3/31/2010

Can The Episcopal Church become a lean, green mission machine?

At the Executive Council meeting in October 2009  I presented a paper on the structure of Executive Council and asked the following question: 

“Is there some way in which we can recapture the sense of the engagement with God’s mission in the world, and by implication in our mission as Episcopalians to that end?   Can we put our regulatory responsibilities as a corporate body into the context of a council gathered to proclaim Good News in the context of The Episcopal Church?”  

I suggested that we ought to consider ways of becoming a missionary council, moving beyond the confines of the Executive Council as a corporation board  of directors.  That question has continued to press and this paper is a further expansion on the possibilities of The Episcopal Church re-engaging the matter of domestic and foreign mission as a core value towards which all its considerable corporate energies can be focused.

Several observations:


(1) The Episcopal Church in its corporate embodiment is a mission society (The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America) whose core value, vis a vis God’s mission in the world, has been deflected by the corporate model of a National or Executive Council acting increasingly as a regulatory agency.


This deflection was in no way intentional, but the values of corporations, religious or otherwise, concern the viability of the corporation itself.  Self preservation is the first order of business for any corporation, since the body so formed is all there is.   An incarnational agent, on the other hand, may retain its confidence in life beyond the corporate, since it knows it is an instrument of that which is brought into corporate being.


The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society was, in the first instance, such an incarnational agent. It was the incorporation of an idea, the idea that every member of The Episcopal Church was a member of a missionary society, the DFMS. This idea also gave life to the idea that Episcopalians everywhere, in every diocese and parish, belonged to a single whole, The Episcopal Church.  The incorporation of the DFMS became thereby the immediate context in which we could with confidence say we were a collective body, The Episcopal Church.


(2) In the 90 years since the formation of the National Council (now the Executive Council), the ethos of the corporation has gradually averted the gaze of both General Convention and Executive Council from the vocation to self-emptying mission to matters of corporate survival. This is not to say that mission action and funding does not continue, indeed it does at a remarkable level. But it does mean that mission action and funding has been limited by the growing energy and funding that had to go into the needs of the corporation. More importantly, it has meant that what funding there is has been funneled more and more into programmatic efforts by The Episcopal Church by way of staff and less and less into the funding of mission "out there."  The reason for this is simple: the survival of the corporation and its justification for staff is more easily seen in its own products.  The missionary efforts "out there" increasingly belong to the people "out there."


(3) One sign of this deflection, this averting of gaze, is seen in the development in General Convention by which, over these 90 years, the two agenda, that of the General Convention and that of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society have become meshed to the point where General Convention program and regulatory activities have become totally identified as the aims, vision and challenges to the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.


The result is that we now face the serious possibility that the ability of The Episcopal Church to respond to domestic and foreign missionary concerns is compromised by the prudential caution of its corporate life.  That is, we have been in danger of losing the vision of being the incarnation of some portion of God's mission in the world because of our desire to be good corporate stewards. We have come close to losing our nimbleness, our ability to step out in missionary action, willing to set aside corporate caution for the life of perfect freedom.


What is to be done?


The crises (that's plural) of these days open for us the possibility of new mission action in ways that might well exhaust the corporation but might also serve God's mission in the world.




The crisis of inclusion has opened up much more in the ways of missionary action than has been closed down corporately.  Possibilities have opened out for us to become a Christian community grounded in vocation and mutual care and regard that transcends many of the cultural and social taboos of our most recent past. Beginning with the end of Episcopal Church's own Jim Crow norms re training and ordination of people of color, and continuing with the ordination of women and then of gay and lesbian persons, and accompanied by the breaking down of barriers to the blessing of relationships on the basis of race, former marriage, or being gay or lesbian, TEC has become committed increasingly to an inclusive read of the Good News in Jesus Christ.   We are by no means through this crisis, for inclusion is only partial. Still, the possibility is there that in this struggle for inclusion we may well be mapping out a new field of missionary action that will involve our incarnating in new ways the beloved community.


The crisis of mutual interdependence, within our own Church, and with those Provinces recently separated from us,  has not been resolved.  It has been too easy to consider the crisis in Haiti, the structural failure of institutions in several Central American dioceses and the needs of "domestic" programs with people of color and indigenous peoples as programmatic challenges rather than as matters concerning us all in this particular incarnate body.  The devastation of Haiti, in particular, will place in stark relief the willingness and ability of TEC to exhaust itself a Church in crisis.


The crisis of post modernity provides both a possibility of our looking anew at what the Gospel of Jesus Christ requires of us at a time when modernity's structures (covenants and other corporate agreements included) are giving way to more supple, nimble, and often fleeting structures.  We are ideally positioned to be a church of poetic sensibility in a world open to more than the hard edged language of modernity. We can only be that church by recognizing the limitations of our old structures and accept the vulnerability of stepping out into emerging forms of being church.


The Question.


Is it possible for The Episcopal Church to shift its gaze to once again see itself primarily as a missionary society, and only secondarily as a corporation?  Can we move from being incorporated to being an incarnation? Can we identify what mission would look like in this context?


