Are Anglicans (Episcopalians) Turning to the Right?
By David W. Virtue
April 2, 2012
The Rev. Tom Ehrich, a writer, Episcopal priest, and church consultant, recently wrote a column for the Religion News Service in which he asked the question, [Is the]Anglican church turning to [the] right?
VOL believes he is so far off the mark that it demands a response, bearing in mind that his views were widely distributed through an international news service.
EHRICH: Many Episcopalians pray for the 61-year-old prelate [Dr. Rowan Williams] every Sunday, but as Canterbury has gotten more conservative and more solicitous of archconservative Anglican bishops from the Third World, Anglicans in developed nations choose to walk their own progressive path.
That separateness was accentuated in 2010, when, in an act of extraordinary rudeness, Williams' office asked the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church not to wear a miter, the pointy hat that symbolizes a bishop's authority, while preaching in London.
VOL: Dr. Williams never got more "conservative". He tried (and failed) to find compromises to keep the Anglican Communion together. He tried to do a Hegelian on the Communion and failed. There was no middle ground between thesis and antithesis. The Global South was never prepared to compromise on human sexuality. Dr. Williams tried to fudge the lines by saying that while he personally accepted non-celibate homosexuals in committed relationships, he would maintain a public pose that maintained the Anglican line of sex between a man and a woman in holy wedlock. The "progressive path" Mr. Ehrich talks about has led to the ruin of The Episcopal Church, which today has fewer than 700,000 practicing Episcopalians. 72% of all 6,900 congregations are under water financially. Money follows mission and TEC has no transcendent mission statement; hence it is dying. What about that sort of "progressivism" does Mr. Ehrich not understand?
Concerning Mrs. Jefferts Schori being told she could not wear a miter. That was not rude at all. The C of E does NOT recognize women bishops; for her to wear one was both defiant and rude to the ABC and the canons of the CofE. She was rude even to flaunt it in his church's face. She should never have done that. Never. The fact that the presiding bishop called the request "beyond bizarre" only indicates how far out of line she was and how "bizarre" she was.
EHRICH: Two years earlier, the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops from around the world wouldn't even open its doors to the Bishop of New Hampshire, one of the giants of the Episcopal Church, because Gene Robinson - while safely a he - was a gay he. He's not the first gay bishop by any means, but he's the first to be honest about it.
VOL: The vast majority of the Anglican Communion has never endorsed pansexuality and for Robinson to have been invited would have been to stick it in the faces of 50 million Global South Evangelical Anglicans. It would have also sent a message to radical Islamists especially in Northern Nigeria that Western Christians endorse a behavior they mock and find reprehensible and invited more riots that would have killed thousands of Nigerian Christians including Anglicans. Furthermore, Robinson is no "giant"; he is a self-absorbed narcissist whose sole preoccupation is getting his behavior brokered into TEC and the wider Anglican Communion. He recently announced he is retiring early to hit the lecture circuit where he can make more money and not have to worry about the pesky problems of dying parishes. He's about as much a "giant" as John Shelby Spong whose "12 Theses" attempted to demolish "the faith once for all delivered to the saints."
EHRICH: Although anti-female and anti-gay tensions at Lambeth are said to have subsided in recent years, Williams' retirement after 10 years in office probably would start a new war. Look for right-wing clerics like those of Uganda and Nigeria to seize the moment to marginalize women, gays and denominations that affirm them. As Anglican numbers dwindle in the West and soar in Africa, the communion's racial balance is shifting, and with it the balance of power.
VOL: This is pure fiction. The Global South is not anti-female. One of Uganda Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi's right hand persons is a western woman with a Ph.D. Three women were ordained priests in Uganda in 1983; the canons of the Church of Uganda indicate that anyone who is ordained is eligible to be elected as a Bishop. Women also play a significant role in the Church in Rwanda, Tanzania and Nigeria. Women have not been marginalized throughout Africa and, yes, practicing homosexuality IS considered sinful behavior, a position maintained for more than 2000 years by the Christian Church. The acceptance of sodomy is a recent innovation that is causing havoc among right thinking Christians everywhere. Furthermore the West including The Episcopal Church is becoming far more intolerant of dissent. They are increasingly screaming at anyone who dare oppose homosexuality as "homophobes" when they are not.
