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February 25, 2013


Pastoral Malpractice

Why are ordained Christian ministers signing petitions in which heretics, enemies of the cross of Christ, are likened to brothers and sisters and legitimate members of Body of Christ?

We, the undersigned seminarians, clergy and lay members of the Episcopal Church, hold a variety of views which are often in direct conflict with each other concerning the theological issues confronting the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion. But we have been joined together through baptism into “God’s family the Church” as “Christ’s body” (BCP, 858), and we lament the sad divisions that have arisen among us.

As such, in light of the recent escalation of litigious dispute between factions within our Church, we stand united in our plea that the case involving the withdrawal of the Diocese of South Carolina be settled without recourse to civil litigation (1 Cor. 6:1-11), lest our rivalries become a stumbling block and impede the ministry of reconciliation that our Lord has given to us (2 Cor. 5:17-20)...more

As someone said recently, “Reconciliation” is the new “Indaba”. Why on earth would anyone who holds the bible to be authoritative and true “lament” the division between those who destroy the flock and those who protect and feed it?


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17 comments

I’m guessing that they needed to come up with some kind of theological-sounding verbiage for why they don’t want the lawsuits.

Why they didn’t just say

“We, the undersigned seminarians, clergy and lay members of the Episcopal Church, hold a variety of views which are often in direct conflict with each other concerning the theological issues confronting the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion. But we are all in the same organization and the lawsuits certainly do redound to our discredit as an organization.

As such, in light of the recent escalation of litigious dispute between factions within our Church, we stand united in our plea that the case involving the withdrawal of the Diocese of South Carolina be settled without recourse to civil litigation.

We furthermore implore the House of Bishops – as guardians of our faith and common life – to please step up to the plate in regards to leadership rather than leaving all the decisions to David Booth Beers and Katherine Jefferts Schori.

Then we might become a better, more stable organization.”

But, you know—that couldn’t be said, because it completely strips out all the fluff and blather and pious bromides.

[1] Posted by Sarah on 2-25-2013 at 10:38 AM · [top]

But hey—it looks like they could use all the promotion they can get, so I’m sure they’re grateful for the notice from StandFirm.  ; > )

[2] Posted by Sarah on 2-25-2013 at 10:39 AM · [top]

Fr. Matt, I’ve been doing a bit of leadership development stuff with a gent from Mars Hill (but I still wear vestments and tuck my clergy shirt in).

As you might imagine, there was some personality inventory type stuff at the front end of the program.

I laughed out loud when I read mine - it was spot on about my strong desire to maintain relationships, and feeling like a failure when they don’t work out.

I suspect that I am typical of mainline clergy in that respect.  This is a trait by which congregations select clergy types… then they feed it steroids and interbreed the livestock until it is a singularly dominant mutation.  It is not a bad trait to have in a pastoral leader (look at what happens when you have a Schori, who doesn’t seem to have any of this particular quality), but it must be balanced by sober thinking that applies core theology and values to harness and guide emotional responses.

I say this to answer your question, “Why on earth would anyone who holds the bible to be authoritative and true ‘lament’ the division between those who destroy the flock and those who protect and feed it?”  We do this because it is in our personality to do so.  And our personalities have been reinforced in behaving this way - the parish “reward and punishment” system gives carrots for compromise and sticks for leadership. 

If one is not wired the way I am (the way I am describing), this won’t make a bit of sense.  But if one is wired in this way, one must hit the brakes when the “unity and reconciliation” feelings start flowing and hunker down in the Biblical counsel for what pastoral leaders are to do.

[3] Posted by Timothy Fountain on 2-25-2013 at 10:48 AM · [top]

Hi Timothy+,

Thanks for that answer. I can certainly see that and, though it might surprise you, I feel the same way when relationships don’t work out. I guess I’ve just never understood why so many seem to favor clergy relationships over the relationships they have to their own congregations…so much so that they are willing to endanger the souls under their care.

