Most of you know that I’m a reexaminer when it comes to the current theological debates. Although I believe that marriage is the best option for peace between the sexes, and that traditional church teaching is designed to protect women and children, I’m also flexible on how the church manages what is properly normative. I’m agnostic about what God says complementarity and marriage.
That said, I believe, unlike reasserters, that the economic and technological changes brought by capitalism have delinked sex, property and death in a way where church teaching has revealed competing traditions. I believe that sex is a tertiary issue, not a primary one.
But progressives, like reasserters, have a blind spot. They look at statements of belief rather than effective evangelism, as tool for judging effectiveness. This is a mistake. It’s interesting that we knew what candidates for the episcopacy believe. But I wonder how relevant belief is to institution building.
Progressives and reappraisers have been especially weak in the area of institution building and leadership. The theology that got us to the current place – one that put pastoral care at the heart of ecclesiology – destroys priests and diminishes communities. It created a culture of priests as being called to be nice people who couldn’t hold people accountable.
Conservatives, however, really believe the stuff they preach. So they demand effective leadership. They find ways to share the message with others with creativity and panache. Remarkably, they are willing to change the medium so that the message can be spoken. I still find liberals who are more committed to traditional liturgy, often at the expense of creating a thriving congregation. As someone who’s tried to have more exuberant, praise filled music in the church, I get resistance: “We aren’t those kind of Christians.” And thus, the church continues to die.
On one hand I’m glad that The Episcopal Church is continuing to identify itself on the side of hospitality and trust. It’s great the moderate bishops who have been elected believe what they do – I believe the same things. But I worry that these same leaders will not have the tenacity, the severity, the power to stand up to the forces of the culture and speak the Gospel. I wonder if they will be hindered by the oppressiveness of an institution that would rather try to please everyone, and unwittingly kills itself in the process.
Admittedly, I was disappointed that Fr. Mitchell was not elected in the Diocese of Upper South Carolina. He was a conservative I respect. He builds communities. And that is what the Episcopal Church should be doing. That said, God Bless both dioceses.