Posted on: June 26th, 2015 Episcopal GC ’15 – Catholic or Ideological?

The state in which I live and from which I hail is not a “blue state.” And within this red state of which I am a bona fide native, my local community is a crimson dot.

Now, many of my fellow denizens in this concentration of crimson culture consider me a “liberal.” They are quite wrong, and as I tell them frequently, “when you are more conservative than St. Paul you have a serious problem.” There is a world of difference, I tell these friends to my right, between a conservative and one who cherishes and believes in tradition. To quote GK Chesterton, “I am a democrat because I believe that my dead ancestors deserve a vote.”

Now there has been talk at General Convention this year about “what to do with the conservatives” who remain in the Episcopal Church. Michael Curry, for example, points to his track record in North Carolina as a precedent for how he might interact with traditionalist Anglicans at home and around the Communion.

Will the new Presiding Bishop continue to purge conservatives from our ranks, or will he (alas no female candidates are under consideration this election cycle) enact policies, precedents, and attitudes which will allow and encourage them to stay?

Former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey once quipped: “the opposite of Catholic is not Protestant; it is schismatic.” I would suggest one could also hold that the opposite of Catholic is ideological. Any church which claims to embody the catholic faith, then, must resist ideology in all its forms. She must resist the temptation to organize the life of the church around any issue or issues that are not agreed on by all Christians, and made explicit by the great creeds of the Church. She must resist the temptation to exclude those who agree with the majority of the tenets of the catholic faith, but at the same time maintain disagreements on sub-catholic issues, regardless of how emotionally provocative those issues are.

Theologian John Milbank says that the Church is “real social space.” Like an English pub or a coffee house or a neighborhood park, it is a community which transcends differences of ideology. In this community one belongs not because he is conservative or liberal, gay or straight, Boomer or Millennial, Republican or Democrat, but instead simply because she has been baptized into the faith of Jesus Christ.

This ecclesial posture is not optional; it is foundational to the identity of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. What do we do with the conservatives, then? We affirm, enjoy, and implement our unity within the Body of Christ with them, overcoming every barrier and distinction which in the world only create divisiveness and fragmentation.

Share Button
Filed under: Radical Orthodoxy, the Christian Life / Prayer, theology / ecclesiology | Comments Off on Episcopal GC ’15 – Catholic or Ideological?

Posted on: February 28th, 2015 Kool-Aid Institutional & Familial

For many traditional Episcopalians confirmation is somewhat normal. It is a familiar event, a familiar notion, a familiar thought. It is just something that one does in the course of one’s normal life. It is mainstream.

Indeed, what a blessing that for many this is the case. And yet for whole other large swaths of contemporary culture, nothing could be more bizarre and foreign than participating in a “special worship service” in which a man dressed in flamboyant robes with a pointy hat that looks like something from a comic book lays hands on you and claims to have brought you into …

… into what? Into an institution?

Now, I happen to believe that institutions are a good thing. Without institutions life unravels. Without institutions individuals are left exposed to the potentially oppressive manipulations of state power. Institutions are among the “mediating connections” that bind people together in society. All of this is very “meet and right.”

And yet, the specific characteristic that leaves many in our day with an anti-institutional taste in their mouths is that, all too often, the true motive for institutional activity is mere self-preservation. Why have a meeting? Why have a membership drive? Why raise money? Simply to promote the institution and its survival.

And so it is that, when scores of new friends from all across Tyler & East Texas (most of whom are “young” by Episcopal Church standards) have entered into the hallowed halls of Christ Church over the last three or four years to see what has been going on here, they are confronted by many and diverse aspects of an institutional life that it is foreign. There is a foreign hierarchy. There is a foreign vocabulary. There is a foreign, maze-like building. There are foreign gestures and traditions. There is a foreign ethos and culture. All of these foreign dimensions teeter on the brink of reinforcing the suspicion that one has just entered into … the bowels of an institutional monster.

And yet, there is so much more. You see, my mind is blown that people are “drinking our Kool-Aid.” But what they are drinking is not so much the new hierarchy and tradition and gestures. I do believe in all of that fantastic stuff, and I am confident that, over time, they will, too. But the main thing that folks are imbibing is not a new institution but a new family.

A new family that sticks together. A new family that is messy. A new family that is honest. A new family that does not agree on everything, but is absolutely committed to doing life together. A new family in which Christ is loved & served but not forced onto people. A new family where believing follows belonging.

All of this is both classically Anglican / Episcopalian and “postmodern.” It is “a new way of being Christian that is very, very old.”

Our new members of Christ Church who confirmed last Sunday … for many of them they are joining not so much a new institution, but a new family.

Share Button
Filed under: Austin (and Tyler), church planting & community forming, Me / Us, New Kind of Conquest, the Christian Life / Prayer | Comments Off on Kool-Aid Institutional & Familial

Posted on: August 8th, 2013 (The heart of) Catholic Ecclesiology

The heart of what I call “catholic ecclesiology” is the conviction that Christ is fully and completely bound to the church as a corporate, visible body.

One can discuss catholic ecclesiology in terms of space, and in terms of time.

In space catholic ecclesiology is the idea that what binds the church together in unity is more fundamental than ideological positions which fall outside the purview of the mind of the universal church. Ultimately what binds the church together in unity is performance of the liturgy, which is the deepest corporate participation in Christ, with brothers and sisters in community. Hence I might vehemently disagree with a sister on all sorts of issues (for example, issues having to do with human sexuality), but we are still bound together in Christ. Hence we experience the deepest possible level of unity.

The denial of this spatial catholicity is seen when subcatholic ideologies are allowed to rupture the unity of the church, such that people who disagree, especially bishops, the focal point of unity in the church, no longer participate together in the (eucharistic) liturgy.

In time catholic ecclesiology is the idea that, over the peaks and valleys of history, the church will emerge faithful and victorious. Is the church locked into a vicious cycle of faithfulness and unfaithfulness, a seemingly endless repetition of the fate of Old Covenant Israel? Catholic ecclesiology says “no,” and insists that history is on the side of the institutional church, that the gates of hell will not prevail against it, that the church is qualitatively more spirit-infused than (because it is a fulfillment of) Old Covenant Israel.

The denial of this temporal catholicity is seen when theologians imply, or when people think or assume, that the church’s unfaithfulness will perpetuate itself indefinitely, a move which locates cosmic salvation outside the church, with a Christ who is isolated and disembodied.

Both denials, that of spatial catholicity and that of temporal catholicity, sever Christ from the church. But catholic ecclesiology always holds them together. Christ is the sacrament of God, and the church is the sacrament of Christ.

Share Button