Monday, January 7, 2008

Happy to be able to leave the diocese on any terms ...

I get a lot of Anglican newsletters and periodicals in the mail, and I admit that I sometimes do not read them all. One article I wish I'd read when it first appeared is one by Alicia Geromel, which appeared in the May, 2006 issue of FiFNA's FORWARD NOW in CHRIST publication.

Read it here in it's entirety, in PDF format: St. Bartholomew's celebrates.

This part hit me over the head, particularly:

This was the second time that St. Bartholomew’s of Swartz Creek, Michigan had paid for its building. The first time was in paying back the Barth Trust, administered by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, after they had actually built the original building (and, later, an addition). Then why did they have to buy their own building again? Thanks to Corporate Sole, a provision of Episcopal canon which goes back to 1973, an Episcopal congregation does not own its own property. No matter who buys and pays for it, the diocese where that church is located has the title.

One would think that the parishioners of St. Bartholomew’s would have been both angry and discouraged by the burden of having to pay for their building all over again. Not a bit of it! They were happy to be able to leave the diocese on any terms, and delighted to have a chance to retain their own property. After all, they had been told six years ago that if they remained Episcopalians, they could not withhold obedience to the doctrines and canons of the Episcopal Church, even if those doctrines or canons came into conflict with Scripture. Furthermore, they had been invited to leave by the Standing Committee of the diocese, which apparently thought such a threat would cow them into submission. On the contrary, they were only too happy to oblige.

I am reminded of the scene in the film Apocalypse Now, in which Colonel Kurtz recalls the courage and resolve of villagers who were willing to cut off the arm of every child in the village who had received an innoculation from U.S. troops. Kurtz recalls the incident:

There they were in a pile. A pile of little arms. And I remember... I... I... I cried. I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out. I didn't know what I wanted to do. And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it. I never want to forget. And then I realized... like I was shot... like I was shot with a diamond... a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought: My God... the genius of that. The genius. The will to do that. Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger than we.

But while the threat opposed by these villagers was imaginary (a harmless polio innoculation), the threat faced by the apostasy of The Episcopal church is very real, very virulent. And St. Bartholomew's and parishes (and dioceses!) like it are stronger than TEc. I am particularly glad of this because, having escaped the cesspool that is The Episcopal church, my family and I have made St. Bartholomew's Anglican Church our new parish home!

I only wish I had read this article when it appeared in my mailbox in May of 2006. I might have saved a year and a half of wandering in the TEc wilderness. Better yet would have been this: I visited St. Bart's for a single service, Good Friday of 2001. If only I had recognized then the spirit which Colonel Kurtz recognized in the villagers ... in the faces of the people and priest of St. Bartholomew's ... I could have avoided 6.5 years of fruitless wallowing in The Episcopal church. However, God is good, and I can say that I am happy to leave the Diocese of Michigan on any terms!