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God told the church to go fuck itself
July 9, 2011 6:03 AM   Subscribe


 
I'm a queer ex-mormon, studying in an Anglican theological seminary, who was Received last year. Many, many, many people do this. I have done this. I wonder if I have made the biggest mistake of my life, because we should become Anglican for an attachment to the history, tradition, theological uniqueness and culture of the church, and not because the church has become a de facto island of the misfit toys, and we are under the misapprehension that the church has a tradition or history that is more tolerant than it is. And I have functioned as a chalice bearer, preached at the pulpit, written liturgies, read the scripture, and prayed with the highest of the high.

No one's intentions are ever pure, but I see the Anglican church taking the ex Mormons, the ex Pentecostals and Evangelical Protestant (the CoE is neither fish nor fowl in it's evangelical/catholic split) and Orthodox and Romans and etc. They take them with open arms, and the people in those traditions are convinced that the church has welcomed all of them. They refuse to jettison the traditions that they have been born with, or have chosen before, the ones that given them succor.

This becomes a problem of liberalism. This is my problem as well. We assume that the Anglican church has always been tolerant, but we forget the churches relationship to the Quakers and the Puritans, to name two 17th century traditions.

I am glad that the gentleman has found a home. I am glad that I have found a home. It is a home that was chosen for politics, and homes chosen because of politics will break yr heart every fucking time.
posted by PinkMoose at 6:21 AM on July 9, 2011 [14 favorites]


Interesting. I'm a cradle Episcopalian and have always been grateful, because it's meant I've been able to stick with tradition I grew up in and which I love. I've always wondered what it must be like to have to leave your tradition and find something else, and I've always wondered to what extent that's about finding a tradition you love versus finding a politics you can live with.
posted by newrambler at 6:26 AM on July 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is beautiful and awesome. Truly a tale of loss and healing told by someone who feels they have something important to share. And I'm sure there are many who need to hear just such a message.

I may not support all the organizations involved, but I certainly support the message. And it has spoken to me, too. So thank you for posting this. A great way to start a Saturday morning.
posted by hippybear at 6:29 AM on July 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


As a convert Episcopalian, I'm glad he can find value in the same traditions that I find value in, even though our lives are incredibly different.

As an attorney, I'm just glad the drinking saved him from a life working at Skadden.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:32 AM on July 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


This becomes a problem of liberalism. This is my problem as well. We assume that the Anglican church has always been tolerant, but we forget the churches relationship to the Quakers and the Puritans, to name two 17th century traditions.

It's one of the central teachings of Zen that you become what you practice being. If the Anglican church practices tolerance long enough, it may find itself in the surprising position of actually being tolerant.
posted by Malor at 6:44 AM on July 9, 2011 [40 favorites]


homes chosen because of politics will break yr heart every fucking time.

How do you figure?
posted by LogicalDash at 6:45 AM on July 9, 2011


This becomes a problem of liberalism. This is my problem as well. We assume that the Anglican church has always been tolerant, but we forget the churches relationship to the Quakers and the Puritans, to name two 17th century traditions.

But why must the Anglican church always have been tolerant for it to be a refuge for you now? I remember reading and interview with a black South African writer who had emigrated to the US. It was the waning days of Apartheid, and the interviewer said something like "Isn't it strange to you, seeking refuge from racism in a country which has such a bad history of race?" And the writer said "Racism, in the US, is at odds with the ideals of the country's founding documents; in South Africa, it is the country's founding documents." He went on to talk about the checkered history of the US and how it worked, fitfully and halting and often going backwards, toward a better way of living. Maybe he was a bit naive, but if you remain stuck in history rather than the present moment, there is no place of refuge for you anywhere, is there? Every organization has moral failings.

I am glad that the gentleman has found a home. I am glad that I have found a home. It is a home that was chosen for politics, and homes chosen because of politics will break yr heart every fucking time.

Is choosing a home for politics worse than choosing a home because of the accident of your birth? I was raised in a bitter and hateful religious tradition (with a minister for a father). I survived by leaving the whole shebang -- my spiritual perspective is now something wholly different from how I was raised, because it provides what I need, and I do not have to compromise my moral understanding to belong. Someone else I know, raised in the same church, struggled mightily with his sexuality, trying to find a home in the church where he was raised, and he spent the better part of a decade trying to reconcile his feelings and his church. He eventually found a church that didn't hate him. I think he feels at home there, and I am happy for him (although I have little use for his theology).

