Nonetheless, as someone said to me via e-mail, the toothpaste is out of the tube where the ACNA is concerned. They will continue to have priestesses in the church. Two comments offered on their behalf, to this blog, were rejected because they failed the "robust if polite" test. The same person or persons may try again to state a point of view without the venom, and we will publish the comment(s), since it is obvious that we welcome intelligent dissent. Those two unpublished comments explained why the Continuing Churches are rapidly disappearing, why we are afraid of ACNA competition, why we are "growing more irrelevant every day," and contained other libel. The problem is, of course, no one should explain why something is happening when, in fact, it is not happening. This picture of our churches as dying off, especially in my experience these last several months in the ACC, is not a portrait, and not even a caricature. A caricature should be at least recognizable, somewhat of an accurate portrait, distorted by emphasis of existing features. False features do not a portrait, nor even a caricature, make. However, the two ACNA problems of women's "ordination" and of violating the integrity of at least this Diocese of the South, ACC-OP by a direct approach to parishes with no episcopal approval, is completely accurate. So, we may as well say so.
The ACNA are not enemies, and they are not competition (in any sense). Rather, they are fellow Christians who have chosen a difficult path. This path will bring them into the same kind of difficulties we have faced for over thirty years. We could make useful guides through this strange country they have entered. They are going to lose the financial backing of the Episcopal Church, and most of them will have none of its real estate to use for their congregations. We respect the courage it has taken to follow our example in these matters. We had hoped that they would follow through with an honest study of the subject of women's ordination, which had seemed to be a likely possibility, and are disappointed. But, it is because we do not consider them to be enemies that we are willing to speak the truth in terms that may indeed wax our mustaches, and place black hats on our heads. So it was done to the prophets who were before us.
Jeremiah's mustache was waxed, and a black hat was placed upon his head.
For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the LORD was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily. Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay. For I heard the defaming of many, fear on every side.- Jer. 20:8-10
Living in times of moral confusion, it is necessary for the Church to speak with a clear voice, in terms that are so firm as to be of true support for those who need strength to stand. Moral confusion is furthered by theological confusion; and one lesson to be learned from the Charismatic Movement, as it was in the 1970s and 80s especially (without disregarding any of the good things it brought), is the danger of sloppy ecumenism that avoids all strife by avoiding theology. For, in many ways, a large portion of that movement played right into the hands of the zeitgeist by teaching its adherents to treat theological standards as a bad thing. The truth, you see, is divisive.
Theological standards must be applied firmly as a service of charity; and theological standards are the sister of moral standards. The two seem to slip away together all too often. Starting off in dangerous territory without sure footing is never a good idea. All I can think to say to the newborn ACNA is a series of warnings about the wide gate and broad way. It is from charity that I express concern for these Israelites who go up against the Amalekites and the Canaanites while Moses and the Ark stay in the camp (Num. 14:40 f); they seem blissfully unaware of the danger before them. My indignation at their presumption, that is, their classy promotional literature sent directly to parishes as if they have a right to ignore the bishops of long established dioceses, is due to disappointment. At one point, especially while writing for The Christian Challenge, I expected much better of them (knowing also, as I do, that these bishops are the very men whose friendship they need). If it takes a man willing to be cast in the role of the bad guy, in order to say what needs saying, so be it.