Such a change will entail becoming aggressive for costly ends: We will have to be strong and single minded. We will often appear mean, that is uncompromising.  At the same time we will often seem unorthodox, being willing to take the Gospel into places where Jesus Christ can only be proclaimed as an option, not a necessity, and there make our claim by incarnational means, by being self-emptying for the life of the world we encounter.  We will need to do this knowing that the short term effect will be the need to focus our resources to build up remnant churches and support the legal efforts to retain property. We have had to take on the missionary support of dioceses in that are stressed. So perhaps we must become lean. 

Becoming lean is of some value in itself. The programmatic efforts of the DFMS / Executive Council staff may need to be redirected and focused on domestic and foreign mission in new ways.  But if in becoming lean we effectively  cut the funding for missionary efforts in order to continue being a corporate program agency, we will have lost the vision. The vision is of the support of the witness of this church in every area where we have dioceses, such that congregations and their ministries prosper.


It is already evident that the corporation DFMS has begun to understand its need to be green(er). Much of what we are doing in church governance and life is now being conducted by electronic and telephonic means. The question is, can we begin to  use the same tools in being missionary? At what point will we be able to be incarnationally related by means other that physical presence?  Are there mission possibilities that rely upon green energy? And more importantly, are there ways to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ that do not in the process of proclamation also destroy the cultures and uniqueness of the spiritual life of the communities they reach?  Can we become "green" in our missionary efforts as well as in our corporate functioning?

Of course the primary question here is, can The Episcopal Church be a missionary engine, a mission machine.  That is, can we move from being a mostly static engine of corporate life and become a motion machine for mission? Some examples:


Training for missionary vocation. I believe we need to form and train clergy who are prepared to start new congregations, re-start old and moribund ones, or able to take remnant congregations (from congregations that have left TEC) and are available to take on such ministry wherever called to do so. We need a small army of such people.


Mission service payback of education debt. Is there some way that the DFMS can realign its priorities to fund the training and supplement the local support for such work ?  Might there be a "missionary service" option for graduating seminarians who need both a job and a way to pay back loans for their education.
 
Renewed funding, support and critical redirection of mission in areas where TEC has faithfully supported new mission fields (overseas dioceses, domestic missionary areas, chaplaincies in higher education, ministries on reservations, etc.)  The model of high engagement followed by distant support has left these ministries both isolated and without the combination of support and challenge.  Now is the time to re-energize this missionary work in ways that are genuinely and critically supportive.

The Episcopal Church has already shown by its recent actions that it is willing to redirect its corporate efforts to missionary work, witness the support of dioceses in distress. With that example of missionary funding in place, is TEC also willing to direct its efforts anew to the wider missionary possibilities that challenge us to reorder our corporate priorities .

Is this perhaps the right time to ask, can The Episcopal Church become a lean, green mission machine? And, if not, can TEC survive as a relevant agent of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?







49 comments:

  1. Mark, I like this very much. Therefore, I have a suggestion for your next paper. I think it would be helpful to discuss how we understand our mission. We can look, of course, to the Five Marks of Mission. I think they're a good measure. On the other hand, our critics want to say that our primary if not our only mission is "inclusion" in the institution, instead of in the Body, when for most of us (or at least most of your regular readers) it is only one measure of the mission we pursue.

    I appreciate that this was written based on another paper presented to the Executive Council, where this has, I hope and expect, already been discussed at length. However, it would be good for the rest of us to hear and think about this. How do we see our mission? How would we measure effectiveness - and how do we measure effectiveness without getting addicted to narrow definitions of "success?" What has been discussed in the Executive Council on these questions?

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  2. Much food for thought here, Mark. The time seems ripe for consideration of a move back to our origins as a missionary society and away from upholding the corporation. Corporations are notoriously cumbersome and slow-moving by their very structure.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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  3. Mark: This is a primary reason why I have so much trouble with the litigation prevalent in TEC right now. It seems much more about corporate preservation and much less about incarnational ministry in most cases. There seems to be much more of a sense of "fiduciary responsibility" than mission-mindedness. Hopefully we can get over our "edifice complex" and figure out how to be a leaner, greener, missionary society rather than merely a corporation that protects its assets.

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  4. It could be a mark of TEC's serious engagement with your paper Mark when it moves from a corporate model of litigation over property to a missional model of property usage consistent with the value of inclusiveness espoused in your paper.

    That is, when we see a shift from a corporate model focused on ownership (it's not yours, now get out, it's ours to do what we like with it, any buyer -even a mission with aims opposed to ours - is acceptable except for the previous occupants) to a missional model focused on fruitful usage (what is the best use of this property for the mission of God? if not viable for a TEC-based mission, then it will be available on mutually satisfactory terms to another Christian mission, with preference for an Anglican mission) it could be a sign of TEC's lean, green, mission machine running well.

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  5. That we have an Executive Council willing to entertain papers of this thrust and caliber, and that Mark Harris is a member of Executive Council, are, for me, signs of the Spirit's own movement and cause for great hope.

