Saturday, June 13, 2009

Positive versus Negative

Two conventions are about to get underway: The Episcopal Church's (TEC) 2009 General Convention and the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) very first convention. Despite my recent bet, I'm not one to predict the future, but I think it's safe to say that after the two conventions, Anglicanism in America will be even more divergent.

TEC's General Convention is set to consider a plethora of changes, many of which have to do with church discipline and with gay rites. I do not know what resolutions will be adopted, but given the past history, by the end of convention TEC will have moved further to the left.

As for ACNA, they are trying to achieve cohesion. There have been a fair amount of criticism of the new constitution. The authors of it apparently believe that bishops need more authority and the laity less. This is based upon some of their experience in TEC of course.

I think the main problem with ACNA is too many of its members define themselves as former Episcopalians. They need to get over that. That and the acronym sounds like a teenage skin condition.

Several things have done in the Episcopal Church. First and foremost is the inability of the leadership, whether bishops, members of Standing Committees, priests or delegate to the General Convention, to be willing to defend the faith as received. This has resulted in heretical and apostate bishops and priests, the gelding of any evangelism efforts, a break down in discipline and a loss of awareness as to what is really important (it isn't property).

The results of that has been a redefinition of what being an Episcopalian is from a positive thing (what we are and what we believe) to a negative thing (what we are not and what we don't believe). This has brought on a decline in membership. Negativity is not very attractive, and it's no accident that most new members come from other denominations instead of from the unchurched.

The ugly side of Canada has been, for me, their love of defining themselves by who they are not ("We are not the United States"). The ugly side of the Episcopal Church often begins with a similar statement ("We are not fundamentalists", "We are not papists", "We are not Baptists" and so on). Currently, the ugly side of ACNA is "We are not Episcopalians".

I'm hopeful that the ACNA in convention will produce not only a constitution, but a positive sense of what being an Anglican in North America means. I have much less confidence about the General Convention in Anaheim producing a positive meaning for being an Episcopalian.

No comments: