Saturday, September 26, 2009

Poor, Pitiful Bishop Little

The Chicken-Little-in-Chief of the HoBD listserv today shared with us an excerpt from this September 25 editorial from The Living Church, written by Northern Indiana’s Bishop Edward Little. (The Rev. Chicken-Little-in-Chief has earned his title by his regular clucking that the Episcopal Church is dying -- nay, hemorraghing! -- due to its acceptance of queers.)

In his essay, Bishop Little recalls that Archbishop Carey “asked a difficult question in April at a conference sponsored by the Anglican Communion Institute.” For those not keeping up, the Anglican Communion Institute is a discredited group, fondly known as "Three Guys and a Webpage," supported by Don Armstrong, who is currently up on felony charges in Colorado.

Photo (at left) of Bishop Little is courtesy of Diocese of Northern Indiana

In his essay, Bishop Little claims to quote Archbishop Carey:
"Can conservative believers be assured that they have a future place in TEC without censure or opposition?”

Then Bishop Little offers his own whine:
"This question is both apt and pressing. We need a conscience clause with canonical and constitutional authority, a conscience clause that contains no sunset provision, that cannot be revoked."

As far as I’m concerned, the simple answer is simply: “No!”

Without a doubt, conservative believers in our church should be assured they have a future place in TEC without censure. I respect my parishioners who disagree with my beliefs. They are all entitled to their position, just as we progressives are bound to respect and listen to them and to engage them. But they certainly should not – and I hope they will not – be guaranteed a place “without opposition.”

How arrogant of Bishop Little to demand a Special Place Without Opposition! (Am I the only one for whom “special rights” carries some verbal baggage?)

For over three decades, progressive theologians and activists have made our case. We have done it in the face of censure, in the face of apothegms of “Heretic!,” and in the face of great, virulent opposition. Bishop Little has railed against the progressives. More recently, the Chicken-Little-in-Chief and his minions regularly call us “heretics” and deny that we are even Christians.

How dare Bishop Little and the Chicken-Little-in-Chief demand that their little sinecure be allowed to thrive “without opposition”!? Methinks they are asking for Special Privileges – privileges that they have withheld from the rest of us in the past several decades.

Has there ever been a group in the Anglican Communion that has claimed it has a right to hold its position “without censure or opposition”? I don’t know, for I am not a master of Anglican theology. But I suspect this is a Very New Thing that Bishop Little is demanding.

I think we Anglicans have spent centuries fighting about our theology, challenging and engaging each other. I don’t know how Bishop Little concocted this notion of a little island of refuge – free from any breath of criticism or challenge. But I don’t think it’s an island within the Anglican Communion. Perhaps it’s an island off the coast of Rome.


Blogger Kirkepiscatoid said...

I am continually struck that the people who holler the loudest about certain groups having "special rights," when it's all said and done, are seeking special rights for themselves.

It doesn't seem to matter what kind of "special rights" we are talking about, either. This is applicable for race, citiznship status, etc., as it is sexual orientation.

9/27/2009 12:21 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Amen, Lisa. Amen, Kirke. Oh, and can I just point out that some folks love to point out that there is a mandatory canons that requires bishops not to discriminate against women in the ordination process. The EWC made that canonical change happen. However, no one - not the EWC, not other bishops, not the PB herself, has been able to enforce that canon. I think they already have "special rights." And, I will tell you, there are many of us who ain't too happy about that.

9/27/2009 5:56 AM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

And amen to both of you. Thanks, too.

9/27/2009 7:36 AM  
Blogger Brad Evans said...

You're shrinking because you don't have many children and the children you do have you tend to lose once they get to college age and drift elsewhere.
Tell him that the ex-fundies and ex-catholics, many of whom are gay, are pretty much the only things keeping a lot of small city churches going. They may not be there in thirty years, but there will probably be another batch of ex-baptist gays in to replace them, although probably not in the same amounts.

9/27/2009 2:50 PM  
Blogger Brad Evans said...

