Richard Kew: Tired, Postmodern, and a Generally Depressing Convention

As a bishop friend said to me in a personal email from Anaheim a day or two ago, the trend seems to be for TEC to become a stand-alone American denomination rather than part of the worldwide church. Clearly, the presence and advice of the Archbishop of Canterbury for a few days meant little or nothing to the majority of the House of Deputies. As the same episcopal friend also said, those who are for inclusion do not seem to realize that for a large chunk of us that means exclusion — although we certainly have no desire to be excluded from catholic Christianity through the Communion.

This whole exercise is not about sexuality or sexual behavior, but is fundamentally about what we believe the Christian faith to mean and be about. When it comes down to it, it is about our attitude toward Jesus as God’s Son, the nature of the Trinity, divine revelation, Christian obedience, and holiness of life. The cavalier attitude of the Presiding Bishop to the creeds and their recitation is evidence that she considers the likes of me as pedantic has-beens rather than those who are on the cutting edge — but the cutting edge of what?

Yet the truth really is, as you look around the world, that those who are pushing this worn out postmodern melange and calling it Christian are increasingly the has-beens. They seem to have tied themselves to the coat tails of the last dribblings of the least attractive side of the Enlightenment, and it is entirely likely that they will disappear down the drain with them. I say this as an Episcopalian who lives in England and now functions as part of the church under great pressure.

The church in England is wrestling to adapt to an altogether more secular and hostile climate than exists in most of the USA, and what is interesting, I don’t see postmodern Christianity standing up very well in such an environment. It is a limp and aging rag.

Read it all.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Evangelism and Church Growth, General Convention, Parish Ministry

7 comments on “Richard Kew: Tired, Postmodern, and a Generally Depressing Convention

  1. John Wilkins says:

    Although he makes some good points, I think his use of the word “post-modern” is intellectually sloppy. “Post-modernism” can be an ideology, but it can also be a condition that describes the compression of time and space, exacerbated by the demands of capital and the fragmentation of various sorts of identity that gave people a sense of security. One can be theologically orthodox in a world that is “post modern.”

    If he is talking about truth: it is completely plausible that someone can believe in the objective reality of “truth” or “God” but still assert that the taxonomy of what makes the world “post-modern” (rapid pace of life, instant communication, fragmentation of identities) is empirically observable.

    He also makes the mistake that “orthodoxy” and church growth are the same. Actually, it is one of leadership. Orthodox leaders have stronger leadership abilities, and a better sense of identity and mission.

  2. stabill says:

    John W. (#1),

    I don’t think it’s so much that the orthodox are more able leaders as it is that their way of framing the Gospel may be easier to “sell”. It is not uncommon for an individual’s nuanced understanding to be perceived by others as ambivalent or weak even though it may well be closer to the truth because humans never are able to achieve complete and final understanding of God’s transcendent reality.

  3. montanan says:

    I think it’s that orthodox leaders have something to “sell”, or, more appropriately, “give away” which people not only want, but need. To understand all paths as leading to God is appealing like a candy bar is – but it doesn’t give much satisfaction or nourishment. It leads one away from the Church, from Jesus, to travel those other paths. And, truthfully, if I believed such ideas (as I once leaned toward doing) I would sleep in on Sundays, have a nice cuppa fair trade shade grown organic joe, read the paper and keep my 10% – giving part of it to those causes I thought worthy, but not because I believed the money not to be mine to start with.

    My priest is fond of quoting a seminary professor of his who said, “God loves you and has a horrible plan for your life.” Who’d choose to travel that path if it wasn’t “Truth”, as opposed to a “truth path”.

  4. John Wilkins says:

    More closely, high commitment churches will be stronger, at least in a set period of time. There are few liberal high-commitment churches.

    Montanan, I think there is a part of your statement that is correct: people enjoy having special knowledge. They like it when they are “in” and other people are “out.” It is comforting.

    A credible Christian position does not affirm a strong relativism. Most orthodox people affirm a strong relativism by insisting that the internal language of scripture is sufficient, and a different (hence, relative) sort of knowledge than science. Strong liberals can believe that moral rules are cross-cultural, outside of scripture or even culture. Weak liberals deny knowledge outside of one’s own “language game” (which is, ironically, what narrative theologians believe – you can only know truth from inside a rooted tradition, such as orthodox Christianity), but set all moralities as equal in themselves.

    I think that a credible position, as a follower of Jesus, is to take a non-judgmental, agnostic view of other faiths, judging mainly by their fruits. That is an attractive position, that is very unlike other religions.

    I do like the slogan offered by your priest. Obviously, the future -oriented path of the Christian path means, to some extent, a mitigation of the daily hedonism that our current culture offers. It may also mean an appreciation of our past. It does not mean, however, accepting everything as it is, nor dos it mean we can’t enjoy the pleasures God has given us in this life. For if it means our lives are not now enchanted and made more full by Jesus’ presence, the slogan makes no sense. And yes, there would be no reason to believe in the good faith if it did not mean that there were some joys promised to us. He said, “why worry?” He promised to wipe every tear. It is in the scriptures.

    Liberals distrust conservative churches for several reasons. They may not be good reasons. For most liberals, conservative churches are maligned as racist, nationalistic, bigoted and uneducated. For younger people, conservative Christians are homophobic, judgmental, self-righteous and hypocritical (see the book by the evangelical pollster Barna “UnChristian”). It’s a caricature, of course, just like the idea that liberals are gay loving abortionists who drive Volvos and love everything French.

    I do think following Jesus means making some hard decisions. But I do think those have more to do with money than sex. And yes, for most of us, examining our relationship to the market is a horrible idea, indeed. One that most conservative Christians seem ambivalent about.

  5. Ken Peck says:

    If what TEC teaches is the way, the truth and the life, one might as well sleep in on Sunday morning and give to the Democratic National Committee.

  6. Milton says:

    John Wilkins, has this GC changed your perspective some (much!) or are you doing an exercise in taking another POV? Honestly, I had to look twice at the name on your posts on this thread. And, pleasant shock, the letters spelled “John Wilkins” and didn’t change when I blinked a few times! Better be careful with that kind of talk or the TEC Tolerance Police may come knocking at your door! If they do, some of us conservatives will give you safe asylum, though. 🙂

  7. John Wilkins says:

    Thank you, Milton. I don’t think conservatives are wrong about everything. I think they are right, in general, about the risks when the church accommodates the culture. I also think they are right when they admonish the church for becoming a spiritual wing of the Democratic Party.

    I also agree that passing the legislation was a “snub.” I worry that we will become bad “victors” by insinuating our own victimization, constantly reminding people of past injustices in order to push through an agenda that is … imho … trivial to what the church truly needs: guidance and leadership to develop strong mission-oriented congregations.