A House and Two . . . ?

On June 19th, I got an e-mail from a reader who, in the aftermath of the election of the new Presiding “Bishop,” simply asked, “Now what?” At the time, I had little advice to offer, and frankly, given the pace of recent events, don’t really know what to say now except hope and pray. I wrote a post that I thought might at least give a few people a laugh, and to judge from the reaction, that’s exactly what it did—that is, give a laugh to very few people.

Then on June 21st, just as General Convention was ending and the Diocese of Forth Worth was asking for “alternative primatial oversight,” I flew to New York for a week where my wife had medical treatment and we attended a memorial service for my late step-father-in-law. I followed events as best I could and wrote my last post in New York on the 22nd in a decidedly downbeat mood.

Since then, however, the pace of events has picked up considerably, to the point where it is not only hard to keep up but also hard to write anything, since some other shoe always seems to drop. By now, several dioceses have asked for “alternative primatial oversight” (although it remains unclear to me just what that means); the largest parish in the Episcopal Church, Christ Church Plano, has announced its departure from the Episcopal Church; the Archbishop of Canterbury has issued a statement that, well, everyone is buzzing about, and rightly so; the Rev. Martyn Minns, rector of one of the largest and most successful parishes in the Episcopal Church, has just been elected a missionary bishop for Nigeria; the Diocese of Newark has included a gay candidate on its slate for possible election as bishop (I’m shocked! Shocked!); and . . . well, something else has probably happened in the time it took to write this.

So I find it impossible to write on this or that letter or statement or action, at least for now. Maybe things will calm down a bit and we can take a deep breath. Meanwhile . . . when I described my next-to-last post to a correspondent as “dark humor,” he responded that “gallows humor” was a more appropriate description. Well, perhaps some pointed humor would again be appropriate. I therefore offer the following for reflection, one an old Jewish joke, the other of more recent Anglican vintage.

  • An elderly Jew washes up on a desert island. Figuring he’s going to be there for awhile, he procedes to build for himself a house and two synagogues.

    Eventually, though, a ship does come along, spots the Jewish castaway and sails over to rescue him.

    However, as the captain wades ashore, he sees what has been built and is puzzled. “I understand the house,” says the captain, “but . . . why two synagogues?”

    The old Jew points to one of the two synagogues, scowls and says sternly, “That one I don’t go to!”

  • That this humor is characteristically Jewish is, to me, undeniable. And yet, I have heard exactly the same joke told about Russian Orthodox Christians! Until recently, there were at least three different Russian churches in this country alone, none of them in communion with each other. The old Russian saw was, get three Russians into the same room and you’ll find four jurisdictions.

    The same joke could have been told about Anglicans, of course, except with this difference—the various parties within Anglicanism managed to remain in communion with each other. Now, how long will it be before that no longer applies?

  • The second joke goes like this:

    It is High Mass at the National Cathedral, and a female bishop is presiding, with her pregnant lesbian lover dressed in a dalmatic and carrying the censer. An anglo-catholic priest turns to his neighbor and whispers, “That does it! Just one more thing and I’m outta here!”

    This one was recently batted around among e-mail acquaitances of mine, and several correspondents recalled different versions, the variant each time being the particular outrage that provoked the response—a female presiding bishop places a statue of the Buddha on the high altar; a couple engages in ritual prostitution in the sanctuary in a Rite of Spring; children are sacrficed to Moloch . . . you get the idea.

    Yet apparently there does come a point where the outrage is sufficient to cause serious defections, anglo-catholic or otherwise. If the reaction to the last General Convention means anything, we have apparently reached some sort of tipping point.

  • Are the dominoes at last starting to fall? And if they are, in what direction? Are castaway Anglicans doomed to building a house and two churches? Or can we avoid that fate? How? Should we even try?

    Much to think and pray about . . .

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