Addiction and the Church

The Episcopal church has new guidelines about drinking. I admit, I’m not impressed by recovery and addiction language that infuses the debate. By and large, the church has elevated 12-step, along with the Myers-Briggs, to doctrine and I remain skeptical. To me, the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, but connection, and policing alcohol misses the problem.

I won’t go into a longer discourse about 12-step language: they work for some people, and for that they should remain in the tool box of practical solutions. But the all or nothing, shame based, approach probably inhibits other people from being more responsible and reflective about their consumption. Still, some have shown that 12-step is not the panacea it claims to be.

Addiction is complicated. There’s some evidence to show it’s not a disease or the problem of a lack of will. If anything, that first drink is one of the places where we do feel powerful.  Naltrexone can provide some help without the stigma, by inhibiting the sense of pleasure that comes, for example, from drinking. That said, the best way to deal with addiction is to help others find an alternative sense of meaning.

And this is why it’s so tragic when pastors become addicted. In those cases, I wonder, what drives them? The tragedy is not that we serve alcohol.

But when what they believed wasn’t an effective alternative.

The Pope’s Remarks


Many people were probably politely surprised at the pope’s reticence toward judging gay people.  It did invite a stronger inquiry in the church’s formal perspective, and it shouldn’t be much of a surprise.  The church has a public doctrine that it  maintains; and then there is pastoral practice, one framed by a monosexual group of privately gay – tolerant men.

The Anglican Church prioritizes pastoral practice:  we begin our understanding with prayer and relationship (or, as ++Rowan once said, doctrine must begin with joy).  Our lens is primarily liturgical rather than doctrinal, which is why some Anglican theologians have said Anglican “doctrine” is in the rubrics:  in how we pray together.  This makes creates an enormous leap to even start talking about sexuality:  how do we pray that, anyway?

Some are a bit upset that Francis remains intractable about women’s ordination.  I think he was simply stating his current vantage point, while also inviting an opening for deeper thinking.  Those outside the church continue to be irritated, but I’m not always sure why people think being a priest is a good thing.  Priests remain ignored by their congregations on most important matters.  Garry Wills even argues it’s a failed vocation.

Nuns, by and large, do a lot of the heavy lifting in the church, and although they have little ecclesial power, their institutions matter equally, if not more so.  Sometimes being seemingly marginalized gives one greater power.

Francis could still appoint a female cardinal.

Anglicans and Catholics

The Vatican has given a home to Anglicans.

I’m glad.  Everyone needs a home.

We, the Episcopal Church, were not a good home for everyone.  We’ve decided that gender and sexuality are no bars to liturgical authority.   So although we gave lip service to being inclusive, we’re not nimble enough to share our institution with those who think differently.

But God need not be a zero-sum game.  If anything, let us praise them for not to join the various splinter Anglican groups, with their army of mitre-hungry, purple loving priests, sects who have nearly as many bishops as congregations.

Instead, they’ve shown humility.  For a bishop, the formerly Rt. Reverend Steenson, to give up the benefits of purple for the sake of their view of truth, shows some spiritual depth.  Although I’m sure the former Bishop (now just an ordinary priest) didn’t give up the generous pension, we should not begrudge him many years of service for the Episcopal Church.  Instead, praise him for offering solace for disaffected Anglicans.   Their views may not be correct, but there’s no need for a war or judgement.  Our faith allows some grace that we may not know what the ultimate truth holds.

Anglicanism has always held its Catholic traditions close.   But for them gender and sexuality are crucial parts of it.  Let them now say their rosaries, pray to the saints and the pope.  We can, in different spaces, pray alongside them.  But perhaps now we can each do so with less acrimony between us.  We’re not fighting for the same crumbs anymore, and they will be in a church that loves them.

Let’s be honest – we’re secretly glad they’ve left.

It won’t be easy for them.  Many of them were politically conservative, and see religious traditionalism and contemporary conservatism as coterminus.  But they may be surprised by the Roman Church’s liberal views on immigration, health care and poverty.  They may find the Catholic Church too culturally strident on contraception.   They may be blindsided by the private accommodations of the Roman church to its closeted gay clergy.

And will they find their voices heard within the vast hierarchy of the church?  Or will they also eventually find themselves as sidelined as so many Catholics, who go to church but find their voices mute?    Perhaps this small ordinariate may provide even more grace, more room for the Roman church to consider matrimonial options for their vocations, as it struggles with the implications of mandatory celibacy.

So we need not gleefully either despair or cheer when people decide they need a different sort of authority.  When a Roman Catholic enters our doors, often they do so with guilt, ambivalence and fear.  It is our duty to handle their journey with charity and magnanimity.  It’s never easy to leave a family, no matter how challenging that family is.  We must respect that journey, even when it is not in our favor.

Gloating over the failures, the mistakes, or the challenges of our mother church is not our mission.  It speaks ill of us when we do so.   We want people to find a home that is best for them.

If it is within the Holy Roman Church, then let it be.   Our building of disciples need not include any anger or hostility toward the church that has held, however imperfectly, the gospel.  If anything, being good Episcopalians means, I suggest, helping the Roman Church become more responsive church.  We can do this by always welcoming their disaffected with joy and hope, and becoming diligent disciples of the same Christ in the way that we know how – by showing no bigotry toward them, or their church – the one that nurtured them.

I hope that is the Episcopal way.


I’m counting.


I’ve got these big thick books – the parish registry.  They include all those batpized, confirmed, married and died.  I have no idea how people actually used them.  Because all I want to do is get an actual count.   Have people moved?  Did they just disappear?

I’m ready to put an attendance sheet in the back of the church.

I just want to know:  Who is in it?  Who wants to be in it? Who is being counted?

Does it matter?

It’s clerical work.

The New Province

A few initial thoughts about the new province:

1) Christians getting together outside of their own church can be a good thing. They leave the provinciality of their local congregation, once founded, for example on hating Anglo-Catholics or objecting to wimmyn on the altar of God. Those edges, now revealed to be adiaphora, will be smoothed.

2) I’m impressed with an organiation where Evangelicals are hanging with Catholics, Catholics are hanging out with wannabe catholics and whites are submitting to blacks.   Those who hated the idea of Women on the altar will room with people who merely didn’t like the 1979 prayerbook.  Those who didn’t like Pike will hang out with those who only left because of some other reason, like incense.  In this way they will be kind of like TEC, except for the gay thing.

3) A new province doesn’t mean that TEC won’t be recognized. It simply means that instead of engaging with TEC on a national level, they’ll be engaging at an international level.  They’ll probably run into us in coffee shops or some Renaissance Festival.

4) Question: Does Bob Duncan secretly want to be a pope?

5) The curmudgeonly priests who didn’t like to hang out with other diocesan clergy now have a home with other curmudgeons.

6) Common Cause doesn’t quite recognize they have an image problem.  They don’t realize that an image problem might be important when dealing with the press.

7) Perhaps, now that we’re out of their system, they’ll discover that the challenges of the culture to the Christian Churches are far deeper than sexuality or reading the bible.  People are going to continue to have sex, and would rather watch the bible on YouTube.

8) They’ve got a lot of bishops. Bishops are trouble.  Mad trouble.

9) TEC’s challenge remains. Does it have the leadership to capitalize on being liberated from these continuing churches? The institutional church is dying. Can TEC reconfigure itself to make tentmakers?

10) If the liberal church dies, it is the remnant conservatives who will inherit the body of The Episcopal Church.  And they will be in a much stronger place to proclaim the Gospel.

11) Yet, if there remains a witness to an intellectually credible, progressive church, we modernists have nothing to worry about.