Monday, March 28, 2005

Of the latest news

This is a post that some folks would tell me I shouldn't put up. It's probably not wise and it's probably not a career move and it's probably ill advised.

And I'm doing it anyway.

What follows are MY opinions. They do not represent the diocese which employs me or the congregation that is my home. This is mine and mine alone. If you need to be ticked off at someone it's me and me alone.

On Wednesday of last week my bishop took the hour and a half long drive down here to my little corner of the world. I knew what he was there to talk about I just didn't know how bad it was going to be. We found an empty office and sat down. There was no point in beating around the bush, he said. We're cutting your job by 20%, from 5 days a week to 4. The reason wasn't because I don't have enough to do (HA!) or because I haven't done a good job. The reason is budgetary. The bishop had to find some $85,000 dollars in savings to balance the budget. And a bunch of us saw our wages get cut. A friend of mine lost her job.

And I'm angry.

This is the part I probably shouldn't write. Why are we in such straits? Because some congregations and some individuals have chosen to withhold their contributions from the diocese. If you follow the Episcopal church you know why so I won't go into the details. Let me note that while I may not agree with their theological position I respect their right to it and the anger they feel about what has happened. But I have a problem with them playing financial games to "punish" people.

Episcopalians are defined at the diocesan level. We are gathered around a bishop. When we decide that our congregational needs/wants/desires/thoughts are more important than the diocesan ones we are rejecting a fundamental part of the classical/traditional Episcopal church. If you want to disagree with those diocesan thoughts please do. We have a variety of methods for doing that and a long history of encouraging just such discourse. It's the problem a lot of folks have with Anglicanism in general, the ability to hold two conflicting points of view in tension within the same body. But we seem to have left that behind for mutual "my way or the highway"s. The idea that traditional anglicanism is being defended by abandoning core understandings like the centrality of the diocesan structure is inexplicable to me. Anglicanism has been defined by our liturgy not our theology.

But when I set aside my anger (which I will grant you comes from the hurt my family suffers) I need to note this. My question is who are you punishing? Just in regards to my own little patch - If we continue down this path here's what I see happening in youth ministry:

Costs Go Up The amount of money that can be used to underwrite base costs for camps and Happening will decline. Those costs will rotate onto the families of our youth. It will make these events less inviting, and less accessible.

Programs Cut This isn't fear mongering. Programs will either become economically unfeasible and be eliminated or the programs themselves will suffer cuts to try and keep them afloat. We'll eliminate portions or reduce the scope of things like camp (maybe 3 days instead of 7). Maybe good will come of that but it's not sustainable in the long run. In the long run you don't see growth by consistently cutting investment.

Growth slows As fewer assets are available, and more of them are put into maintaining current programs all new ministry is left to shift for its own. We move away from mission towards maintenance.

There's a possibility that next year will see greater cuts in the position of the Youth Missioner or even possible elimination.

I don't want this to be a tirade against my traditional brothers and sisters. That's not my intent. But I will demand from them an answer to the question I asked above: Who's being punished?

Yeah I probably shouldn't have posted this.


anglicanxn said...

Those of us who do not wish to fund dioceses &/or "the national church" do so because we believe that the Episcopal Church made a decision with Gene Robinson that was wrong at a very basic level. That decision came either by ignoring Scripture or by using methods of interpretation that render Scripture entirely plastic in the hands of its interpreters --they can make it say whatever they want.
Furthermore, those who chose to approve of VGR are often also those who have changed the Gospel itself, from a message of God's transforming grace through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and him alone, to some kind of "gospel of affirmation" that requires no repentance and may not even require Jesus, except as some sort of guru.

We have only limited financial resources. We would rather put them into ministries that further the historic Gospel. We are answerable to God for the use of the resources he entrusted to us. We will not use them to fund work which, at best, ignores the historic Gospel in favor of a murky or even false "gospel."
We do not aim to punish anyone; we simply want to support biblical Christianity -- and the issue of homosexuality has become the issue that reveals the vast chasm of differing theologies that runs through the Episcopal Church. It is true that people such as yourself will be affected. But we cannot support those things that will lead people into hell.

I am a parish priest. I enjoy and respect my colleagues -- but some of them lead to me weep.

Da Youth Guy said...

Sadly that response amounts to little more than "Kill 'em all and let God sort them out" when it comes to ministry. It's a scorched earth policy and with all due respect I find very little in it that is of the historic Gospel.
Sweeping generalizations about "those who chose to approve..." offer little to the discussion. The election of Bishop Robinson was completely within the rule of law of ECUSA as even the conservative Primates have acknowledged. Convention merely affirmed the process, which is all they are supposed to do.
Finally I see no evidence that any level of thought went into the question of which ministries further the historic Gospel. What I do see are individual churches and people who have chosen to abscond with the authority to make decisions for the denomination.

Anonymous said...

Jay, I'm glad you posted this. I really am. When politics take precedent over Mission, the body as a whole suffers. And I guess some people just can't look beyond there own feelings on the issue, to see the destruction they are causing. It's really a sad day, not just in youth ministry in WNY, or even the diocese, or in the Episcopal Church, but in the body of Christ. "Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another." Hebrews 10 24-25. People who are witholding funds aren't just hurting the people responsible for the choices made at convention, but they are hurting themselves. By witholding funds, they are hurting the mission of the church, by not allowing them to spread the good news. By not reaching towards all people and pulling them into the loving embrace of Jesus Christ's open arms. If they continue in this path well... an Episcopal church won't exsist years down the road. Because they will see no growth and if youth and adults aren't being pulled in and engaged they will find other ways of having a relationship with Jesus Christ or they will go to other churches.

