David Peek: Anglican Unheard

As an interested and concerned observer of the Anglican Communion’s recent goings on, the end result of the recent meeting of the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church in New Orleans crystallized an opinion I’ve held for quite some time. Regardless of the outcome, schism or no, the conservative, continuing, diehard (pick one) Anglicans (Episcopalians) at the heart of this battle have pretty much themselves to blame. They fought a mighty battle, yes, but for the most part they fought it with their foot in their mouth, one arm tied behind their back and their ears definitely nowhere near the ground.

Since Lambeth in 1998, but more so since 2003 when the world learned that Gene Robinson makes Mrs. Robinson look like a 19th century school marm, I have waited for the other shoe to drop. Well, the thud heard ’round Bourbon Street last week left nothing to the imagination. Ironically, too, this pronouncement came from New Orleans, where, how shall I say, sin is not difficult to find and is also extremely easy to overlook.

My viewpoint in this debate is from the pew, not the pulpit. I have waited patiently the past few years for my marching orders. I knew without being told that the cause was just. I gladly enlisted. Then I waited for word as to where I was going and how I was going to get there. I stood silently by, as good soldiers do, while my colonels and majors got organized. What happened, sad to say, was the generals never showed up.
I heard many voices, for sure; from places like Plano and Dar es Salaam and San Joaquin. Groups were formed and alliances were melded. But no single leader emerged. Not to overdo the military analogy but it’s akin to the captain who chastised the private for saluting him on the battlefield. Even though he’s in charge he doesn’t want to become THE target. As a result, those of us in the ranks has been left standing on the platform, waiting for a troop train that will never come.

Still I waited. Like my ancestors listening to the static-filled airwaves at the height of World War II, many of us huddled in our living rooms, talking to no one but each other. We gathered each Sunday morning for news. But more often than not the pulpit was silent. If, by chance, something was said it was along the lines of “stay the course.”

Occasionally, an out-of-town expert would arise during the Sunday school hour and mumble about this or that. At dinner that same afternoon, I would not be able to intelligently discuss a single thing he or she said. And, of course, the Bishop would drop by once a year. I strained to listen but Bishopspeak is a difficult language for anyone to understand. What is happening to my church, I wanted to know? Is the truth still the truth. Will our biblical standards be upheld? Speaking only for myself, all I ever got back was some vague, obscure and, at times, downright upside down thinking.

Historically, wars are won in the trenches. On the front lines. One foothold at a time. Shoulder to shoulder, with steady hands and thumping hearts. Wars are not won back at headquarters. Battles are planned there, of course, and charts are drawn, But without the foot soldier, in this case the men and the women in the pews, nothing ventured is nothing gained.

The current leaders of The Episcopal Church think, and some have even been heard to say, that those who are unhappy with the current direction of the church are but a fraction of the whole; a scruffy rabble eager for a fight.

They think that because they haven’t been allowed to hear from me, and many more like me. The affected bishops and clergy (our colonels and majors), the ones who attend meetings and draw battle plans, have, for all intents and purposes, excluded us; allowing us no forum other than a vitriolic blog response or an occasional letter like this.

Following a recent pity party, a friend reminded me that The Episcopal Church is based on the European model of doing things. Top down, not bottom up. Indeed the definition of Episcopal means just that. But at such a critical time as this to exclude and, it pains me to say, ignore the voices from the pews is a marketing plan destined for failure.

This past Sunday, the Sunday following the New Orleans meeting, my parish pulpit was once again without voice. To a great many parishioners, to endure this kind of silence is most hurtful.

Esoteric thinking has its place. But when it comes time to pay the church electric bill or put the money in the bank to pay for staff salaries, it’s the folks who sign the pledge cards year in and year out who are counted on the most. The same should apply when the very future of our church home is at stake.

The old saying, “the devil is in the details,” has never been more obvious nor has it ever seemed more ominous.

–Mr David Peek is an Episcopal layman and lives in Sumter, South Carolina


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), Sept07 HoB Meeting, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts

9 comments on “David Peek: Anglican Unheard

  1. palagious says:

    Nicely stated and applicable to so many places in TEC.

    I think SC is an interesting place to be an Episcopalian. From what I gather its predominantly orthodox in theology and practice. At the same time it is struggling to get its Bishop nominee recognized by the TEC. Furthermore, it promised (during the last round of consents) not to try secede from TEC, should the Bishop win approval. In other words, to be loyal to TEC. If I were to take the that at face value, and I do, then DioSC sees its future within a denominational structure in which a preponderance of laity and clergy have nothing in common. Interesting indeed, its no wonder that you and other like-minded South Carolinians are not consulted or informed. Either the “Generals & Colonels” don’t want you to know or their is no other plan being contemplated by the leadership other than to be loyal to the TEC, once the Bishop has his consents of course. BTW, I don’t feel that SC is unique in any discernible way from other remaining moderate/orthodox diocese within TEC. Hope is not a plan.

  2. Grandmother says:

    What a familiar song, I might even title it a “old favorite”.
    Couldn’t resist KSH, some of my friends and I have grown hoarse singing it..