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  6. I hope you are not put off your idea of your executive council becoming a missionary council by my enthusiastically agreeing with you. Or by pointing out that here in Sydney the old Diocesan Executive has become the Mission Board.
    Like you suggest, it is important that the peak council makes sure that it knows which is the important parts of its and the church's purpose and it puts those front and centre.
    AS Grandmere Mimi points out, nimbleness is to be prized above a corporation mindset.
    Here in Sydney the diocesan mission reflects the deliberately ambitious goal of 10 per cent of the population in bible based churches. While you might not like our language, part of mission thinking will be focusing on how to grow your church communities.

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  7. John Sandeman, with all due respect, I hope that TEC does not choose the Diocese of Sydney as the model for mission.

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  8. Victor Eremita31/3/10 8:59 PM

    Chairs (anything Executive Council could possibly say or do) meet Titanic (TEC downward spiral).

    The more pertinent question is how should TEC prepare itself for being missionized. TEC is currently drained of vitality like a beach before the tidal wave hits. And in the next several months/years when TEC officially becomes "the Other" in the AC, the wave will come, probably originating somewhere in Africa. Or perhaps it'll be a whirlwind. Or perhaps the wave will never return and TEC will end with just a whimper.

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  9. The problem I have with concerns over litigation is that these concerns never seem to be expressed to the orthodites, amazingly enough.

    Are they just given up as such a bad job as Christians that there's no point in addressing them on the subject? Hmm. Maybe, it's just an oblique compliment to the extraordinary graciousness and compassion displayed by TEC over-against its detractors.

    And, of course, while we certainly understand the real, if self-serving, concern of those from other churches in other provinces, it's our decision, thanks, and I doubt you have any real grasp of what's happening here.

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  10. That wasn't directed at you, John Sandeman. Wherever the two of us are on the socio-theological spectrum, I usually value your input.

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  11. Can it??
    Not one chance in ten thousand!
    (Dan)

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  12. Michael Merriman1/4/10 1:31 PM

    One group that began to be included in the '70's are children. Confirmation being removed as prerequisite for Communion has led to the inclusion of children, another group excluded previously. Some in TEC and the WWACC still practice exclusion of children. They are an important mission field and important ministers of mission.

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  13. At least from this commenter, Mark Brunson, my concern re litigation is for any party to the litigation unwilling to enter into appropriate negotiation outside of the civil courts.

    I think it fair to make a distinction between disputes in which TEC's lawyers work for the concerns of Episcopalians who do not wish to go with the departing Anglicans, that is, concerns about continued access of parishioners to familiar places of worship, and straightforward retention of property even when the result of that retention is going to be the sale of a redundant building to anyone but the departing Anglicans.

    In the former case Anglicans around the Communion should be able to recognise that TEC is acting as any Anglican church is likely to do where similar situations arise within their jurisdictions.

    But in the latter case, I suggest that many Anglicans around the Communion wonder why TEC is so hard-hearted against Anglicans who until recently were their Episcopalian brothers and sisters.

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  14. Fr. Carrell,

    Typically, when someone leaves home, for good reasons, or for ungood reasons, he or she does not do so by throwing those who own said home out and squatting on the homestead. I think the property disputes between ACNA and TEC are about that rather than about the identity of TEC as a corporation (I agree completely with Mark about that being a serious problem.)If y'all need/want to leave home, fine. Blessings upon your undertaking and may you all rejoice in the re-birth for which you hope. Take the silver, even. I don't much are about the silver--I'd just as soon sell it off to fund mission anyway, except for the pieces that belong in museums. But you can't take the buildings. That's not how breaking away is done. It's not how Luther, Zwingli, Knox, Wesley and Calvin did it. Why should ACNA have special privileges?

    pax, Devon

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  15. Mark --This is wonderful. It is precisely the direction we need to be moving. True 'action points' such as the training in ordination need to be considered in further detail.

    As to those in your responses equating defense/recovery of that which has been stolen to corporate mindset --well, there we are... nimbleness and leanness and mission-mindedness does not equal letting thieves walk away with that which does not belong to them. Just sayin'.

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  16. Carl Bell

    Peter Carrell, in answer to your question, perhaps it is the manner
    in which these parishes, their clergy and bishop have left.

    Simple good taste prevents me from ssaying more.

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  17. Mark, I congratulate you for putting your finger on the single most important issue facing our church today. However, I grieve that you avoid our greatest barrier to fulfilling it.

    The only statement I have found in our documentation (prayer book or canons) that defines our mission is, "The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ." I have looked for another one, but I can't find it. If there is another one, please tell me where it is.

    You cannot fulfill this mission without addressing the loss of our own unity, the continued enmity between liberals and conservatives, the lawsuits, and resultant ill will on both sides. You won't be able to hide this from the people you hope to reach, and it will be a heavy weight for your army of church planters to bear. I'm afraid that your only hope of fulfilling mission is to also seek peace -- not with Africans, but with your fellow and your former Episcopalians. Judging from how our church's mission has been defined, I don't see how else it can be.

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  18. "But in the latter case, I suggest that many Anglicans around the Communion wonder why TEC is so hard-hearted against Anglicans who until recently were their Episcopalian brothers and sisters."

