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Obedience

If you link only to those who link to you, what is extraordinary about that? Even the pagan bloggers do as much…

Fair enough. But Mine Iron Heart went and linked to me a while back, so, like a good pagan, I paid him a visit, and found this. Very interesting. Essentially, it sounds like the Episcopal bishop of San Diego is forbidding schism and demanding obedience. I wonder if Rome ever issued similar letters to the Episcopalians – and I don’t mean that in a smarmy way.

Good paragraphs from the letter, with a couple of can’t-help-myself comments:

Let me be clear about the import of this direction. If you and your congregation pursue an effort at secession, you will at that moment be in violation of your ordination vows. By this Pastoral Direction, you will be, by that very act or by your participation, an inhibited priest and deprived of standing or canonical or legal authority to do the very action you purport to effect. In issuing this Pastoral Direction, it is my hope that the issue of congregational secession can be conclusively addressed, and that we can concentrate on what is our common work together.

[But isn’t the nature of your “common work” precisely the question that is causing this division? Don’t some people think that the Episcopal Church in America is departing from the “common work” in crucial ways?]

Too much time and energy has been spent on this question. Individual clergy and people may choose to leave the church. This is a right that each of us has. But it is not permissible to participate in actions which attempt to remove a constituent part of the Diocese and Episcopal Church from the whole.

[Isn’t each member, clergy or otherwise, a constituent part? If they each have the right to leave individually, then why can’t a congregation simply say, “Each of us is exercising our right to leave individually”? Or perhaps I’m misunderstanding here.]

At this time in the life of our church, it is imperative that we understand clearly the difference between conscience and the obligations of vows and office. I will always respect individual conscience. But as clergy, we hold vows, and as rectors you hold an office, which includes your bond of trust to me as your bishop….

This Pastoral Direction correctly frames the issue as one of ecclesiastical authority, which is essential to the good order of the Church, and thus calls us back to remain together so that we can serve and care for the people whom God has entrusted to us.

[What is the nature and cause of that authority? And what if the authority is wrong, and is acting in such a way that is not in fact truly caring for “the people whom God has entrusted to us”? Again, not being smarmy – it’s a serious question.]

Comments

  1. Kevin Jones says:

    I’ve been wondering about this, too. A guy I know interprets Edward Murrow’s character in the Caine mutiny as a satanic one inciting his fellows to disobey a lawful authority. That’s about the strongest concept of obedience I’ve seen.

    But there’s also the saying, “he who rises by disobedience will nevertheless insist upon obedience.”

  2. Father Stephanos, O.S.B. says:

    Parts of two Episcopalian congregations in San Diego County have left the Episcopal community within the past half year. The pastor and some members of Christ the King in the San Diego County community of Alpine left and started a new congregation, Blessed Trinity, in December. St. Anne’s in the Northern San Diego County city of Oceanside decided in a majority vote in January to join the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone with the understanding and intention that they would retain the Oceanside property.

  3. Father Stephanos, O.S.B. says:

    Here’s an excerpt from the Episcopalians’ own newpaper.

    “The Church of England Newspaper”, December 17, 2005.

    http://www.churchnewspaper.com/news.php?read=on&number_key=5748&title=US%20Church%20shrinking

    US Church Shrinking

    The American Church has suffered its largest decline in attendance at its services for decades, new figures have revealed.

    The Church’s Office for Congregational Development reported that last year, the number of churchgoers fell by 23,623 (three per cent) to 823,017, which is double the rate of decline of the previous year. The record decline coincides with ECUSA’s decision to consecrate Canon Gene Robinson as the Anglican Church’s first practising gay bishop.

    It is a loss equivalent to the size of four dioceses, as the median Average Sunday Attendance of the American Church’s domestic dioceses in 2003 was 6161. The Church has declined by nearly a third in the last three decades.

    One of the dioceses hardest hit by declining numbers in 2003 was New Hampshire, where Canon Robinson was installed as bishop, which saw the greatest decline in attendance of any state in the Northeast at six per cent.

    The stagnation in growth was not confined to liberal dioceses, as several conservative dioceses halted their steady growth of prior years in the wake of evangelical secessions following the Robinson consecration.

  4. Susan Peterson says:

    Because my husband is an Episcopalian I have spent quite a bit of time with “Reasserter” Episcopalians who disagree with the ordination of Gene Robinson (man who left his wife & 2 kids to live with his male lover) as bishop of New Hampshire..and with the blessing of gay marriages..and with multiple unorthodoxies rampant in the Episcopal church. The glee with which they discuss resisting their “Reassessor” bishops always distresses me somewhat. I mean…their bishops are wrong…but they are their bishops…aren’t they? Or, not being Real Bishops of the RealChurch, do they not have any Real Authority? What if our bishops did things such as what their bishops do…like sending a congregation which believes neither in women’s ordination nor in the morality of homosexual relationships…a partnered lesbian woman for their priest?
    Wouldn’t we then conclude that it was our bishop who had left the church, rather than we ourselves? These are the kinds of issues that these Episcopal congregations are splitting from the Episcopal church over.
    And the same bishops who do such things, speak in this authoritarian way when enforcing their will, especially when the issue has to do with losing property.
    Susan Peterson

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