That is a harsh headline. But one of today's morning lessons shows Jesus going harsh. There's a time and a place.
"Pastoral Visitors" are a group of Anglican representatives, intended "to assist in healing and reconciliation given the current tensions in the Anglican Communion." You can read a detailed account at Episcopal Life Online.
I have been involved in "reconciliation process" in the church. It was used to undermine my leadership of a mission by keeping Christian values out of the discussion and empowering some people who could put extra money in diocesan coffers. "Process" keeps problems strung out until one side achieves its goals, which might not even be stated ("more money for the diocese" was not a stated goal in the process that was waged on me). "Process" is presented as an open approach in which all enter as equals, but there is always, always an agenda and a desired outcome.
Many Episcopal bishops have read Leadership Without Easy Answers by Harvard Professor Ronald Heifetz. Heifetz has been a "facilitator" at House of Bishops meetings, and at least one Bishop in my former diocese was strongly influenced by the book.
It is an excellent book - if you are a leader with a desired outcome to achieve. It is a manual for keeping some people at the negotiating table even when your intention is to overthrow their position. It is an interesting read for political leadership in a pluralistic world, but in a church where "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" is the standard, the effort to keep divergent "lords", faiths and even understandings of baptism at the same table seems manifestly counterproductive. Unless, of course, the intent is to methodically overthrow the one Lord, faith and baptism.
I am sure that the appointed Pastoral Visitors are capable people and some of their biographies show them to be exemplary Christians. But make no mistake - there is an agenda, and the Visitors themselves might not even be aware of it. The fact that the problem is not even stated - "current tensions"? - is a tip off that a values-free process is being laid on the church. At this table, a functional atheist is equal to a believer and, depending upon who drives the process, might actually have a stronger position.
In the print version of this month's Episcopal Life, there's a letter from Bishop Jon Bruno of Los Angeles. He writes, "We all can be reconciled while holding our own individual positions and yet living in the same community."
That sounds decent, right? Except that the full text of the letter reveals his meaning - he is justifying millions of dollars spent to sue other Christians who have attempted to leave the denomination over changes forced on them by "process." Reconciliation = coercion. Community = court order.
By the way, the Episcopal Church is spent 4.75 million dollars of money donated by God's people in order to sue other Christians and to impose Church sanctions on dissenting clergy over the last two years. Another 1.8 million is budget for the next couple of years. You can see it in their own numbers here. (Scroll down to page 3, line 57). This, while having "Pastoral Visitors" to engage in a "reconciliation process."
Still think "sham" is too harsh a word?