EHRICH: It's likely that the new archbishop will be a man of color, perhaps John Sentamu, the Ugandan-born Archbishop of York. The question is whether he will pursue a conservative agenda centered in gender and sexuality, or lead the church to tackle issues that truly matter: rampant greed, predatory corporations, widening gaps between haves and have-nots, and the terrifying rise of religious extremism, including church-backed legislation in Uganda to make homosexuality a capital crime.
VOL: Let's unpack this. Sentamu is ONE possible candidate, but few [bookies] give him a chance, not because of color but because of age and few Archbishops of York have become archbishop of Canterbury. Secondly, the Global South views him with suspicion. The Anglican Church of Uganda treats him politely when he visits there, but they don't think this is a win for them if he should get the nod for the top slot. Not by any means. They see him as an institutionalist, a shill for the established Church of England. He will not be viewed as a great leader for the Global South and sympathetic to their concerns if he moves into Lambeth Palace. More than likely it will go to a relatively unknown bishop, as Malcolm Muggeridge would say, "a moderate man of all shades of opinion." Whoever is elected will not bring the vastly orthodox Global South into the "progressive" pansexual, western liberal fold. Mrs. Jefferts Schori is a total anathema to the Global South; they won't be seen in the same room with her. Witness their absences in Dublin last year when the ABC called for the Primates to meet. Nothing has changed. Nothing.
Furthermore, Mr. Ehrich doesn't read African Anglican blogs. I do. Both archbishops of Uganda and Nigeria have been in the forefront of social change. They have regularly and roundly condemned government corruption, laziness, and ineptitude. They have called for clean water, better education and more real jobs for their people. Ehrich doesn't know what he is talking about.
EHRICH: What will come of this war? My crystal ball is hazy on such matters, but I said Episcopalians aren't likely to turn conservative. Nor, in my opinion, do we have any appetite for continued battles over gender and sexuality. We are looking at income inequality, joblessness, and growing intolerance as far more worrisome than the she-ness or gay-ness of church leaders.
VOL: Mr. Ehrich needs a better crystal ball. Certainly Episcopalians will never turn conservative and "continued battles over gender and sexuality" are ending because the orthodox have for the most part fled TEC and gone elsewhere to form a new Anglican denomination (ACNA) or have fled to Rome and other spiritual safe havens. Episcopalians can rant and rave about joblessness and inequality, but nobody is listening to a denomination that is slowly going out of business and has no demonstrable gospel of Good News to proclaim.
EHRICH: If the global communion turns to the right and demands that we adopt bigotry as policy, I said we probably will just walk away. It's just as likely that African bishops will lead a movement to kick us out.
VOL: Won't happen. The Global South has a loyalty to the See of Canterbury, but not necessarily to the occupant who sits there. Rowan Williams is out the door in nine months. Africans are endlessly patient and they know that one day a solid evangelical will occupy Lambeth Palace, so they are going nowhere. Meanwhile, an Anglican realignment continues apace and nothing can stop it. If anybody walks away it will be TEC, that is, if they cannot buy enough influence in African Anglican provinces to swing that continent around to their way of thinking on pansexuality.
EHRICH: At the pew level, meanwhile, where questioners (Episcopalians) probably don't know the Archbishop of Canterbury's name, Episcopalians are talking more about growth, new life, young leadership and casting their lot with the 99 percent.
VOL: FICTION. The Episcopal Church is losing market share. The vast majority of parishes have less than 70 members and most are age-wise in their mid Sixties. There are virtually no young people coming forward. Second career priests are aging men and women; many are homosexuals and angry lesbian women who are looking for a pension. 72% of all parishes are under water financially; nearly all its seminaries except for two are failing...some are failing faster than others. With one exception, all dioceses are in decline. What about all this does Mr. Ehrich not understand? Mr. Ehrich's rosy picture of the future of TEC is in huge defiance and delusion of the facts. The real growth in North American Anglicanism lies with the Anglican Church in North America. They are plotting and planting 1000 new Anglican churches...and while that happens Episcopal churches are closing doors across the country and that is not going to stop any time soon, if at all.
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