  3. Nate says:

    part of me thinks that Peek is right-though, I disagree with the idea that there’s a mass of laity who are against the innovation, but simply aren’t asked. The innovation may quietly bother laity, but you have to really make them care, and make them feel an identification with others like them (who are being shouted down) for laity like Peek describes to take action.
    If traditionalists had a strong (er) leader, instead of a disconnected set of meetings and declarations, then folks may have sat up and taken notice. The fastest way for laity to have noticed & cared about the traditionalist point would be to [i]make [/i] the house bring presentments against the traditionalists. Unfortunately, the traditionalists were, like their opponents, way too collegial & process oriented, and as a result the majority of laity do not care.

  4. Reason and Revelation says:

    If there were no Dennis Canon and parishes had recognized legal control over their property, everything would have been different. Without that, TEC has had just enough control to divide and conquer through obfuscation and skillful politicking.

    The simple fact is that 80% or more of the average Sunday crowd has no idea a HOB meeting just happened, what the Dar Communique requires, or much of anything about it. Pretty incredible how it works.

  5. palagious says:

    The issue is leadership. As my mother pointed out to a DioVa Bishop on the “late, great unpleasantness” confronting the TEC…”You cant be a little pregnant”!

    I think that those who harbored, and even labored, for a TEC, in which all points of view could be accommodated have been confronted with several facts: failure of clergy to address/ acknowledge the issues confronting TEC (for whatever reason) confuse laity and have resulted in people voting with their feet; there will be no accommodation from the National Church or the liberal and predominant-wing of TEC with moderates. Now that they have political dominance within the TEC structure the PB will begin to act more and more like Hugo Chavez, they will “nationalize” everything. We are already starting to see this activity as the PB is announcing what will not be acceptable in the settlement of property from departing parishes. This strikes me a extra-cononical, and ironically an incursion into jealously-guarded diocene prerogatives, but if you feel like the HoB and Executive Committee will “rubber stamp” everything, then her word is as good as “law” in TEC.

    So, if you are a “moderate” remaining within TEC, its just a matter of time until the TEC gets around to you diocese/parish. Dithering is “passive” voting…

  6. kfry says:

    As a member of the ELCA, it is interesting to watch what is happening in the Anglican communion. I agree that the “numbers” ought to be of great concern to us in the mainline. Our decline is a sign that we are failing to share the good news with people in our context, in any kind of meaningful way. I believe God wants the church to grow! I refuse, however, to go into a tizzy because some members of the church – even a LOT of them – are upset about this or that issue WITHIN the church. Isn’t it possible, in fact, that the reason for our decline ISN”T our stance on homosexuality (or whatever the institutional, internal fight of the day is)…but, rather, because people “out there” can clearly see that THEY are not our top priority. All we care about is winning the little family spat we’re having. People on the “outside” are an afterthought. No wonder we’re not experiencing the blessing of growth! Jesus didn’t say, “Go, agree with each other about everything.” He said, “You will be my witnesses…unto the ends of the world.” I am very suspicious that all this bickering among Christians is nothing more than a way to avoid our true responsibility. Shame on all of us.

  7. Grandmother says:

    #3 said, “I disagree with the idea that there’s a mass of laity who are against the innovation, but simply aren’t asked”. How would anyone know? I’ve never seen a survey among the laity, or even the churches.

    So who knows, how many there are, how many truly understand that this is NOT a “Gay” issue?

    I guess, heaven only knows.

    Gloria in SC

  8. masternav says:

    There are two fronts on these issues – see if you recognize them in your parish/diocese: those that just want to conveniently worship God “without all this fuss and bother”, and the clerical “paternal” attitude of “you’re just laity, popular, common and vulgar – you have not the enlightenment that was so graciously bestowed upon the clergy through the rarified atmosphere of theologica and the revelation so common to our esteemed ilk – let me make these difficult decisions for you, and please make sure you fill out your pledge card properly” (a SLIGHT exaggeration!).

    There is a tone of such complete arrogance – even in the proclaimed humbleness – that simply belies the statements of apology, the conciliatory phrasing. Charlatanry that will not admit when caught in the act, is simply foolishness. The ship sinking with the captain and officers clinging forlornly to the gold in the hold while ordering the crew to bail as fast as they can. Problem is the crew is not completely stupid and can recognize when a bad captain doesn’t know his sextant from his arse, drives the ship on the rocks and proclaims “landfall” on a mid-ocean reef. Any self-respecting sailor will openly question the wisdom of staying on a ship being battered to pieces by stupidity. At that point any passing vessel will do for rescue – and the crew will look closely the next he ships out to see if the captain is worthy of his trust.

  9. Larry Morse says:

    But this IS an issue of homosexuality. I cannot understand who maintain it is not. Name me one thing in the US that is more important than sex.
    But it is also true that, as I said earlier, the laity must be involved because this is where consensus comes from, as someone said above.

    KFRY said that we treat the people outside as an afterthought, and I was so pleased to hear someone else say it. Mercy, I have said it again and again, we are not paying attention to what the real world thinks.

    Look , people, at the most recent Newsweek. I just asked Kendall to post it. There is a sidebar on the New Orleans meeting and it is clear that we all look like precious fools to the ourside world, pettinesses at war, Big Endians and Little Endians, but Lilliputians all. Because there is no leadership – what could be more obvious now –
    we look demoralized and impotent, reduced to talking and talking and talking. Where can we find a leader, and I mean a leader inside the US, for this is where the leader must come from? Larry