"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.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

This seems too astonishing to be true--but it is!

The Midwest Conservative Journal calls our attention to an amazing address, in which PB Schori has extended reflections on ecology and its lessons for pastoral ministry.

I must admit that the minutia the PB goes into in this speech makes it hard for me to take it seriously (i.e., the environmental impact of where our communion hosts come from or the geo-thermal drilling that apparently is planned for the GTS campus). But couple the lecture's general silliness in tone (e.g., consider this pearl of wisdom from her attack on Wall Street: "Sheep may grow fat on lush grazing, but too rich a diet can produce digestive upset and foul the pasture" ) with the blatant left-wing political bias of her argument and the address moves from ridiculous to detrimental.

Take a look, for example, at her exhortation to pastors on the purpose of our sermons. I have always thought that our sermons are intended to proclaim forgiveness of sins through the cross of Christ and the promise of everlasting life in glory given through His empty tomb. But according to the Presiding Bishop I ought instead to be using them to equip my "parishioners to share the political labor, in the ministry of developing just and peaceful communities" (especially as the November vote approaches).

Seriously, read through the speech and try to discern exactly what the PB thinks the "Good News" we should be proclaiming is. I find not a single word here that is not completely in line with the agenda of the secular Left in the Western world. PB Schori's vision of the Reign of God seems virtually indistinguishable from the party platforms of the Green parties of the industrialized West, as far as this address lays it out at any rate.

And, of course, PB Schori cannot resist getting a back-handed dig in at traditionalist Anglicans who just can't get on board with the "new thing" God is doing in our midst. Try these paragraphs on for size (boldface added by RWF):

Tending the soil is a great part of pastoral work. It is important to the whole of the flock and the whole ecosystem. The Western plains ecosystem was dominated by bison (buffalo) until fairly late in the 19th century. Those great grazers actually had a creative role in fostering the diversity and productivity of the plains. The bison were hunted almost to extinction for their hides, for sport, sometimes intentionally to deprive Native peoples of their livelihood, but also to make room for cattle and sheep. Competition between cattle and sheep herders, and lack of care for that great pasture led to great range wars in the Western U.S. in the 19th century. Because sheep will chew the grass down to the roots if you leave them too long on the same ground, the cattle ranchers who shared the open range often shot the sheep, and sometimes their keepers. Now, pastors in the church rarely shoot other species, but verbal violence sometimes accomplishes the same thing. We may tolerate or encourage attempts to remove species of Christians who seem excessively different. The irony of the range wars is that pasture land is most productive when it is intensely managed for the benefit of many species – either by free-ranging herds well-adapted to their ecological context, or by careful human intervention that moves the flock or the herd from one small pasture to another every few days.

Those bison moved fairly freely across the plains, never staying too long in one place. Their mobility contributed to the health of the pasture, and to its diversity. The tall-grass prairie is one of the most diverse and productive ecosystems in North America. The very act of grazing encourages a flush of new growth in the grass, and if the animal doesn’t keep chewing on the same patch for too long, that productivity soon results in a greater harvest for the whole system. I don’t think it’s too great a stretch to think about how chewing (or ruminating) on a theological or spiritual issue at great length affects the health of the flock. The gatherings of Christians whose pastors build permanent high fences to keep the flock from exploring other pastures rarely thrive over the long term. Those communities who have enough freedom to wander over to another patch of grass, who don’t perseverate or obsess over three clumps of grass in one corner, have a greater chance to thrive. No species of grazer can stay healthy if kept on the same ground for long. The grasses suffer, and so do the sheep. And when animals are confined too long in one place, parasites thrive.

RWF resumes: First, the irony of these remarks being uttered by a church leader who has herself tolerated and encouraged fierce attacks on "species of Christians" (i.e., the now gravely endangered species of orthodox Anglicans or "reasserters") who seem "excessively different" from her own revisionist mindset is simply too much to take. But more to the point, what precisely does the PB have in mind when she warns against allowing the sheep to "perseverate or obsess over three clumps of grass in one corner"? Have I been foolishly encouraging my flock to "perseverate" over clumps of grass like Niceno-Constantinopolitan Trinitarian doctrine, Chalcedonian Christology, and Scripturally-sound understandings of the Atonement? Perhaps they would have healthier theological digestive tracts if I encouraged them to graze on the lush pastures of Arianism, Adoptionism, and Scheiermacher for a while? Take a look around and see how well the Episcopal church has flourished on just such a doctrinally diversified diet for the last forty years!