I suppose the way you keep your new church welcoming is to stand up and make your will known, to engage in the politics of the organization, to support like minded people, to fight for others who you feel should be included. This is how organizations change.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:02 AM on July 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


I also have to say that I was slightly saddened to hear that he was driven into the arms of The Golden Girls, but, hey, if it gets him through....
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:08 AM on July 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


My work as a Christian is simply (radically) to tell people God loves them. To help people remember that they are made in the image of God. Or to tell them for the first time, if no one has told them before.

Still sounds like an evangelical.
posted by pompomtom at 7:08 AM on July 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


bound to be called out on this, but somehow christian queers put me in mind of black republicans and vegans. and don quixote.
posted by kitchenrat at 7:11 AM on July 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


somehow christian queers put me in mind of black republicans and vegans. and don quixote.

There's a problem with being black and vegan?
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:14 AM on July 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


The African Anglican churches though are not as welcoming...

(except for South Africa which was headed by a gay Archbishop)
posted by PenDevil at 7:21 AM on July 9, 2011


Any story of redemption is to be cherished, because all of us need to be redeemed and it so often seems the hardest thing. Yet it just has to be asked for. That's one of the aspects of Christian theology I find the most compelling, and those traditions which incorporate it the most strongly are those I instinctively align myself to. That and being brought up a mid-church Anglican, I guess.

That upbringing also made me - well, allowed me to find out I was - a copper-bottomed ocean-going industrial-strength four-hyphen atheist. Which leads to the question, if there is in the church so much truth (the original post glistens with it), how is it built on such strange and palpably false concepts that can cause so much harm?

The trick is in what Geoffry, Scott's sponsor, said about man being in the image of God. Images work both ways; God is in the image of man, and there is nothing in God but man. That becomes post-modern very quickly, in that we start to inhabit the stories we tell, but as Malor said, you become what you practice being. In that process, which I think is the one honourable path for sentience, religion is a guide and belief a motivator. Perhaps just for now, but that's what counts.
posted by Devonian at 7:22 AM on July 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't see much future for (liberal) Anglicanism.

It is squarely rejected by Anglicans in the developing world, and in the US is losing some of its most vital parishes and dioceses to Roman Catholicism and to (non-conservative) bodies independent of The Episcopal Church hierarchy. Church of England attendance is in free-fall.

Parishioners at the liberal Episcopal churches I know seem to have in common no doctrine other than the Democratic Party platform, and vary from their mostly-irreligious friends, neighbors and colleagues only because they were left with a strong sentimental attachment to churchgoing and the idea of an active God from their (far more orthodox) childhood religious upbringing, most or all the substance of which they've rejected. What they don't get (or at least some of them -- PinkMoose seems to get it) is that it is the orthodoxy creates the religiosity. They aren't going to be converting any of their irreligious neighbors, and if their kids pick up any zeal for church, it's going to be by accident, and in all likelihood lead them (the children) back to orthodoxy.
posted by MattD at 7:24 AM on July 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


My work as a Christian is simply (radically) to tell people God loves them. To help people remember that they are made in the image of God. Or to tell them for the first time, if no one has told them before.

Still sounds like an evangelical.


He never claimed to stop being evangelical did he? He stopped being a fundamentalist, which is a different thing. There are plenty of evangelicals in the Episcopal Church specifically, and the Anglican church more broadly.

Honestly, this is the absolute best thing about the Anglican church, there's room for basically everyone. You know that scene in every teen comedy where they introduce the cliques? The Anglican communion is like that. I'm was raised in a Southern Protestant tradition that featured a lot of churches with bass players and song lyrics on overhead projectors, but now my preferences run so high church that if Eastern Orthodoxy ordained women or accepted gays, I'd probably convert, and the Episcopal Church is like, whatever dude, you guys are over there.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:27 AM on July 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


This story made me think of someone I know who is genderqueer and possibly transitioning (has talked about it, don't know where they are in the process right now) and has had to leave the Roman Catholic church over gender and sexual issues. They found a home in the Episcopal Church, but I'm not sure that's where they'll be happy in the end. It's clear they have a religious calling--and when I, the happy atheist, can tell you've got a calling, you've really got a calling--but finding a church that matches their theology and their gender issues is quite a challenge.

(It would be very easy as an atheist to point and laugh, but it's a story I find very sad, if only for the emotional suffering they've been through over this. Just because I don't get it doesn't mean it isn't very real to them. Ditto the writer of the link.)
posted by immlass at 7:35 AM on July 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


We assume that the Anglican church has always been tolerant, but we forget the churches relationship to the Quakers and the Puritans, to name two 17th century traditions.