    I suspect that many think that the departed were not, in fact, our Episcopalian brothers and sisters. Attracted to a particular parish because of the liturgy and preaching, they failed to recognize what TEC has become over the past 30 (40, 50?) years. Many of us knew not sola scriptura, and are appalled by that approach to faith.

    Are we vengeful? I hope not, though I can see why outsiders might think so. Parishes belong to the dioceses, and the dioceses are part of the greater church. When a parish acts in a congregational way - or a diocese breaks from the church - properties revert to use that enhances the greater mission of TEC. That could mean a cash sale, or renting to outsiders. All can disagree on the "mission", as long as we remain a family. Some have chosen to leave whilst stripping the house of furniture. Others as martyrs. Some remain in parishes divided in theology, but never in faith or devotion to our neighbors.

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  19. It is boring when folks like Peter Carrell keep pounding on that one note as he speaks from either ignorance or obstinacy.

    Either ignorance, because he has not done his homework and is not familiar with the situations of which he speaks, whereby then he really has no standing from which to continually voice his opinion.

    Or, more the part, because we have told him what the situations are here on the other side of the world, that these folks choose to no longer be episcopalian/anglican brothers & sisters quite some time ago when they entered into secret covenants to disrupt TEC and to lie and cheat to rob it of its assets.

    Yes, it is correct to recover the stolen properties in court, and better to sell the facilities to someone else and perhaps for other purposes, than to reward liars and thieves. In case after case, in the vast majority of the cases, the courts have ruled in favor of TEC. The only reason the cases are more and more costly is because the Orthodite thieves keep dragging the situations out, stalling for more time. Then when they can stall no longer and the sheriff is knocking at the door to evict them, they wail and cry that they are being thrown in the street.

    And this is my opinion, based on the facts here on the ground in the Western hemisphere where these events are actually happening and affecting our lives. And I shall not pretend that I speak for some faceless others to lend some sort of false authority and greater weight to my opinion.

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  20. "Stop hurting me!" screamed the bully when the "different" kid finally turned on him.
    "How could you?" said the carjacker when his victim called the police and pressed charges.

    The schismatics would have more credibility in my view if they really did exchange the churches and parish buildings for storefronts and private homes. They could come spend time out wandering homeless in the desert with all the many people they would consign there.

    I give a lot of credit to the Episcopal Church for its willingness to risk a lot and to come out into the desert to join me and my kind in an act of solidarity. I think solidarity is the best kind of mission, as Our Lord expressed His solidarity with all of us by living and dying as one of us.

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  21. I think the ensuing discussion underscores my point. I certainly understand how helpful it is to de-humanize the other side, and call them "orthodites", thieves, etc., for wanting to keep their places of worship while not keeping their denomination (which somehow seems to me to be only a natural kind of thing). (I am not ACNA; I am Episcopalian; but I know some of these people, and they are not the monsters you think they are.) I suppose this de-humanizing process happens in all conflicts. But all this simply means that Christians with a traditional understanding of sexuality (most Christians) are not welcome, as they are evil "othodites" and therefore suspect. Similarly, people who are not long-term Episcopalians, but were attracted by the preaching or liturgy are also apparently not welcome. Do you really imagine that you can sustain a mission to only long-term Episcopalians who share your views of sexuality? Good luck with that. To be fair, I think ACNA will have a similar problem.

    I remain curious to understand when our churches became financial assets ("silver") rather than holy places where God meets our people in the sacraments. It seems our conflict not only involves de-humanization, but de-sacralization as well.

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  22. I recommend the latest issue of The Anglican Theological Review, esp. Christopher Duraisingh's article. It is not a uniquely Anglican problem, but mission has often been shaped by institutional concerned (churc-shaped mission) rather than the other way around (mission-shaped church). Peter Carrell is right to the extent that when retaining property becomes the focus rather than mission and how the property can be used in mission we are missing the mark. Both TEC and departing congregations need to avoid this danger.

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  23. Most Christians do not homosexuals? Ahem, see Most Mainline Protestants Say Society Should Accept Homosexuality, courtesy of the Pew Forum.

    It's wrong to say newcomers aren't welcome in TEC - but you don't try a new faith tradition and expect the denomination (or parish) to then morph into your idea of the perfect church.

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  24. Counterlight: Just to be clear: (1) I am not a schismatic; I am an active and contributing member of an Episcopal church. (2) I am not at all concerned about the welfare of the departing congregations. I expect many of them will be just fine after a period of struggle, even without their places of worship. I am very concerned for the welfare of the Episcopal Church.

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  25. Thank you for responses to my last post. I am, to be frank, less than convinced that what I said has actually been read with due care by those who have responded negatively. Let me post one paragraph again and then ask a question:

    "I think it fair to make a distinction between disputes in which TEC's lawyers work for the concerns of Episcopalians who do not wish to go with the departing Anglicans, that is, concerns about continued access of parishioners to familiar places of worship, and straightforward retention of property even when the result of that retention is going to be the sale of a redundant building to anyone but the departing Anglicans."

    I think this paragraph is quite clear in its recognition of obligations on TEC to take reasonable legal means to ensure continuity of worship spaces for Episcopalians.

