Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Conservative Speaks Out Against Schism

The Post Gazette brings us an essay by Jerry Bowyer, who is a conservative activist, Episcopal vestry member and financial journalist residing in the Diocese of Pittsburgh:

...This past summer, Bishop Duncan instructed my wife and hundreds of other readers in the diocese to omit the prayer for Katharine. Katharine Jefferts Schori has been a frequent target for conservatives in the U.S. church ever since she was elected presiding bishop last year. Coming on the heels of the installation of an active and outspoken homosexual bishop, the elevation of a woman of liberal sympathies seemed a bridge too far for many conservatives.

It appeared at the time that omitting the prayer for Katharine was a steppingstone to where the bishop was really trying to take us -- outside of the Episcopal Church. You see, to include Katharine in the prayers was to acknowledge her office, and to acknowledge her office was to acknowledge our obligation to her...

...Secession is not the biblical pattern of resistance to flawed authority. Young David served under a tyrannical and apostate King named Saul. David submitted to Saul's authority and he resisted the urge to revolt or secede. He remained faithful to Israel and Saul until the end, and then, because of his patience, became king himself.

David's great (28 times) grandson, Jesus, was a reader in the synagogue despite its shortcomings. He worshipped in the temple despite its corruption and oppression. King Herod was a murderous crook and the temple priesthood were his hired cronies and yet Mary and Joseph and Jesus were there year after year, making offerings, saying prayers, talking with rabbis.

When St. Paul was beaten by the high priest he showed him deference, not contempt. "You salute the rank," as they say in the military, "not the man."

That's because the authority of a priest or bishop doesn't come from him; it comes from God. The failings of the man, or woman, don't erase that authority. Saul would regularly try to murder David. He disregarded God and took on the responsibility to offer sacrifices himself. He murdered faithful priests. Through all of this, David saluted the office long after the man had outlived his merit.

On Oct. 31., the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church USA sent a letter to the bishop of Pittsburgh, directing him not to split the diocese from the denomination. Bishop Duncan replied by quoting Martin Luther, "Here I stand. I can do no other."

It's a powerful quote, but a misuse of history. Martin Luther didn't leave the Roman Catholic Church; he was kicked out. He decided to "stand" and fight. It's ironic that Bishop Duncan quoted Luther's pledge to "stand" in order to justify his intention to "walk"...

...Yes, there are times when it's necessary to leave one authority for another. When the New Testament writers were forced to deal with this issue, they concluded that they were compelled to obey higher authority at all times, except when it commanded them to disobey God. Roman Emperors were monstrous beasts. The church preached against them and prayed for them to repent, but Christians still obeyed the law. It wasn't until Rome ordered them to stop preaching the gospel and to offer sacrifices to Caesar that the early church was forced to disobey.

By analogy, New Hampshire can install a whole pride of gay bishops, but we don't break our oath of loyalty to the Episcopal Church until they order us to start installing them here.

Until then, the pattern of David and Jesus holds: Be faithful. Be patient. Be active in good works. And be in prayer for all in authority ... "for Katharine, our presiding bishop; Robert and Henry, our bishops; and Jay, our priest, I pray. Lord, hear our prayer."
The above thoughts are quite similar to those I have heard from many conservatives within the Episcopal Church. All are disturbed to some degree by various aspects of our current unpleasantness. Some are quite upset, as sometimes becomes evident when I voice my disagreement with them. But the only conservatives that I know that believe their only option is to leave the church are the ones I meet on the internet.

I think it is important to point out this false image of conservatives that is displayed online. Those who insist they must leave to remain pure are a strange new breed, which we have yet to define by an appropriate term.

I often refer to this new breed as "extreme conservatives" or "extremists" for short. Others use the terms "neo-cons" or "ultra conservatives," and even "neo-Calvinists." None of those descriptions seem quite right.

Let us avoid the temptation to lump all those who disagree with us into one camp. This new breed has many identifying characteristics that might suggest a myriad of labels, but, out of respect for those who are willing to agree to disagree without breaking fellowship, don't call them conservatives.


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