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An average American that has some thoughts on politics, culture, and society with a conservative and Catholic twist.

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Time to Pray for our Brothers and Sisters

Well Enough about politics and immigration. Lets go to a another subject that I has been bothering me. We will get back to politics later today

The Roman Catholic Church in the USA has been through our share of tribulations the last few years. We have as been clearly shown our share of warts. I guess I now know what Pope Benedict wrote years ago in his book Introduction to Christianity about that mystery of the unholy holiness that is the Church. I say that because I am about to make a few comments about the Episcopal Church in America. I try not to be too critical of scandals and shortcomings in other communions that claim Christ as their head. Lord knows as someone that truly believe we are THE ONE TRUE CHURCH(Its un pc but hey we mean what we say in the creed), we Catholics at times have so not met that calling to serve it with all our heart at times. That goes for laity and Clergy. But I have a love for the Episcopal/Anglican communion and still do. I am a convert to the Catholic faith. There came a time to where I started asking questions about God, Faith, Church, Purpose and other such things. I started questioning my own Southern Baptist Faith. A tradition that I still respect. My grandfather is a Deacon in that Church and he is still an example to me of spirituality and what it means to have a relationship to Christ. But, I had to leave because in my heart and mind I could no longer believe in some of its most central tenets. But before, I swam the Tiber and went into the Bosom of Rome , I stopped and least went Knee deep in the River Thames. Even after I became a Roman I would like to dip my toe into that font of Anglicanism and still do as you shall see. So what I say is from Love and concern.

I guess that I always love reading about Polish Catholicism. Anyone that has read much on John Paul II knows how much love of Country is so connected with the Holy Faith. We Americans of course do not have an official National Church. But one wonders if this new Branch of Anglicanism so soon separated from its mother in England, had been given time to grow, if perhaps things would have been a tad different. But the nation was in awful hurry and was so quickly expanding West that this young fledging could not keep up like it wanted too. So in many ways this American Anglicanism had a hand tied behind its back. Plus despite what some Preachers like to say, religion and early American history had at times a rough relationship. For this was brand new rough land where the living and playing was hard as well as the death. Well the rest is history. Plus the Catholics later came in heaps and droves and added more confusion to the mix. But despite this , the Episcopal Church was often there and alive and vibrant along much of our history and in unexpected places. It was a quite a shock to me as a young man to learn that in the South we Baptists and Methodists had not been the main game in town from the very beginning.
When one goes to Virgina one can still feel the pull of this Anglican faith. One cannot sit at St Johns across from the White House and not feel it. This Church that has been the official Church for Presidents since Madison. Even today one can exchange the sign of Peace and have awkward moments of where one is going to kneel at a crowded communion rail with the President of the United States himself. Bush might be styled a "born again" Methodist but I have a feeling he finds strength and needed consulation in the Sacrament of the body and blood as well as the comfort of the liturgy and that Book of Common Prayer in his hand. It is in many ways still connected to the History and life of that Office he now has. . The Church and its history can be felt in Bruton Parish in Williamsburg for instance(where even the Catholic Church feels English) to the small towns and hamlets. There are areas in Virginia that are "High Church" and others "low" but where the Book of Common Prayer and its beautiful rhythm of morning prayer still is heard quite vibrantly. Its quite something. People forget that in these Churches meetings were held that decided if we should be loyal or go in rebellion against the crown. They are still there, still standing, still preaching God's word. If you happen to be in Richmond go to St Pauls. You might be able to pray where Jefferson Davis was worshiping when he heard Richmond was lost. The Church was there for that dramactic episode in our history too. I suppose my Episcopal love affair is particually Southern in nature. I am sure that above the Mason Dixon line there are vibrant stories to tell. But to me its true heart was and is still in the South. In the river towns like Vicksburg, and St Francisville to Mobile Bay. These places where that ancient American faith is still vibrant and full of tradition. In my home town one can go to St Marks and see confederate flags in Stain glass in honor of the Fighting Bishop General Polk. Who by the way in this current Bible belt said the first Church Service in that then outlaw land. He had to have body guards while he did it. But it was the first of many first that Episcopals did in bringing Christ to where he was not really wanted. Catholic, Baptist and Methodist and others like most places down here are clueless about this contribution of the faith. But it happened. I could go on and talk about Sewanee and of course beautiful, poetic , soulful, and even now mysterious Charleston where the Anglican Faith is still cared for in its beautiful historic Churches and its grand simplicity. Its quite something in that South Carolina City to walk those streets and see the men who made our nations history and are literally still part of the Church itself it their beautiful church grave yards. This is the Church that gave these men peace and strength even when they were involved in a cause thats resolution was not so clear. If you are there go inside and just seat and think and perhaps if your Catholic pray for the souls of these men and women that are buried just yards from where you are sitting.
As you can tell I put my foot in the river Thames as I said. It was the first place I was exposed to liturgy. It was the first place I heard the term Sacrament and what that meant. It was a place where I learned the beauty and prayfulness of an liturgy that had the roots with our most Christian ancestors. It was a the place that I learned well- to truly worship. My first liturgical Holy week I experienced was there.(Catholics , I hate to say it but I think they do it better at times than we do) . However In the end though it was the place that led me to the Catholic Church. That I thank it for and to me was its biggest gift. I could tell early on I think that Anglicanism was not going to work for me. Even at my young age I could tell things were going off the rails. But I suppose it was in the end just to Protestant which of course is self evident. In a way that performed a service. It clarifyed and later aided me into becoming Catholic and all that means. I suppose being a Baptist I had seen Protestantism up close in a most radical way. True Baptist hate the term Protestant for your information but it is that I know now. There were other problems with Theology , women priest, valid orders , etc but those came later I suppose as I started to learn and pray over scripture and tradition. But still there was a warmth. Even after I became Catholic, my Catholic friends and I made up half the Canterbury Club at the Church on our campus. We went there for the service(no we didn't take communion) and the evening meal. Much love was there and still is. When, I went for Grad studies in Baton Rouge, I would still pop in on hot summer days into the darkness of St Georges and pray , meditate and read my my old 1928 old praybook to which I still love.
And of course its the good ole people of the Episcopal Church I loved. They are not all radicals and the sort. Some are the most spiritual and Christ filled people I know.