Yes, but Anglicanism and Puritanism also evolved into Unitarianism, Universalism, and the United Church of Christ. If "liberal Anglicanism" has no future, then any of those -isms would be happy to have you all and whatever traditions and heritage you care to bring with you.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:52 AM on July 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Don Quixote?
posted by villanelles at dawn at 7:55 AM on July 9, 2011


Parishioners at the liberal Episcopal churches I know seem to have in common no doctrine other than the Democratic Party platform, and vary from their mostly-irreligious friends, neighbors and colleagues only because they were left with a strong sentimental attachment to churchgoing and the idea of an active God from their (far more orthodox) childhood religious upbringing, most or all the substance of which they've rejected. What they don't get (or at least some of them -- PinkMoose seems to get it) is that it is the orthodoxy creates the religiosity.

Not to turn this into the theology hour, but this is not an argument that liberal Christianity will die; it's an argument for liberal Christians creating a liberal orthodoxy. There's nothing intrinsic to having a coherent system of belief that says that system has to be exclusionary or conservative.

Homosexuality is a good example of this. To generalize: the conservative position is "Homosexual activity is a sin. It's a sin because it perverts the natural God given gift of sexuality toward ends that are inappropriate." The liberal retort is basically "we love our gay brothers and sisters, and we don't want to exclude them." That's fine, I agree with that, but it's not enough. What liberal Christianity needs is to articulate a theory of human sexuality that details how all sexuality is a gift of God, and why homsexual sex, just like hetrosexual sex, is a proper use that gift. This theology exists, it's what the author of the article describes reading, but the liberal churches tend to ignore actually teaching that in favor of something more wishy-washy.

As I said above, I think that looseness of identity and doctrine right now is a strength of the Anglican Communion. It's a big tent, where a lot of people articulate a lot of different visions of Christianity, and I think that's a good thing. That said, the liberal wing of the Church needs to do more to phrase their perspective in the kind of theological terms that promote belief.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:58 AM on July 9, 2011 [15 favorites]


...the orthodoxy creates the religiosity.

this, with apologies for the kind-of-derail. I was raised Unitarian Universalist -- and it does not get more liberal than a UU church -- and the crisis of that institution as I see it, one that my life is an example of, is that most adult Unitarians are converts from other traditions who could not live with the contradictions between their personal sense of religiosity and the institutional orthodoxy through which they learned it. their attachment to the UU church is as a surrogate. and the children of Unitarians more often than not see no need for that kind of a surrogate or that kind of an institution and end up drifting away. not because they are irreligious, but that the kind of religiosity that is the product of a church-going religious practice just fails to resonate.

and in some sense I think that this is perfect. that a truly liberal religiosity is irreconcilable with the institutional framework of a church, and that we are in the midst of a historical shift that will see some other kind of spiritual community or practice or whatever emerge from this other religious impulse that has no patience for churches. "My work as a Christian is simply (radically) to tell people God loves them." insofar as this is a radical statement, I can see an inkling of it in this, something like a theology and ritual practice oriented around and situated within everyday life. it is something I am going to think about. thank you for the article.
posted by spindle at 8:15 AM on July 9, 2011 [9 favorites]


Malor:"If the Anglican church practices tolerance long enough, it may find itself in the surprising position of actually being tolerant."

I grew up Anglican (my dad was an Anglican priest), and realized that the world was bigger than Christianity when I was 13. I retained quite a bit of affection for the church though, believing that it was a force for good in society. I'm sorry to say I was wrong. Like other churches, it's a self-serving bastion of traditional "values", decided in advance by old white men.

My observation is that churches and tolerance are not compatible. This may be because the politics of exclusion are more immediate and meaningful to that part of the human population that needs The Church than any inclusive forces in Christianity. This problem is built into interpretations of scripture, and cannot be resolved at an institutional level.

So I'm thinking, "Don't hold your breath." For a less cynical view, stick with Spindle, above.
posted by sneebler at 8:29 AM on July 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


. . .and that we are in the midst of a historical shift that will see some other kind of spiritual community or practice or whatever emerge from this other religious impulse that has no patience for churches. . .

But we are seeing it right now. The shift is toward agnosticism. 'Church' is used here as a bunch of spiritual people bound together by common spirituality. That doesn't exist where people aren't spiritual except on their own, subjective terms. It's the pedestrian agnosticism of the half-educated high school student you know or the majority of sleepy undergraduates on your local college campus. 'Why go to church, I can just pray outside or whatever.' Oh really? How often do you do that? Who do you pray to? Why? If you answered these questions on your own, you end up with the flying spaghetti monster.

