Friday, June 19, 2015

Paint out the stars

2014 was a peaceful year.  I'm talking outer peace, not necessarily inner peace, but nobody's Facebook Sunrise Placard saying "outer peace is worthless without inner peace" is gonna change my mind:  a whole year low on personal tragedy, conflict, and anxiety is very wonderful, even while I am still processing a lot of unresolved and unexplained stuff, as well as loss.

Another funeral came into our lives, a friend of Dad's, and here's where I break a former promise ;  I was absolutely not going to talk about Episcopal church division anymore.  When I said that, it never occurred to me that I didn't know everything.  

My parents were so involved in this parish, such huge givers to, and supporters of, it that their names are on a plaque in the fellowship hall.  Seeing the blasted thing is like remembering something good that's lost.

Not just because I have lost them, but because the Episcopal Church in SC is torn, and it tore at them.

The church was foundational for them.  They freakin' met at the Episcopal university club.  They were serious about it.  They taught Sunday School (they taught teenagers! I mean, that's dedication), they led study groups, they served on Vestries and as Wardens, they served on search committees and Dad founded a group to feed hungry kids.

Then the denominational unity began to erode. They kept their marital unity together, love and hurt coexisting, but their Episcopal unity came to a painful and ragged end when the splitting process began.  Mom passed in 2010, and the official division wasn't till 2012, but their parish, with many other SC parishes, took preliminary steps in earlier years, and my folks were vocally and tearfully on opposite sides.

I wrote long ago that I would not attend that church after Dad was gone.  This funeral was my first service there since Dad's funeral in August 2013.

People came up to me repeatedly to tell me how much they loved my parents, and miss them, and I kept thinking,

Dear lady! what would happen to your heart if my mom had lived long enough to reveal the level of her anger over this church breaking with TEC?  You remember my "parents" as a church unit.  Like that plaque says.

These are good people.  I have no doubt that they would still love both my parents, and that they would, if technically, admire the integrity that Mom and Dad each had to stand up and be counted.

What really blew me away is that I don't think any of them know that the plaque honors only the past, a time dead and gone, a time when they were all in this together. 

I swore off of this subject years ago.  The problem is, I got some new information.

The 2012 split was (and is) big news in South Carolina.  Local papers interviewed people on both sides, lots of "feelings" journalism, and I read it all.

Then I wrote my own letter to the editor.

I told about my sense of loss, accused both sides of "cutting the baby in half," which, I said, left out in the cold those of us who can tolerate neither First Millennium science nor Third Millennium skepticism.

They printed my letter.

But I got a very interesting reply from a member of the local TEC church telling me I was misinformed.

I had assumed the parish my parents gave so much to for 27 years, the parish Larry and I were married in, had veered to the right with integrity;  that, though I disagreed with their beef and with the division, they were telling me solid, unambiguous truth about what TEC had done and said.

I'd sat through meetings with Dad, and read all the literature that came to the house.  So I wrote that letter based on the conservative Anglican sources, without doing my research, which is not like me.  And I got rightly put in my place.  Finally, I started doing some reading.  Duh.

TEC embraces a wide spectrum of views, from the symbolism-and-myth take on the Gospel story, to "credal" theology -- in line with the Nicene and Apostles' Creeds.   So far they are managing peaceful, if sometimes a little testy, coexistence.  An ability for all to freely jaw about interpretation, but worship together.

So, yes, they have not repudiated, defrocked, or excommunicated John Shelby Sponge (Yes, I know how to really spell it)  or others who call supernatural beliefs "baggage" we need to dump.  But the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds are right there in the "What we believe" section of TEC's website.

And in the current prayer book.

And the catechism, which is also right there in the new, annoyingly gender-neutral, most recent Book of Common Prayer, basis of every church service that we alleged apostates attend, is traditional creed theology.

Thing is ;  this love of tolerance is NOT NEW.  TEC has drawn a wide circle for well over a hundred years.  It has affirmed "reason" as well as the Bible and Tradition, as the "three-legged stool" it rests on, since Richard Hooker in the 17th century, yo.  I was raised in it and never, ever was taught to be a Biblical literalist.  Back then, only boys could be acolytes, women had to cover their heads.  As those things fell away, objections happened, but never rose to an Article of Faith, division level.

Later - o yes, different story.  Stricter Anglicanism expanded. 

But nobody accused TEC of outright apostasy.  The wide circle that TEC drew to include a spectrum of belief, right or wrong, has been around for decades.

So why did the breakaway Anglicans say that TEC denied the basic tenets of the faith?

I don't know.  I know that one of the strongest and most destructive temptations in life is the temptation to lie about "the enemy" because you sincerely believe people are in peril and must, must  be steered away from it and toward your own camp; the belief that if you need to lie to save lives, or, in this case, souls, you should do it.

I can only guess that the breakaway group is THAT concerned about people getting damned to eternal punishment for non-celibate gay relationships.

I can further only guess that they seriously think that TEC's support of gay relationships is deceiving people into unwittingly consigning their souls to Satan.

The anti-gay stance will neither fly in a court, nor with the public.

Is this why they've made a claim against TEC for something much more fundamentally wrong?  Or do they really think TEC has changed on the articles of faith?

Apparently, at the last TEC General Convention, some group called for a vote that "Jesus is Lord," and the vote was refused.  I first read it in a conservative newsletter, which railed, aghast, that TEC could not!  would not affirm Jesus' Lordship, OMG!

Trouble is, that all that affirmation is right there in the still intact catechism and creeds.  The vote was refused because it was redundant and would have been followed by a series of "Further, I call for a vote on [Atonement!  Authority of Scripture!  Marriage!  yadda yadda],"  grinding the convention to a halt.

At that funeral, I spent 2 hours with people my parents loved, and who loved them, and felt like I was hiding my own division from these breakaway supporters, just as I was hiding the division between my parents, hiding the fact that my mother would have opposed their vote.

This is a lesson in boundaries.  I need to embrace the lesson.  I did not choose this battle.

I think that if the general population of the breakaway group knew how TEC does and would gladly embrace their Creed-lovin' thought and beliefs, they would not want this split either, no matter what they feel about gay rights.  The gay question does not need to be settled to keep a denomination together, it only needs to be recognized as a lesser issue than the beliefs that are the church's basis.

They've split families, they've split friends, they've stripped off the letters.  Each church seems to have dealt with the "Well, we're not them, but we're Episcopal, but not really, but...." signage differently.

One way is to paint out the stars.

I hope sincerity is driving them.  I hope it is not Pride of the worst kind.