"Rome" or Constantinople.
Or Moscow, whose clergy are among the most publicly anti-gay anywhere in the world.
Or are the Orthodox too far away to register on the Anglo-Saxon radar?

9/27/2009 2:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is nothing Godly or of the gospel about handing over human rights to the already over privileged.

I can make someone feel included without giving away my own human dignity, or yours. Let's not give unearned privilege to our frightened, power-driven conservative wing.

9/27/2009 6:31 PM  
Blogger IT said...

Anybody have any good recipes for figs? ;-)

9/27/2009 6:40 PM  
Blogger Paul (A.) said...

I for one don't care for such recipes, IT.

Brad, do note that The Episcopal Church is one denomination that does have attraction for the educated.

9/27/2009 6:54 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

I'm with you, Cheryl.

It's pretty funny to hear the bigots and oppressors begging for protection.

9/27/2009 7:54 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

IT, like Paul(A), I don't much care for figs. In fact, I don't give a fig what +Little and the Chicken Little in Chief have to say.

BTW, I am amused that newcomer Brad Evans seems to covet the title of Chicken-Little-in-Waiting. He's doing a fine job of channeling our Don+.

9/27/2009 8:02 PM  
Blogger Brad Evans said...

Does this mean you disagree?
Yes, the socio-economic class self-selection of a book we got in Sociology 101 "From Pentecostal to Episcopalian" seems stronger than ever. This seems a strange way of 'celebrating our rich diversity', but then it's not my church. But some groups do seem to be off the radar (at least emotionally and politically)for even educated mainline protestants.
Chicken-little-in waiting? Waiting for what? What's with the plus sign next to names?

9/27/2009 8:55 PM  
Blogger Fr. Daniel Weir said...

The problem I had with the conscience clause for Bishops who did not support the ordination of women was that some of them used it as an excuse to trump the consciences of everyone else in their Dioceses by refusing to allow congregations to call women priests or to recommend women for ordination.

9/30/2009 10:00 AM  
Blogger Lapinbizarre said...

And now I see that you have Sarah Hey nipping at you heels over at SF. Condolences.

9/30/2009 5:13 PM  
Blogger Lapinbizarre said...

Though I was interested, from Sarah Hey's links, to learn your profession. Long, long ago, I worked in Special Collections at Washington U.

9/30/2009 5:21 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Yes, Fr. Daniel Weir, that's ironic. Thanks for observing that.

9/30/2009 10:19 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Yep, Lapinbizarre... things must be truly boring when the StandFlabby folks decide to target me again. But the good news is that they are helping my site stats. The poor dears.

Small world to hear you used to work at Wash.U. Sp.Coll. I have worked closely with them on some projects. I wonder if we ever crossed paths.

9/30/2009 10:22 PM  
Blogger Lapinbizarre said...

Must have been way before your time, Lisa. You were probably not even into diapers, let alone out of them. I was department head there - my child prodigy days (!) - in the early/mid 70's.

10/01/2009 1:27 AM  
Blogger John I. said...

Sorry for this aside.

I believe Mr. Evans suggests the possible future option of conservative Anglicans with Constantinople, as well as Rome. (I'm sure I need not remind anyone of Rome's position on Anglican orders.)

The Eastern Orthodox are probably an even worse fit; if one is a Episcopalian, or for that matter an Anglican - of any stripe. As I've said elsewhere, all Orthodox Christian jurisdictions either here or abroad consider Anglican orders and sacraments to be a mirage, a delusion (the Russian word I believe is 'prelest').

Some more conservative Orthodox jurisdictions will not recognize non-Orthodox baptisms, even those of Roman Catholics. Those that do, will chrismate you. Chrismation is intended to make up for the "defects" in your 'heterodox' baptism. Forget about your confirmation. Forget about your ordination to orders. That's what you get when you pony up to the Orthodox 'One, True, Church' paradigm. Everything previous is, quote, one's 'former delusion'.

