While maintaining this blog (along with everything else,) I’ve had the chance lately to visit (and sometimes comment on) Titusonenine, the blog of the Canon Theologian of the Diocese of South Carolina, Kendall Harmon. This is a major Anglican blog, some would say the best. As with many things on the Web, encountering this has been an education.
The first education comes at the site’s masthead: it solemnly proclaims that the site is "the weblog of the Rev. Canon Dr. Kendall Harmon." This grandeloquent title reminds me of something I heard back in Palm Beach. Johnny Appleyard, whose father Robert was Rector at Bethesda and later Episcopal Bishop of Pittsburgh, used to say that "My father is a Canon and I’m a son of a gun!" He lived up to that; we wonder if Dr. Harmon’s own offspring aspire to do likewise.
But you have to give Dr. Harmon his due: he has a Drudgelike ability to ferret out stories of all kinds from the Web, which makes his blog one of the most informative and interesting blogs out there. Moreover he, as an employee and official of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, takes some risk in presenting the various stories about the Episcopal/Anglican world he does. (Such a risk I can appreciate, since I too am an employee and official in my own church.) This is true especially when his own diocese is caught between a church that can’t bring itself to allow the bishop of their choice to take his rightful place in Charleston and an AMiA which enthrones itself in one of the Diocese’s one-time (that still isn’t resolved) superior properties, All Saints Pawley’s Island.
But that leaves us with the other two constituents of his site. The first are his elves. With the new blog site they have had their hands full. But are they "man tall" as Tolkien’s description of Galadriel went?
The second are his commenters. In some ways Titusonenine wouldn’t be what it is without the commenters. Reading them (and occasionally interacting as well,) the greatest education has come.
For an orthodox blog, Harmon’s commenters are a diverse lot: liberal, conservative (I dislike his "reappraiser" and "reasserter" monikers,) Anglo-Catholic, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, you name it. All things considered they get along pretty well, although Harmon knows when to post something with no option for comment. But a few things must be said.
To start with, everyone "knows" that The Episcopal Church has an orthodox remnant. That wasn’t obvious to me thirty-five years ago when I left, or if it was it wasn’t meaningful. But South Florida was and is a pretty liberal place, and being at an Episcopal school, I didn’t see much future in a church that a) didn’t like to emphasise it had answers and b) threw the ones it had away when the chance presented itself. But for some others, especially those in the more conservative dioceses and parishes, this was not the case. The whole conflict which was detonated by Vickie Gene Robinson’s ordination in 2003 was a rude awakening for these people.
I’ve commented extensively that evangelicals in general were reluctant fighters in the culture wars. The same can be said for Episcopalians as well. Most people who join TEC are looking for a "nice" religion, but there isn’t much nice about the church these days. This is painful. For me, I feel like the people who got out of Castro’s Cuba first. They got out with their money, possessions, family, etc. As the 1960’s progressed, people who left Cuba got out with less and less, now ending up in Miami with barely the shirts on their back, as was the case with Elian Gonzales.
Now Episcopalians and Anglicans find themselves on the front lines of the culture wars, a war that’s made worse by the property disputes. Episcopalians don’t like to admit it, but the property–much of it historical–is a lot of the appeal of the church, and the liberals know that. Forcing people to leave property their ancestors paid for, alienating them from cemeteries same ancestors are buried in (I have a few of those,) with all of the other associations, is a hard business. Some in the conflict have adapted themselves to a "war footing," but many have not, and their voice can be heard on Titusonenine whereas in many places it cannot.
Even though Harmon has chosen to stay, some of those in the new Anglican churches in the U.S. are regulars there. What we are looking at is nothing short of the shape of things to come in general: a Paludavia like rescue of Americans by Third-world counterparts of like convictions. TEC is right to say that this is un-American, but it points out the central dilemma of American conservatism today: what do you do when the duly constituted authorities abandon the faith and ethic that made the church or country great? Today we have the spectacle of a very upper class church being governed in part by people from impoverished places, and hopefully that will help Anglicans here to see "how the other half lives" in a culture where the two halves grow further apart all the time.
One other observation that needs to be made is the level of theological discussion. This is fairly high, although Anglicans (and Orthodox) are too quick to recite formulae rather than get to the heart of an issue. One benefit I received from years in Roman Catholicism was the ability to penetrate past the formulas to first principles, although on its home turf the magisterium of the church (to say nothing of the level of discourse at the parish level) sometimes gets in the way of that. One would like to see this kind of erudition used, for example, in dialogue with Muslims. But it’s good to see it anywhere.
Kendall Harmon is to be commended for his work on Titusonenine. He has performed a service for a segment of Christianity that needs it. We trust that God will continue to bless him, his family, the elves, and, yes, his visitors, and that he may continue to be one “who holds doctrine that can be relied on as being in accordance with the accepted Teaching; so that he may be able to encourage others by sound teaching, as well as to refute our opponents.” Titus 1:9