COLUMBUS, OH: The New Episcopal Religion is here to stay
By Peter Toon
The seed of the New Episcopal Religion [NER] was planted in the late 1960s and since then it has been growing and producing ever more foliage, flowers and fruit from one General Convention [GC] to another. In fact every three years the GC has fed and watered this plant abundantly so that it is strong and vibrant.
The 75th GC at Columbus, Ohio, in mid June 2006 has been no exception to this practice of modern Episcopalians paying devoted attention to the developing of the NER. Indeed, this assembly has watered and fed the plant richly, with devoted determination, and in a variety of intentional ways. To use its own preferred phrases, this GC has continued "to live into" the developing NER as it has continued "the process of" attending to both the "Windsor requests" and its own preferred themes of peace, justice and the dignity of all persons.
Examples of the particular attention to the growth of this plant by the GC have are now well known to the church and world - the appointment of a radical, female Presiding Bishop to be the Head Gardener for nine years; commitment to "the Windsor process" on terms which affirm the Anglican Communion and also celebrate the lives of Gay and Lesbian Christians who live in this American garden; the approval of a thrice-married man with a twice married wife to be new Head Gardener (Bishop) of the Diocese of Northern California; the approval of a whole set of liturgies and prayers for moments of transition in the pilgrimage of life, and a host of Resolutions of social, political and economic matters informed by the commitment to "peace and justice" and "the dignity of all persons."
Let us be clear. Not all members of the GC are wholly committed to the NER for there is a small minority which is opposed. Yet it was very clear from the evidence of the public liturgies, the work of committees, the debates and voting of the House of Deputies and of the House of Bishops, that a majority is committed to the NER and will continue to cherish and nurture this plant into the foreseeable future. So we may expect, especially under the new female Head Gardner, that, even if there are strong protests and condemnations from provinces of the Anglican Communion, the nurture of this plant will certainly continue . The number of active Episcopalians may diminish before the new GC, but this plant will grow for it is the only plant that the Head Gardener and her assistants cherish and will care for.
In the light of the continued growth of this plant of the NER, the minority of conservatives left in the Episcopal Church are asking each other what they should do. We may recall that this kind of question has been asked at and after each General Convention since 1976 and, answering it, has led to a variety of schisms to form Continuing Anglican Churches. From what we have heard said by the representatives of The American Anglican Council and The Anglican Communion Network, it appears that they are taking the position of staying as the "orthodox, minority church" within the whole Episcopal Church, and saying: "We have not left the Anglican Way, it is they who have done so; thus we shall stand firm and await recognition and help from Primates and Provinces of the Anglican Communion abroad." Whether this is practicable only time will tell.
However, for some conservatives the full flowering of the NER at this GC is too much to bear, and they are looking to exit - maybe to Rome, or to Orthodoxy, or to the Anglican Way outside the Episcopal Church. In fact, with reference to the latter, it has been suggested that now is the time for the Continuing Anglican Churches, with the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Mission in America, to be actively looking for prospective new congregations and members from amongst those who decide to have nothing more to do with the NER and its female Head Gardiner. At the same time, this is also a time for the Continuing Churches to find ways to work together and to present a united front for dynamic orthodoxy [the Traditional Episcopal Religion] as a vivid contrast to the NER of the Episcopal Church of the USA.
Another scenario that needs to be asked is this: Have orthodox ECUSA bishops made the correct choice by staying, and once again just limiting their actions to making some statements. The Episcopal Church is now an abomination. No further evidence is required.
To stay - rather than declare themselves the true branch of the Anglican Communion in the U.S. - is either the product of moral cowardice (pensions-status-looking to retirement,etc) or monumental stupidity.
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