The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Century With and Without Mark Twain

Yesterday was the centennial of Mark Twain's death, with Halley's Comet in the sky. In the years since his death, his writings have been swept aside and minimized by critics from Van Wyck Brooks to Charles Neider (who, in fairness, loved Twain, but reduced him to an anecdotist). But they don't stay gone. Like Halley's Comet itself, Twain's words come back to us when we need them--when we have lost touch with our own inner sense, we turn to Twain's the War Prayer to right ourselves, or Huckleberry Finn, or the Gilded Age, or--well, you get my point.

A century since he died, and yet books from his hand continue to issue--soon, his Autobiography will at long last be published--just as Twain predicted. I wrote my senior thesis on the Autobiography, and tried to get a sense of it from the fragments published in various fora and formats over the years. I look forward to that thesis's coming obsolescence.

Twain was a genius on the platform--and, sadly, no trace remains. Here's his foremost interpreter, Hal Holbrook, with a taste.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Separation Anxiety

Now that several of the Global South churches have declared themselves out of communion with TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada, there is no hope of avoiding schism. It's here.

In some ways, this may not be the worst result--the increasing vitriol which I have previously noted suggests that a little space between us may be just what is necessary. But, after much thought, I'd like to point something out to all concerned, including me:

Grow up, can we please?

People, there are three possibilities, here, if you believe, as I do, that the Holy Spirit makes things clear over time:

1. TEC is right on the presenting issues, and in one generation, maybe two, most of those in ACNA contingent will realize this, repent of their stubbornness, and communion will be restored;

2. ACNA and Co. are right, in one generation, maybe two, most of those in TEC will see this, and will repent and return to tradition, and TEC will wither, but Anglicanism will survive in a new form;

3. We're both wrong, at least in part. A third thing we can't predict will rise out of the ashes.

Obviously, anyone who's read this page before know my guess is No. 1. But--and here's a phrase I'd like to see more often--I could be wrong. So what are my duties in this time of division and discord?

First and foremost, not to increase the hostility and complicate the work of the Holy Spirit.

That is why I've taken a hiatus from TEC/Communion blogging, and why this post is not about justifying my beliefs. The moment of separation is here; my opinion on the root causes is not relevant now. What is relevant is trying to make the separation as little traumatic as possible for both sides. We all need to show some faith in God to make His will known.

By squabbling like would-be action heroes, many in the Anglican blogosphere are increasing the anxiety. And Church leaders too. We need patience and firmness both. That is why I believe the Diocese of Central New York erred in selling the Church of the Good Shepherd. I hold no brief for Fr. Kennedy, but I would have rented him the church, at cost of maintenance, on the condition that he agree to make spiritual provision for faithful TEC members. The need to vindicate title was real; the sale savors of spite, even if there is a fair reason for it of which I am not aware.

I make this point against my own "side" because it's critical in my opinion that we face up to the fact that no party in a drawn-out, emotionally fraught engagement will always act from its best self. We have plenty of guilt on our side of the street.

What to do about ongoing crises? First, we vindicate the principle of legal ownership under the trusts established at common law and codified under the Dennis Canon. However, beyond that point of law, I would suggest the fullowing approach, which I as I suggested in November, 2007:
As to personnel and property, I think we should take a nuanced position:

1. Any clergy who does not apply to be released or transfer from the Episcopal Church should be deposed. Any clergy who applies, in proper form, for release or transfer should be granted it.

2. Any parish that seeks to leave as a unit should be denied such permission--people may leave, the parish remains. However, where there is such a supermajority of departing members and clergy, that the parish structure is temporarily not viable, the departing members and clergy should be encouraged to negotiate a lend-lease arrangement with the diocese such that services may continue during negotiations for both departing members and remaining members while negotiations go on over transition or sale of the property. (In other words, if the option is the historic church becomes a night club, sell it to the [departing members--I regret my original word choice of schismatics]--better them than the Limelight; use the proceds to build smaller churches for our continuing members).

3. Restrict litigation to those parishes where the remaining Episcopal membership is viable, or no such negotiations can be pursued due to the "reasserters" refusal to bargain in good faith. Offer mediation before suing.

4. Depose any bishops who purport to take a diocese out of TEC. Period. If they seek release or transfer, be gracious. Treat parishes within their bishoprics on a case-by-case basis--loyal parishoners must be protected, and supported. It is not sufficient to tell them to saddle their own horses. (Pace Bonnie Anderson). TEC must make sure that every loyal congregant is reached out to and provided with a place of worship.

5. If these steps (especially 4) require us to reduce our cooperative efforts internationally, that is regrettable, but we should do so. But we maintain our anti-poverty programs as a top priority; if we cut funding, cut Lambeth and other ecclesiastical subsidiaries first. We cut any support to church structure in provinces invading us. We send missionaries to such locations to sustain our brothers and sisters in such nations.

6. No more "fasting" from Anglican bodies' meetings. We show up, mindful of C.P. Snow's dictum, "Never be too proud to be present." We advocate for our members, and our brothers and sisters worldwide. If they expel us, so be it. We ally with Canada, Wales, anyone else who does not walk from us. But we do not sit passive while other provinces presume to sit in judgment of us.

7. Finally, we remain open--always!--to reconciliation.
One revision to point 2: I'd favor renting over sale, now, and shared space for both congregations whenever possible, to keep lines of communication open. Again, sometimes hostility would be too intense for this to be viable, but the goal is to remind ourselves and our critics that we are all followers of Jesus Christ, and to make room for the Holy Spirit to work.

[Edited and revised]

Monday, April 5, 2010

Palate Cleanser

There's still more horrors out of the Vatican today, but I need a break. Something wholesome. Like Nero:

What, you you were expecting someone else?