If tolerance of previously-rejected beliefs (why should I believe XYZ about God?) and/or behaviors (homosexuality's relevant to this post) becomes one's super-dogma (in the mainline denominations mentioned above, tolerance is usually veiled as an amorphous concept like 'love' or 'acceptance,' which is the only thing any of them can agree on), then every belief and behavior is equally valid and important (except intolerance! burn them!). To the unreflective--i.e., almost everyone--if everything's equally important, then by extension nothing is of super-importance. It's the curse of embracing this sort of relativism. Every generation must rediscover this super-dogma for itself. As applied here, to spirituality, it fails to captivate the youth, and they will drift away into either apathetic agnosticism or they will rediscover orthodoxy.

*sorry for all my parentheticals, but this is a rabbit-hole-y issue.
posted by resurrexit at 9:12 AM on July 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ah, this conversation again. What is orthodox Christianity? Granted, it's a no-true-Scotsman issue, but with that caveat, I've said it before and I'll say it again:

The Episcopal Church is firmly orthodox. It holds to the teachings of the Nicene Creed, which the overwhelming majority of self-identified Christians have said was the baseline, the lowest-common-denominator of Christian belief.

The recent decisions to allow the ordination of women, female bishops, acceptance and ordination of gays and lesbians and blessings of same-sex unions have been taken by appeals to Scripture, tradition and reason, in line with how the Anglican Church has always justified its decisions -- a process which is by no means "liberal", unless you water down that word so much as to include everyone to the left of John Wesley.

Things the Nicene Creed includes: belief in God, belief God made everything, belief in the divine and human nature of Jesus, belief in Jesus' death and resurrection and ascension, belief in the Holy Spirit, belief in the catholic & apostolic church, belief in the forgiveness of sins, belief in the resurrection from the dead & eternal life.

Things the Nicene Creed does not include: anti-gay bigotry.

Yup, my parish is pretty much the Democratic Party (uh, or Green Party, depending) at prayer. The reason is not that we have allowed our politics to become our religion; rather, we think that Jesus' teachings actually line up better with the left side of the political spectrum in the US these days.

The primary reason for my conversion from the Dutch Reformed tradition was liturgical -- I'm a high-church dude, and I meet God best through the catholic tradition; and secondarily I was received into TEC because I thought it important to be a part of a worshipping community that shared my ideas about what the Kingdom of God should look like, and how we should be working toward that as the Church in the world. I'm sorry if that's not orthodox enough for you.
posted by tivalasvegas at 9:30 AM on July 9, 2011 [10 favorites]


Bulgaraktonos -- that's a very interesting posit about developing a liberal orthodoxy. It doesn't seem like TEC is on much of a path to that, though, because, at a certain point, orthodoxy means not changing; fixing core beliefs and norms of conduct. Liberal Anglicanism is at its essence a moving target -- it has spent 50 years moving the boundaries to keep up with politics. There is little you can honestly tell a bright 10 year old in Sunday School that liberal Episcopals believe, and always will believe, about Biblical truth and Christ's mandate for behavior and church constitution.

When you mate that doctrine of no doctine paradoxically with the trappings of ecclesiastical structure (bishops with miters) and especially with ultra high church practices of a lot of liberal parishes, you get something that's pretty incoherent to a person not predisposed to want to be "welcomed" by some church, any church.
posted by MattD at 9:40 AM on July 9, 2011


Resurrexit: Your equation of "the amorphous concept" of love and tolerance, in defence of Christian orthodoxy, is stunning to me.

Nothing could be more amorphous! Love requires that I seek the good of my neighbour, which means at least that I do not refuse to listen to him when he tells me that his relationship with another man has helped him to love God and his neighbour. There's pretty much nothing more contrary to the teachings of Jesus in the gospels than to insist on upholding religious dogma in the face of people who are on the margins of society.

Don't insist on doing things the way they've always been done because you're certain God ordained them so. Consider Peter, and frankly all the first disciples. They had the courage to completely overhaul everything they had known as first-century religious Jews about how to honour and approach God because they believed God was doing something new. That's not even getting into the astounding fact that they started to recognise the divinity of a human man, Jesus.

That is true faith.
posted by tivalasvegas at 9:41 AM on July 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Tivalasvegas -- holding to your beliefs despite what your neighbor, or your own experience, says different, even if it squares better with you in important ways, is the essence of orthodoxy. I am not saying you or anyone should be orthodox, of course. The first apostles were absolutely not orthodox in any way shape or form.

While I certainly do agree that liberal Anglicanism holds institutionally to the Nicene, I think that you are being a bit disingenuous to suggest that the explicit Creed is sincerely professed by many in the pews of the liberal parishes, or that the Creed's failure to recite the Pauline proscriptions on female leadership or homosexuality rendered liberal Anglicanism's disregard of them other than heterodox.

