June 28, 2009 / Spirituality

Sad and Arrogant?


Archbishop Robert Duncan

The Anglican Church of North America convened for the first time in Texas last week, electing as their Archbishop Robert Duncan, whose qualifications for the post include the fact that he has a penis. Duncan is leading a group of what claims to be 100,000 parishioners and 50 bishops in breaking away from the 2-million member Episcopal Church USA, headed by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who has no penis.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori

The schism roots reach back to the first Episcopal ordination of women thirty-three years ago and flared again in 2003, when Episcopalians elected openly-gay Gene Robinson to be bishop of NH. Apparently, even though Robinson has a penis, then-Episcopal Bishop Duncan and his followers believed that Robinson did not put said organ to use as God intended. The factions held together until 2006, when Schori’s election forced Duncan et al to submit to the authority of a person who had no penis whatsoever. Perhaps Duncan found the situation threatening to his “sword of the spirit”. 

Anyhoo, Duncan led a rebellion of bishops who renounced Episcopalian authority and aligned themselves with Archbishops in South America and Africa (who have the requisite penises) and was deposed by the Episcopal church. Here’s how he told the story in last week’s opening address, according to Virtue On-Line (I’m not making that web address up):

How is it that a once-great tradition [the Episcopal Church] somehow got cut from its moorings? Most of us were part of the fraying lines that held us to the shore, and to its rock. We compromised. We were silent. We looked away. No longer. We fractured into many pieces. Like St. Luke’s telling of the shipwreck in Acts 27, we swam on our own, or floated on pieces of wreckage. Now we are re-assembling on the shore, and there is the wonder of reflecting on the surviving the storm and of making it to the shore, and of our leaders not succumbing to the serpent’s venom…

Hmmm, the serpent – or Satan — in this narrative is working through whom?

A featured speaker at the convention was none other than Rev. Rick Warren, who justified adherence to what he views as traditional practices by saying:

God’s work never changes. God’s Word for you never changes. It is “the faith once delivered to the saints.” We have an unchanging message in a constantly changing world.

How different from the United Church of Christ, which says at the top of its webpage (perhaps based on John 16:12-15),

God is still speaking.

Will the new church make a go of it? They’ll have to overcome some practical hurdles, like the fact that the Episcopal Church claims ownership of the property also claimed by the breakaway congregations. And they’ve yet to settle the still-divisive issue of whether they’ll ban women just from being bishops, or also from being deacons and priests. The Anglican Church hopes to be recognized by the Anglican Communion (of which the Episcopal Church also is a member) and also to join in “full communion” with orthodox churches. But at the conference, the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of America said that

The ordination of women…  has to end if intercommunion is to occur.

According to USA Today,

Duncan says that the church may continue to ordain women as deacons and priests. But pushing forward to name them as bishops, he says, is seen by the rest of the Anglican Communion as “a sad and arrogant American approach.”

fireworkFortunately, Americans stopped worrying whether the Church of England thought we were arrogant in 1776.

I won’t recount the arguments for and against ordination of women – both camps ground their positions firmly in Biblical teachings. More importantly, the detailed arguments of both sides pale beside the greatest commandments, or as Schori puts it:

We seek a world where all have the right to full and abundant lives at peace with their neighbors.

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