Harriet Baber: Most Episcopalians just don’t care

Liberal clerics would work to win hearts and minds until victory was in sight, and then, by brave acts of civil disobedience, push the side over the top. As winners, they would be magnanimous: there would be hugs, healing, and reconciliation. A few benighted homophobes would, inevitably, skulk away, but they would soon die off. So the diplomacy, politicking, and negotiation continued, until the grand act of civil disobedience, the ordination of the Rt Revd Gene Robinson, which was to force the hand of the Church.

In their blind arrogance, imagining themselves intellectuals and moral heroes, liberal clerics overplayed their hand. They did not understand that they had no credibility and little power. By the end of the 20th century, educated upper-middle-class Americans, traditionally the Episcopal Church’s constituency, were as secular as their European counterparts, and the fastest-growing “religious group” in the US was the unchurched.

Few took priests seriously, and their campaign for gay rights made them look silly ”” fighting for the right of same-sex couples to have their relationships blessed, when few heterosexual couples regarded marriage as a matter of importance, and even fewer wanted church weddings.

Whatever happens regarding the status of the Episcopal Church within the Anglican Communion will have no impact on most Episcopalians, who have little interest in church affairs beyond their own parishes, and are not terribly concerned about the Church’s official views about sexuality or anything else.

Read it all.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts

18 comments on “Harriet Baber: Most Episcopalians just don’t care

  1. Timothy Fountain says:

    “The US Church’s obsesssion with gay rights has made it irrelevant, says Harriet Baber”
    I don’t think that’s what she said. I think she’s saying that the obsession with LGBT church entitlements is a symptom of a church stuck in the past (the high of the Civil Rights movement) and inattentive to current realities.
    I think that Norma Desmond of [i] Sunset Boulevard [/i] is the patron saint of TEC. I’m sure feeling alot like William Holden these days.

  2. AnglicanFirst says:

    These are the ‘pew sitters’ who are/will be upset about ‘all the fuss.’

  3. Adam 12 says:

    I have a dear Episcopal friend approaching her eighties who seems to apply the mantle of ‘holiness’ to any cleric who comes across with uncle-like friendliness. It is useless to tell her what ABC Rowan++ is really like (if anyone knows) because obviously he is so Godly because he is so kindly. She is British and old enough to remember the stand the Royal Family took against Edward VIII and the personal cost of that witness. But the church has changed with the times throughtout its history, she says as a defense, and cites fresh revelation of the Holy Spirit. And yes, if you muddy the waters with talk of God’s constancy you lose any avuncularity of your own and hence any credibility. I am sure there are many like her.

  4. Larry Morse says:

    Neertheless, what TEC is doing will have an effect on the broader culture. Is almost no one watching? I daresay, but those who are and who have rerad the papers have gotten a view of the homosexual agenda that will give them pause. The far left will of course not pause at all, but this is what will give the others pause, even the massively unchurched.
    Moreover, TEC’s hypocrisy will tar all Christianity with the same brush and especially will Anglicanism get besmirched. Nor is there any protection against this because TEC’s perfidy will only confirm what the Dawkinsonians have been saying all along.

  5. Irenaeus says:

    The Harriet Baber articles carried on T19 are always perceptive. This one is particularly incisive.

  6. VaAnglican says:

    The wonderful Harriet Baber I think is wrong on one point: this WILL have great effect on the average person in the pew, whether they wish it to or not. It’s not as if this innovation is the last. Next comes the stripping of the Prayer Book, and its replacement with something that further carries for the political agenda, the way the Trojan Horse Baptismal Covenant succeeded so for them. The things they do like about the church will be taken from them. They will suddenly find they are no longer in a true “house” of worship, with families. They will find they are called upon ever more frequently to give, as they must if their parish is to survive. They will have to witness gay nuptials, something they once thought, since it was happening only in urban churches, was of not moment to them. They will find, if they are a small town church, that they will lose their priest, because the diocese can’t afford one, and will have to make do with a priest-associate, probably some middle-aged lesbian who the bishop couldn’t find a parish to call. Their building will start to crumble–or else their endowment will, if they still have one–trying to pay for its maintenance, and the high heating bills a large church has. And then, that person in the pew–if still alive–will one day find their church is closing, and is in the real estate ads, soon to be bought up by the newest non-denominational congregation or perhaps the BoBo who thinks it would be neat to live in an old church. This is what the person in the pew has ahead of him or her in the months and years ahead.

  7. Just Passing By says:

    [b]Larry Morse[/b] [url=”#125496″]writes[/url]:

    [blockquote]Neertheless, what TEC is doing will have an effect on the broader culture.[/blockquote]

    I think Dr. Baber might be arguing the opposite, that TEC has simply [i]become[/i] the broader culture, though they are following and not leading, and hence mostly irrelevant.

    As an outsider, I have been trying for some years to understand just what is going on in both TEC and the Anglican world in general. I still can’t claim that I do, but I will say that one explanation that seems to fit is that the former PECUSA has now become TECCorp, another nonprofit whose primary goal is to perpetuate itself (and its hierarchy) by selling whatever [i]feelings[/i] are marketable in the current environment. Is it possible that church has become business, ministers managers, and the Presiding Bishop simply another CEO? It would be a very American sort of thing (and please note that I myself am very American).

    Read the second comment, by Dr. Baber, in [url=”http://theenlightenmentproject.blogspot.com/2007/09/associated-press-few-satisfied-in.html”]this post[/url] from her personal blog. Is that the response one should get from a priest in [i]anything[/i] that can be called a religion? Or is it more what one would expect from a marketing consultant? Is PB Schori actually defending a new and prophetic (if mistaken) theology, or just protecting the brand?