I guess what I feel is to agree with the poster above who says that the path of discernment which produces liberal Anglicans leads, and will lead, far more often to agnosticism than to the threshold of All Saints.
posted by MattD at 10:01 AM on July 9, 2011


This is MetaFilter, and we're having a civil discussion about religion and sexuality? I don't know how long it can last, but I'm enjoying it while it does.

My C of E parish has a gay priest, a liberal Catholic ethos, and a growing congregation: living proof that putting liberalism and tolerance at the heart of the Gospel is not only the right thing to do, objectively speaking, but also draws people into church rather than driving them away. It's a myth that liberal churches are dying churches, just as it's a myth that liberalism equates to a limp-wristed, wishy-washy lack of firm belief.

At the same time I'm acutely aware that churches like ours occupy a very narrow band on the religious spectrum. The Jeffrey John affair showed that it's the big evangelical parishes that pay the piper (or in this case the Common Fund) and get to call the tune in the Church of England. In some ways the C of E is actually less tolerant than it was a generation or two ago, when it was possible for a figure like Mervyn Stockwood to be made a bishop, with everyone turning a blind eye to his sexuality (even the Wikipedia entry still uses the coded euphemism 'flamboyant'). Now, any prospective candidate for a bishopric will have his private life scrutinised much more carefully. One reason why the Anglican cathedrals are going from strength to strength (weekly attendance up by 7% this year, and by 37% since 2000) is that a lot of talented gay priests who would once have been made bishops are now being moved sideways into cathedral deaneries and canonries.

The problem for liberal Anglicans is that if we speak out too loudly, we risk destroying the equilibrium that made liberal Anglicanism possible in the first place. (This has been Rowan Williams's problem all along.) I don't have an answer to this dilemma.
posted by verstegan at 11:13 AM on July 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


I would agree that any Christian denomination that dispenses with or downplays the Pauline proscriptions would seem to be taking a line that would not be considered orthodox by much of mainline Christianity. That is one of the big reasons for the schism between the Western Anglican churches and the more orthodox Anglican churches in Africa, and that is a reason that some churches in the US have split from the Episcopalian Church and joined with Anglican churches in Africa.

The Pauline proscriptions are one of the reasons, though certainly not the only reason, that I gave up on Christianity over 25 years ago. I have no seen no reading of the epistles that does not have to perform some pretty serious contortions to convince me that Paul did not mean exactly what he said when he wrote in Romans that those who receive the wrath of God for holding the truth in unrighteousness are given up to the uncleanness of their lusts. Or that even if that's not what he meant, that it's the interpretation that most mainline Christian churches today give it. Or that the Pauline epistles no longer apply because they were written in the first century.

My experience is somewhat dissimilar to the man who write the linked blog post on the Church of Christ and the Episcopalian Church, but only in the details. (I was a Jehovah's Witness after being baptized a Catholic and I was raised by a lapsed Catholic and a lapsed Mormon.) I love Scott Lybrand's message, but it's not a message that most Christians are going to welcome, nor is it a message that many gay people are going to welcome. The idea that God is who you make him instead of who his proponents make him to be (which to them means making yourself who God expects you to be to conform to the teachings of Scripture) is heretical not only to the Church of Christ, but to the Baptist Church, the Catholic Church, and most other mainline Christian churches. Maybe that heresy is just what the Christian churches need. But that doesn't change the fact that it's heresy to them and that saying that God has told the church to go fuck itself makes it so. Nor does it change that most Christian churches, through doctrine and through action, are actively telling gay men and women to go fuck themselves. And reinforcing that through unholy involvement in funding, lobbying for, and enacting legislation that makes sure that gay men and women's lives are, indeed, fucked.

There's pretty much nothing more contrary to the teachings of Jesus in the gospels than to insist on upholding religious dogma in the face of people who are on the margins of society.

That's an interpretation of the gospels that would be heresy to many, many Christian churches in the United States that uphold the centrality of dogma to the exclusion of all else and view it as their central mission to do so.
posted by blucevalo at 11:31 AM on July 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


"But that doesn't change the fact that it's heresy to them and that saying that God has told the church to go fuck itself makes it so."

Sorry, that should read "doesn't make it so."
posted by blucevalo at 11:33 AM on July 9, 2011


"But that doesn't change the fact that it's heresy to them and that saying that God has told the church to go fuck itself doesn't make it so."

It's possible to have a really interesting discussion with Christians by asking them if they believe that there is such a thing as a heretical belief, and why.