[4] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 2-25-2013 at 11:01 AM · [top]

Oh, I don’t mind giving them the coverage. The more people who see this the better.

[5] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 2-25-2013 at 11:04 AM · [top]

RE: “Oh, I don’t mind giving them the coverage.” 

Hey, I know.

RE: “I guess I’ve just never understood why so many seem to favor clergy relationships over the relationships they have to their own congregations.”

I wholeheartedly agree—and it’s clear that a lot of the hand-wringing about “division” is about clergy with clergy and bishops with bishops.  It highlights—yet again—the old boy’s club in TEC [and other Anglican entities], with the laity and congregations being left way way out of the loop.

[6] Posted by Sarah on 2-25-2013 at 11:16 AM · [top]

Matt+ #4 - because so many of the souls under our care want to believe what the revisionists are selling.  It all sounds so pleasing and it makes life easier to believe all the “tolerance and inclusivity” talk; it keeps one from being a “bad person” in social settings, it helps salve one’s conscience for old failures in a way that isn’t as disturbing as bringing them to the cross, etc. etc.

IOW, the clergy person who goes along with “reconciliation” w/ other clergy also gets on the good side of a great many parishioners in a typical TEC church.

[7] Posted by Timothy Fountain on 2-25-2013 at 11:18 AM · [top]

I find it fascinating that this comes out when a conflict with a departing diocese seems to be more difficult to “win”.  Why didn’t we see more of these statements during the conflict with Pittsburgh, Ft. Worth, San Joachin, etc?

[8] Posted by GillianC on 2-25-2013 at 12:29 PM · [top]

I have a mental picture of Saint Nicholas punching Arius in the nose at the Council of Nicea. A much better way to handle the situation than “indaba”.

[9] Posted by via orthodoxy on 2-25-2013 at 12:32 PM · [top]

It’s telling that we see this kind of thing in a case where ECUSA is behind from the start in the litigation and may very well lose.  When they’re losing, litigation is terrible; when they’re winning, it’s good stewardship.

[10] Posted by Katherine on 2-25-2013 at 01:16 PM · [top]

It is a feel good petition. Why sign it? I can come up with the following rationale.

The desire to remain in relationship overpowers the necessity for a determination of Truth when the process and/or the outcome of said determination is believed to endanger the bonds of relationship.

In doctrinal and theological concerns it is as if to say, “We won’t discuss this because someone’s feelings might get hurt.”

When you shy away from the theological discussions because of concerns over “relationships,” you are feeding the wolves, and creating a more fertile pasture for all sorts of heresy instead of feeding your sheep.

[11] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 2-25-2013 at 01:35 PM · [top]

As a lay person, should I be discouraged by the dialoge here between the ordained posters?  It is very discouraging to me when I consider that I think Sarah #6 is correct.  The laity are not all in a malaise, but the general sense of maliase among many may well arise from the inescapable impression that Matt+ and Timothy+ are correct and personal and professional relationships may be a higher priority than vibrant committment to the gospel…  “Oh well!  If Father____ is not making much of it…then why should I.”  As one former bishop I know frequently stated ” it is always better to keep your place at the table.”
Depends on what’s for dinner, I think.

[12] Posted by aacswfl1 on 2-25-2013 at 01:37 PM · [top]

[12], the last line of your posting brings to mind the Twilight Zone episode “To Serve Man”, whose last line (paraphrased) is as follows:

“...whether you are on Earth [TEC] or on the ship [Hellbound], it doesn’t matter because sooner or later ‘you’ll be on the menu.’”

This also brings to mind the commonly-used phrase when you lose in a rap contest - “You were served.”

We can’t say we weren’t warned by Jesus (see Matthew 23:13-15).

[13] Posted by Doug Stein on 2-25-2013 at 02:17 PM · [top]

aacswfl1 (#12) there is no more reason to be discouraged by this symptom of the Western church mess than by any of the other many symptoms.

