Michael Heidt on words without meaning

For those who don’t know, the Episcopal Church is run from a large office block in New York, at 815 Second Avenue and a very smart address it is too. One of the benefits of being an Episcopal priest is getting the occasional light hearted missive from ‘815.’ I received one today, from Margaret Larom, Director, Anglican and Global Relations. Poor Margaret, she has the unfortunate, Goebbels like task of persuading the world that we cherish it, and care about what it has to say. As with her propagandist forefather, the method seems pretty simple, tell the complete opposite of the truth as much and as often as possible. She writes:

‘This year’s World Mission Sunday theme is ‘Treasuring the Communion,’ and it’s a good time in the life of our church to think about what we value, and how we express our commitment to what we value. As Christians we treasure everything that communion represents… As Episcopalians, we treasure being part of the Anglican Communion, a worldwide family of churches whose exciting history and splendid diversity are almost without parallel… The Episcopal Church believes in the Anglican Communion…’

Unhappy Ms. Larom, who could have forced her to write such things? Which prompts us to ask whether our ECUSAn hierarchs are in the business of peddling lies, or simply suffering from an acute case of denial? My feeling is that it’s the latter, but either way the result is equally scary and no amount of spin can cover up the persistent Episcopalian disregard for the Communion they apparently want to be a part of. We saw this in the latest deliberations from our House of Bishops, who met, interestingly enough, in Salt Lake City. There, under the gaze of the Angel Moroni, our latter day college of pontiffs issued a ‘Letter to the Faithful,’ giving their collective response to the Windsor Report. Amidst the Mormon Shrines our Bishops assured us of their longing ‘for the fullest expression of the gift of communion,’ and their, ‘sincere regret for the pain, the hurt, and the damage caused to our Anglican bonds of affection by certain actions of our church.’

This means, of course, that they’ll continue to act as they always have done, in complete disregard for the unity and well being of the Anglican Communion, to say nothing of the Catholic Faith. They even say as much, refusing to place a moratorium on Same Sex Blessings and Same Gender Union Consecrations. And, predictably enough, they commit themselves to some kind of ongoing reflection, because they ‘believe it is extremely important to take the time to allow the Holy Spirit to show us ways we can engage with people throughout our church…’

Bishop Iker, of Fort Worth, summed it up neatly:

‘At the conclusion of an all-day special meeting of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church to respond to the Windsor Report, it was decided that little would be said, and even less would be done, to try to resolve the crisis that divides us. In a nutshell, the Bishops expressed their desire to remain full members of the Anglican Communion, while continuing to reject the clear teaching of the Communion on matters of sexual morality.’ The Bishop continues, ‘It is sort of like a man apologizing to his wife for having an illicit affair, and asking her forgiveness, but then continuing on with the affair anyway.’ As for his sister and brother Bishops’ resolve to engage in further conversation, Iker is equally clear:

‘Oh yes, the House will ‘continue conversation’. From my perspective, this is simply a delay tactic meant to stall and put off any final decision until the Primates’ Meeting at the end of February, where the response of the Episcopal Church will be under review.’

With Iker’s thoughts in mind, it’s possible that denial and deceit are both in play but regardless, its hard to imagine the Episcopal Church rising to the challenge of repairing the state of impaired and broken communion that they’ve engendered within Anglicanism. Bishop Robinson is unlikely to step down, Virginia Seminary will continue to provide ‘married quarters’ for LBGTG (lesbigaytransgendered) couples and Bishop Lee of Virginia, who famously stated, ‘If you must make a choice between heresy and schism, always choose heresy,’ is probably not about to reverse his heterodox intent. Nor, for that matter, are his numerous allies in the House of Bishops. Given this, it seems unreasonable to expect ECUSA, as a whole, to deal meaningfully with the Windsor recommendations. By the same token, precedence alone would argue against the kind of Primatial endorsement of orthodoxy that conservative Episcopalians want.

Who, then, will take on the necessary task of defending the Faith as received by Anglicanism in North America? We cannot count on some kind of fix from the Southern Cone; such a thing might occur, but as we know, foreign Archbishops have notoriously little sway over the hearts and minds of the General Convention. This means that we have to rely on ourselves and if so, are we up to the task?

Twenty one Bishops have taken some leadership by signing an alternate ‘Statement of Acceptance of and Submission to the Windsor Report of 2004.’ This is a start and works hand in hand with the efforts of the AAC (American Anglican Council) and ACN (Anglican Communion Network) to stand up for scriptural morality. But what of the people who make up the bulk of our Church? I fear that Fr. Anderson, President of the AAC, sums up their attitude, ‘Many Episcopalians are still ‘somewhere in the middle’ regarding our current crisis.’ Meaning that they would rather ignore their extremist representatives in the House of Bishops than take any corrective action. It is this attitude of lukewarm, broadly non-doctrinal and, above all, personalist religion that has allowed a vocal and secularist minority to take control. If we are to take back what is rightfully ours, we must make it our urgent priority to convert the broad mass of our coreligionists to the Catholic Faith. And this must begin now, whilst there is still something left to save.

Michael Heidt is parish priest of St John’s, Norristown, Pennsylvania