Monday, November 19, 2007

Can The Center Hold?

"Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear
the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere
anarchy is loosed upon the world..."
-William Butler Yeats, "The Second Coming"

This isn't a happy post. In fact, I deleted it last night because I hate offending people. But I've decided to re-post it after encouragement from some good friends of mine. I feel it needs to be said. Our silence is implicit acceptance of the unacceptable.

The Episcopal Church is facing a crisis.

We've tried to ignore it, we've tried to pretend it doesn't exist, but the truth is that our numbers are dwindling, and a bleak sense of apathy has settled over us as Bishops battle Primates over petty, meticulous details which the outside world couldn't care less about. We are so polarized along liberal/conservative lines, and our ideologies are increasingly defined along these false dichotomies. If you're liberal, you're automatically a revisionist. If you're orthodox, you're presumed conservative. Such oversimplified rhetoric is destructive and unhelpful.

At best, this inability to agree on anything has choked our growth to a standstill. At worst, it is tearing our church apart.

Of course, I'm no different than anyone else. Yes, I do happen to believe my progressive/orthodox stance is the "right" one, and I know this probably only contributes to the problem.

But I can't offer any solutions. I don't have any answers. And, it seems, neither does my church - only questions. The only advice we hear is to keep pretending that our "common prayer" has any semblance of integrity anymore, coming from priests and Bishops who think it's so cool that they have a blog and a MySpace account.

Always more questions.

If we are defined by a lack of definition, then we either cease to exist, or cease to be what we once were. Period.

I love the Church -I love this church - despite all its flaws and scars and violent history and yes - sins. The only way it gets better is if we make it better, and I want to see the Church still standing proclaiming Christ is Lord today, tomorrow, and for all the days to come. That's why I simply can't give up and say, "who cares?"

Right now, the question on my mind is can the center hold? Can we agree on something? Is our tent big enough for all opinions, no matter how diverse and complex?



Davis said...

Your illustration is all to the point. We've seen too many examples of "bare ruined choirs" these past 30 years. But I'd suggest my view is that we must continue to "hold" the center - which is vital parish ministry - the work of Jesus Christ - that we are commanded to do. No we can't completely ignore the crisis and we must reach out to those who differ from us, but we can't lose our focus by wasting too much time and effort on matters of polity- that would be turning back from the plow.

Padre Rob+ said...

Eric... just an Amen to what Davis wrote, and to say thank you for re-posting this. Excellent blog my friend! Be of good courage, dear one, this is Christ's Church... Christ will take care of us all.

JN1034 said...

Great post! *applause* Full agreement with Davis and Padre Rob. Yes, Eric, the center can hold ... pending how one defines "center." Seems like we live in a world where everyone freely (and carelessly) identifies the center as the self (or any other self-oriented need ... sorry Maslow, but your hierarchy forgot theistic interpersonal relationships). Perhaps the center holds only when the center embraces the periphery, and the periphery is considered vital to the center. That make sense? In other words, there is no "center" per se; every part is "the center" - no piece lesser or more distance. Is God "more" here than "there"? This is what's happening to TEC and the Anglican Communion (we opine). Parts are disengaging (one has run to join Rome) and only a few see an holistic remedy (or necessity) (thank you, Bishop Tutu). We (all Christians) must see each other as "center" and view none as periphery or far from the nucleus of the Church. Something about a house divided among itself cannot stand ...