This touches on a really important question - and one that I think everyone who claims to be a Christian should be able to answer - namely, how does a Christian determine what is the Word of God? Through revelation? Through reason? Through tradition? They all have inherent drawbacks, but until a person can articulate how they understand when it's God doing the talking vs just some human idea, there's not really any way to say that X way of approaching Christianity is wrong or not.

If tolerance of previously-rejected beliefs and/or behaviors becomes one's super-dogma then every belief and behavior is equally valid and important.

I disagree: there are plenty of denominations that don't exclude black people or women and do not think that every belief and behavior is equally valid.

As applied here, to spirituality, it fails to captivate the youth, and they will drift away into either apathetic agnosticism or they will rediscover orthodoxy.

Some people are drawn to the feeling of certainty that orthodoxy provides; if you think that the only other option is apathy, then a church that claims to have figured it all out is probably a good fit for you.
posted by dubold at 12:15 PM on July 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Right now the American evangelical movement is in a lot of flux. Fundamentalists are running the traditionally conservative churches, but they're now being confronted by a younger generation that just isn't motivated by the same Father, Son, and GOP belief of the leadership. They're also, while perhaps not full on supporters of GLBT rights, a lot more open to the idea of gay marriage than their parents and their church leadership.

So I don't think we're more than a generation away from the end of homophobia in at least a plurality of American evangelical churches. Eventually the leadership will find itself at odds with its membership, and either they'll be deposed or the member churches will slowly marginalize them.

The mainline churches are dying, though. And it's mainly because of what PinkMoose has suggested -- people are choosing churches for 100% agreement with their values, religious and non-religious. They are not willing to attend a church where they may theologically agree with most of the tenets but disagree with others. You can either see this as a market problem that needed correction (people not understanding they could pick for purity) or as a tragedy of putting personal validation above conflicting views.

The former explains the explosion of the megachurch in the US the last 30 years. The latter speaks of a coming problem where people choose comfort over thought. But Christ was neither a marketing tool nor a comforter of the comfortable, so one can assume this current state will not end well.

Regardless, I don't think the American church is going away any time soon. Americans will just keep exegeting The word "Christian" to fit whatever political and social need there is of the moment. Jesus the Isolationist. Jesus, the only son of Ayn Rand.
posted by dw at 12:16 PM on July 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


we risk destroying the equilibrium that made liberal Anglicanism possible in the first place. (This has been Rowan Williams's problem all along.)

Oh! ha, for a second there I mistakenly thought of Rowan Atkinson - and the most amusing thoughts about Anglicanism bounced down the street ...
posted by Twang at 12:49 PM on July 9, 2011


This thread is restoring my faith in metafilter and the Anglican church. Thanks you guys this was a needed pick-me-up today.
posted by pseudonick at 1:35 PM on July 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sorry, to come to this discussion so late, but I went out today and bought stuff at the farmers market and saw Neil PAtrick Harris in Company, and just got home. I hope this is clear:

It's one of the central teachings of Zen that you become what you practice being. If the Anglican church practices tolerance long enough, it may find itself in the surprising position of actually being tolerant. Malor

But Christianity requires an internalizing of tradition, and how to internalize that tradition is not nessc. lead to tolerance.


How do you figure?

Because politics is combative, mostly, and because politics is rarely about love.


Still sounds like an evangelical.pompomtom

Lot's of Evangelical culture has seeped into Anglican tradition, but i think that you also grow up and fail to evade the places where are yr first home.

Matt D

I wonder if there is a tradition of liberal anglicanism in the devolping world in the tradition of Tutu, but I find the post-colonial refusal of liberal xianity a delighful irony. I also find that people my age (i'm 30) tend towards a liturgical consertiveness, regardless of politics.

Unitarianism, Universalism, and the United Church of Christ.
Felliniblank

This assumes that these traditions are Catholic, or liturgical enough to be comfortable for people who are liturgically conserative.

Trisha/etc.

It is not only the Nicene that makes us Anglican--it is the WEstminister and the 39 articles. Both of those suggest a gentleman's agreement towards agreeing on a number of items, that include disallowing discourse that is beloved by liberals.

VErstegan:

Which is why I feel so sorry for Rowan, is his continued attempts to work out what a middle ground is, and though he tries so hard, I am perhaps coming to the tragic conclusion there isnt one.

DW

I think that American Evangelicalism is trying to work through how to seperate liberal economics (which they can be okay with), colonial practice (which they are thinking about a little bit) and marriage (but only straight marriage). I think how they priortize marriage and family as a radical act, (in the radical homemaking movement for example) does the work of homophobia with out using the language of homophobia. But they are three seperate issues, which isnt the case of liberal xians
posted by PinkMoose at 2:40 PM on July 9, 2011


MattD wrote: [H]olding to your beliefs despite what your neighbor, or your own experience, says different, even if it squares better with you in important ways, is the essence of orthodoxy. I am not saying you or anyone should be orthodox, of course. The first apostles were absolutely not orthodox in any way shape or form.

