Old Rome was a promising development that unfortunately proceeded in the wrong direction, probably for geopolitical reasons. Let's hope that the Anglicans find their way back eventually.