Archive for July, 2012

Easy Come, Easy Go

Monday, July 30th, 2012

One of the major topics debated at the last General Convention was “open communion.” The traditional practice of the Church has been to admit only baptized persons to receive the bread and wine at communion. In fact, only in recent years have Episcopalian children and others who are baptized but not confirmed been allowed to communicate.

Some self-declared progressive churches have taken it upon themselves to change this custom (and ignore the underlying canon law), admitting anyone to communion who would like to receive. This supposedly shows the openness of God to feed all his children, whether members of the Christian club or not.

The spirit behind this impetus is admirable but the Convention apparently stuck with tradition. A solid reason for doing so is the desire to show that at least some commitment is required to be a Christian. The communion represents the gifts of God for the people of God–not the gifts of God for anyone who happens to show up in church. If there are no boundaries between Christians and non-Christians, why would anyone bother to join the church?

Still, it behooves us who adhere to tradition to still be open. One delegate to General Convention from the Diocese of New York suggested that when the baptized are invited to receive communion, the unbaptized should also be invited to be baptized! —J. Douglas Ousley

Legal, Civil, Religious

Friday, July 20th, 2012

The Bishop of New York and the Bishop Co-Adjutor have just decreed that same sex weddings may be celebrated in church and, provided that the couples have obtained the proper New York State marriage licenses, these marriages will be legal in the eyes of both church and state.

I have written about this issue many times for many years and will not go on further now. Bishop Mark Sisk held back where other bishops allowed such ceremonies because he was hoping for some global Anglican compromise–or at least, an agreement to disagree. Meanwhile, anti-gay bishops, especially in Africa, seem to moving toward separation from the Archbishop of Canterbury, and they give no indication of any reasonable compromise that would allow them to stay. In other words, there is nothing to gain by diluting our own convictions.

One final comment: both bishops note that not all Episcopalians agree with same-sex marriage in church, and they recognize that this reflects a novel development of doctrine. Those of us who favor the change would do well to remember that fellow church members may still be struggling with the issue. Triumphalism in this area of church life, as in others, is not to commended. —J. Douglas Ousley

GC 2012

Friday, July 13th, 2012

I have not been able to comment on the just-concluded General Convention as much as I hoped; a summary of the resolutions passed can be found here. More comments in the weeks ahead.

An initial reflection would be that the results were entirely predictable. Traditionalists will be dismayed by the same-sex blessing rites, even though these have been coming for years–and will be regarded by the larger culture as the least we could do. The budget worries seemed to have been pushed on into the future, rather like the National Debt. The membership decline seems to have been ignored as past conventions have ignored it.

That said, media attacks on the progressive drift of our church have been equally predictable, and they are getting tiresome to Episcopalians on both sides of the fence. In thousands of churches, people are fed spiritually and enabled to serve God, whatever Conventions do or don’t do. That fact is also worth remembering, and giving thanks for. —J. Douglas Ousley

General Convention to New York City: Drop Dead

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

Actually, that’s an exaggerated headline. The House of Deputies has only voted to sell the Church Headquarters on 815 Second Avenue.

But there is an anti-establishment undertone in this vote, as seen in this comment from a delegate from New Jersey: “815 Second Avenue is the relic of our delusions of being an established church from an imperial era. Constantine has left the building. Unfortunately, Constantine has left us the building.”

Others might argue that instead of acting like the establishment, we have been real estate neophytes. This huge, grossly under-used building in prime real estate a block from the UN actually costs us $7,000,000 a year–whereas it should be making us money or at least breaking even.

In any case, speaking as someone from a parish church that is among the closest to the Church Center geographically, I have to say that I can’t see it would make much different to New York if the bureaucrats left. We hardly see them, nor does anything they do seem to touch our lives. —J. Douglas Ousley