I think that we get into a lot of chicken and egg about clergy and laity.  I have to push back against the idea that there is this great sea of theologically formed, orthodox, organized laity who would fix the church but are hosed by the clergy club.

Many congregations (and in a denomination like TEC, it might be MOST congregations) are, if not revisionist, at least theologically indifferent clubs for people who are comfortable together, who like to accomplish some fun stuff together, maybe build something, maybe even do a good deed or two.  But they are not interested in the Gospel that much except as a therapeutic tool for the random bad day.  They are certainly not interested in the Gospel going out and changing the minds of those who don’t believe it.

And such congregations put forward as clergy candidates folks with whom they are comfortable.  And those folks become part of the clergy club that keeps the laity in the dark about spiritual monstrosities in order to maintain the comfortable relationships and pleasant good deeds and building nice stuff.

[14] Posted by Timothy Fountain on 2-25-2013 at 03:06 PM · [top]

One of the best summaries I have read:

Many congregations (and in a denomination like TEC, it might be MOST congregations) are, if not revisionist, at least theologically indifferent clubs for people who are comfortable together, who like to accomplish some fun stuff together, maybe build something, maybe even do a good deed or two.  But they are not interested in the Gospel that much except as a therapeutic tool for the random bad day.  They are certainly not interested in the Gospel going out and changing the minds of those who don’t believe it.

And such congregations put forward as clergy candidates folks with whom they are comfortable.  And those folks become part of the clergy club that keeps the laity in the dark about spiritual monstrosities in order to maintain the comfortable relationships and pleasant good deeds and building nice stuff.

And not only would I say “most”, I would probably go one step further and say “the overwhelming majority”.

And I would also suggest that most of the laity are quite happy to be “kept in the dark about spiritual monstrosities in order to maintain the comfortable relationships and pleasant good deeds and building nice stuff.”  I say this as one who has observed formerly conservative parishes search for new clergy, and watched as time and again, a liberal keeper-in-the-dark is chosen by people who should know better to keep things “comfortable” and “pleasant”.

I am not saying that Sarah is wrong in her post #6, not at all.  What I am saying is that most of TEC’s (and perhaps also ACNA’s) laity is perfectly content to stay out of the loop so long as things remain comfortable and pleasant.

[15] Posted by jamesw on 2-25-2013 at 04:38 PM · [top]

So, our job as clergy should not be to comfort the comfortable; but to afflict and challenge the comfortable with the realities of the Gospel.  In that context, it’s a pretty exciting time to be a Christian in general and especially a Christian clergyman.  The juxtapostion of the Gospel against our cultural trajectory shows a huge gap between where the culture is going [think taxpayer funded abortions on demand] and to where God calls us to be [think Mt. 18:6, Lk. 17:2].

Timothy nails it; too many churches [think any mainline denom] really function as Sunday morning social clubs.  And who in those churches fit the club profile?  The ones who don’t show up for church because it’s raining [soooo nasty], it’s sunny [fine morning for golf], we went to a late movie last night [there weren’t any earlier ones?], it was a busy week I needed a day off [the day that your salvation depends upon, what priorities], etc, etc,,,,,,,,,,,

[16] Posted by Capt. Father Warren on 2-25-2013 at 06:05 PM · [top]

Well, I wouldn’t take it too seriously.  It has been signed by 217 people in the 6 weeks it has been up, which is a tiny number when (IIRC) it had something like 40 original sponsors between some seminarians and the Covenant website types.  I would offhand think that Standfirm could get more than that by this time tomorrow for a petition to depose the PB.  Ok, on the other hand, that number is equal to 1/3 of the ASA of the local TEC diocese.

The problem, as I see it, is that these 217 people are among the most conservative left in the 90 TEC revisionist dioceses. (Figuring that, at this point, if you are not in Central America, or your bishop isn’t charged with something, you are probably in a revisionist diocese)

[17] Posted by tjmcmahon on 2-25-2013 at 07:11 PM · [top]

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