    My question is this: if those departing are willing to purchase property which is otherwise redundant, will TEC sell it to those departing?

    In the case of Matt Kennedy and his parish in Central New York it seems extraordinary that (a) the local Roman Catholic church can provide hospitality for them, while (b) the Diocese has sold the buildings to a non-Anglican/Episcopalian party.

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  26. As I plainly stated Peter, the idea is not to reward dishonest thieves. Period.

    Some wishy washy bishops have let parishes "buy" the property.

    Matt Kennedy is a prime example of "dishonest thieves", so please, do not disrespectfully fling him in our faces. The RCC did not offer them hospitality, it unloaded a building and a house for which it had no use. Instead of loosing money, it now has a cash flow from the deal.

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  27. David,

    You want facts, and you're not using facts. The RCC DID offer Matt Kennedy hospitality at first. Straight-up hospitality.

    And then, later, they sold the building. TEC was unwilling to sell its building- for which it had no use- to Matt Kennedy. Did TEC get more or less for its building because of its refusal to sell to Matt et al? That is the prime question.

    I feel fairly confident TEC lost a fair amount of silver by its choice to sell to anyone but Matt.

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  28. Hi David...so interesting how differently you speak here than you do at Stand Firm. So, how am I a "dishonest thief" and, speaking of lies, where do you get the information you pass on with regard to the relationship between the local Catholic parish and ourselves.

    Matt

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  29. It does not matter how the Episcopal Church restructures. It is on a death spiral. As far as I can discern, its central message is "Believe what you like; just be willing to take communion with whoever else shows up, be quiet if you disagree with some policies we adopt, and be open to becoming a liberal democrat - or at least to working on some of our local aid projects."

    The Episcopal Church has sought to transcend theology. It is impossible for a religious body not to have some core and unchanging convictions about the nature of reality and the character and desires of a divinity - or divinities, as the case may be. Ceremonies such as the Eucharist are meant to reflect underlying core convictions about who God is, what he has done for us, and what he wants from us. You cannot have a free-floating theology and have a religious body that will be attractive and energetic.

    To the degree that the Episcopal Church is attractive to those not in it in these times, it is attractive mainly to those from a Roman Catholic or conservative Protestant background who see Christianity from those perspectives as being legalistic and guilt-inducing, and so they want an expression of faith that does not burden them with guilt. I am not surprised by such a move; conservative Christianity will convict one of guilt - but when it is truly heard, the burden of guilt is replaced by the free offer of grace and mercy through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is no simple thing to confess that one is in rebellion against his creator; indeed, one may do so, according to Eph 2, only by the grace of God to begin with. I am not surprised that there are those who seek to assuage their guilt by going to a body that has "all of the pageantry and none of the guilt."

    I left ECUSA last fall and joined ACNA. I had avoided attending diocesan gatherings for some time before that, for to participate in the Eucharist with my fellow clergy said that I was accepting that their beliefs about Jesus' nature, work, and promises were compatible with my own convictions about Jesus - and I knew that not only were they not compatible, but in many cases were diametrically opposed. I could not in good conscience sit at the Lord's Table with them.

    As things stand now, those who believe Jesus to be simply one prophet among many and for whom the cross is but an example and the resurrection but a symbol have taken control of the organization of the Episcopal Church. The price for conservatives to remain within the organization is to accept those with "progressive" theology as being equally in fellowship with God. I cannot do so, because the Scriptures portray a God who is (to the degree we poor mortals can understand him) as described in the Creeds, the Chalcedonian formula, and the XXXIX Articles.

    If you want to restructure the Episcopal Church, go ahead - but no not be surprised when decline continues, for you will be organizing around an empty center.

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  30. So TEC does not wish to reward "dishonest thieves"? It could help the Anglican Communion of which TEC wishes to be a continuing member to better support TEC in the advancement of its true Anglican mission if some one could point out where (a) Episcopalian clergy formerly in good standing with TEC have been tried and convicted by an ecclesial court of being "dishonest thieves", (b) a convincing argument could be adduced that selling or leasing church property to departing congregations amounts to a "reward", and (c) a convincing argument could be presented that the cause of the gospel of Jesus Christ is enhanced by not "rewarding" departing Episcopalians in this way, but, instead, by "rewarding" the missional aims of another religion.

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  31. Friends: pretty soon I will tire of people beating up on Matt Kennedy and or the diocese he used to belong to. We all have other fish to fry. (And maybe a better chance there of meeting the Lord.)

    When that happens I will immoderately cut the conversation off.
    (sigh)

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  32. I think it's very sad that so quickly the discussion of your paper -- the focus of which was "How can Executive Council more effectively fuel God's mission 'out there'?" -- turned to internal church concerns.

    Mark, I thank you for your paper and look forward to substantive discussion of it.

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  33. Matt, in deference to Father Mark's wishes, I withdraw from anything more regarding how I view your comportment.

    Peter, can you never speak for yourself? Why must you always pretend to be representing the vast unspoken majority of the Anglican Communion? You are nothing more in the Communion that the rest of us, a member through your membership in your province. And yet you cannot write anything in which you do not invoke that huge mass of folks that you believe is behind you. It is my experience that you do not speak for the majority which you imagine. It is my experience that many of the majority have no idea what is being spoken in their name, nor is it of interest to them and their lives.