Our Mission is not to say what is right or wrong, God will decide that. Our Mission is not to hurt members of the body of Christ. But that's all they can seem to focus on. I think we all need to take a step back and look at the whole picture. Not just our hurt and our pain and our anger. It's not about us. But what is best for the whole body not our own selfish goals. I know we will be talking about this a lot. So I'll leave it at that.
~ Sammi

Anonymous said...

This post is in response to "anglicanxn". I really hope he/she comes back to read this.

I am a young student in the Church who will be going to Seminary in a few years and I am currently studying Religious Studies at a University. I also happen to be a deputy who will be voting on issues like this at the next Gen Convention (though not from Jay's Diocese). So I am very interested in this debate and the future of the Church here in USA and in the Communion.

Though I have not yet attended Seminary I do consider myself well read in Church history, New Testament, and Biblical Studies, compared to the average layperson.

My questions for you are...

What is the traditional interpretation of the Gospels? What is the traditional "historic Gospel" you speak of? When have we ever had a traditional historic Gospel?

I'm sure you have an answer for me. It probably has something to do with "God's transforming grace" as you stated, and I do not deny or belittle Grace in any way. Indeed it is one of my own central theologies.

But my point is, when has the Church even been completely united. Even Paul and James had their disagreements only two decades after Jesus' death. Now, 2000 years later it is no surprise that we still have different theologies and issues that divide us. We've settled circumcision, but not homosexuality. That is my point. The church has never been together theologically, from its very roots.

And I have never seen the "historic Gospel". We have four Gospels, all of which represent slightly different perspectives and theologies. There are FOUR historic (and canonical) Gospels, each making differing and sometimes conflicting theologies and accounts of Jesus' life. For example only one (John) claims the divinity of Jesus, so is John the "historic Gospel" you speak of? Jesus' divinity is important in Christian tradition, but I cannot say that that makes the Synoptic gospels any less important than John.

I think to really get to the heart of this matter, to get to the heart of Anglicanism, we need to get past saying that some people's interpretations and fake, that they are going to hell, and that we have gotten away from tradition. It is by tradition and the traditional government of ECUSA that we have gotten into this mess. It’s by scripture, tradition, reason, and experience that people on the other side of the fence from you have come to accept Gene and Gays in general in the church. But we are going to have to set all that aside and start dealing with the people instead of just the issue. To see this divide as being about Gene Robinson, or trying to de-humanize gays by saying that they are going to hell, is not really helping anything (besides only God knows who is going to Hell).

Lets get past the anger and frustration that we felt in July of '03 and take a deep breath, look around and see who is here. Who is at the table; a mixed crowd indeed, not unlike Jesus table which included sacarii, zealots, tax collectors, fisherman, and various sinners. Where are we going to go from here. What does are future look like. Can we make it there together? Lets pray that we can. But how do we get to the point were we can really start talking, talking about people, talking with people who we may not like or agree with, but who we are none the less bound to in the Body of Christ. When we start dealing with the people who we might disagree with, and treat them with dignity, listen to them, dialogue with them, and vow to respect them, then we will be able to move forward, with our budgets in balance, with our ministries growing, with God smiling down at us.

I agree with you that we might have gone about this whole this differently in 2003. Its probably not a good idea to consecrate someone to the Episcopate before you have the rites to bless their union. Maybe that should have been the churches first step, to bless Gene’s marriage. But we’d still be dealing with the same issues in the country and in the communion if that had happened, we both know that. We’d still have to confront these issues and deal with them as people sharing in the same communion, eating the same bread and drinking the same cup, because whether you like it or not we are doing that.

So I think it is a good step to deal with these issues now. Perhaps they will teach us something about ourselves and our ability to recognize two very different theologies, possibly even two different “historic Gospels” and say that both are right; that both sides came to their perspective through scripture, tradition, reason, and experience; and that both are recognized as part of the same Body of Christ.

anglicanxn said...

To Anonymous II

With Hooker, I take Scripture to be the primary authority in the Christian faith, followed by Reason and then by Tradition (Hooker had no "three-legged stool"). As the 39 Articles say, we must interpret SCripture by SCripture, and we cannot interpret any passage so that it contradicts other passages.

God has revealed himself and his dealings with humanity in the Scriptures, and we need all the Bible to understand the Gospel. That being said, the historic Gospel is found most clearly and succinctly in the book of Romans: humanity, created by God for God, rebelled against him, and can only be restored to a right relationship to God by God's action, which was found in Christ. By God's grace, we are restored to righteousness by the cross, where we died with Christ and hten rose with him. We appropriate our new life in Christ by faith in his blood (as Euch. Prayer I says).

I could go on and on, I suppose. Read CS Lewis' Mere Christianity, or Dorothy Sayers' Creed or Chaos. Read John Stott's Basic Christianity, or if you are up to a longer and more clearly theological work, read JI Packer's Knowing God. These are all Anglican writers.

It is more important to me to be Christian to be Episcopalian, and the day is probably not far off when ECUSA becomes an untenable place for me and for many who also believe what Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley believed.

Roger said...


My prayers are with you, WNY, and indeed the whole church a this difficult time. It is truly sad that we have developed a tendency to focus more on the issues that divide us than those that unite us.
For what it's worth, you have the support of your neighbor(s) to the south.

Roger said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Roger, what does unite us?