March 13, 2013

A Disappointing Mesasage

The bishops of The Episcopal Church met for their spring retreat March 8–12, 2013. Daily reports of their activities have been posted on the Episcopal News Service Web site. (See posts here, here, here, here, here, and here.) Reports of the meeting have not been riveting. I was hoping for a newsworthy message from the bishops at retreat’s end. Although the bishops did offer a message to the church, it has turned out to be unremarkable.

Yesterday, the Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs issued “House of Bishops offers a word to the church: Godly leadership in the face of violence.” The letter from the bishops notes that the theme of the retreat was “Godly Leadership in the Midst of Loss.” Losses mentioned included those caused by Hurricane Sandy, the earthquake in Haiti, illness, and violence against Native Americans. Much of the letter, however, concerns gun violence.

It is gratifying that our bishops are concerned about gun violence, though it is not surprising, since particular bishops have already spoken out against it and advocated for more restrictive gun legislation. What is discouraging is that this is the best our bishops could do in terms of taking a stand:
As bishops of The Episcopal Church we embody a wide variety of experiences and perspectives with respect to firearms.  Many among us are hunters and sport-shooters, former members of the military and law-enforcement officers.  We respect and honor that we are not of one mind regarding matters related to gun legislation.  Yet we are convinced that there needs to be a new conversation in the United States that challenges gun violence. 
That’s it; we should talk! I wonder how many bishops receive contributions from the National Rifle Association.

I was even more disappointed by an obvious source of loss that the bishops seemingly ignored—the loss visited on the church by Bishops Duncan, Iker, Schofield, and others, and especially the chaos in South Carolina engineered by Mark Lawrence and his supporters. Of course, I do not know that Mark Lawrence’s exploits and the damage he is continuing to cause were not discussed, but the public reports from the retreat show no evidence that they were. Do our bishops have ideas about how to deal with such losses or, more importantly, how to head them off? Are they incapable of facing the problem, believe that nothing is to be done, or are satisfied with how conflicts have played out in San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, Fort Worth, Quincy, and now South Carolina?

It costs Episcopalians a lot of money to send bishops off to semi-annual retreats. Are we really getting our money’s worth? Would more useful work get done if we limited retreats for bishops and occasionally had a gathering of the House of Deputies between General Conventions?

5 comments:

  1. I agree it is high time for the Church to boldy take a stand. However, in fairness the Bishops' statement also included this paragraph: "At our ordinations as bishops we pledged to “boldly proclaim and interpret the Gospel of Christ, enlightening the minds and stirring up the conscience” of those we are called to serve. (BCP p. 518) We call all Episcopalians to pray and work for the end of gun violence. We commit ourselves to lead a new conversation in our nations as to the appropriate use and legislation of firearms. And we further commit ourselves to specific actions to this end."

    The last sentence is at least strong in tone in stating - "...we further commit ourselves to specific actions...".

    In addition to the lack of reference to the ex-bishops who left the Church, there could have been some reference to the nine bishops who submitted the amicus curie on behalf of Bishop Iker's breakaway faction. In so doing they are actively meddling in another real Episcopal bishop's diocese and actively inserting themselves in court proceedings which would damage the Church they proclaim to serve.

    Bob Button

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  2. "...the chaos in South Carolina engineered by Mark Lawrence and his supporters"? Can you actually write that with a straight face? The presiding bishop and her supporters are solely responsible for engineering chaos in this diocese.

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    1. I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree about that.

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    2. A thicker stew made up of honorless taint and insincerity was never brewed(even with the not-so-holy-backstabbing intrigue of San Joaquin)...yes, I can say that with a straight face (and add a ¨it figures¨ and a ¨better them/him than me¨). The SC gang of schismatics must have stayed awake for years plotting/plotzing on how to be better Episcopalian Christians than others...and they intend to prove it too by throwing tantrums and stompping about! Tiresome lot. I hope they wear themselves out and start acting like full-fledged human beings who really do love their neighbors instead of casting them out.

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  3. Excellent points, Lionel. Postscript: Anyone who thinks that the presiding bishop "and her supporters" are solely responsible for causing chaos in the life of our church, has lost touch with reality and has bought into our denomination's latter-day Big Lie. It was not the presiding bishop who attempted to steal hard assets in order to set up a new church. It was Duncan's need to be in charge of his own national church, Duncan's desire to create the equivalent of his own papacy, and the lies he spread about purported rejections of conventional Episcopal doctrine, which caused the chaos. It was not the presiding bishop who rigged the vote in this diocese by admitting any priest from anywhere as a "resident" of the diocese and thereby rig the clergy numbers. I do not wish to open old wounds, nor to re-hash them, but comments like Hunter's are a present, ongoing warning that the conference of bishops needs to be working right now on an accepted method to deal with the "loonies of the right" (to steal a phrase from the Capital Steps) who think that they know better than anyone about doctrine and governance, and are willing to inflict pain on their own dioceses to achieve their very earthbound results. It is the day to day Episcopalians (and "Anglicans" if labels are important) who mourn the loss of their past congregational friends and associations, and who still feel the pain of being set against each other, brother against brother, in a latter day Civil War. This was a war which was wanted only by Duncan and his ilk, which is why he had the latitude to develop his fellow-travelers at every diocesan level. The day to day church-goers should not be subjected to such pain. It is guys like Duncan who will say anything to pursue his personal goal and who will spend a decade filling church offices with loyalists with a long term revolt in mind, who are the biggest sources of pain, litigation and chaos. The Episcopal Bishops conference needs to deal with the problem unless it is their goal to emulate Neville Chamberlain. Meanwhile, the Episcopal Church is learning what the Catholic Bishops learned over the past few decades. It is the Bishops with personal agendas who will wind up in Hell with guys trying to squeeze a camel through the eye of a needle. Meanwhile, the rest of us will continue to fumble through life while applying our honest beliefs of the tenets of Christianity as they have been taught to us.

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