Episcopal Church Membership

June 26, 2015

Ecumenical Partners in Short Supply at Episcopal General Convention

Episcopalians are continuing calls for unity with other Christian churches despite actions that have had the effect of increasing divisions between Episcopalians, Global South Anglicans and other branches of historic Christianity.

A number of international bishops from smaller Anglican provinces are in attendance at the Episcopal Church’s triennial General Convention meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, with a handful of ecumenical guests from other churches. None of the Anglican Communion’s larger provinces are represented, and there is no bishop representing the Church of England in an official capacity at General Convention this year. There are no bishops from the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches. The headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) is one block from the convention center, but there is no delegation or representative from the Mormon faith at General Convention.

Significant numbers of bishops representing a wide swath of both global Anglicanism and ecumenical partner churches have been in attendance at past conventions.

On Friday morning at the convention’s worship service, 19th-century ecumenist and translator Isabel Florence Hapgood was commemorated. Hapgood, regarded as a key figure in the dialogue between Western Christianity and Orthodoxy, was fluent in both Russian and Church Slavonic.

The service’s opening prayer read:

“Loving God, we thank you for the work and witness of Isabel Florence Hapgood, who introduced the Divine Liturgy of the Russian Orthodox Church to English-speaking Christians, and encouraged dialogue between Anglicans and Orthodox. Guide us as we build on the foundation that she gave us, that all may be one in Christ who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, to the ages of ages. Amen.”

The words were spoken by Mary Glasspool, the morning worship service’s presider and a bishop whose consecration further impeded unity between the Episcopal Church and Orthodox Christians.

As Bishop Suffragan for the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, Glasspool became the church’s first openly partnered lesbian consecrated to the episcopacy.

The consecrations of Glasspool and now-retired Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire not only exacerbated divisions within the worldwide Anglican Communion, it also complicated ecumenical relations between the Episcopal Church and other Christian denominations. Following the consecration of Robinson as bishop, the Russian Orthodox Church issued a strong denunciation of the Episcopal Church’s actions. The Orthodox Church in America (OCA), which has its origins in the Russian church, concluded ecumenical dialogue with the Episcopal Church and continues ecumenical dialogue with its traditionalist alternative, the Anglican Church in North America.

Orthodox Christian Churches had only recently restarted ecumenical dialogue with Episcopalians in 2000. Earlier in 1991 the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America synod of bishops voted to suspend dialogue “resulted from recent developments such as the ordination of women, including one who is a practicing lesbian, and a recent article by [Episcopal Diocese of Newark, NJ] Bishop [John Shelby] Spong which characterized the Apostle Paul as a homosexual.”

In re-starting dialogue in 2000, former Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Edmond L. Browning and Greek Orthodox Archbishop Iakovos agreed that, to remain faithful to the central task of seeking Christian unity, churches must consult with each other as they face fundamental issues. No such consultation took place prior to Robinson’s 2003 consecration.

As for the Russian Orthodox Church, a delegation of Episcopal Church officials met with officials there in a four-day visit in June of 2002. Goodwill from the visit was not long-lasting; the following year the Russian Orthodox Church released a statement that read, “The ‘consecration’ of a gay priest has made any communications with him and with those who consecrated him impossible. We shall not be able to cooperate with these people not only in the theological dialogue, but also in the humanitarian and religious and public spheres. We have no right to allow even a particle of agreement with their position, which we consider to be profoundly antichristian and blasphemous.”

Within the Anglican Communion, a majority of provinces are in
either a state of impaired or broken communion with the Episcopal Church following the Robinson consecration almost a dozen years ago. A widening gulf of disagreement over the role of holy scripture and the identity of Jesus Christ continues, but has been unaddressed by bishops gathered at General Convention.

The Anglican Communion is “healthy and alive, capable of repairing itself,” assessed Bishop Todd Ousley of the Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Michigan. Ousley spoke at a press conference at the conclusion of the convention’s opening day, fielding a question from Anglican journalist David Virtue about discussions within the church’s House of Bishops.

8 Responses to Ecumenical Partners in Short Supply at Episcopal General Convention

  1. Brad F says:

    How can you have “unity” with a post-Christian religion?

  2. Russ Dewey says:

    The easiest way to have unity with a post-Christian religion is to drop the gatekeeping against consensus Biblical scholarship…i.e. scholarship that follows the evidence where it leads. Evangelicals are almost phobic about this, and they are ignoring a large and growing consensus of what you would call secular or post-Christian scholarship (I would simply call it unfettered Biblical scholarship).

    The distinctive thing about post-Christian (progressive) Christians is that they are fearless in learning the truth about the history of the Jesus Movement, James the Just, the opposition to him by Paul, and the implications of all this for Pauline religion (the variety you think is the one and only truth). This undermines your entire position. You are right to be concerned.

