Saturday, June 20, 2020


After yesterday's body blow to justice, you may be asking, Whatever next? Has the world devolved into complete chaos? COVID-19 is running rampant sickening and killing people all around us. Countless thousands of Americans are out in the streets everywhere marching for an end to racism. Confederate monuments are literally falling all over the place. (Even the Confederate flag has been banned by NASCAR. There is a race at Talladega this weekend, thirty minutes from my house. We will see how that works out.) Forty-four million Americans are out of work. Food pantries are running low. And now, on top of all of that, a lowly circuit judge has dared to nullify a state supreme court decision. This is a perfect storm of disorder. So, how can we make sense of all of this seeming anarchy? Let us return to the big picture to help us put things into perspective. For this, we need to return to the themes I developed in my history of the schism and in this blog over the years.

The big picture in America is a clash between the forces of democracy and anti-democracy. For the past seventy years, the U.S. has experienced a great democratic revolution bringing reforms favoring blacks, women, gays, the transgendered, and others long excluded by society. However, a counter-revolutionary backlash formed in social elements that felt threatened by the reforms, particularly white working class men, evangelical Christians, and southern whites. The clash between these two competing tectonic plates in American life has been going on since 1968. What we are seeing now in the street demonstrations and Confederate demolitions is a new impetus in the drive for racial justice and equality. It is a direct outgrowth of the great democratic revolution. 

The big picture in the Episcopal Church is the church's interaction with the national democratic revolution. When the revolution began, around 1950, the Episcopal Church committed itself to the revolutionary reforms. It became a horizontal religion, that is, one that emphasized the social gospel. Within the church, blacks, women, open gays, and the transgendered all found freedom, justice, equality, and inclusion. However, a minority of the church objected to this horizontal shift, and demanded vertical religion, that is, one that emphasized individual salvation, one person to one God. By 1996, it was clear that the horizontal side has secured a sweeping victory over the whole field when it embraced open homosexuals. Many verticalists then decided the Episcopal Church was beyond hope. In 1996, a movement formed to destroy or greatly diminish the Episcopal Church as an institution in American life. When the effects of the pro-homosexual reforms were enacted, five dioceses voted to leave the Episcopal Church (2007-2012). They formed a shadow denomination devoted to vertical religion and one explicitly against equality and inclusion of open gays and women. This is the Anglican Church in North America.

South Carolina was the fifth and last of the counter-revolutionary groups to leave the Episcopal Church. Diocesan leaders organized a staged schism to ensure a majority of the people would go along. They did. Upon leaving TEC, the reactionaries declared legal war on the Episcopal Church. The war has been going on for seven and a half years. The cost has been staggering, in more ways than one. Yesterday's event was just the latest in a long list of bruising wartime incidents. 

So, there were two motivations in the schismatic movement. One was the do as much damage to the Episcopal Church as possible. On this, the schismatics have scored remarkable success. The other was to replace TEC as the legal and legitimate Anglican province in America. On this they have utterly failed. However, the first aim was the primary goal, the second was only an afterthought. The present scorecard in the legal war is TEC-3, ACNA-2. This is not bad for the rebels considering everything involved.

Going back to the big picture, we see two distinct sides in the Episcopal Church dispute, a majority for a communally-oriented religion and a minority for an individually-oriented religion. The Episcopal Church has resolved that all human beings are made in the image of God and are entitled to the dignity, respect, equality, and inclusion that this entails. The ACNA has resolved that even though humans are made in the image of God they are not entitled to equality. Women must remain submissive to male authority and open gays and the transgendered must be condemned as sinful. That is the difference in a nutshell.

The Episcopal Church is fighting for the good cause---the promotion of all of God's children without conditions. That is why the Church must keep up the fight. This is for a cause greater than ourselves. It is for all of humanity.

Unfortunately, the struggle for human rights is not easy and not even. Goodness knows, blacks have been struggling against racism in this country for four hundred years. Ask your black friends about how to endure in the face of misguided opposition. Yet, the arc of history does bend, and it bends toward justice. It does not get there on its own. It gets there only because good people, like the Episcopalians, sacrificed to make it happen. This is the good fight. We will see it out. This is our calling. 

Do not let temporary setbacks as yesterday's blur your vision. The Episcopal Church is committed to a righteous cause. Keep the big picture in  mind.

Always remember, friend, we are here for a reason, to live this hour as God's representatives on earth. Peace.