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  34. Such anger from conservative Christians, yet no responsibility for the anger they cause.

    Curious.

    And, again, thanks for your concern to those who aren't members of TEC but . . . you're not members of TEC.

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  35. MarkBrunson,

    You aren't God. You seem to think you are, passing judgement and thinking you know all.

    I am a member of TEC. Others posting here are. I am a very involved member of a parish in Fr. Harris' diocese. I choose to remain anonymous here so as to not cause or contribute to tension in my parish.

    I have every right as a member of TEC to be conservative. I have every right to think it is scandalous that lawsuits are being filed, and that TEC has adopted a policy that it will sell church property to Muslims, Unitarians, atheists... anyone but departing congregation. As I said above, TEC is actually giving away the silver in cases where it refuses to sell to the departing flock and either accepts a lower price or lets a building sit empty or decay.

    If my family gets chased out of TEC, I assure you it will be much more the result of people like you and David, and the actions of General Convention, than it will be the result of anything other conservatives do.

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  36. Yawner, please share with us how the actions of Mark B and I would chase you and your family out of TEC?

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  37. Hi MarkBrunson,

    I am not a member of TEC, I think I am conservative, but I don't think I am angry :)

    I belong to a member church of the Anglican Communion, however, and I notice that TEC's ideas and actions seem to have a considerable bearing on the future of the Communion! So I take an interest in what is going on in TEC ... wondering, for example, if what happens there presages what will happen in my own church in New Zealand.

    I can appreciate that TEC would like to get on with its own business without pesky 'outlier' commenters such as myself. I wonder if people inside TEC such as yourself can appreciate the influence TEC has around the world? Just a few days ago, Holy Saturday 2010, several NZ newspapers featured Bishop John Spong and his latest book, including full colour photo of him in his purple shirt and black suit, as their 'religious' contribution to Easter weekend. Last time I checked +Spong remains in good standing inside TEC, his views never challenged by the ecclesial discipline of TEC. So, there you are, even way down under, TEC's imprimatur contributes to the religious life of another nation!

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  38. david,

    "thieves"? maybe toning down your vitriol towards those of us who removed ourselves from TEC might put your opinions in a better light.

    the "Christian" charity you grant us is quite lacking in your posts.

    i find it funny...the amount of angst spewed at ACNA on these blogs...and much of it coming from Priests no less! throwing rocks when you live in a glass house...a glass house that supports bad theology, a rejection of Christ as the ONLY WAY, a rejection of Biblical sexual standards, unfettered abortion rights, and whatever hip "liberal" social cause seems to be "in" this week.

    your "mission" is to proclaim Jesus Christ as the WAY. THE WAY. your mission is to build up believers in the Faith. how do you become mission minded when the leaders of your denominations can't even figure out which parts of the Bible they even believe? which parts are factual this week? which other sexualities will be discovered this week? which "justice" issue will we tackle this week (as long as it doesn't involve the rights of the unborn...)?

    Hope that works out for you.
    -Josh H.

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  39. Mr. Carrell,

    I have a great deal of difficulty with the idea that we have that much bearing on the "communion."

    I don't buy it at all.

    You've never much cared about us before. Across the "communion," provinces have been allowed to extol violence against Muslims, gays, supposed "witches," violence and abuse of children and women has been considered a mere cultural differences, changes to the traditional form of worship and who can lead it are considered hokey-dokey, the gospel is twisted to support naked ambition and power-mongering, the political machinations called the 39 Articles are raised to the level of Scripture, and TEC is told to shut up and sit down - and, graciously enough, we have. We've allowed you to have your way with your own provinces - lazily, really - despite the harm it does.

    You see, Mr. Carrell, this "communion" has been our brothers and sisters only when it's served to get you something - just like the orthodite pretenders in the U. S. You want us to do what you want, and, suddenly, we're all one big family that we are tearing apart.

    Errant nonsense.

    The hand cannot say to the foot . . . except you've never been part of our body. I suspect the only reason we haven't simply been booted out was to get a piece of that U. S. money pie. Well, we've got no money, now, just like everybody else, so the pretense can stop.

    We are angry enough to wake up and realize this has never been a family, but an abusive and dysfunctional collective of petty would-be princes who care nothing for humankind. We are awake enough now to realize how much damage we've caused the world by enabling this horrible force and are beginning to extricate ourselves. We won't simply bugger off because we still hope to influence you to the better, but we won't bow to the lie of "family" anymore, because it never has been.

    If you won't change for the better, if you throw us out, others have begun to awaken, too. I hope they'll come with us, and we'll make a better world.

    Doubtless, you'll get the Americans you want, as well. Good luck with them. We will always be grateful to you, because, by your mistreatment, you spurred us to greater things - you sacrificed your own spiritual well-being for our growth. How marvelous! But, the vision you offer doesn't work, hasn't work, and does demonstrable harm. We say "No more."

    You have no say in TEC. We are betrayed, we are angry, and we are waking up.

