House of Bishops Votes for Liturgical Anarchy
The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church (USA) is a ship without a rudder. It is adrift on the sea of spiritual platitudes, and at the mercy of the winds of popular culture. Its leaders on the bridge have no idea where it is headed, because they have lost their compass, too. And as for the crew—well, they just keep on doing what they have always been doing, which is to keep their heads down, work at their daily tasks, and hope that they eventually will find a safe harbor, despite having no idea how to get there.
They listen to daily prayers which have no root in the liturgy, but which “sound” quasi-spiritual. “May God be with you,” intoned their chaplain just before they voted to “approve”, 111-41, some kind of liturgy for some kind of mumbo-jumbo to be pronounced over some kind of persons who see themselves in some kind of relationship.
How is the Church to “bless” something which its Book of Common Prayer cannot even define?
The Bishops do not tell us; they just say: “Do whatever your own Bishop may choose to approve in his or her own Diocese. It can be this liturgy, for example; or it can be something someone else has written for this liturgically undefinable occasion, as long as the Bishop says, ‘That’s fine.’ Or it can be no such rites or liturgies whatsoever, if the Bishop says that. Whatever—just go with it, pewsters.”
This is a recipe for liturgical anarchy in the Church, and is symbolic of the systematic damage the Bishops have allowed to eat away at ECUSA’s foundations over the years. The pastors have ignored their real flocks while chasing after particular kinds of sheep (who actually are very few in number). In the process, the fences have all fallen down, and now the pastors can scarcely tell who is in their flock, and who isn’t, while there are no longer any protections against beasts of prey.
So what, exactly, did the Bishops do today (July 9), besides “pass” a piece of paper labeled “Resolution A049”?
Did they amend the Book of Common Prayer?
They did not.
Did they approve an alternative to the BCP for trial use on a Church-wide basis?
They did not—the proponents of A049 knew they did not have the votes to do that.
Instead, at the last minute, they carefully reworded their Resolution to take out the word “trial [use]” wherever it appeared, and put the word “provisional” in its place. In this way, the rudderless Bishops apparently believed they were not opening up a route to amending the Book of Common Prayer, by triggering the requirement of the need for a supermajority under Article X of the Constitution (as discussed in this post).
But did they approve, then, an experimental rite for “special occasions” and for use only with the permission of a bishop, as discussed in this earlier post?
No, they did not manage to do that, either. And why not? Take a look again at the language of Art. X, as quoted in the post just linked. Under it, Bishops may
take such order as may be permitted by the Rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer or by the Canons of the General Convention for the use of special forms of worship.
The BCP Rubrics are of no comfort to them, because they provide that the only union that can be blessed is that between a man and a woman. (See page 433.) Nor are the Canons any help, because no Canon authorizes General Convention or any Bishop to proceed contrary to the BCP in devising rites for “special occasions.”
So what, in the final analysis, did the Bishops in their cluelessness about Constitutional limitations and requirements do?
Simple: as I say, they voted for liturgical anarchy (H/T for that term: Canon Harmon). It’s every man for himself. (Note to feminists and LGBTQIs: that’s “man” in the generic sense. Try rewriting that sentence to include all your “categories.” See what I mean? And some of you refuse even to be described by pronouns, so the task is impossible without using a generic noun for the lot of you.)
From now on, when it comes to the services you can hear in an Episcopal church, throw out the Book of Common Prayer: its title is now an oxymoron, because there is no more “common prayer.” Come this Advent, we start blessing “same-sex unions”; come next Lent, it will be rites for departed pets and perhaps even human-animal “unions”; and come next summer, who-knows-what will be in vogue.
No one can say. And that’s my point.
Ask your Bishop (good luck with that). Everything is open to experiment, to “provisional” use, as the whim strikes your Bishop.
In just a little over three short years, the Episcopal Church (USA) has gone from refusing to confirm the election of a Bishop who dared to tinker with the Sunday liturgy, to telling all the Bishops: “It’s your show—whatever tickles your fancy, folks.”
And now to the important question: Why have our Bishops, the “keepers of our faith,” voted for liturgical anarchy?
Aye, and there’s the rub. Consider the following simple exercise in mathematics. (Or skip to the bottom line, if you don’t like math.)
As of 2011, there are 311.6 million people in the United States (Google it). Of these, 75.2%, or just about 234.3 million, are 18 years or older.
The latest and best estimate, based on five separate studies, is that there are just about 4 million adults in the United States who identify themselves as gay or lesbian. That number represents 1.7% of the adult population of 234.3 million.
According to the latest ECUSA statistics (2010), an average of just 657,831 attended Episcopal churches on Sunday. (That number will be some 40-50,000 less by now, but use it anyway, even though it also includes young persons under 18.)
If the percentage of gays and lesbians going to ECUSA Sunday services matches their percentage in the adult U.S. population, then there would be about 11,230 of them in church on Sundays. Of that number, available statistics show that approximately half are in some kind of relationship that has existed for more than four years, but only fifteen percent have been in relationships of twelve years or longer.
Say, of those longer-term, committed relationships, that every one of them who were both church-going Episcopalians wanted to have their unions “blessed” in a church ceremony. That’s 1,684 committed Episcopalians, or 842 potential pairs that are candidates for Episcopal blessings.
Eight hundred and forty-two couples. And for them, our Bishops sacrificed our Church’s traditions, its Book of Common Prayer, and its very integrity.
Maybe they did it for non-Episcopalian gay couples, too, in the forlorn belief that it would add to the number of Episcopalians. So call it 2,000—call it 3,000; it does not matter. The number is minuscule, any way you slice it. The Church is losing ten times that many members every year.
And for them, our Bishops decided to lead our Church over the cliff, and let the rest of us be hanged.
Now do you see what they did today?
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