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Sunday, July 08, 2012

We're Worth $60,000!

The (D&FMS of the) PECUSA is meeting in its General Convention.  If our Facebook friendships are to be trusted, the sermons have been good, including that of Bishop Schori.  No word on her vestments.

Of particular interest to Egg readers may be Resolution A036, addressing relations with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  It reads:

Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 77th General Convention give thanks for the full communion agreement between The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), which celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2011; and be it further
Resolved, That the Church acknowledge that there exist areas of theological divergence that hinder the fullest degree of communion possible; and be it further
Resolved, That the Church commit itself to address those areas that hinder this relationship, including but not limited to the diaconate and lay presidency of the Eucharist; and be it further
Resolved, That the Church invite the ELCA to a new season of bilateral dialogue to discuss and address these matters; and be it further
Resolved, That the General Convention request the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget, and Finance to consider a budget allocation of $60,000 for the implementation of this resolution.

(An alternative text is a bit different, commending the work of the Lutheran-Episcopal Coordinating Committee and asking it to "enjoin the areas of of our common life where our ecclesiological practices differ, including lay presidency and our understanding of the role of deacons." We're not quite sure the authors know what "enjoin" means.*)

Well.  And here we thought that full communion was the "fullest degree of communion possible" between two distinct church bodies.

Needless to say, we are well aware that CCM, as finally approved, punted on a couple of questions, these among them.  And, as it happens, we side with our Episcopalian friends on the matter of lay presidency, something that in a rightly-ordered world would be recognized as a contradiction in terms.  As to "the" diaconate, well, they have two, transitional and vocational.  For our part, we have so many that we've lost count (AIMs, diaconal ministers, synodical deacons, parish deacons, whatever other kind of deacons some well-intentioned Lone Ranger wants to invent and "consecrate").  It seems evident that some clear discussion would help both teams, ours rather more.

Still, some Lutherans are likely to be nonplussed reading this.  "The authors," they will say, "have evidently never grasped the considerable price paid by the ELCA, then still a very new body, for its decision to join ranks with the Episcopal Church.  We paid a deeply personal price, as friendships old and new were broken at the highest levels of our church; we paid an institutional price, as the internal dispute laid the groundwork for a future schism; and we paid a theological price, as we traded a permanent exemption from subscription to the Augustana in exchange for a temporary exemption from the Ordinal."

Well, let them say that, if they like.  We certainly won't contradict anybody.  Others will murmur darkly about deck chairs on the Titanic, or the Ottoman Empire waving its arms at Austro-Hungary, circa 1914.  Again, no objection.

 For our part, though, we are simply tickled that the Episcopal Church thinks relations with the ELCA are worth $60,000.  We doubt that, at this point in the history of either ecumenism or stewardship, the feeling is reciprocated.

[UPDATE:  Here's a convention delegate's blog post describing ELCA PB Hanson's remarks, as well as the subsequent amendment and vote on the resolution.  It's all a bit vague, but we gather things could have been worse.]

* "To enjoin," which in modern English has become one more showy legalism, means either (1) to direct with authority, or command, as when the attendance of the faculty is enjoined by the trustees; or else it means (2) to prohibit or forbid.  We assume they are trying to express the latter sense, but -- as a matter of good usage -- enjoin requires a preposition, as in "the judge enjoined him from seeing his children."  (See, for example, Brian Garner's Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage.) Speaking of  "areas of common life," it would have been far better to have written "inhibit" or, best of all, "separate" or "disentangle."


Mark C. Christianson said...

I understand that lay presidency in the ELCA would be a stumbling block for at least some in the the Episcopal Church, just as it is for some within the ELCA, myself included. But, while I understand something of the differences in our churches' understanding thereon, the the issue with "the diaconate" is one I don't really understand. How do those differences hinder or fester in our relationship with one another?

We in the ELCA certainly have a mess with all those lay rosters we continue to maintain. At the very least we should have folded them all into one single lay roster, whether it's lists be called an AIM, a "diaconal minister," a deacon, or some such. I've never quite understood the Lutheran disagreeableness with having ordained deacons. But how does this create something that, in the original words of the resolution "hinder[s] this relationship"? Perhaps my being steeped in Lutheranism (and a Midwestern variety at that) is showing, but that bit has me flummoxed.

Oh, and I wonder if the word they wanted in the substitute wasn't, perhaps, "engage," as in engage discussion of these matters. Someone wanted to join in discussion but cast about for a more resolution sounding word and ended up with the wrong choice of "enjoin" instead of the correct word of "engage." Just a thought.

Father Anonymous said...

"Engage"makes more sense. My real guess is that somebody was overcome by the temptation, common when writing assembly resolutions, to fall back on faux-legalese.

As for the diaconate, there's plenty to talk about, but I don't know just what the authors have in mind. For better or worse -- I think worse -- the ELCA has rejected in principle the idea of a threefold ministry. While I fully support efforts to bring it in by a side door, that will really need to be done more subtly than this. And, in any case, it is an internal question.

All of which raises the question of what, were the ELCA to enter into the deck-chair business, or that of closing barn doors after the cow escapes, we would want to talk about in further ecumenical discussion with the PECUSA. Apart from the PB's taste in miters, nothing comes immediately to mind -- do readers have any ideas?

mark said...

Mmmm. Call for an encore of "Nearer My God to Thee" from the ship's band.

Pastor Joelle said...

Pretty sure I said something about deck chairs on one of the many occasions I went to the mike to speak AGAINST the agreement. But I lost and I got over it. Trying very hard not to say "TOLD YOU SO"....

Father Anonymous said...

Et tu, Pastor Joelle?

Honestly, like most of the the rest of the former LCA, I supported CCM then and I support its basic vision now. And I suspect that most Episcopalians do as well. My biggest complaint is that it hasn't amounted to much, as far as real cooperation goes -- largely, I suspect, because of the influential naysayers on both sides.

But my second biggest complaint is that the internal cost has been so high, at a time when we really needed to work on maintaining unity.

Pastor Joelle said...

See I don't care whether or not a bishop has to touch an ordinands head or not. Which is why I didn't go to the dark side when the agreement passed. But see the problem is the lack of caring. We don't believe that business about historic episcopate. They do. It was dishonest and disrespectful for us to pretend like we did. I'd have been for getting together without pretending.