Friday, July 24, 2015

Liberal Christianity is self-limiting

The starting point of this conversation: the Church of England consecrates two more women bishops. While I thank Anglicanism for accidentally being a hedge against liberalism years ago and teaching me pre-Vatican II Catholic practices thanks to Episcopal semi-congregationalism, now I understand the nature of the thing, good and bad, thanks to its apologists such as Fr. Jonathan Mitchican (an ex-Catholic but a gentleman), so I don't care what the C of E or Episcopal Church does. They have the right to enforce their teachings among themselves as we do ours.

My snark: And the English are running back to church now that it's so cool. Oh, wait.

My non-snark, just now, which I didn't post in this conversation: my image of Pope Francis saying to them, "Join me in spreading the gospel!" Which is really a nice way of saying "Convert to Catholicism!" Nicer than saying "Fakedty-fake!"

(Blessed Pius IX: "Don't be like the bell tower calling the people into the church but staying outside!")

An acquaintance who's been an Episcopalian for about 10 years (a born Protestant), conservative, at an Episcopal parish because of that hedge of semi-congregationalism and of course he likes the music better (the English choral tradition and great organ music) than the unliturgical dreck in American Catholic parishes (mine being an exception: organ prelude and postlude, Anglican processional and recessional, classic Catholic hymns at the offertory and Communion, and plainchant and polyphony for the Sung Mass itself):
I am opposed to the purported ordination of women. But I know and respect Anglicans who support it. I don't think most supporters of WO really believe that consecrating female bishops will make otherwise secular English people come running back to church in significant numbers because it's "cool." I think they believe it is the right thing to do regardless of whether it makes the church more popular or not. While I strongly disagree, I don't think it helps to oversimplify their motives. The painful fact is that Christianity, especially hierarchical, liturgical Christianity, is pretty marginal in modern Britain (and getting that way in the US) regardless of whether or not it "ordains" women. It's not like lapsed Anglicans in England are flocking to the Roman Catholic or Orthodox Churches in droves either. They're not flocking anywhere.
"I think they believe it is the right thing to do regardless of whether it makes the church more popular or not." I imagine a lot of unthinking people who mean well, believing in God and who are in the habit of going to church, often older people, think "I believe in women's rights," so sure.

But if you think about it: women's ordination is right -> the church was wrong for 1,900 years (cf. Articles XIX and XXI: fallible church) -> since the church gets things wrong, who needs it? "Stay home on Sundays, sin, and be happy, because you only live once."

"B-but... Christian community!"

"Screw that! I have my family, my man or woman, and my friends. I help humanity by voting Democratic, recycling, and saying 'Black lives matter.' Spare me the maudlin crap, the bad music, and the cheap wine. Nobody needs your fake 'community.'" So mainline Protestantism is self-refuting.

That said, yes, thanks in part to Vatican II, American Catholicism is cratering too, our numbers being artificially high by counting Mexican immigration. But there's a turnaround as the liberals age and die. The remnant is overwhelmingly conservative. There's something similar in Episcopalianism, liberal high church, which loves our creeds (not agnostic like older liberals) and traditional liturgies too but has the same logical problem I describe so it's self-limiting; man-made, not the church.
Well, at least in the English cathedrals, the music is still pretty great. Parish churches...more variable. (There has been more than one article about how attendance at cathedrals has actually risen somewhat in recent years as parish churches struggle.)
Not everybody loves classical music and free concerts in themselves don't save souls.
And we talk about the hopeful reunification of the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican communions. Ha. Fat chance.
Most people haven't thought like that for about 40 years. The churchmen know it won't happen, because the various groups won't convert to one of them (Anglicans have a kind of true-church claim like the others if you think about it: Catholics or Orthodox would have to change their theology), and the people don't care anymore as churchgoing wanes.
The Archbishop must think he knows better than God.
So did Henry VIII. So even though he and Cranmer never intended women clergy or same-sex weddings, those are logical conclusions from Articles XIX and XXI. But a good Protestant would say no, because the Articles limit the Church of England to what's scriptural. Thing is, scripture's not self-interpreting. Modern(ist) biblical criticism (higher criticism?) has deconstructed it so you can pretend it means the opposite of what it says. Anyway, that game has little appeal for normal people so most just don't go to church now, with a few becoming Catholic or evangelical (the Orthodox convert fad is too small to matter).

In other news, unsurprisingly ACNA is backing away from women's ordination; it and the homosexualism they oppose are connected. Interestingly, I've read that in the '70s conservative Anglicans predicted that WO would lead to same-sex weddings and the pro-WO people denied it, but at least one of the first women priests was an outspoken lesbian so there you go.

And in still other news, hooray for the Missouri Synod, our cousins, for enforcing THEIR teachings. I don't lose sleep over creationism vs. evolution. Catholics can believe in a six-day creation and young universe but don't have to. Darwin's random chaotic theory of evolution isn't the only one. The points are God started creation, stepped in and made man, unique among creatures in both having flesh and sharing some of his qualities, and man sinned. Science is not a threat (St. Thomas Aquinas: our doctrine is about faith and reason working together); if anything it backs up our teachings. By the way, nobody has proved one species evolves into another.

And yet more news that's not really news: with Pope Benedict's reform to the Novus Ordo in English, we've won, but the liberals are still fighting. A Manhattan parish priest erases George Rutler's legacy. Of course I'm not leaving the church because of this, either pretending again that Byzantium's the church (I didn't really buy that for long) or heading back to Anglican semi-congregationalism, as if a club were the church. We have our doctrine and the Mass at this place is still the Mass (thanks, Benedict the Great), but some Catholics are jerks, even heretics (Protestant wannabes). Again, not news.

From the Greek Catholic option: how's that "renewal" working out for youse? Still better than the Novus Ordo but the same general idea.

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