Since I'm going to be explaining why I disagree with this plan, I want to preface it first with this: from everything I know of him, Fr. Baumann is a good man, who cares deeply about his parishioners and loves the Lord Jesus. Though I disagree with him on this matter, I want to emphasize that he's a good pastor, and I have no doubt he means the best by everyone he meets. He also has years more experience than I do in the Episcopal Church. Though I’ve done my best to study everything that’s come into my hands about this situation, it’s almost certain that I’m still ignorant about parts of it, and likely that I’m ignorant about my ignorance.
Enough to say that:
1) I don’t doubt Fr. Baumann’s good intentions, or those of the discernment committee. These are good people, and being in a parish with them has been a blessing in our lives. We’re sorry to leave. We'll keep praying for them and I have no doubt they'll continue to hold us in their hearts.
2) I hold my opinion firmly, but I know that I’m not an expert in ecclesiology. Please don't take my words on this as the final words on the subject. It's very difficult, and my guess is that I'm not right about everything. Forgive me for anything I get wrong.
I am deeply affected by my parish’s plan though, and that’s why I’m posting my take on it. Sometimes I feel like I oughtn’t to have an opinion on it, but that’s like being in the 13 colonies and not having an opinion on the Revolution. Hopefully this post will be helpful to other people as they think about these issues (I know my thinking has been clarified by talking to and listening to people I disagree with).
Also, going back to my first point above, it’s my impression that this plan was adopted precisely because the leadership of our church cared so much about the community. It seems to me that the desire to hold the community together was what led them into this plan. Because of that, I’d be interested in hearing what readers who don’t share that motivation (i.e., don’t know the parishioners involved, and so don’t feel motivated to keep them together) think about this plan.
(In my opinion, this plan fails partly because it puts community above theology, when community can only come out of a shared theology. But, again, I could be wrong.)
[edited to add: comments on thos post have already taught me that I put the above statement badly. Please see below comments - especially comment 4 - for clarification.]
If that sounds like a lot of caveats, well, it is. I'm trying to say "I love you" and "I disagree with you" at the same time, and I'm not sure that's ever easy.
I suppose the first thing to say is that I believe that the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) and the Roman Catholic Church are different entities for profound theological reasons. I think the biggest problem with the “diversified parish” is that it assumes that we can meld these three entities into one simply by saying that we’re going to do it. I don’t think a church can simultaneously be Episcopal, ACNA and Roman Catholic, and I don’t think that Blessed Sacrament has the ability to make it so just by saying it’s so. Our fiat doesn’t have that power.
I think my friends who disagree with me would say, “but we’re not all one church; we’re just one parish.” And my answer to that would be that one parish ought to all be one church, or what’s the point? We meet every Sunday because we like each other? (That sounds sarcastic, but it's not meant that way - I really don't understand my friends' reasoning at this point.)
“’I have consistently rejected the common but always ill-fated rationale, "Their heresy demands our schism.’”←I have disagree, because I don't think that a Christian who is not a Roman Catholic or an Eastern Orthodox can logically call schism because of heresy an "always ill-fated rationale".
“We have had about half a dozen vocations to ordination in the past four years.”←We have, but he fails to mention that in at least two of those cases the candidates were unable to be ordained in the Diocese of Los Angeles precisely because of the candidates’ orthodoxy.
“We recognized that putting the decision to a vote would be disastrous. Voting assumes at the beginning that there must be a division with "winners" and "losers. We rejected any decision in which there could be winners and losers. "
<-- My experience as a member of the parish was that "rejecting any decision in which there could be winners and losers" wasn't possible. I believe that the leadership really wanted it to be possible, so they declared that it was. However, refusing to hold a vote didn't get rid of the disagreement, it just disenfranchised those of us who disagreed. In essence, it meant that, denied a vote at the parish meeting, the only option we were left with was voting with our feet.
-Also, refusing to have a vote meant that those in favor of the "diversified parish" had only to present their plan; they did not have to vigorously argue for it. Voting would have subjected the plan to rigorous examination. However, instead of working on convincing people of the wisdom of this plan (as would have been necessary if it was going to be put to a vote), the plan was simply imposed.
I can see how such imposition would sometimes be necessary in church governance but I wish the leadership would have called this what it was.
although details still have to be worked out"<-- this one phrase masks a load of difficulties. The truth is that, at the present time, only one group of the three really has a home at Blessed Sacrament, and that group is the Episcopalians. Everyone else is being asked to be happy with less than a whole church. To my knowledge, the ACNA group has so far tried at least two different ways to be in ACNA and still at Blessed Sacrament, and neither has worked out. It's still unclear if anyone in ACNA will be willing to take this part of the parish under its wing, while still being willing to let them be part of an Episcopal church. Maybe it will happen, but hasn't yet.
Also (and I know less about this), as far as I know, the Roman Catholics in the parish, while they have priests who are willing to let them take communion in an R. C. parish but attend mass (without taking communion) at Blessed Sacrament, are permanently stuck as half-members, unable to take communion with their fellow parishioners.
So, while those remaining Episcopal have a home, the other two groups do not. In other words, the idea of a "diversified parish" has yet to prove itself possible in real life.
-Also, it’s not mentioned in this article, but most of the people I’ve talked to who are in favor of the plan admit that it’s a temporary solution; the consensus (!) seems to be that it’s going to buy them about five years at most, and that will only be true as long as we keep the same rector and the same bishop.
The problem with this is twofold:
1) Five years is a long time to spend with such a makeshift solution. How many kids is that going through adolescence in a compromised parish? How many people is that that I don’t invite to my church because I feel it’s not a good place for new converts? Those two reasons alone – the hostility of this environment for new Christians young in years and the hostility of it for new Christians young in the faith – should be enough to push us to find a permanent solution. If we stayed under this model, at the end of five years my eldest would have spent half her life under this “temporary” solution. Half a lifetime is a long “temporary”, yet that’s what the leadership has imposed on the children of the parish.
2) Why wait five years? What changes in those five years? Other than our rector retiring and the situation in the Episcopal Church getting worse, I can’t think of anything.
Finally, there are some things very right about this article. Just one, for instance, is Fr. Baumann's suggestion that those staying act like the ancient prophets in uncompromisingly bearing witness is an apt analogy, I think. I pray Blessed Sacrament will be a very great witness indeed; God bless them as they engage in this ministry.
I guess I would finally add that this remark seems strangely ironic to me:
"The Church that had touted itself in 1992 as being a Church of “no outcasts” has self-contradictorily engaged in “theological cleansing” of traditionalists to the point that its inherent fatal flaw has become obvious."
I find it ironic because for my family, Blessed Sacrament's refusal to either be a traditional Episcopal parish, or a traditional ACNA parish, or even a traditional Roman Catholic parish - in interests of keeping the community together - is part of what has made it impossible for this very traditionalist family to stay there.
Again, I welcome comments, but please keep them civil; everyone involved in this is very dear to me, or very dear to those who are dear to me, and I'd like to keep the discussion centered on the merits or demerits of the plan itself, and not the people promoting it. Thanks.
peace of Christ to you,