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  40. If you're chased out, Yawner, I will consider that a great benefit to both you and us. You do nothing but hurt us and we you, at this point. However, this is simply your paranoia, as we both know. The only one who can make you leave is you. It will always be your choice. Trying being adult enough to own up to that!

    I've never claimed to be God, btw. I just know the difference between actual right and wrong, rather than pretending fairy tales that have never worked for anyone somehow work. As to judgment, where you end up is between you and God, but I'm quite entitled to discern, as Paul would say, when someone - like you - is merely an ill-tempered, spoiled adolescent seeking to blackmail everyone else to their will. It's our fault. We've spoiled you, so sorry you're having difficulty being a grown up now.

    In the end, stay or go, I don't care, but 1) it's your choice and no harm to you at all, and 2)you're no brother to me, have never tried to be, so don't pretend.

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  41. MarkB (but David read this also),

    As you have written on your blog many times, you have issues which you acknowledge. I hate even getting into this because of that. That's hard to get across on the internet. Anyone wondering can go to the March 8 post on your blog for a fairly concise summary.

    But since David wanted an answer....

    You ask how the actions of people like MarkB might drive me out. Okay, some quotes from Mark's writings ought to do the trick, and then ask yourself if you'd want to stay in Mark's parish - or church- as a conservative. All of these can be found at http://eamaa.blogspot.com/ which is his blog.

    "Okay, while it is somewhat amusing to watch my fellow progressives looking the classic deer-in-the-headlights in the face of open, ugly, naked, violent aggression from a conservative America which has lost all mental and moral direction, here's why you need people like me;

    Sometimes, a brutal, decisive and very physical exertion of power is perfectly appropriate, even in defense of a greater Peace. Tenka Fubu. Look it up."

    David- "Tenka Fubu" means "Spread the militarism over the whole land". He goes on to say he's "perfectly serious in the above comments."

    Another one: "I rapidly feel I'm becoming a liberal Glenn Beck. I can say that. If you do, I'll eat your children for comparing me to Glenn Beck."

    At Grandmere Mimi's in a comment, he wrote: "Yes. I'm in a particularly nasty and unforgiving mood toward conservatives and the mindless apes they stir up. "

    Now, David, perhaps Mark isn't representative. That would be a very fair thing to say. Of course, if you choose to say that, then you must also acknowledge some conservatives aren't representative. (I am not referring to Matt here, because I hold him in extremely high regard and would love in some ways to have him as my priest.)

    MarkB would consider it of great benefit if I left. Others- like Elizabeth Kaeton- would like me to change my mind but if I don't would also consider it of great benefit if I left.

    Simply put, there are many loud voices in TEC who do not want conservatives to stay. They want those individuals to stay, but they don't want them to remain conservative. And the more TEC heads in the direction of ditching the past (which you would categorize as "growing in understanding" of course), the more traditionalists have no place. Will it be my choice? I suppose so, but only in that I will have been left with no other option.

    And the more people like me leave, which they've been doing, the more TEC loses its silver (to use Mark's term)- not because we take it with us, but instead because TEC can't afford to maintain it.

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  42. Hi Mark Brunson,

    Thank you for your interesting catalogue of the many and varied difficult situations across our frail and fallible Communion. It could well be that history judges TEC to have been most unfairly singled out for attention through these years; and it could also be that history will demonstrate the singular success of the mission of TEC in its lean, green mission machine form which Mark Harris envisages.

    However I do not think that in any way alters the fact that, as I observed, "TEC's ideas and actions seem to have a considerable bearing on the future of the Communion!".

    Whether we stay together or fly apart, whether any or no member churches are suspended, expelled or newly welcomed, what is happening in TEC has a considerable bearing on the future of the Communion.

    I presume that my sense of that is shared by the Presiding Bishop herself, given that she has felt it important to communicate to her fellow primates at this time, http://www.episcopalcafe.com/lead/episcopal_church/pb_writes_fellow_primates_rega.html !!

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  43. My point, Mr. Carrell, is that something is always going to influence the "communion."

    Put flatly, the problems in New Zealand are yours. I don't expect you to be responsible for Bob Duncan, who I consider to be a major spokesman for your point of view.

    Your unhappiness is completely your creation. You can deal with it, or you can blame it on others. I am sorry for you that you are so unhappy, but TEC can't be held responsible for that, any more than you can be held responsible for Bob Duncan, or Peter Akinola.

    You see, this is why I have trouble taking you seriously - we're "brothers" when you want us to do something, but not when we want you to do something.

    I'm not impressed by these complaints, and frankly don't care about a false communion, which is what this has always been. You want to blame someone else because the message you preach no longer washes.

    Finally, I'm not asking you to go away. PB aside, and she is no more important than the House of Deputies, you simply have no say or comprehension of what's going on here. It's not a wish, or a command, or a plea to leave us alone, you simply are not part of us. Sorry.

    The wakeup call has come: this "communion" was never anything but a vanity project to allow bishops to meet and play at Vatican. We in the pews don't care. If you need help, we'll send it, other than that, we're not interested in being like you are.