    I agree with Irenaeus (nr. 5), and recommend Dr. Baber’s own blog for interesting commentary that transcends the usual reasserter/reappraiser categories. She writes with intellectual integrity and a passion that can only come from someone who still cares, despite it all.

    Going back to ground now.



  8. Petra says:

    And, Adam 12, there are a lot not like your friend. I am in my 70’s, was part of the renewal years ago, saw the faltering of that movement, but still kept talking, warning, asking questions, demanding answers and finally leaving the church of my childhood, the Episcopal Church. Fortunately, I belong to a church that also left TEC, but I made it very clear after Nov. 2, 2003, that if they did not leave, I would change membership and go someplace else. Indeed, I was but one very small voice and the church was not going to rise or fall on what I said but I did have a voice and there are many in my age group that used the same small voice. I look at this age group who took the ultimate stand to leave with a great deal of pride as we realized that our once proud, beautiful denomination had let itself descend into apostasy…….the church that we had for decades, not just several years, but for decades wrapped our lives around. I can only imagine the pain of the orthodox clergy who have strived, yet failed in the face of overwhelming and clever political moves by the crowd that has permanently damaged the Anglican Communion.
    Perhaps, the biggest mistake was that the orthodox laity did not raise itself up with strong, nationwide leadership in an effort to reach the average pew sitter and to vociferously, loudly support its orthodox clergy throughout ECUSA, now TEC, rather than being “one small voice” among many other small voices.

  9. Cennydd says:

    Petra, you’ve said it all so well that I can’t think of anything to add! God bless you for it!

  10. Christopher Johnson says:

    Ms. Baber nailed it. Most of the Episcopalians I know can’t see beyond their parish walls.

  11. RoyIII says:

    She’s right.

  12. midwestnorwegian says:

    Tim – 5:36 AM???? Sunrise service this morning at CGS? 🙂

  13. Laocoon says:

    Good question, MWN. Tim, I hope you’re getting some sleep! 🙂

  14. RalphM says:

    #6 VA Anglican,
    It is amazing to learn that many Episcopalians will scream “liar” at your predictions. It is not that they are just philosophically opposed to what you believe. They truly envision that once the homophobes and bigots have left, the churches will swell with open-minded new people and the church will move forward into a grand rebirth.

    I don’t believe that the pew-sitters are disconnected. It’s just that most have been brought up to be proper and respectful “in church”. Most would be very uncomfortable challenging their clergy, and protest does not happen without leadership.

    Far too many priests have their eye fixed on the purple shirt, and you don’t get one in TEC for bucking the revisionist agenda in a revisionist diocese.

  15. Timothy Fountain says:

    LOL 12 & 13… our autistic kid woke up at 0300. So I was early to blogdom this day.

  16. Lee in Pasadena says:

    #14 “They truly envision that once the homophobes and bigots have left, the churches will swell with open-minded new people and the church will move forward into a grand rebirth.”

    That’s an interesting point, except that it grants “them” a much clearer notion of the future, and a much higher view of the church, than I think “they” have. The church they long for, they will get, I am afraid (except for the “swelling” part). And that will be a church without Jesus Christ; a pale reflection of another pale religious spectre, the Unitarian Church. What “they” want is ultimately a “church” with no creed, no clarity, nothing so particular as Christ or the Bible; they shall have what they shall have. Long, long ago, TEC sold its birthright for a bowl of red stew…

  17. stevenanderson says:

    Baber and Petra have it right. And our decades-old indifference allowed ECUSA radicals (never a large number) to take charge–everything based on “civil rights.” Women had the ‘civil right’ to be priests (then bishops), as if anyone has the ‘right’ to be God’s priest.
    The BCP was raped so that “people on the street’ could understand what it says (as if they are reading it in any case). Christ’s divinity is denied so as not to offend anybody out there by being “exclusive.”
    And now homosexuals have the ‘right’ not only to have sex together but also the ‘right’ to be priests and bishops and dare one say PB.
    The people in the pews hear nothing about it because the clergy don’t want them to hear about it. And as above, they don’t care. Much more important is whether the youth group has a fun retreat at some distant site or the “mission” to the homeless and immigrants grows, regardless that many are dangerous criminals in our midsts, or that the men’s group weekly breakfast is fun, or the worry whether there will be funds to send the rector on his next sabbatical trip to the south of France, etc etc etc.
    It once was so (or was it just our imaginations ?) that our clergy were among the best educated, most Christian leaders and that our bishops actually could claim to be successors of the apostles in their pastoral and godly work. Now the seminaries have lost their quality; their products are third rate, and we regularly see people wearing purple as they lie, cheat and steal–and toss aside Christian basics if they had any at ordination or consecration. There are exceptions, but they will soon be gone, replaced by those who will pretend anything to get elected by those who will pretend anything to be electors.
    So, ECUSA “leads” a battle that is long since over. And any prize that remains is not worth the effort. So it is sad that ECUSA’s leaders betray the historic Faith in order to control what no longer matters.

  18. Larry Morse says:

    I suspect that many episcopalians are paying no attention, although I still believe that TEC’s bumptiousness will wake them sooner of later. But I think they are inert in these matters for two reasons: First, most people live in circumscribed worlds and tend to their local affairs. If their little orbits are not jolted, they stay in them. Mind you, this is not a criticism; I do the same thing and it keeps us sane. Second, Episcopalians are like Roman Catholics. They have been trained to do as the priests tell them to do and they spend as little time as possible thinking independent thoughts. The practice is simple: The priest says it, and you do it or believe it. You have been taught from childhood to respond this way. To do otherwise is to open Pandora’s box, and Episcopalians are nor prone to do that sort of thing. If it ain’t busted, don’t fix it. LM