"The Preachers chiefly shall take heed that they teach nothing in their preaching, which they would have the people religiously to observe and believe, but that which is agreeable to the Doctrine of the Old Testament and the New, and that which the Catholick Fathers and Ancient Bishops have gathered out of that Doctrine." A proposed canon of Elizabeth I, 1571

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Location: Bedford, Texas, United States

I am a presbyter in the diocese of Fort Worth, Texas (Anglican Church in North America). I serve as Chaplain at St. Vincent's School and as a canon of St. Vincent's Cathedral Church in Bedford, Texas. In addition to my parish duties and teaching Religion classes in the school I am also the Middle School Social Studies teacher.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Dean of Trintiy ESM on the Failure of TEC

Dean Paul Zahl of Trinity Episcopal School of Ministry has published a reflection on the failure of both "high" and "low" ecclesiologies to save the Episcopal church. It is well worth a read. One highlight:

Both "low church" and "high church" have failed in their project of renewing or re-orienting the Episcopal Church to the values of a passionately understood Gospel and a passionately felt ecclesiology. The reason we know we have failed is because of this institution which has been judged so tangibly by the judgment of God.

Not our best intentions nor our highest hopes have been able to "save" the Episcopal Church. How can anyone deny this "fact on the ground"? The Episcopal Church has given itself over almost wholly to an account of itself that opposes both "low church" and "high church" as these schools of thoughts have traditionally understood themselves. ...

All this does is "put paid" to the idea of ecclesiology as a mode of thought that can win out in the world of the here and now. It forces us to look for another hope!

What is this "other" hope? It may well be the alternative of becoming a Roman Catholic. If your ecclesiology has survived the end of apostolic life in the Episcopal Church, then you may well consider entering the Roman Catholic Church. This is a very live option for all of us, and is even more attractive in relation to the present Pope.

For convinced Protestants, well, I don't know. The LCMS has a definite hitch: its extreme attitude toward other Christian churches. The PCA has hitches of its own. The Quakers? Well, I met a woman once who described herself as a "Christian Quaker." She said there weren't many like her!

What I do know, clutching my 1928 Prayer Book to my bosom, is that ecclesiology of any type has been called into question by the record of recent times in the Episcopal Church. And I do know that Christ said, "Follow me and let the dead bury the dead." There is something there that knocks the very deeply committed ecclesiologies of us all, both Catholic and Protestant.

The entire text may be found here.


Blogger Julian said...

What exactly makes you think this is "worth reading?" Isn't this more of a personal rant? Perhaps I am not understanding it, but I really do not see a clear argument here.

How is the plight of the ECUSA a failure of all ecclesiologies? (And if all have failed - how is moving to a church with a different ecclesiology going to help? )

Zahl's distinction between "high" and "low" church is also misleading, because these different "cultures" actually share a similar and often identical ecclesiology, do they not? I concede that the preferred metaphors may be different ones, but ultimately, both "high" and "low" Anglicans exist because we share a commitment to a common ecclesiological structure based on common principles (threefold ministry, apostolic succession - whatever that is, collegiality....etc...)

Also, Zahl seems to be committing that favorite fallacy of yours, Texanglican, the post hoc ergo propter hoc - it is not at all well established why "low"/"high" church styles have "failed" simply because ECUSA has failed. Instead, it is telling that "high" and "low" churchmen are enjoying unprecedented success in actually cooperating within the confines of a shared ecclesiology. Neither party should be blamed for the failure of a substantial portion of the ECUSA to adhere to orthodoxy.

Finally, the division of the Episcopal scene into "high" and "low" is arguably rather dated. I am surprised that the dean of Trinity would actually see it this way - isn't it obvious that this is no longer the relevant division?

TexAng, what appeals to you so much about this article? From what I know of you from talking with you constantly, I really didn't think you'd even agree with it. So why was this worth reading?

2:09 AM  
Blogger texanglican said...

Ah, Julian, I said it was "well worth a read." I did not say that endorsed its message! To be honest I thought it was worth reading primarily because, as the author of "The Protestant Face of Anglicanism," Dean Zahl has been a pretty fierce opponent of Catholic Anglicanism. But in this essay, he take a fairly positive view of Catholic ecclesiology--indeed more positive than his view of convinced Protestantism, I think. Indeed he tellingly says that becoming Roman Catholic "is a very live option for all of us", especially now that Benedict is pope! I thought I would fall out of my chair! That "all of us" clearly includes even himself! That pro-Catholic sentiment, from Paul Zahl! Wonders never cease. (Unlike Dean Zahl, btw, I have not found swimming the Tiber to be a lively option personally. I remain committed to the Anglican project [despite my phil-Orthodox tendencies ;-)] of fostering an evangelical Catholicism outside of the jurisdictional supremacy of Rome and am not going anywhere.)

4:34 PM  
Blogger Julian said...

Tex, when people say something is worth reading, doesn't it usually mean that they think the article has something important or instructive to say that other people ought to be exposed to? If you merely think it is ironic or entertaining, you really ought to make it clear. How were we supposed to know why you thought it was worth your time?

10:54 PM  
Blogger The Rev. David Beckmann said...

I wonder why he totally ignores the Continuing Anglican movement as an alternative. Rather strange. It's almost like he's campaigning for Rome. And to mention the PCA as an alternative at the same time, when it is so anti-sacramental?

10:25 AM  
Blogger Fr Matthew said...

..or what about the prospect of becoming Orthodox and avoiding the whole Protestant/Catholic divide altogether?

1:06 AM  

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