Thursday, November 4, 2010

A sad, sterile symbiosis

What hit me during discussions of the latest Episcopal/Anglican/Cosmic caucus or coalition or co-op or whatever or is that there is a symbiosis shaping the leadership, formal and informal, within The Episcopal Church (TEC).

The two organisms that coexist to lead are

A. The overwhelming majority of members who are elderly, who have endured life's labors and whose primary interests are comfort and familiar fellowship for their remaining years. They are likely the last generation we will experience that can leave substantial financial and material assets to others. They will give generously to keep the church going, as long as it is somewhat predictable (even in decline) at the local level. They will not engage what they perceive as distant church conflicts and they are prone to believe quixotic claims about "getting the young people back into church."

B. The LGBT (lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgendered & other) activists. This is a very small faction, numerically, and does not include all or maybe even most of the LGBT people in TEC (there are many in group "A", for example). The activists are taken with the drama of politics and public symbolism, church pageantry and rituals. They do not care about the overall well being of the church as long as they win symbolic battles for their own group insiders.

The symbiosis has several features:

1. The activists are destroyers, not builders, and as such cannot produce resources to carry on their work. Thus, the donations, buildings and other institutional infrastructure of the elderly members are essential for the activists' public political theatre to continue.

2. The elderly members want to hear that the church has a future, and the activists confidently, unashamedly and in spite of all contrary evidence claim that they will fill the church with young people.

3. The activists thrive on politics and win their victories in the distant venues (church conventions, boards and bureaucracies) that the elderly majority no longer wish to engage.

4. The elderly members don't get too exercised by the absurdities carried out by the activists in far off venues, so the activists are free to function as a ruling elite.

5. The activists tell the elderly members that "all is well" and the elderly members continue to send money.

6. The activists offer the hot attacks on any who question the direction of TEC, and the elderly majority offer cold attacks - "Why are those people making so much trouble? We just don't understand all the fuss!"

The product of this symbiosis is an amazing sterility. Neither the elderly majority nor the activists, as made clear by TEC's own internal reports and by common sense, are able to add to the church through reproduction, intergenerational transmission of faith or evangelism among the unchurched.

The symbiosis is a "one generation strategy", seeing to the pleasures and perks of the current members of TEC. It has no vision and certainly no plan for a missionary legacy to the church or the world.

So the final feature of the symbiosis is that both organisms support each other in a big lie about "doing the church's mission."


Kim said...

Yes, Fr Tim, that's exactly what I saw.

David Handy+ said...

Well, in biology a symbiotic relationship is often between a parasite and a host. In this case, the elderly in TEC are the unwitting hosts being used and abused by the political activists who are the parasites.

But when the elderly die off, it will become a case of all ticks, no dogs.

But the LGBT activists probably won't care much. They'll just go looking for a new host to exploit.

David Handy+ said...

We shouldn't be too hard on the elderly, either. In many cases, they've earned a well-deserved rest from their hard labors over the years. And many of them naturally have a prime interest in being buried someday out of the beloved church they did so much to build up.

They don't have the desire or energy that it would take to help launch a new church that is more faithful to Scripture and historic Anglicanism (or Lutheranism, etc.).

I don't blame them for staying on the sidelines.

But at the same time, it is the role of clergy as shepherds to guard the flock against ravenous wolves who only want to fleece the sheep and exploit the church for their own unworthy purposes.

I'm glad you're helping guard the flock, Tim.

TLF+ said...

David+, I agree. The older majority have served and struggled in all of life's demands, and it is normal and natural for them to look to the church for comfort.

I don't for a moment think of them as doing something intentionally bad or manipulative. But because they are the overwhelming majority in the church, it sets up the symbiosis.