In a recent poll the Monarchy in the UK has an approval rate of well over 70% while the Church of England is falling further and further behind in the polls despite its best efforts to be “relevant”! In fact it is estimated that less than 1 percent attend C of E services on a regular basis and that by 2020 or perhaps sooner the Church of England will be a minority faith! To give you an idea of how dramatic that is imagine having the Roman Catholic Church as a minority faith in Rome!!!
In the US the Episcopal Church has spent more than 22 million dollars, yes 22 million dollars in over 80 law suits to retain ownership of property and investments of dissident dioceses and parishes despite a growing trend by the various state courts to rule against it and for the dissidents. In SC for example despite two major court decisions in favor of the dissidents that has stymied the National Church’s efforts to seize their property and further even when one court threatened contempt charges against the National Church’s newly formed competing diocese if it insisted on yet another law suit the National Church continues its to try and render those that oppose it powerless. The tactic is simple if you repeatedly sue those that disagree with you can eventually bankrupt them even if they win in court. One jurist predicted that if SCOTUS ever becomes the last court of appeal the National Church will lose and lose badly given if nothing else the Conservative tenor of the majority of the justices. The message by these actions is clear, money is more important than conviction and belief.
Let me say forcefully and frankly that I disagree with the dissident dioceses and parishes and as a gay man would certainly not be welcome therein but if what you really care about is belief rather than property, investments, pension funds and stock portfolios spending over 22 million dollars in law suits is as my late father would say “a piss poor way to show it”!
Taking down crosses and traditional Christian iconography, changing your liturgy to a “consumer user friendly” model, sticking Nautilus shells on cathedral facades, is not the answer to the decline in support and membership. Neither is circling the wagons and assuming a siege mentality in order to defend an outdated 16th century understanding of sexuality and gender that is based on a misreading and misinterpretation of Biblical passages. Adopting either a very unAnglican acceptance of the heresy of Sola Scriptura or an equally heretical deistic pluralism is not either. Rather being faithful to the Good News of the Gospel and to Jesus Christ who is the Incarnate God whose teaching demands inclusivity, justice, distribution of wealth, honoring of the Earth and all that dwells therein, feeding of the hungry, freeing of prisoners, caring for the sick and the lonely, clothing the naked, and blessing all loving and committed relationships, will insure the “relevancy and viability” of the Via Media.
Rev Andrew Gentry
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