For all TEC's problems, one could get the impression that the Episcopal Church is the only one losing market share. Seems I've read where several large conservative Protestant groups are experiencing slippage as well. American Orthodox weekly attendance vs. official membership is equally appalling.

You all need to be aware that all is not 'love in the cottage' in Orthodoxy. [And yes, it's quite true, some of the most homophobic Christians anywhere are Russian Orthodox, - and Serbian, and Antiochian, and "OCA"/Orthodox Church in America etc.; though every level of the clergy (and laity) have well-appointed, gilded closets galore]. That's been an unpleasant surprise for the groups of former Episcopalians fleeing the so-called "gay menace" in TEC.

On other matters the "grass-is-greener" wandering Episcopalian or Anglican really needs to be aware of:

(fiscal and moral corruption of disturbing proportions)


Do people really want to give up a serious (if imperfect) clergy sexual abuse policy (TEC) for c.s.a. policies which in practice many Orthodox laity think are pathetic jokes?

From someone who's been there, the Orthodox Liturgy is seductive and the doctrine bracing, but the on-the-ground problems are very real, with sometimes tragic consequences.


10/02/2009 11:27 AM  
Blogger Brad Evans said...

Pace Frederica Matthews-Green and Frank Schaeffer, I don't, and never seriously, suggested Orthodoxy as an option.
My point was: why mention only the catholics so often as the only anti-gay, anti-women, the ones with "jewish 'issues'". Is it simply, or mosly, that the West is more important than everyone else and the Orthodox simply don't show up on the radar and never had the same emotional power as a boogyman for mainline protestants?
You've made the point for a lot of atheists/agnostics: religion is shrinking in most places in the developed world, although unevenly. The Southern Baptist convention has had its first three years of continuous market losses, for example. But these new facts only beg the question: If mainline religion is shrinking-and there's not much that anyone could do to stop this, much less reverse it, on what basis do mainline protestant churches claim influence, except through a lingering (and also shrinking)disproportionately high share of Senate seats and CEO positions?

10/02/2009 12:26 PM  
Blogger John I. said...

Thanks for the clarification, Brad. I believe you are not Episcopalian. What is your denomination, your frame of reference, if I may ask? That might help me understand your uh concern for/about the Episcopal Church.

Regardless, thank you for the opportunity to elaborate for Episcopalians on how the Orthodox view them - as heretics. Ecumenical kissy-face not withstanding.

John (who for the record is now in TEC)

10/02/2009 1:11 PM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

Dear Rev. Fox,

As I read Bishop Little's article he seems to being calling for an agrement that there is no opposition to conservatives' place, as I read it membership, in TEC. You seem to read this as saying there will be no oppositon to conservative positions. How can this be a reasonable reading when he is referencing the loss of people who have a position with which he disagrees, the ordination of women? Your post suggests that the conscience clause called for would require an agreement that conservatives existence in TEC not be oppossed. Do you really read his article and request for a conscience clause as precluding oppositon to particular ideas?

I only wish that Foxes and Chickens could just get along.

Kevin K.

10/02/2009 4:53 PM  
Blogger Brad Evans said...

Agnostic, presbyterian/Ucc family.
In the ecumenical journals one of my cousins used to show us, there were always articles on how mainline protestants were "becoming aware of the wisdom of the east" and such mystical stuff. There was never any mention of things that these churches had ever done wrong or were doing under communism.

10/02/2009 6:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bp. Little has women priests in his diocese and, in the same article Lisa refers to, describes himself "as a strong supporter of the ordination of women to all orders…"

This was news to me, and I live in his diocese (but worship in the next one south).

His position on LGBTs in the church doesn't make sense to me. Northern Indiana has always been defensive/reflexive about its High Churchiness and fondness for Rome; apparently their position has slowly evolved from "We're Catholic but we like the Prayer Book and married (male) priests" to "We're Catholic but we like the Prayer Book and married priests of either gender." Maybe in another century they'll get to "We're Catholic but we like the Prayer Book and married priests of any gender or sexual orientation." One can always hope.

