Sunday, September 23, 2007

Radical Notions

Folks as diverse as Father Jake and Kendall Harmon are inviting and suggesting "radical proposals" to break the stalemate in our church. (But then this morning Bishop Howe has offered one of his own, which looks a lot more like banishment than compromise.)

One commonality in many of these proposals (and even in the Tanzanian communiqué) is that the conservatives want TEC to stop all the litigation. I'd like to see it stop, too, so we could all spend the money on mission. But it would be pretty silly as a unilateral move. Why would we simply watch parishes walk away with church property? (See Bill Easter's essay that goes beyond the usual arguments.)

So here's my radical notion: Have TEC and the dioceses cease all current litigation and start no new litigation against parishes that have voted to leave, provided that the dissident majority in the parish allows the faithful Episcopal minority to continue to worship and meet in the building. Share all the vestments, prayer books, etc. Work out a schedule so that both groups could worship at reasonable times. Each vestry and would still meet in the church. Develop an equitable cost-sharing system, whereby there would be proportional contributions to the costs of maintenance, mortgage, utilities, and so on. Maybe they could even share the organist's services; Lord knows good ones are in short supply.

Maybe both congregations would grow. One might decline, while the other grows. The smaller might eventually be able to move out into a church building of its own. Or maybe – God willing! – in a few years, the two congregations would reunite. Who knows? Let the Gamaliel principle operate.

Wouldn't this be good stewardship in which both "sides" come out "winners"?

This doesn't address the bigger issues that are out there. And I'm sure there are more intricacies that would complicate this – which I'm overlooking. But this seems to be like a good-faith gesture that would be charitable.

What say you?


Blogger MadPriest said...

What a good idea.
And, of course, the social side of church could also be done together, which makes economical sense. After a while there could be some movement towards shared study, prayers etc. although this would have to be done very carefully and only after a certain level of mutual respect has been restored.
If it could be done based on the paradigm of a trial separation that would give both the possibility of either a full divorce or full reconciliation without the burden of loss of face by either party.

9/24/2007 3:57 AM  
Blogger Paul (A.) said...

But wouldn't that put the rector in the position of having to preach a "burn the fags" sermon at one service and "obey the canons" sermon at the next one on the same day? Or do we have to get in a different priest, with both having to share the rectory as well? We mustn't overlook these logistical difficulties. Some might even say that lawyers are in the long run simpler and cheaper. But I could be wrong, of course.

9/24/2007 9:39 AM  
Anonymous Crescens said...

On the other hand, two partnered gay priests could probably share the rectory quite happily.....but then one would have to be closeted, wouldn't s/he, to please the other bunch?

But of course, there's quite a bit of historical precedence.....

9/24/2007 12:31 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Yes, MadPriest! That was part of my thinking too. Why not have a joint Shrove Tuesday dinner or Good Friday service? Heck! We hold ecumenical services with whole other denominations. So why not between those sharing a common building?

Many parishes here let recovery groups like AA & NA use our facilities. A few even allow Jewish congregations [I bet that's not the correct term] use Episcopal facilities. So why not share the space with those who have been our friends within the Episcopal Church over the course of generations?

Thanks for taking my "radical notion" seriously, and deep thanks for flagging it at OCICBW!

9/24/2007 6:47 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

You're right, Paul (A.), and I should have said that. In most cases, the priest or vicar has been the fire-brand responsible for the separation. So I expect the two congregations would have to have separate priests. And each would be responsible for the priest's housing.

Crescens offers a delightfully economical alternative.

9/24/2007 6:50 PM  
Anonymous dave paisley said...

The secessionists are nothing but squatters once they have decided to leave the church, so after a reasonable period of time for them to find alternate meeting space they should just leave. The church canons are what they are (and always have been), so if they claim to be such perfect law abiding citizens (yes, even canon law) then they should, in all conscience, just go.

Your notion of "smaller congregation leaves" is just wrong.

As for sharing the social side - my experience of the secessionists is that they have done everything in their power to drive off the unwanted minority (in order to improve their majority stake) that those relationships are irreparably harmed. Might as well invite the Montagues and Capulets to the same party.

9/25/2007 3:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


This is one of the most sensible things I have read in a long time.

Mr. P.C.

9/25/2007 6:04 PM  

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