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Elder’s Fisk of Bp. Briedenthal’s 2009 DSO Convention Address – (Part II of V)

10 November 2009

[Elder’s Note:  The bishop’s address is here]. 

…This spirit of cooperation and dedication to our common life gives me hope as I consider problems that will face us long after the economy has turned around. I know none of these concerns will be a surprise to you, since you raise them regularly when I visit you. A missing generation of young adults; difficulty reaching out to college students;

Yeah, I noticed that.  Really, Bishop – What do we, as an institution, have to offer that is fundamentally different from what the typical secular university student is saturated with, day in and day out?  Perhaps sir, a difference that doesn’t make a difference, isn’t worth rolling out of bed on a Sunday at 8 am.  Just a thought. 

..the high cost of seminary-trained priests and the resultant push to do without a learned clergy; a general sense that we are not equipped for the challenge of competing Christian models.

Yeah, well.. goes hand in hand with declining numbers, does it not?

These are serious challenges which we must begin to address concretely. But God does not give us challenges we are not up to, and often they are the very challenges we need to take our next step together as a community of faith. I am convinced that the time is right for boldness. As the Episcopal Church begins to arrive at a resolution of its long and bitter struggle over sexuality, a new clarity about our common grounding in Scripture and devotion to the Lordship of Jesus Christ is emerging.

Excuse me… The Episcopal Church reaches a “resolution” and “a new clarity” over sexuality over its common grounding in Scripture and the Lordship of Jesus Christ??? 

Not exactly.  The truth is that TEC has been hemorrhaging its Conservatives since the late 70’s, with the original bending of Scripture and Tradition that led to some leaving after an innovation was declared normative. Of course, the “facts on the ground,” story has been repeated many times, as with the exodus of conservatives that goes with it. 

FWIW, I believe though that the seeds of TEC’s demise were planted well beforehand, as evidenced by her toleration of such ‘clerics’ as Pike and Spong. 

I realize that such unglamorous truths don’t roll off the tongue so well in a speech where the speaker is receiving thunderous applause, but perhaps it’s not a good idea to paint the picture without the warts. 

Nope.  Any “consensus” is due to conservatives leaving decade after decade, not a common grounding in Scripture…  (sorry). 

This goes hand in hand with a renewed appreciation of our Prayer Book tradition, as it has been both reaffirmed and transformed by the centrality of the Baptismal Covenant, with its constant reminder that the church is a transcendent mystery which we participate in here and now. We are clearer about what it means to be Christian,

Christian.  Rather – Antinomian. 

and we are clearer about the heart of our own witness as Episcopalians – as Anglicans.

Speaking of Anglicans, a lot of bishops didn’t show up at Lambeth.  And a lot of those who didn’t show up, had their own little tea party.  What was the name of that?  Let’s see..  Ah, yes – GAFCON was its name.  Apparently, they didn’t share your conviction that ‘Episcopalian’ is synonymous with ‘Anglican.’ 

Oh dear.  Looks like there isn’t consensus, let alone a common grounding within the Anglican Communion. 

Namely, each of us is invited to share in the mystery of the body of Christ, and this invitation carries with it the conferral of real authority to speak for and within the church. Two things follow from this. One, we are always called to see the big picture and must be willing to shed what is secondary if it stands in the way of the Holy Spirit’s vast work. In other words, none of us is a “consumer” of what the church offers, and none of us can cling to what is private and familiar at the expense of the Spirit’s work.

Sure….  “Private and familiar,” .. Like for example, the convictions that Scripture views homosexual “sex” as sin, and therefore worthy of eternal damnation for people who are not Christians, and a grieving of the Holy Spirit for those who have been covered by the Blood of the Lamb, and also the conviction that something that is sinful can in no sense ever be called ‘blessed.’  Oh and also the conviction that clergy who declare, falsely, that a sin is blessed, are leading people into an eternity in Hell

Two, we can no longer be content with any vestige of the old paradigm of clergy as “professional Christians” and laity as their clients. The clergy do constitute a profession by virtue of training, expertise, a code of conduct and expectations of competence in the particular areas of work to which they are called. But this work boils down to teaching, community organization and entrepreneurial spirit, not as a replacement for the initiative and authority of every baptized person, but as a steady, living, institutional resource that ensures that all of us will have access to knowledge of Scripture and tradition, will be constantly goaded to act effectively as the collective people of God and will be encouraged to think big. It is the clergy’s job to call forth our power.

No arguments here. 

You will recognize that I am talking about common ministry here, which is a calling forth of the light enkindled within us God’s people, exercising to the fullest the offices and ministries which God has placed before us. This will and should play out differently in different kinds of congregations and in different regions, but for all of us, big and small, urban, suburban and rural, rich and poor, common ministry is the real challenge behind the concerns that face us all across the board. Take our need to attract young adults. Nothing will attract them more quickly than the demonstration that we are a community of faith that values connection without coercion.

