Clos­ing time for the Epis­co­palians:

A Wash­ing­ton parish yields to iden­tity pol­i­tics

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Daniel Oliver Daniel Oliver is chair­man of the Ed­u­ca­tion and Re­search In­sti­tute and a di­rec­tor of Cit­i­zens for the Re­pub­lic. He is a de­scen­dent of Sa­muel Se­abury, the first Amer­i­can Epis­co­pal bishop.

The Epis­co­pal Church must take im­mor­tal­ity se­ri­ously. How else ex­plain the amaz­ing things it does that will cer­tainly has­ten its demise? Wash­ing­ton, D.C., has two prom­i­nent, his­toric An­glo-Catholic parishes, the Church of the As­cen­sion and St. Agnes, and St. Paul’s Parish, known col­lo­qui­ally as St. Paul’s K Street. An An­glo-Catholic parish is one that con­tin­ues to ac­cept much of the Ro­man Catholic faith and doc­trine as well as its litur­gi­cal form, while tend­ing, as Catholic the­olo­gian Ron­ald Knox con­ceded, to be bet­ter at litur­gi­cal drama.

But now one of Wash­ing­ton’s two An­glo-Catholic parishes has gone over to the dark side.

St. Paul’s K Street has de­cided to bless ho­mo­sex­ual mar­riages. A no­tice in a re­cent bul­letin read: “Flow­ers on the High Al­tar this Sun­day are given by Sa­muel Smith and Michael ‘Tricks” Molte (names changed) to the greater glory of Almighty God and in thanks­giv­ing for the Bless­ing of their Civil Mar­riage which will be cel­e­brated in this parish … to which all mem­bers of the parish are in­vited.”

Your ser­vant was un­able to at­tend the cer­e­mony due to a sub­se­quent en­gage­ment as well as his in­abil­ity to lay his hands quickly on a neu­tron bomb — one ben­e­fit of which would have been (in­ter alia, as the pros­e­cu­tor at the trial might have put it) to re­lieve the parish from the em­bar­rass­ment of per­form­ing a vain, in­sult­ing and frankly ridicu­lous act. Two men can’t en­ter the state of holy mat­ri­mony any more than two screw­drivers can.

The Epis­co­pal Church be­gan los­ing its way in the ’60s with the move to ditch Arch­bishop Thomas Cran­mer’s Book of Com­mon Prayer in fa­vor of a newspeak ver­sion, and it fell into the iden­tity pol­i­tics trap when it de­cided that women could be priests. There are still a few hold­out parishes, but they are un­der heavy as­sault.

Parish ac­tiv­ity ex­pands to spend all funds avail­able. Parishes are, there­fore, al­ways in dan­ger of not mak­ing their bud­gets. If there are two or three big donors who say they’ll go else­where if the parish doesn’t ac­cept women priests, what’s a poor rec­tor to do? Should he, like Sam­son, pull the tem­ple down on all heads? How does he ar­gue with the big pledgers who say that the women in town “feel” the parish is anti-woman be­cause it won’t al­low women priests? Most of the other Epis­co­pal churches al­low women priests — why not St. Phillinthename’s?

Here are two ar­gu­ments a rec­tor could try: “Look, I’ve stud­ied this for my whole life. I know more about the sub­stance of this is­sue than you do. Do you re­ally want to be out of step with the Catholic Church? If you ac­cept women priests, you can’t de­scribe your­self as any kind of Catholic, which you do ev­ery time you say that part of the Nicene Creed which reads: ‘I be­lieve one holy, Catholic, and Apos­tolic Church.’

“There are 1.2 bil­lion Catholics, 260 mil­lion Eastern Ortho­dox Chris­tians (give or take 50 mil­lion), 83 mil­lion Angli­cans, but only 3 mil­lion Epis­co­palians — about .02 per­cent of all Chris­tians. That’s the same per­cent­age of Amer­i­cans liv­ing in Ver­mont.

“What would you say about a Hil­ton Ho­tels vice pres­i­dent who told a civil en­gi­neer hired to de­sign a ho­tel in Ver­mont, ‘Don’t build in any mar­gin of safety. We don’t care what the prac­tice is in the rest of Amer­ica. We want to do this the Ver­mont way.’ You’d say, ‘He must be an Epis­co­palian.’ ”

As his sec­ond op­tion, a rec­tor un­der as­sault by the women of the town might re­spond:

“Ladies, what do the fol­low­ing peo­ple all have in com­mon? Dorothy Day, Faye Du­n­away, Su­san Hay­ward, Clare Boothe Luce, Patricia Neal, Kirsten Pow­ers, Edith Sitwell, Alice B. Tok­las, Ann Wid­de­combe, and Kather­ine, Duchess of Kent?

“They were all ac­com­plished women, prom­i­nent in their fields, who con­verted to Catholi­cism as adults. Would they have done that if the church were an­ti­woman? The church whose first saint was a woman?”

What the rec­tor of an Epis­co­pal Church has to re­al­ize is that if he ac­cepts women priests, the ho­mo­sex­ual lobby will soon be all over him to force him to bless ho­mo­sex­ual mar­riages.

But, some may ask, can’t ho­mo­sex­u­als be Chris­tians? Of course they can. And so can bank rob­bers. And adul­ter­ers. But they can’t put on their call­ing cards “Chris­tian bank rob­ber” or “Chris­tian adul­terer.” If those are their sins, they should try to deal with them, not try to nor­mal­ize them.

But it’s much eas­ier, of course, to be­come a parish­ioner of an An­glo-Catholic parish that has gone over to the dark side, of which there is now, un­for­tu­nately, one more in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., for a while, any­way — un­til clos­ing time.

What the rec­tor of an Epis­co­pal Church has to re­al­ize is that if he ac­cepts women priests, the ho­mo­sex­ual lobby will soon be all over him to force him to bless ho­mo­sex­ual mar­riages.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY GREG GROESCH

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