Why 815 and General Convention Are Irrelevant
In response to a recent post about 815’s latest outrages on Christian principles and charity, a commenter posed this question:
You wrote, “In other words, for ordinary Episcopalians, local is everything; national (so long as it remains corrupted) is nothing.” As one who has departed, I felt like my understanding of catholicity wouldn’t allow me to make an assertion like that. No matter how hard I tried, I still kept coming back to the notion that how could I have an ‘Episcopal Church Welcomes You’ sign in front of our building, and the other parish in town had one as well, yet I knew that we were preaching, teaching, and proclaiming two different versions of the Gospel. However, as St. Paul says, there aren’t two! It would be very easy to say that the local congregation is everything, and weave a cocoon around ourselves, and do our own thing, Yet, I kept being confronted by the universal nature of the church and her teachings, and I kept being confronted by that. Can you flesh that out for me, and how you’ve reconciled that in your mind?
We start with the observation that the Church’s national leadership is corrupt—and by “corrupt”, I do not mean that they are accepting bribes, or committing high crimes and misdemeanors in office. Rather, I mean that they are corrupt as Christians: they continually do and say things that emphatically are not Christian. (Suing fellow Christians; treating the Resurrection as allegorical and spiritual, rather than physical; preaching religious pluralism; supporting abortion—the list could go on and on.)
And this corruption extends not just to the leadership at 815 Second Avenue; it permeates the House of Bishops and the entire General Convention, as well. The House of Bishops is corrupt, because after selecting the Presiding Bishop, it has given her free rein and refused to curb her petty despotism—to say nothing of its sanctioning same-sex blessings and now marriages, in open violation of the rubrics and canons. And General Convention shows its increasing corruption with the legislation it sees fit to enact at each new session. It also has allowed the Presiding Bishop’s litigation agenda to run amok, while funding it willingly out of Church trust funds and other monies it is robbing from mission work.
Not only is our Church’s national leadership corrupt (un-Christian), but now it is studying how to reorganize its cumbersome machinery (designed long ago to keep the Church from easily becoming corrupt—after all, it preserved the Church for 160 years), so that it can practice its corruption more efficiently. And all the while, the Church’s numbers are in a steady decline. Truly, the proposal to “reorganize” this mess is fully akin to rearranging the deck chairs on Titanic— after she struck the iceberg.
For local Episcopalians in their local pews, who do not run for office or attend conventions, all of what I describe is irrelevant to their lives. It is irrelevant because first, it is politics, and the Church should not be political; moreover, it all takes place mostly far away, and at a functional level of which most Episcopalians are barely aware, let alone concern themselves about. But it is irrelevant mostly because it has become wholly corrupt and un-Christian.
The corruption in the national leadership is analogous to a parasite in the body. It feeds off the body, and robs it of nutrition, but its continued existence is wholly dependent on the body’s continuing to function as it has in the past. Moreover, the parasite often fools the body’s immune system (think HIV) because it cloaks itself to look like just another natural part of the body. Our bishops wear miters and rochets just like any Anglican bishop; they speak the liturgy and say the prayers, so that when they are performing as bishops in church services they are indistinguishable from orthodox bishops.
But when they speak out on their own—whether from the pulpit or a press conference, it does not matter—they show their true colors. And when they take and fully support actions inside and outside the Church which are not Christian, then we may certainly know them for what they are.
Thus most Episcopalians that I know deal with the dysfunction created by these contradictory roles by focusing on the liturgical one, and by ignoring the one that is un-Christian. It is not good for Christians to dwell on things that are un-Christian, and we instinctively shun doing so.
Moreover, non-Christians cannot alter or pervert the Christian Church catholic no matter what they do, or how much sin they commit. The body of Christ is not sullied by sin; the teachings of two thousand years do not suddenly become immaterial. My Church remains my Church, because Jesus Christ, and not puny mortal man, is at its head. All of us who are in the Church are sinners just as much as those who try to lead it astray, and it is enough for us to focus on rectifying our own lives without putting others to right. In the final days, they will have to defend themselves to the Only One who matters.
In saying this, I do not propose that we orthodox weave a cocoon around ourselves, or remain silent and pretend that nothing bad is going on around us. Our duties are clear: we do not aid or support their apostasy in the slightest manner; we call them out for it at every opportunity, and let them know that we know the falsehoods that belie their actions. In doing those things, we keep Christ’s Church alive at the local level, as only we can. And we set the example for others to follow, if they would be Christians. The horrific examples which the non-Christians are setting are deterrents, not attractions, to those who have not yet been won to Christ—that is why the numbers continue to decline in most Western Protestant denominations, and in ECUSA most of all.
So fight the good fight, I say. Be neither discouraged nor ashamed, for we have the blessed Paul on our side:
[I]t is already the hour for us to awake from sleep, for our salvation is now nearer than when we became believers. The night has advanced toward dawn; the day is near. So then we must lay aside the works of darkness, and put on the weapons of light.
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