Friday, March 30, 2007

Tiber and Thames

The report of Bishop Herzog's abandonment of his orders makes me sad. I am not sad that someone has chosen to leave The Episcopal Church for Rome, but that a former Roman could not find enough of home in TEC to stay during the storms of our present age. As one who many years ago made that same swim of the Tiber, I find it difficult to understand why one would abandon one's chosen family to return to the one that he spurned in the midst of Vatican II, especially in the midst of crisis.

One of the things that the Roman Church demands of its communicants is obedience--a kind of blind obedience that often robs folks of their ability to think for themselves and take responsibility for their faith before God. But it is a place for those who do not want to bother with these matters, who prefer others making those decisions.

I have assisted many who have tried to make the switch from Rome to the Episcopal Church, but I have often suggested that some people stay in the Roman Church because they just aren't going to make good Episcopalians. They just cannot take on the responsibility of their soul before God. They are upset when the doctrine of the Episcopal Church does not completely define what they should believe.

Outwardly Episcopalians are so like our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters. The liturgy is the same; we have bishops; we have deacons and priests, etc. We even make allowances for the Blessed Mother more so than other denominations. But we are different--VERY different. But the boundaries are uncertain. And since Vatican II, those boundaries seem almost amorphous.

There is a phenomenon that is occurring in the Episcopal Church that is worth noting: The growing catholicization of things Episcopal has not stopped with the primacy of Eucharistic worship. The growing desire for "norms for Christian behavior", "doctrinal commonality", and "statements of confession" that are being touted by many smack of a kind of Romanization of Episcopalianism that has not been part of the Anglican tradition.

Granted, there has been a rich Anglo-Catholic heritage in the US since the mid 19th century, but that heritage was steeped in mission as well as colorful ritual. It was centered in a deeply lived out spirituality of faith in action that was signed by its liturgical haute-couture. It did not live and die by doctrinal likeness. One's catholicity was based more on medieval spirituality than Counter-Reformation conformity.

If there is one thing that the House of Bishops has said in the past few weeks is that Romish hierarchical formula for church order is not that of the Episcopal Church. It has said unequivocally that we are not a people of lock-step; we are a Church that not only proclaims its diversity, it is dead set on making sure that we ARE diverse. It has said this because it has seen that it is in that diversity that God can be readily be seen, recognized and celebrated.

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