Monday, December 05, 2011

Daer Episcopal church - yur doin it rong

You can't be more tired of my rants about the division in the Episcopal Church than I am, but this may be the last one, because they've, pretty much, cut the baby in half, and it's not really my issue anymore except in being there for my dad. He gets around fine by day but doesn't drive at night, so I accompanied him and endured a meeting about this a few nights ago.  It wasn't fun.

Most of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina is on the conservative Anglican side of the debate.  Not just the churches, but the Bishop of SC his very own self, who's distancing the diocese from the national policies. 
(For clarity here's the deal:

Technically, all sides, Episcopalians and Anglicans are ... Anglicans.  It's all part of the worldwide Anglican Communion, but the views of its various offshoots differ so radically that the sides need IDs.

So when I say "TEC," that's The Episcopal Church with its affirmation of gay unions and its liberal theology.   "Anglicans" will have to refer to the conservative sub-groups who oppose TEC's direction.)
Dad is ardently in favor of the conservative view.  My mother, though, despised the controversy, thought the church should proclaim the basics, embrace all people, and help the poor, and was furious that this parish she'd given so much time and heart to was withdrawing much support from TEC.  She marched into the rector's office 7 years ago and said that she expected her pledge to be shared with TEC as always.

My parents were a life lesson for couples in embracing your commonalities, while uncompromisingly standing for important beliefs when you differ.  I learned a lot from these people.

I rarely miss her more than I do when confronting the fundamentalist mentality here in RedStatistan.  Yet I don't speak "for" her.  I am appalled at the whole controversy, right here on my own, but differ in my willingness to say "Buh-bye!" and let them go.

The meeting was not even about the various points of view, but assumed that all of those present were on one solid side, certainly trying to coexist, but united and unquestioningly against "them" and their liberal policies.

I will hand it to them, that they, the Anglican conservatives, hope to keep the denomination intact and not split away, but they are as uncompromising as TEC is and it's hard to blame just one side for slicing the baby in two. One woman stood and said she hated the idea that her lifelong identity as an Episcopalian might, if things go badly, be something she has to leave behind, but that, and I quote, she'd "rather be a Christian than an Episcopalian."

Gee, that's funny, so would I.

I get the disgust with TEC.  I'm with the Anglicans on some of it.  TEC has been unable to affirm even the most basic Christian doctrine as its foundation, and that could make them a big teetering organization about nothing.

Some of my best friends  (you know who you are)  repudiate all supernatural elements and the whole Bible narrative of miraculous events and incarnate God.  I have no quarrel with what anyone believes, because I honestly -- it's a whole 'nother topic -- think belief is not at all a choice.

But why the  %$*@!   be a Christian church then??  Rename yourself Secular Liberals United for world Betterment (SLUB), employ all those people on the enormous TEC campus in the Cause, and quit claiming you're a "church."  It's OK, you can keep your non-profit status and everything.

I've said before that it probably should just split if it can't find common ground, but both sides are pointing out stats on declining membership, and many of us are emotionally long-gone.  I don't think they have a clue how thoroughly any split would fail to neatly give each side a comfort zone.   If they tear the sheet in half, a lot more disconnected tatters will fall loose to the ground than they realize.

In my family, my generation pretty much symbolizes the slice-the-kid-in-half aspect of this battle.  Already, my brother is an ardent fundamentalist, and he has no interest in the Anglican permutation of that.  He's an active member of his Baptist church.  And when the time comes, I'll be on my way. 

It's OK. I sat through this meeting, and I'll probably sit through more services and meetings I despise, to be there for Dad who may need help getting there in the future and deserves to participate as his conscience directs him.  And then I will have no more to do with either branch.  Because, like the conservative lady who spoke, I'd rather be Christian than either a nothing's-true EC or a submissive-women, anti-gay-marriage Anglican.

I'm cool. I took my Serenity pills. I'm still in the process of watching an important part of my childhood implode, but I am processing it, though a 2009 trip to the church we attended from the time I was 3 til I was 14 did kind of give me pause.

It was my uncle's funeral in Dec 2009, in this church in which I was a toddler in the nursery school, Confirmed at age 12, a truant from Sunday School at 13, and even came sort-of full-circle as a teen assistant in that same nursery, when I was 13-14.

Photo by Larry, while I drove.

It was an astonishing experience to see it in 2009, for the first time since I was 14 years old --41 years!-- and not see the typical unrecognizable updating that I've come to expect when I visit old haunting grounds.

Neither the neighborhood nor the building had changed. No idiots had "modernized" its design or feel. The peace of the place, which clearly spent its money on good solid maintenance but not on "Hipness Appeal! Relevancy! Make it Pop!" amazed me. The feeling that it was serenely outside the current crisis was undoubtedly deceptive, but it felt really good.

I keep hearing that a split is "inevitable" since both sides seem to be so rigid.  Such a split will affect my old church too. I'm not sure which way they'd go, but I'll never live there again and neither denomination will have a place for me anyway. But it's the feel of that place that I'm looking for. A place that actually pays attention to the Red Letters, and helps the poor, and shuts its mouth about politics.


Christy said...

Oh, I wish you could visit my church. I think it would be right up your alley. I love serving on the diaconate and really helping in tangible ways.

Sorry for all this mess you and the church are going through.

Catherine said...

SLUB -- that is sheer genius!

I'm with your mom on this one.