I find it strange that the Episcopal Church is up in a lather because Donald Trump marched with his entourage to St. John’s Church near the White House and held up a Bible. Why is it strange?
Reason I: it’s a Bible. Episcopalians usually leave the daily Bible reading (or any Bible reading) to the impecunious rednecks across the tracks. But I digress…
Reason II: they’ve had numerous opportunities to give this man–whom most of them despise–the boot. He attends St. John’s occasionally. When he’s in Palm Beach he goes to Bethesda, he married Melania there. I suggested that Michael Curry stand at the door of the latter and bar his entrance, if he wants to be a post-modern left-wing prophet, but he hasn’t. He’s marched around the White House but neither he nor his minions defended his church against the assault from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, nor did they bar his pre-inaugural service from the National Cathedral. They’ve had plenty of opportunities to make the Orange Man persona non grata in the church that “welcomes you,” but they’ve passed them up.
We shouldn’t expect otherwise. St. John’s is strategically located near the White House, which is why so many Presidents have visited there. As the impecunious rednecks would say, you go to bed with the dogs, you get up with fleas. They’ve positioned themselves at the centre of power and have no intention giving up their privilege now.
The Episcopal Church is an overwhelmingly white, highly educated and upper income institution (and now a geriatric one too.) Over a half century of its ministers such as Ian Mitchell and my prep school chaplain trying to motivate/shame the laity to social justice hasn’t changed that, neither has it substantially altered the demographics of the church in general. The church which wants to have the preferential option for the poor isn’t the preferential option of the poor. Any efforts it might make in that regard are patronising in every sense of the word.
And now the ACNA has rumbles to make the exact same mistake, starting as it has with very similar demographics and racial makeup. We have the efforts of one Greg Goebel in that regard. Now Goebel is an ex-Pentecostal, and if there’s one thing I’ve found out about Pentecostals, current and former, is that (like Evangelicals) they’re deeper into their own stuff than just about anyone else, and less able to see things from other viewpoints. I’m well aware of the failings of my Scots-Irish ancestors in the race relations field, but I’ve also experienced the failures of the Episcopal Church in trying to be something it cannot. The ACNA will experience the same compromise and decline TEC has if it goes down this road.
Karl Marx said that history repeats itself: the first time as a tragedy, the second as a farce. The Episcopal Church is a tragedy. Will the ACNA, once so full of promise, be the farce?