30 September, 2008

Coming Back to Earth

I believe that it was David Hume, one of my favorite English philosophers, and a great skeptic in his own right (I still think I would have loved being around him!) who once said that he can argue all day long about there being no causal connection between two pool balls colliding and interacting, but when he got too jaded, he just went to his local pub to recoup (apologies to the late Mr. Hume for the loose paraphrase). I am finding something similar to be personally true vis-a-vis myself and the looming schism in Anglicanism. I confess to following it with an almost morbid fascination and getting myself worked into a lather by the antics of Katie the Lawless. In my more cynical moments I often wonder why I stay an Episcopalian. Then I remember that I spent a significant amount of time in schism and saw for myself what it was like and the type of individuals it attracted. In the 1980s, it was a decidedly mixed bag, but in my experience, dominated by overly literally minded, vicious individuals, at least at the leadership level (and particularly in seminary in Kentucky). These were just not individuals I wished to continue being around. In 1987, I resigned my candidacy for ordination and rejoined TEC in the Diocese of Southern Ohio.

So now this mess in the Church. It's no wonder I get worked up over this. I've seen it before and have no desire to go through it all over again. Then something happens that brings me back down to earth and helps restore my sanity. I rolled into work the other night and just when I was getting out, I heard the sound of a small kitten, homeless, hungry and obviously abandoned. This was at 10:00 p.m. A small kitten out on its own at that time of night obviously has no place to go. I couldn't do anything at that time, so I resolved that if it was still there in the morning when I got off duty, I had a new little baby. About 4:30 that morning, I went outside to check, and sure enough, there she was. I got her to come to me and put her in my car and took her home at 6:00.

There's a great homily in here. It would go something like this. This little, barely weened kiten (I'm guessing no more than 10 weeks or so old), was almost surely going to die if someone didn't intervene. She knew it and decided that her only choice was to try to find someone, something, somewhere to save her. As if on cue, here comes a giant figure who calls to her with the promise of a better option. Right at that moment, the decision was hers. She could have chosen to run away in fear or take a chance and trust that help was finally here. That's exactly what she did and she's proceded to steal our hearts over the last couple days she's been with us.

Where's the homily in all this, you might be asking. It's right here. Just like Nipper (our new adddition), we human beings are similarly lost, alone and hopeless on our own without some intervention to bring us to Salvation. This is precisely the type of intervention God offered to us in the coming and resurrection of his Son Jesus. Through Christ, we are no longer the hopeless, helpless and lost creatures we once were, but have the hope not only the life to come, but of the abiding presence of Christ in our lives, the security that comes from knowing that we truly are not alone, that we can overcome those evils that seem to come our way on a daily basis, not just cope with them, but overcome them. We know that we are loved. The choice is ours and ours alone. God has offered us himself and his love, but that offer is meaningless, as if it never had been made if we ourselves will not take him up on it. We have to say yes to God in our lives. The ball is ultimately in our court, and while it is through grace alone that we come to Christ and ultimately to Salvation, it is up to us to respond to the Spirit's proddings.

It is this type of event in our lives that help us keep our sanity, that help us see that we are called to live lives of love and commitment to others and by making those commitments, we are at the same time making and honoring our commitment to our Lord. "A new commandment I give you, that you love one another."

Does this mean that I am suddenly happier with TEC than I was a week ago? No. Does it mean that I am less interested about the comings and goings of those in the process of stealing and destroying our Church, our Anglican Communion? No. What it does mean is that there are more important things in life, like the commitment to love, the commitment to spread God's love for the world. I believe it was the sage Hillel who was once asked to summarize the Law. His response went something like this: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind. This is Torah. The rest is commentary." I couldn't agree more.

27 September, 2008

Good news in the Old Dominion, but...

Much has been written lately about the glaring hypocrisy on display when one compares the actions of the HOB in its recent deposing of conservative bishops (only a majority of those present and voting is necessary) and their lawyers in Northern Virginia insisting that in order to comply with the division statute unique to Virginia, a majority of the membership of the parishes over 18 years of age must vote to leave. While it might be fun to pile on, I will refrain for now. It is time to rejoice, my friends, because the Diocese and 815 are conceding that they are going to lose in court. To quote from their press release:

Though loyal Episcopalians have expressed grave concerns about the validity and fairness of the voting procedures used by the CANA congregations, the Diocese will forgo judicial review of that process to focus on those issues that will most effectively and quickly return Episcopalians to their church homes and result in the overturning of the 57-9 "Division Statute."

The Diocese is preparing to mount a vigorous appeal that addresses the serious legal and religious questions and implications that have arisen from this unfortunate situation. The Diocese will explore fully every option available to restore constitutional and legal protections for all churches in Virginia.

While it is true that this statute is little invoked and even less known, it is highly unlikely in my never humble opinion to be overturned by the courts. Perhaps a better strategy for the Diocese and 815 might be to hire a new team of lawyers, since they have lost at every turn in this case and are now girding their loins for what they surely know will be a losing effort, both in the trial court and on appeal.

Also, the Diocese has reached a settlement agreement with two of the CANA churches in Northern Virginia, though why they were even parties in the lawsuit boggles the mind, since they are mission churches with no real property and meeting in elementary schools.

This is all good news for those of us who feel that TEC has been overreaching of late and "has it coming," but let's not go off the deep end here, folks. The fact is that this ruling (and eventual victory) in Virginia will have little or no significance outside of the Commonwealth because this division statute is apparently unique to Virginia. That I have found, no other state in the Union has anything remotely similar.

On the wider scene, what is 815 likely to do in Pittsburgh, Fort Worth and Quincy, once these dioceses vote to leave, as they almost certainly will? It is my belief that Katie the Lawless (my new moniker for the Presiding Oceanographer) will try to call an "emergency convention" like she did in San Joaquin and enthrone one of her puppets as "provisional bishop." What she and others supporting her fail to realize is that this will certainly come back to bite them in the rump because of the legal question before the court of who is the legitimate Diocese, and it seems to me that the slipshod method of getting rid of the opposition the HOB is currently enamored of certainly will not withstand the scrutiny of a trial court because they simply refuse to follow their own rules! Consider also that the bishops who have voted repeatedly to "depose" their brother bishops (sorry you "inclusive language" aficionados, but name a female bishop who has been deposed, please) are actually doing so at their own peril because Katie the Lawless has made it abundantly clear of late that the price of opposition is an ecclesiastical death sentence. In the psychobabble of the 1980s, they would have been called "enablers." Won't they ever learn? Probably not.

I also believe that 815 will continue to tie up the departing dioceses in endless litigation, hoping that their much deeper pockets will eventually cow the rebels into submission. Let's face it, folks, 815 has some of the deepest pockets out there, and it is tough for me to see this strategy as anything less than an attempt to bankrupt their opponents. How Christian!! These are brutal, vicious, ruthless people we are dealing with, folks. Take due notice thereof and govern yourselves accordingly.