    That is a serious answer, BTW. You can’t evade the accumulating scholarship forever. I raised this point with a prominent evangelical scholar and his response was, “We will have to disagree” because he has to accept supernatural explanations.

    So there you have it. You are free to proclaim your belief in supernatural explanations, in 2015 and beyond. It has worked for thousands of years. It is the faith of the fathers. So keep up your hopes that education and progress will go into reverse, and perhaps (to paraphase another “lost cause”) the 1950s will rise again. Then you can be triumphant in saying, “I told you so.”

    Or things might keep evolving and more gaps with past doctrine will open up. One or the other, I suppose.

    • darh477 says:

      Let them drop the name “Christian” if they regard the “Jesus Movement” as just a big hoax.

      Hypocrisy is regarded as a bad thing by Christians and atheists. Once they cease to be Christian, let them head for the exit and don’t look back.

      • Russ Dewey says:

        I think the word Christian will be increasingly applied only to those who accept the entire Nicene Creed as literally true. Post-Christian is an apt phrase for progressive Christians who do not accept that Jesus was a God, or that the earth is 6000 years old, or that evolution is not true. It is a fairly clean division, and one comes chronologically after the other, so post-Christian is a fair enough label.

        It seems to me, however, that the effect of this might not be to lure people back into the traditional or fundamentalist outlook but to re-define Christian in terms of those who deny evolution and cosmology, disagree with gay rights, think women should be subservient to men, and other concepts from Palestine circa 100-200 A.D. This is not necessary good for Christianity in the long run, but this division is real enough that it will play out regardless of what you or I think (IMHO!).

        Oh, and you are 180 degrees wrong about the Jesus Movement. That scholarly consensus I was talking about is all about the Jesus Movement and what it was really all about. If you are faithful to the constraints (“gatekeeping”) I alluded to, this scholarship will be almost wholly unknown to you. More’s the pity.

        • darh477 says:

          Your posts are so funny.

          Why does the psychobabble industry hate religion? One word: competition. All those millions of religious people out there, and most of them, especially the most devout ones, seldom or never undergo “therapy,” but manage to work through things on their own, with the help of friends, through prayer, maybe through counseling (gratis!) from a trusted pastor. So the psychobabbler sizes up that situation, and starts seeing $$$$: convince all those religious people that religion is a sham, that daily life must be navigated with the aid of “professionals,” people who are “scientific.” Cha-ching! Make money off people’s problems, convince contented religious people to become discontented agnostics. Cha-ching! With any luck, the psychobabbler can snare a few rich neurotic pigeons like Woody Allen, who sometimes gets “therapy” 2 or 3 times per week. All those unhappy secular humanists out there, all with insurance to help the psychobabbler buy his 2nd or 3rd home and support a mistress or two on the side.

          Funny that psychobabblers are respected, but prostitutes are not. A prostitute is paid for sex, which she provides even if she doesn’t like the customer at all. But prostitutes are generally despised, but psychobabblers are not. But they should be. After all, when you’re paying $$$ to a faux friend, whose compassion and concern are totally fake, and is only there for $$$, it’s clearly just another form of prostitution.
          Years ago my wife and I went through a rough patch, someone referred us to a “counselor,” we had one session, lasting about 50 minutes. After that one session, we sat in the car, silent for a minute, then we both burst out laughing, and my wife said, “Can you believe these jerks get PAID to do that?” So we sat for a few minutes and mimicked all the mannerisms and clich├ęs we had just witnessed – the furrowed brow, the concerned’n’compassionate look, the quizzical look – “Hmmm,” “That’s interesting,” “Say some more about that,” “OK,” “How did you feel about that?” “Did you feel you were being true to yourself at that point?” In 50 minutes we could do a pretty good imitation of this clown’s “professional” and “scientific” dog-and-pony show. I imagine any 4th grader could. Indeed, as my wife, said, how can someone get PAID big bucks for doing so little? Amazing that highly educated people are such total suckers, paying so much for fluff, administered by a “doctor” who no doubt despises all his patients in his heart, and perhaps that’s justified, being such willing dupes.

          Psychobabblers don’t hate religion for being a racket – they hate it for being competition for THEIR racket. Naturally you’d like to see it put out of business. Too bad. Christianity has been around for 2000 years, it outlasted Romans, Persians, Arabs, Nazis, Fascists, Communists, it will certainly outlast a gaggle of homosexuals and agnostics.

    • Arbuthnaught says:

      You mean leftist “scholarship” Critical tools are neither.

  3. Arbuthnaught says:

    The left wrecks every institution they touch.

  4. wyclif says:

    Shorter Episcopal Church: “We’d like to call for unity while doing everything possible to impair unity.”

    That’s Episcopal logic, right there.

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