E.C.U.S.A. Embraces “Episcopaganism”
The Episcopal Church recently approved a ritual that would bless same-sex relationships at the denomination’s General Convention while simultaneously approving transgendered people to become clergy. I am not surprised by the backlash against the E.C.U.S.A.’s direction pushed by the church’s liberal establishment. As of 2009 the church hierarchy was opened to gays and lesbians and gay marriage was given a tacit thumbs up, respectfully, all in the name of inclusivity.
At face value this may sound nice, but in reality it really is not. Contrary to what some claim the internal strife is not a theological debate as much as it is about control of the church itself. I was an Episcopalian for over thirty years, my father was an Episcopal priest and a church conservative in which I was born and raised in religion if not the Episcopal Church itself. It is a fact that liberal Episcopalians have a hostility to church conservatives. They won’t openly say it, but their actions speak louder than their words.
The Episcopal Church”s enactment of these new policies is not out of any love for their fellow human beings but, rather, to rewrite the Bible and church doctrines to suit their own purposes while, at the same time, purge conservatives from the Anglican Communion. The one thing about church conservatives that angered liberals was their willingness to openly take liberals to task for their trying to have their cake and eat it too regarding the authority of the scripture which is the cornerstone of church doctrine.
Over time church liberals gradually took over the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion power structures. Once in charge, they made efforts to kick conservatives out. If church liberals, like Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Scori, were interested in being as inclusive as they claim they would not have taken the church on this new course. Inclusivity is only for church liberals and their causes. Church conservatives be damned. This is not to say conservative Episcopalians are entirely innocent and I am sure they have had their share of hostilities directed toward liberals too.
Philosophically speaking, religious liberals (and I counted myself as one of them) believe that if the Bible states something hateful (like condemning homosexuality), they down play it, ignore it or possibly even lie about scripture’s true intent. When the Bible says something that sounds good, they acknowledge it or refer to it as proof of God’s word.
While its a fact that religion is evil and the Bible false, it is the contradictory nature of their outlook religious liberals (no matter what religion they belong to) get into while theological conservatives do not. To religious conservatives (such as evangelicals and fundamentalists), scripture is scripture. The Bible means what it says and that is it.
Like author Sam Harris outlined in his book The End of Faith, religious liberals live in denial of the god they worship and the diety-inspired book they draw their wisdom from. Secular religionists cherry pick scripture and cite passages they like and ignore the ones they don’t not only to reinforce their bias but also so they don’t offend or scare anyone in hopes of attracting people to join their church. Harris further points out that both liberal and conservative denominations indirectly work hand-in-hand to bring people to embrace the violent, hateful nature of their god as outlined in their faith’s holy texts.
Once a liberal Christian or Muslim brings someone into the fold, the new inductee is a potential candidate to join a denomination that takes theology seriously. The religious literalist points out to the newcomer the true nature of their god citing or reciting parts of scripture from their religion’s holy book and then the new member will either become a convert or leave. Usually it is the former.
Both religious factions still cherry pick parts of the Bible they believe in. The only difference is that literalists are the true believers, are usually well-versed in scripture and can effectively articulate points to convince newcomers to their side since they are the most consistent in the debate over scripture. That’s why even in Islam fundamentalist Muslim groups (like the Salafis and Muslim Brotherhood) are the most influential. Not only do Islamic fundamentalists get financial support from countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran but, more importantly, they have scripture, doctrine, tradition, and history on their side.
In terms of the Episcopal Church, upon reading up on the changes made to church doctrines over the years, the church has taken a more pagan direction which I attribute, in large part, to the influence of (now retired) New Jersey Bishop Shelby Spong.
I am glad I became an atheist and left the church before all of this happened. Embracing reason was the most liberating moment of my life. However, had I remained a believer with all of this happening I probably would have become a Roman Catholic. I had pondered switching to the Catholic Church with the controversy resulting from the election of New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson in 2003. I think it was the infighting that went on at the time and God not intervening to stem the tide of controversy (despite my prayers asking him to do so) was the starting point at which I subconsciously began questioning the existence of God.
Ten years from now the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion will be a fraction of the size they are today similar to what happened with the Unitarian Universalist Church and what is happening with other liberal Protestant denominations. The reason for this isn’t just due to the church’s new, secular direction but (unlike their conservative competitors) they no longer take themselves seriously. None the less, I suppose the most reassuring thing about liberal Christianity’s demise is that it also signals the continued decline of the acceptance of religion especially since more people are becoming atheists than ever before and, fortunately, the public has become accepting of non-believers.
Goodbye and good riddance.