Saturday, January 28, 2006

The perfect gentile - and his "public church."

Is there a more subtle destroyer of English culture and tradition in the Philadelphia region than the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania (DIOPA)? Subtle because it invokes tradition when convenient (such as before the elderly congregants of suburban parishes who still have hope for the church of their fathers and who are on the verge of leaving lots of money to posterity - wink, wink); yet a church which acts as though its only enemies are those who love it for its history and the spiritual formation it once offered.

The Episcopal Church, USA, was recently a sanctuary for America’s English spiritual heritage - its social mores, language, architecture, aesthetics, and spirit. Under the leadership of Bishop Charles E. Bennison (photo: right), the Episcopal Church is being turned into a “public church.”

When I think of a public church I picture one of those giant evangelical, easy on the sin-stuff, full of self-fulfillment (ladies Yoga classes 10:30 every Saturday morning), “smile, God loves you” theology, and absolutely devoid of any attachment to the past, to culture, to history. These are churches for the perfect gentile - no ties - nothing permanent to get in the way of their complete re-invention every time the state finds it in its interest to re-make its proletariats.

Well public churches are easy - and the Episcopal clergy, having driven away most of its historical Anglican base - now needs a new flock. An easy one. But where is the love? It’s easy to go to a “public church” on Sunday morning - but would anyone fight for such a church? - sacrifice for it? - defend it against the culture destroyers? - force their children to go to it on a cold Sunday morning when they’d rather sleep? Would marriage in such a church carry any more reverence than marriage by a justice of the peace at City Hall? - or at the Chapel of Love one block behind Trump Casino off the Vegas Strip?

Maybe I’m too harsh. It is natural for professional clergy to find a flock - even at the expense of all its tradition. Bennison and his hangers-on at DIOPA need to be paid - need to justify what they’ve dedicated their loves to. They are probably just as dumbstruck, confused, and heartsick by the emptiness of their churches as I am.

Maybe the Episcopal Church is dying because the Episcopal people are dying. Maybe somewhere along the way the state turned us into perfect gentiles - convincing us to embrace barrenness - gay lifestyles pursing pleasure rather than fulfillment, irreverence towards family and children, abortion, material pleasures, etc. etc. Maybe as the dissonance of the 21st century jars the American psyche the DIOPA would find a flock in the children of its last generation, a generation that left it decades ago - suddenly in need of a past with roots and a spiritual family of shared heritage. Sadly under Bishop Bennison - that is the last place the DIOPA is likely to look.

Grant, O Lord, that by thy holy Word which shall be read and preached in this place, and by thy Holy Spirit grafting it inwardly in the heart, the hearers thereof may both perceive and know what things they ought to do, and may have power and strength to fulfil the same.
- The Form Of Consecration Of A Church Or Chapel.
The Book Of Common Prayer, 1928.


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