So that brings us to today. No need for me to put a ton of links up. If you read this far you are aware of what is up. The Church leadership has gone off the rails in a big way. I have observed it from afar and shared my friends fear over it. I had one lifelong member confess to me that she was not sure if she was in sin if she went to communion because of the actions of her Bishops. In effect, was she sharing and partcipating in their disobedience and to put it bluntly was she a schistmatic from the Anglican communion. That may sound silly but people are asking those questions. Whole Dioceses are prepared to leave and its not clear where they are going if they do. Individual Church's are leaving and begging and pleading to come under the jurisdiction of Bishops from Africa.
There is a dirty little secret that you will not see in the press and especially not in the The Churches official newspaper discussed in any length. That is that the head office is keeping things together basically because in many cases because they can hold these poor priests Pension and retirement funds hostage. Its a terrible mess and the Body of Christ is again wounded. Of course Rome is watching. Rome is in dismay because it appears that any reunion that could ever take place is now about to become a impossibility forever. We are also watching also because we know that many will now cross the Tiber and come home to us. We are ready with our pastoral provisions for your clergy so they can become active Roman Catholic Priests. I have counseled and yes I admit I have brought some over to the Catholic faith. I have joy in it but at the same time this should not have been the way it happened. The sad fact is that many might not come to Rome, remain Anglican, become Baptist or whatever. Many will just lose their faith.

However, there is hope. The Church could pull its way from the abyss. I frankly dont see how, but they are meeting right now. And from what I am seeing on the net it is not pretty.I feel the answer is that the leadership must understand what "communion" means. Communion means that the American church has got to listen. It must listen to the wisdom of its brothers and sisters in Africa and Asia. There is really no choice. In fact perhaps some "progressives' should consider if that is not the Holy Spirit speaking through their fellow Bishops. Perhaps a good reading of Acts and the first council of Jersualem would be helpful

