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 anti-woman? 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.
• 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.