Well, no.  The Episcopal Church is already rear end over teakettle in love with that paradigm, and bills itself as such, as many times as it is given a voice in public arenas.  The sad fact is that your “test” (what did you guys call it – “fleece of Gideon”?) hasn’t worked so far.  Blaming the few remaining conservatives left in TEC is a poor substitute for manning up, and admitting that the fleece-test isn’t working. 

Well, connection without coercion is the very heart and soul of common ministry. The more we live into shared ministry and common life as deaneries and across commonly held areas of godly passion – for the environment, for music, for immigration rights, for public education, for contemplative prayer, for healthy families, and on and on and on — the more we do so from the grass roots, as it were – the more our 20 and 30-year-olds will find there is a place among us, a place that satisfies their intense hunger for community that is accountable but not all that strictly defined.

Um, just what does it mean to have accountability that is not strictly defined?  Because both Fascism and Anarchy fall into that category.  Even random beatings on a slave ship could fit that category. 

As for college students, every indication is that Generation Next values the older generation, and seeks its guidance. But, as recent graduates of our own diocesan youth program have repeatedly told me,

Okay, so a group of people in TEC are presuming to speak for other people not in TEC.  You.. consider this to be a representative sample?  Okay, then..

..they want a voice at the table and the real opportunity to make a difference rather than just “fitting in.” Again, they have a deep reverence for the past, but they are choosy in this regard. They want the best past, not the worst. They want the ancient liturgy of the church and the sacraments and the creeds. But they don’t want lingering racism,

Where in this diocese is there lingering racism?  If in fact this exists, why haven’t you dealt with it with all of the authority of your office?

..opposition to the ordination of women,

In other words, they’re put off that some people in TEC still oppose the ordination of women.  Like those dang Anglo-Catholics.  Or, a minority of curmudgeonly evangelicals. 

Those poor, poor babies.  And just think, the grand vision of their Pluralistic Society that they’ve concocted over beer and pizza is already tainted by people who don’t fit into that Grand Pluralistic Society of their Youthful Imaginations  (sniff!).

But wait a minute .. If I remember correctly, a few years ago, we had a vibrant congregation, conservative as can be, full of young people – you remember now?  St. Matthew’s Westerville.  Well, the vestry of St. Matt’s was strongly in favor of the ordination of women.  And they have women priests preside at Eucharist – then, as now (in their new home in CANA). 

Ah well, too bad they felt they had to leave over the gay thing.  And too bad you muscled them out of their building, leaving a husk of a congregation (and a diocese full of parishes with financial problems of their own) to try to pay the mortgage. 

That reminds me, I really need to re-schedule that interview with Fr. Baird. 

..and the ongoing questioning of gay and lesbian communicants as proper Christians.

Rather, non-celibate gay and lesbian…  I have no problem with celibate Christians who suffer from same-sex attraction.  Have you ever included them in these indaba style conversations?    

Again, they want connection without coercion – that is, connection with our truest and best past.

Right.  Because the end all be all of the Christian life is to be part of a Special Club, but not so much to crucify the things that our flesh craves the most, in deference to the Lordship of Jesus Christ;  and not so much to allow the Holy Spirit to conform ourselves to the image of Jesus Christ through the process of sanctification. 

I would like to take this occasion to note how blessed we are with a vibrant, diocesan-wide community of young people – teenagers, undergraduates and young adults, who take their own authority as Christian ministers seriously and stand ready to follow the Lord Jesus wherever he leads them.  A number of them will be leading our worship at the close of this session. My thanks go to them and to our Director of Youth Ministries, Rob Konkol.

Did they lead all of you on a labyrinth-walk?  Just asking.  Because you know, that’s what they’ve been taught by their Episcopalian betters.  If so, did they also warn the congregants about the dangers of labyrinths – specifically, that many people involved in the occult, use labyrinths? 

..(to be continued tomorrow)..

– Elder

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  1. Quasimodo
    10 November 2009 at 12:22 AM

    I’m still stuck on the “connection without coercion” line. Does that mean the Dennis canon does not apply? Does that mean my congregation can ignore the anti-bottled water resolution just passed? Do we have to pay our assesment/mission share?

    Connection without coercion can only exist in the mind. In reality it becomes anarchy. Besides, does not the fact that General Convention, made up of unaccountable delegates and less than 1% of the church, makes canons and decisions that are binding on the rest of us show the lie of this statement.

    • Elder Oyster
      10 November 2009 at 12:39 AM

      Welcome, Quasimodo! These are good questions.

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