    Now, in the end, there are two choices. You can sit in the dust, throwing ashes on your head and telling everybody how mistreated you've been - half the people won't care, the other half will be glad it's you. Or, you can stand up, act like adults, and try to figure out why people aren't buying what you're selling. Maybe it is that they are just "The World" and not interested in Jesus, though, from where I stand, most of "The World" ascribes to your point of view. Still, maybe you are holier than the rest of us, in which case, congratulations, here's your certificate and a reminder that Hell's gates are locked from the inside. If you want to be unhappy, you'll find plenty of people to be unhappy with when TEC's gone - as I pray we soon will be from the AC.

    So, there you are - New Zealand is where you are; if you don't like what papers in New Zealand publish, it's your right to complain about it, but, complaining to us is pointless; see, we figure if you censure one person, we'll wind up censuring whoever is the scapegoat de jour. We haven't even censured Mark Lawrence and his gang - condemned what they say, but not prevented him from saying it. So, that being the case, perhaps it might be a bit more realistic to actually work on whatever you're doing or not doing to cause people in New Zealand to find Spong's message preferable to yours.

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  44. Oh! You got me, Yawner. I'm a human who doesn't claim to speak for God!

    Yes. I do have issues. Since you've been so mysterious, let me clarify so there won't be any misunderstanding: they are financial issues, coupled with *GASP* severe chronic depression.

    Now, I'm sure that you didn't mean to be so typically orthodite as to write something half-revealed in public to make it seem like I'm a dangerous madman, or something - rather like one of your friends e-mailed to me earlier today. I'm sure, as a reader of my blog, you didn't intend to take quotes from a blog in which I consistently point out that I will speak from emotion, regardless of action - to obfuscate in that wise would be un-Christian, and you constantly tell us how much better a Christian you are than us.

    Just to clarify, I have no problem with the use of force against the growing violence of the tea-partiers. "Tenka Fubu" also means to unite the land under one arm through force. I'm not a nice person. I have no problem with that, either. Right now, right-wingers are tearing our entire nation in two, and will soon transform us into a Third World nation unless we act quickly. Is that Christlike to take action against them? No. I'm not Christ. I sin - boldly, when necessary - and repent most of the time. If you were afraid I was advocating violence against you, why didn't you just ask, since you read so often . . . "brother?"

    Could you confess anything in yourself so publicly and clearly, assumed-name-Yawner?

    I. Didn't. Think. So.

    I'm honest, up front, and vulnerable. I learned it from Jesus. You may want to try finding out about Him. Interesting guy. Believed nothing that you do, and surprisingly little that I do.

    Now, you still haven't managed to put me on the defensive, because my faith is strong, my conviction that what we're doing is right is strong.

    I still want you to leave.

    I want you to leave because I can feel some degree of detached love for you and others, and wish you to find someplace you'll be happy. I doubt you can be happy, but that's because you enjoy being miserable. You'll leave when we won't be miserable with you.

    Anything else you want clarified, you take it up with me on my blog. You don't come over here and try to rally pity on someone else's.

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  45. Oh, I just noticed this!

    Can it??
    Not one chance in ten thousand!
    (Dan)


    So, better chances than being resurrected from the dead? Easy-peasy for Jesus!

    Thanks for the encouragement, Dan!

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  46. Granted that I am something of a "know nothing" when it comes to TEC business. But I am intrigued by this fellow http://babybluecafe.blogspot.com/2010/04/episcopal-bishop-of-virginia-and.html Surely he is not a "know nothing" when it comes to TEC's way of going about things!

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  47. I wouldn't trust a post on Babyblue telling me the sky is up!

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  48. mark,

    so what is the mission of TEC? how do you have a clear "mission" as a church when your leadership can't even decide which parts of the Bible they agree with? how do you come up with a focused idea of "our mission" when you have competing forces coming from opposite extremes? (ie. Spong to Lawrence within TEC)
    -Josh H

    also, just because you might not agree with some of the posts on babyblue doesn't mean they aren't true or have merit. it would be equally unfair to say everything that ENS posts is rubbish...which isn't true.

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  49. Still don't believe anything on orthodite blogs. I've had too much experience of orthodites lying. Sorry.

    And, given your attitude towards the workability of Christian mission in TEC, you may want to take your own advice.

    Otherwise, I would ask, what is your purpose here? We're not going to listen to you, so it must just be coming here to hurt. It won't hurt just us, but you, as well. God is not served, because there is no coexistence, any longer, and both must fight until there is either no one left or we are too tired to carry on. There is no point in carrying it down to this personal level.

    Personally, I'm done with it. Your words, like Babyblue's, and Lawrence's and Matt Kennedy's and so on, have no effect on me and no truth in them, so there is no longer a point in trying to engage on this level. Let the war continue, but the private battles of equally-matched precious humans is pointless and destructive to the only thing that matters, those human beings.

    It's bad enough that there will be no peace in our time.

    ReplyDelete

OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with comment moderation but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.
Rule: PLEASE DO NOT SIGN OFF AS ANONYMOUS: BEGIN OR END THE MESSAGE WITH A NAME - ANY NAME. ANONYMOUS commentary will be cut.