Please add this preposterous speech to the list as reason number 97 why I eagerly await the termination of my diocese's relationship to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church and its national officers, such as PB Schori.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's hard for me to understand how you came to be a man of God. You set the poorest example of how to disagre politely. You don't like or respect our PB - you've made that clear to your readers. Didn't you learn from your parents and teach your own children that if you don't have anything nice to say about someone, then don't say anything at all?

Debating and disagreeing are an art and are often very helpful when trying to understand a position but constant belittling your oponent personally does nothing to enhance your cause.

Would this be how Jesus would speak about her?

7:26 PM  
Anonymous rr said...

sometimes the truth hurts.

My guess, Jesus would say to her and perhaps you, repent for the kingdom of God is near. Also, read the letters to the seven churches in revelation. You might learn something.

12:15 AM  
Blogger texanglican said...

Anon, I am not sure that you read my post carefully enough. I tried exceptionally hard NOT to belittle the PB personally. I DID call the speech she gave preposterous. And I firmly believe it is. Her ideas are comical. But note very carefully in this post: I am critically of her IDEAS and the way she expressed them in this post. My attack is on her SPEECH, not her here. I absolutely insist on this right to attack faulty and dangerous ideas. Jesus did it to, btw! Read the Woes against the Pharisees in Matt 23 sometime, for crying out loud! (Jesus certainly did not use "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" as His motto!) Those words of Jesus come a great deal closer to personal attacks on His opponents than this post does! A man of God must call his flocks attention to dangerous ideas, particularly when they come from someone who is purportedly in spiritual authority over them.

Please show me where in this post I engaged in ad hominem attack. Every line I see attacks her speech, her argument, or her choice of words. I did not attack her personally.

6:58 AM  
Blogger texanglican said...

One more thing, Anon. I would point out that, while I went to great pains not to attack the PB personally in my post and avoided any ad hominem attacks upon her person (focusing instead entirely upon her ideas in the speech), you have come dangerously close to attacking me as an individual human being. You imply, for example, that I am unfit to be a "man of God." But even more to the point, you strongly hint that I wasn't raised properly (which would be an attack on my parents as people, which offends me far more deeply).

It is one thing to point out what you feel to be the errors--or even the inanity--of ideas that a person has put into the public sphere. But do please try to avoid personal attacks on those with whom you disagree. Feel free to strongly disagree with my ideas, but please--for your own good--stop attacking the call to ordained ministry of those with whom you disagree (note--there is not one word in my post attacking PB Schori's character) and please don't insult their parents.

9:13 AM  
Blogger Robin G. Jordan said...

Parents teach such things as "if you don't have anything nice to say about someone, then don't say anything at all" out of fear that their children may reveal their flaws to outsiders. They do not want outsiders to see beyond the "persona," or mask, that they present to the world, that conceals their true selves. We have reached a stage in the history of the Episcopal Church at which Episcopalians need to take a good hard look at their leaders and the direction in which they are leading the denomination, instead of engaging in denial.

9:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Presiding Bishop's term is only 9 years long. After Katherine Jefferts-Schori's term is up, then who will you decide to pick on next? You will no longer be in the Episcopal Church by that time, so I guess you may start picking on the members of your own faith community. Don't we have feedom of speech in this country? Of course we can disagree politely, but thinking that the PB's ideas must be accepted by everyone who wishes to remain in the Episcopal Church is also downright silly. Long after you have left TEC, there will still be an Episcopal Church in Fort Worth... and in a few short years, Katherine Jefferts-Schori will have served her time as Presiding Bishop and will pass that role to someone else. Where will you be at that time? Bishop Iker will not be a bishop in Fort Worth forever either. As much as he is well-loved by the people, he cannot serve this diocese forever. Will you be isolating yourself with narrow theology or trying to bring people of all backgrounds to Christ.

8:20 PM  
Blogger texanglican said...

I say this in complete earnest, Anon--you need not worry about what I may say about the leadership of TEC after mid-November. I have no interest in commenting on their activities beyond that time. Or at least I shall have no more interest in commenting on their activities than I would have in commenting on the activities of the Anglican province of New Zealand or the United Churches of Christ. Fear not. I am eager to move beyond this mess, and I plan not to do much looking back once we are out of TEC!

9:48 PM  

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