I don't get how they can take two steps away from Rome but not three - four if you count the Prayer Book. If women are now fit matter, what difference does Gayness make?

Josh Indiana

10/03/2009 4:04 AM  
Blogger David said...

Could the man possibly be delusional?

Doesn't he realize Communion is implicitly relational, a living process?

Or perhaps he starting to worry there might be some consequences to the abuse, name-calling and misrepresentations the purity police has been indulging in.

Thanks Lisa for this post.


10/04/2009 6:34 PM  
Blogger Mark Geisler said...

Hi, Josh.

I served in the Diocese of Northern Indiana from 1996-2000. Frank Gray was bishop when I arrived. Ed Little and I overlapped very briefly.

Yes, the diocese historically has had a very strong Anglo-Catholic heritage; it was very much a part of what used to be called the "Biretta Belt."

Prior to the consecration of Frank Gray, women could not serve as priests in the diocese. But things have evolved over the past 20-25 years. Most, if not all, parishes and missions in the diocese have celebrations of the Eucharist that could be described as "broad," neither too high nor too low. Yes, there are people who still say the Rosary. The Angelus was said in at least one parish back when I was in NI.

But many faithful women have served as priests in NI for a number of years now, and will continue to do so.

I think NI has moderated quite a bit from the diocese that you remember. It always will be one of the more "conservative" dioceses. The conservatism I saw in my time there was of the healthy variety. Clergy always seemed to get along when I was there.

If you are happy and being fed by your current parish, stay put. I'm sure that God has endowed you with many gifts that you are offering for ministry to and from the parish. Still, I invite you to check out what's happening in NI.

10/06/2009 9:34 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

No one can force a bishop to ordain or license anyone, so if he chooses not to order honest lesbian/gay candidates, so be it. He need not enunciate a policy.

So I do not quite understand what he thinks he wants. If he is asking for some commitment to confirm conservative bishops he is looking the wrong way. It is the less than honest actions of Bp. Lawrence not liberal exclusion that will make the next conservative confirmation vote difficult. Mayhap the 'institute' should be exhorting its friends to try integrity.


10/07/2009 12:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not sure a "Don't ask, don't tell" policy for conservative bishops will do anyone any good

10/08/2009 7:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

are you really suggesting a "don't tell" policy for conservative bishops - and presumeably as "don't ask" policy for the resy of us?

10/08/2009 7:39 AM  
Blogger toujoursdan said...

Well the RCC, Orthodox and Southern Baptists are shrinking too and Mormons and Pentecostals have a notoriously high turnover rate which undercuts their growth. But you never hear much about that from the hand wringers.

Kicking the fags out and telling women they can't lead isn't going to save us from membership decline.
Membership decline affecting almost all streams of Christianity.

I think part of what drives this meme is the wish that we could find an easy solution to the secularizing of western society, but the declining influence of institutional Christianity is complicated and doesn't give itself to easy solutions.

I also think that WE want to control our destiny. WE want to determine our future. But the future of the institutional church as well as everything else is in God's hands.

10/09/2009 4:28 PM  
Blogger Brad Evans said...

Walking labyrinths, lighting candles, "intentional best praxis", none of this is going to do much good. The age profile is against it; too many of you are over 55, the birthrate is too low and the percentage of your own children that you keep is low and shrinking.
For those between 18 and 30, about a fourth are "none of the above".
You still haven't answered a basic question: on what basis do you make a claim to be heard and respected by the 87% of the population (a proportion that will only grow)that isn't Mainline Protestant?

10/10/2009 9:16 AM  
Blogger Brad Evans said...

Highest rate of losses-Jehovah's Witnesses: over 40% eventually leave.
Highest rates of retention-Hindus, including 'white' converts.
1. Why the animus against Benedict in Rome and not so much Bartholemew in Stanboul or Alexei II in Moscow?
2. How can 13% of the population (rapidly shrinking, at that)hope to influence the rest of society?

10/11/2009 11:05 AM  

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