I mention Rome was watching. A few years ago many disaffected folks from this tradition gathered in the Dallas/Fort Worth region to talk some stuff through. HTere was a letter that was sent and in the end recieved a standing ovation in the end when it was read. Many people were teary eyed. It shows the importance of this Church
"
From Joseph Cardinal RatzingerPrefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the FaithThe Vatican, on behalf of Pope John Paul II
I hasten to assure you of my heartfelt prayers for all those taking part in this convocation. The significance of your meeting is sensed far beyond Plano, and even in this City from which Saint Augustine of Canterbury was sent to confirm and strengthen the preaching of Christ’s Gospel in England. Nor can I fail to recall that barely 120 years later, Saint Boniface brought that same Christian faith from England to my own forebears in Germany.The lives of these saints show us how in the Church of Christ there is a unity in truth and a communion of grace which transcend the borders of any nation. With this in mind, I pray in particular that God’s will may be done by all those who seek that unity in the truth, the gift of Christ himself.
With fraternal regards, I remainSincerely yours in Christ,
+Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger


UpdateI- Well I talked to a friend of mine that was at the convention. She is preparing to come back. The news is mixed from the convention and I will give an update later. It looks like the Bishop where I am located took some courageous stands. There is perhaps a glimmer of hope here that will discuss later

3 Comments:

Blogger SJ Reidhead said...

Frankly, as an Episcopalian, I think it is time for a stiff drink!

The actions of a vocal few do not reflect the actual feelings of actual Episcopalians in actual real life. The real problem is the fact that about six years ago, a group of people with an agenda managed to position themselves into a voting block so they could bring about their version of 'truth'. It is sad. It is disgusting. And right now, there's not much anyone can do about it - except....

I think the analogy to the line, "Why bother running for office when we all know only crooks get elected..." holds true for the voting block of the Episcopal church. Good, decent, believing men and women could get together and take back the church rather quickly, by positioning themselves to take over during their church's annual meetings. But, like the voter who doesn't really want to get involved, they don't. So, in a way, we've been handed the church we deserve. If we could garner the 'silent majority' of Episcopalians to show up at the annual meetings, act like the Christian Coalition (that drives me bonkers) and take over said meeting with their candidates who are nominated from the floor - we could end liberal leadership in the church - almost immediately.

But is anyone going to do this...NNNOOOO....Why? Because the blasted part of it is Episcopalians are polite and that would be such a show of bad manners, and we've never had to do this before, so why bother. We'll just sit back in our own little parish and run things the way we always have and lament the changing of the old lightbulb.

It is the very determination not to change and not to compromise that has brought about this quagmire. If we had been able to change just a little, to compromise just a little - everyone - not just the old fogey conservatives like me - if the liberal faction had been willing to compromise - things would be different.

At least we have been given the option of attending parishes that are part of the Anglican Communion. Problem is they are few and far between. I would much rather do that, but where I live it isn't possible, and at least my diocese is one of the more conservative ones. I'm not going to say my home diocese will remain in the Episcopal church and not go over to the Anglican Communion.

James has brought up some excellent points. The thing that ticks me the most about the Roman Catholic Church is the fact that, as part of the Anglican Communion (so far) I am not allowed HE unless confirmed, yet we allow both Catholics and Greek Orthedox to take communion and the Catholic church allowed the Greek to take Communion.

I dearly want to remain Episcopalian or Anglican. I would be Roman Catholic but for the fact that I feel women should be on equal footing within the a church and should be allowed to be priests. They ordain women and I'll probably switch. (I may end up going that way one day anyway). I know a heck of a lot of Episcopalians who would. We are like unwanted, 'bastard' step-children on a cold, Christmas day, standing on the outside of the family home, looking in, wanting to belong, but are not wanted.

The three tenents of the Anglican are scripture, tradition, and reason. I feel like they are trashing all three of those legs of the three-legged stool. One of our traditions is based on scripture, that the priest is given the power to forgive sins - all priests - gay or streight - even if we don't approve of them and have had a falling out with them (Just don't ask). We are also taught that the forgivness does not come from the priest but from the authority of Christ. Even if the priest is not doing what we feel is right, we can stll take HE from him or from her because the authority for that, too comes directly from Christ.

It's all John 3:16. I just wish we could all act like Christians once in awhile!

6:02 PM  
Blogger Pondering American said...

Its a awful mess thats for sure. Of course the situation in Canada is far worse it seems in some ways. I have been perplexed at times as you point out how the average person in pews does notspeak out. Its pretty easy to get organized and get delates sent to these conventions. I think in the end that perhaps there might be a silver lining. IF enough Diocese leave this offical structure and form a new organization the Anglican communion I suspect will embrace them. Then the far left will be left as the years go by with fewer and fewer churches and less influence. I will send you a Email that you might find interesting about South Carolinas statement.

1:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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8:58 PM  

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