I fundamentally (er, pardon the pun) disagree with that definition of orthodoxy, at least as applied to the Christian understanding of orthodoxy. By your definition, there are no 'orthodox' Christians -- since in every generation, Christian traditions have built on the theological work done by their predecessors. What you're arguing might be close in spirit to a particularly crabby Eastern Orthodox definition, but embedded in the fabric of the New Testament is the argument that God sometimes does new things and we have to be constantly reworking our theological frameworks to keep up with the reality of God's action in the world.

MattD wrote:While I certainly do agree that liberal Anglicanism holds institutionally to the Nicene, I think that you are being a bit disingenuous to suggest that the explicit Creed is sincerely professed by many in the pews of the liberal parishes, or that the Creed's failure to recite the Pauline proscriptions on female leadership or homosexuality rendered liberal Anglicanism's disregard of them other than heterodox.

I don't think I'm being disingenuous. I'm quite aware that there are people in the pews of the Episcopal Church who don't agree with me about what I feel to be fundamentally important facts about the world: that Christ has died and risen, that the resurrection of the dead is real. Same is true in every Christian church; it's just that the Episcopal Church doesn't shut down dissent like more conservative churches do.

I'm wiliing to concede that many evangelicals would consider me and my church to be heterodox and/or heretical. I think many of them (especially the American evangelicals) are rather dangerously near to the heresies of legalism, nation-worship and mammon-worship, myself. So I guess everyone could just excommunicate everyone else -- or we could figure out some way to recognise that we are all the church together while holding diverse views. So, a telling question for me is: which traditions and institutional groups have done the best job of trying to hold together a diverse group of people, conservative and liberal, and which have consistently condemned, excluded, or walked away from people they didn't agree with?

MattD wrote: I guess what I feel is to agree with the poster above who says that the path of discernment which produces liberal Anglicans leads, and will lead, far more often to agnosticism than to the threshold of All Saints.

Ah, so that's why everyone in France goes to Mass every Sunday? I am well aware that the mainline churches have seen quite a decline from their 1950's and '60s Establishment days. Some people moved right into the Evangelical churches, some people moved left into nominalism or agnosticism. I think the reason has more to do with the general secularisation of society than that the mainline churches were somehow 'heterodox'. If anything, they're much more theologically conservative now -- back then, there were plenty of people who could care less about religion who went to church because it wasn't socially acceptable not to. Now, if you're getting up early on Sunday morning to go to church, it's probably not because you don't want the neighbours gossiping.
posted by tivalasvegas at 3:46 PM on July 9, 2011 [2 favorites]




I've read Percy and Markham.

a) they are about 5 years out of date
b) they tend to agree with the United church of Christ spectrum and not the Episcopals.
c) They are americans.
posted by PinkMoose at 6:17 PM on July 9, 2011


PinkMoose, could you elaborate on your comment, especially point a) ? I'd very much like to hear your critique of Percy and Markham (whom I confess I know nothing about).
posted by tivalasvegas at 6:35 PM on July 9, 2011


I've been thinking a lot about this, and I have to be careful here...because my thinking is in the middle of changing, and the church is really complicated.

My argument with them, is that they tend to lump a lot of things together, and think the church is healthier for it. People I know in the church, who are going to seminaries, or starting in the church careers...

Here are my four big problems:

a) the maintaining a left/right split. Evangelicals who do not think that women should preach, but have an active social justice ministry, or radical marxists from Mennonite traditions who go to conservative episcopal schools, or BCP reactionaries who are traditional socialists, or emerging church folks who have the standard mix of soft tory sympathies, are three off the top of my head that i see every day, and which don't fit into their matrix.
b) that Anglo-Catholicism, is losing its influence, but it may be that because I am in the middle of hte maelstrom I assume anglo-catholicism to have more of an influence then it actually has, that perhaps liberal politically and conservative liturgically is more common than we think.
c) that churches are not always bottom up---that the dismantling of 70s liturgical reforms happen in the offices of bishops, and it's pretty systematic.

But I thought i was going to seminary to preside over a funeral and people are convinced the body isn't dead yet.
posted by PinkMoose at 6:54 PM on July 9, 2011


Here are my four big problems:

a) ...
b) ...
c) ...


