Who Left Whom

News today that two San Diego County parishes have failed in the legal battle to retain their property was truly sad. Holy Trinity, Ocean Beach, and St. Anne’s, Oceanside, both former parishes in the Episcopal Church, chose to leave the ECUSA over a variety of issues, not the least of which was the the ECUSA’s embrace of both modernism, and of homosexuality as an acceptable, if not even honored, lifestyle. The oft cited argument is that the Episcopal Church, itself, left the “orthodox” behind, and not the other way around. Although I am unsure if this had any bearing on the courtroom arguments, I found myself wondering if this was really the case. A while ago, in the wake of the GAFCON meetings, I had questioned whether what was being accomplished was much more than simply hitting a reset button that would lead the program back to the current state of affairs, but just a little bit further in the future. In exploring this question, my assertion was that Anglicanism, itself, was from nearly the outset, designed to tolerate mutually exlusive positions. Catholic and Reformed are really contradictory. The repetition of the phrase from certain members of Anglicanism doesn’t make it otherwise. Anglicanism, at its heart, is an attempt to create the first Unitarian denomination within Christianity. Although, early on, it would not tolerate truly Catholic ideas within its fold, the day would come when it would. While Newman and Pusey, et al., would receive challenges, they would ultimately be tolerated, then welcomed, within the Anglican fold. Roman Catholicism is distinctly contradictory to Protestantism (regardless of which one may be wrong or right with regard to historic Christianity). One cannot maintain a belief that confession is necessary and unnecessary, that a prepared reception of the the Body and Blood of Christ is required and that the ceremony is simply a memorial of something that happened 2,000 years ago, and so grape juice and crackers work just fine. This only scratches the surface of all of the contradictions that are tolerated within Anglicanism. St. Paul exhorts us 5 different times in his epistles, to be of one mind, yet the Anglican response is not to ensure a uniformity of belief, but rather to expand the definition of what that uniformity entails. 400 years ago, that meant dismantling loyalty to ecclesiastical authority in lieu of loyalty to secular authority. It meant the addition of human reason to God’s revelation, it ultimately meant that a day would come when one parish in the ECUSA was telling us in their newsletter how evil the “apocrypha” was, while another, literally 5 miles away, was teaching how they were part of Scripture. When modernism started to creep into the world, it could find no more fertile ground than that of Anglicanism. By that time, every contradiction within the vast milieu of those who called themselves Christian was tolerated. Now a moral relativism, a doubting of the divinity of Christ, and a tolerance of behaviors previously understood to be condemned by God Himself would need to find a home. They became part of what reasonable Christians could be understood to believe. That meant they needed to be accepted within Anglicanism. So, if finding a way to tolerate all views is traditional Anglicanism, then who is not being traditional when the assert the need to conform to a particular subset of beliefs? Isn’t it the so-called orthodox? I think that it is. So, if the court cases ever turn on who is actually being more “Anglican,” then I think it is the ECUSA that would win that argument. Those who have decided that it is the early 20th century collection of beliefs that define the boundaries of Anglicanism are being dishonest. Those who would assert that such a broad range of beliefs has always been acceptable within the bounds of historic Christianity are, quite frankly, delusional.