It's clear that one of the major news stories of the generation is the developing schism within the worldwide Anglican Communion. As anyone with his or her eyes and ears open well knows, the cause is homosexuality. As homosexuality within the Catholic priesthood now is costing Roman Catholicism dearly, so (a) the imminent consecration as bishop of an openly practicing homosexual and (b) the blessing of homosexual unions are fracturing Anglicans - known in the United States as Episcopalians.
The U.S. Episcopal Church is clearly losing adherents as it loses relevance in its dilution of scriptural teaching and the upholding of standards of right and wrong. Its overall membership has declined by about one-third over the last 40 years. Today - at 2.3 million communicants - it is about one-thirtieth the size of the 64-million-member U.S. Roman Catholic Church and about one-fortieth the size of the 78-million-member worldwide Anglican Communion.
Buggery ought to be at best a peripheral issue in any church, but in a collapse of reason in the name of openness and diversity, the U.S. Episcopal leadership has made it central. In August, at its Minneapolis convention, clerical and lay Episcopal leaders voted nearly 2-1 in favor of (a) consecrating a practicing homosexual as bishop of New Hampshire and (b) acquiescing in the clerical blessing of homosexual unions variously within the church. Soon such consecration and such blessing will be routine - normal - in dioceses across the U.S. Episcopal landscape.
And normalcy is largely what the debate and developing schism is about.
Church liberals are embracing homosexuality as normal, church conservatives are not.
The liberals, all the way up to Frank Griswold, the presiding bishop, believe scripture sanctions not only homosexuality but also the consecration of homosexual bishops. He says:
"Homosexuality, as we understand it as an orientation, is not mentioned in the Bible. I think the confirmation of the bishop of New Hampshire is acknowledging what is already a reality in the life of the church and the larger society of which we are a part. And: I must say in the strongest possible terms that if I believed in any part of my being that the consent to this election was unfaithful to an authentic way of reading scripture and contrary to the leading of the Holy Spirit, I could no longer serve as the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church."
He says he supports and will attend the Nov. 2 consecration in New Hampshire.
Conservative dioceses, parishes and clergy say the consecration will force them out of the U.S. church. They argue that the notion of homosexuality flies in the face of reason, is wrong and is unsanctioned - verily deplored as sin - by scripture. A minority within the U.S. church, they already are moving to realign under a different umbrella authority more in tune with the scriptural belief of the worldwide Anglican majority.
The liberals contend the conservatives are causing the schism; the conservatives contend it's the liberals.
In London last week, 37 leaders of the Anglicans worldwide convened for two days and acknowledged, in a unanimous statement:
"In most of our provinces the election of Canon Gene Robinson would not have been possible since his chosen lifestyle would give rise to a canonical impediment to his consecration as a bishop. If (his consecration in New Hampshire) proceeds, we recognize that we have reached a crucial and critical point in the life of the Anglican Communion and we have had to conclude that the future of the Communion itself will be put in jeopardy. In this case, the ministry of this one bishop will not be recognized by most of the Anglican world, and many provinces are likely to consider themselves to be out of Communion with the Episcopal Church (USA). This will tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level, and may lead to further division on this and further issues as provinces have to decide in consequence whether they can remain in communion with provinces that choose not to break communion with the Episcopal Church (USA)."
So who is holier than thou? At 2 million communicants, nine U.S. Episcopal Churches could fit into the 18-million-communicant Church of Nigeria, the largest in the Anglican Communion after England. Conservative Episcopalians, a minority within the U.S. church, are in line with the majority of Anglicans worldwide. Liberal U.S. Episcopalians, with their homosexual embrace, are wandering off the Anglican reservation and threatening schism.
What is happening among U.S. Episcopalians reflects a dubious development in American culture.
It is a habit - a characteristic - of American leftists generally to act with supercilious disdain toward anyone who disagrees as they plow forward. Regarding themselves as smarter on matters of scripture and homosexuality (and much else), they view conservatives as too stupid to understand. Yet it is conservatives who adhere to reason - who tend to share the view of the University of Chicago's late Allan Bloom (himself a homosexual) in his compelling 1987 book, "The Closing of the American Mind."
"(a) Reason (is) the essential freedom that justifies the other freedoms, and on the basis of which, and for the sake of which, much deviance is also tolerated. And
(b) There are two kinds of openness, the openness of indifference - promoted with the twin purposes of humbling our intellectual pride and letting us be whatever we want to be, just as long as we don't want to be knowers - and the openness that invites us to the quest for knowledge and certitude. And
(c) Openness used to be the virtue that permitted us to seek the good by using reason. It now means accepting everything and denying reason's power. The unrestrained and thoughtless pursuit of openness ... has rendered openness meaningless. And
(d) To deny the possibility of knowing good and bad is to suppress true openness."
Those in the U.S. church motivated by an indifferent openness toward homosexuality - having forced many motivated by reason and faith out of the pews to the golf course and beyond in sadness and disgust - now are forcing schism.
Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.
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