The suspense is killing me.
posted by hippybear at 7:02 PM on July 9, 2011


sorry, i just realised i had 3 and not 4.

ase
posted by PinkMoose at 7:10 PM on July 9, 2011


PinkMoose, regarding your points:

In the Canadian context I think the examples you mention are fairly unsurprising. There has never been near the mapping of conservative theology --> Conservative Party support and liberal theology --> Liberal / NDP support that has been persuasive in the States among Protestants. I think that there's much more willingness among religious Protestants in Canada to move across the political spectrum, or at least to be accepting of fellow congregants who do.

I don't think that there is a conservative Anglo-Catholic bloc in TEC the way that there is (possibly? I don't know too much about ACC internal dynamics) in the Anglican Church of Canada. Conservatives down here are pretty much associated with the low-church faction. At least where I am (Chicago) the Episcopal Church tends to the moderate-high and liberal, but my understanding is that this varies greatly by diocese (it's probably related to arcane demographic/internal migration/historical issues).
posted by tivalasvegas at 7:45 PM on July 9, 2011


I mean here in Toronto, remember that the two oldest, most anglo-catholic churches, that are big L liberal, also won't ordain women (St Thomas and Mary Magdalene), have a strong queer contingent (but mostly closeted), and operate a clothes bank and a soup kitchen respectivley--want to parse that?
posted by PinkMoose at 8:06 PM on July 9, 2011


I've never actually been to St Mary Mags; when I lived (briefly) in TO I was going to St Bartholomew's in Regent Park. But the whole closeted-gay-no-women-allowed ethos makes sense if you think about it in terms of having the need to enforce a rigid outward respectability, with less concern about what goes on behind closed doors, and with no relation between sexual/gender issues and social justice issues. It's a very Red Tory way of looking at things, I think.
posted by tivalasvegas at 8:42 PM on July 9, 2011


and St Bart's is all gin/lace drag...

Do the Yanks have a red tory place, because Anglicans are pretty much Red tories
posted by PinkMoose at 8:46 PM on July 9, 2011


Sadly, no, our last Red Tory just died.
posted by tivalasvegas at 9:02 PM on July 9, 2011


well played.
posted by PinkMoose at 9:06 PM on July 9, 2011


I grew up in a denomination very much like Lybrand's. I left that church when I was college age for the Episcopal Church largely because I found the Episcopalians to be more orthodox than the Church of Christ. More connected to the historic riches of the Christian faith and practice.n More concerned with the Nicene Creed loving our neighbors than in policing sexual morality.

(The two Christian radio stations in town have the following mottos: "The Family Friendly Station" and "The Positive Alternative." Which best describes Jesus? "Family Friendly" or "The Positive Alternative?")

Right now the American evangelical movement is in a lot of flux. Fundamentalists are running the traditionally conservative churches, but they're now being confronted by a younger generation that just isn't motivated by the same Father, Son, and GOP belief of the leadership. They're also, while perhaps not full on supporters of GLBT rights, a lot more open to the idea of gay marriage than their parents and their church leadership.

So I don't think we're more than a generation away from the end of homophobia in at least a plurality of American evangelical churches. Eventually the leadership will find itself at odds with its membership, and either they'll be deposed or the member churches will slowly marginalize them.


I agree. Lacking church hierarchy or creeds, Evangelicals in America are much more personality-driven. The doctrine in a lot of churches is mostly however the pastor interprets the Bible, in dialogue with a handful of the more theologically-interested members and whichever celebrity pastors the church members are currently reading or listening to on the radio or TV. Unlike the Catholic Church, I don't think Evangelicals are going to have the sort of institutional resources to keep the anti-gay teachings going in the face of changing acceptance in the wider culture.
posted by straight at 9:20 PM on July 9, 2011


good grief. when will people stop wittering about the grand injustices of the various churches and where God’s love “really” is, and start dealing with things on a empirical and humanitarian basis, which are arguably both much more effective and much more reliable?

God probably isn’t “really” anywhere, which is why all these churches are so broken and screwing up people’s heads. after all, if your entire belief structure relies on a shaky premise, it is no wonder that the resultant decisions will be at odds with reality. and if you are at odds with reality… how can you possibly expect to find happiness?

you don’t need a perfect map to cross a mountain range, but if you have a stupid map based on the ramblings of historical madmen and whatever a priori garbage reasoning, you are going to have much more of a miserable time. so, God-fearing gays of the world: tell all the churches to go fuck themselves, and start living in reality. it’s much more useful and reality wants you here.
posted by jmegawarne at 3:43 PM on July 13, 2011


jmegawarne: Um, did you RTFA? This is about a man who was saved by finding an ecclesiastical community which welcomed and invited him in. The solution to the problem of bad institutions is precisely not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
posted by tivalasvegas at 8:04 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


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