Thursday, December 28, 2006

And not there, either!

Unfortunately I'd have to register to respond to this post, so instead I'll bring the comment over here.

Citing this post (apparently I am now "someone"), the assertion is made that I've said:

the Episcopal schism is being driven by clergy - that lay people are content to sit in their pews and bask in the comfortable glow of a "post-denominational" world
Well, not entirely. Lay people are not sitting back in their pews, but neither are they the driving force on this split, at least not in my opinion. There may be pressure from the laity to realign their congregation with what the laity expects a church should be, but my argument is that comes from "cultural Christianity," not from some abiding interest in the theological issues raised after 19th century German Biblical scholarship or the Jesus Seminar or Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ." (I mention just three notable events in religious and theological circles that are known in the public square, not that anyone of them is the sole source of concern in parishes today. These are representative, not exhaustive.)

That realignment, inasmuch as it comes from the laity, is one designed to increase their comfort with the familiar, not to improve and clarify their institution's understanding of God's will or expression of proper Christian doctrine. The latter is the language used by clergy (I am one, I know the vocabulary well). And the clergy seek it as a question of power, not of purity.

I'm not sure anyone besides monks and hermits are driven by a desire for purity in their lives. Perhaps that makes me cynical. But in seminary, we were sharply warned not to expect our congregations to love us just because we'd been to seminary and were sincere in our beliefs. So I don't think I'm cynical so much as I am realistic. Certainly there are congregations which don't approve of the ordination of Gene Robinson, or perhaps aren't even comfortable with PB Schori simply because she is a woman (this seems to be a major problem in the Communion, too). But how many of those congregations are demanding, against the advice of their clergy, that the congregation leave the denomination? That's the question that must first be answered.

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