Saturday, July 14, 2012

"Christians Practice Their Faith By Treating One Another Well"

This, as blogger Scott Gunn says, is the sort of headline we are unlikely to see.  Like "Dog Bites Man," it is the unexceptional norm.  We do well to remind ourselves of that, when it so often seems otherwise.

Gunn is writing in response to an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, about the recent General Convention of the (D&FMS of the) PECUSA.  The piece, by Jay Akasie, paints an extraordinarily unflattering picture of the convention.  The impression is conveyed, quite directly, of free-spending bishops paying for steaks and whiskey from the diocesan coffers; of a "secretive and authoritarian" presiding bishop who "brazenly" carries a style of cross to which she is not entitled and bankrupts the church with vindictive lawsuits; of a church in utter captivity to political correctness; and of plans afoot to give funerals to dogs, marginalize laypeople, rewrite the Prayer Book and generally drive out "traditionalists."

This is unflattering.  It is also familiar, to anybody who has ever picked up a copy of Forum Letter or Presbyterian Layman, or who has skimmed Virtue Online.  The details vary by denomination, but the general tone is consistent, and has not changed significantly in thirty years or more.  (Although Forum Letter is generally much better-written than this, or was in the years when we still contributed.)

In fact, Akasie's little screed is too familiar to be credible.  Like a third-rate concert pianist, it hits all the customary notes, but one can sense that there is no truth behind it.  And sure enough, at least if Gunn's response is to be believed, there is not.  The cross was carried by her two predecessors; the dogs won't really get funerals; and many dioceses have rules against buying liquor with their money.  Perhaps Akasie is not lying, exactly, so much as he is presenting the most jaundiced view imaginable of the facts, and the least charitable interpretation possible of the intentions of the people and the likely results of the votes.

Gunn was there, so read his post for a corrective.  It may also be helpful to scan the comments after Akasie's piece; several are by other attendees who express polite disagreement, and a few are by very angry sympathizers who express nothing at all politely.

For our part, we were simply mystified by one bit of speculation.  Akasie is unhappy about the push toward a unicameral assembly (for which we ourselves do not much care, by the way).  He is concerned that such an assembly would be dominated by leftist bishops, who despise Thomas Cranmer and seek to defame his memory.  And yet, at the same time, he writes of these dire consequences if laypeople "are further squeezed out of ... [the] legislative process":
A long-standing quest by laymen to celebrate the Eucharist—even taking on functions of ordained ministers to consecrate bread and wine for Holy Communion, which is a favorite cause of the church's left wing—would likely be snuffed out in a unicameral convention in which senior clergy held sway.
Huh?  So the leftist bishops are trying to squeeze out the leftist laypeople?  This sounds improbable.  And in any case, unlikely as lay presidency in the Episcopal Church may be, we would think that self-proclaimed traditionalists would make common cause in a heartbeat with any change of polity designed to prevent it.  (We certainly would.)

On the whole, Akasie's op-ed piece strikes us as poorly written and poorly thought out gibberish, factually dubious and intellectually dishonest.  We are disappointed, although not entirely surprised, that the Journal chose to publish it.

[UPDATE:  GetReligion's George Conger calls this "an egregiously bad article," and calls Akasie out on a lot of the details, including the graf above.  Conger wins the headline trophy, too, by adapting Churchill:  "Rum, Sodomy and the Cash."]

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