A Swinish Episcopacy
When will the Church remove from authority those determined to destroy it?
The latest statements and activities from the bishops of Springfield and San Joaquin show, again, the need for the Episcopal Church to put its house in order. It is high time the Church came to terms with the fact that it cannot maintain its integrity and offer effective mission in the world, while permitting some of its own bishops and clergy to operate to destroy her. This is illogical, destructive, and dangerous.
The activities and words of the bishops of Springfield and San Joaquin have long since passed from loyal dissent into outright hostility and hatred for the wider Episcopal Church. They work regularly to divide the Church from itself, and from the wider Communion. In their statements about the leadership of the Church and anyone else they disagree with, their words show none of the cardinal, much less heavenly, virtues. What they do reflect is the very worst of a partisan inspired politicking that has no place in our Church.
In a recent interview with The Chicago Tribune, Peter Beckwith, the bishop of Springfield, uses the word "prostitute" when discussing Presiding Bishop Katharine, even as he would have us believe it is not her, but her theology, that he calls the prostitute. He also arrogates to himself the authority and insight to determine which dioceses of the Church Springfield is in communion with, and which not. In the name of spreading the Good News, he refuses to confirm anyone and cancels the lay licenses, of anyone whom he suspects of some wrongdoing. In this case, of course, the wrongdoing is disagreeing with Beckwith.
John Schofield, bishop of San Joaquin, only recently cleared of abandoning the communion of the Church, is preparing to do just this. In a recent letter to his diocese, he reserves to himself the right and authority to remove property from the Church as he sees fit. He calls on his upcoming diocesan convention to alter its constitution to sever all ties to the Episcopal Church. To get there, he relies on lies and accusations.
Both of these men are nearing mandatory retirement age, a fact which may give the wider Church some hope that their destructive activities and words will be limited in their impact.
But limiting the destruction should not and must not be the goal. These men preach division, hatred, and a warped view of Christianity that in the name of abstractions or adherence to what they consider the faith, does spiritual violence to living people whose only goal is to follow and worship Christ.
The Episcopal Church has not once offered a rationale for why it is acceptable for bishops and other clergy to preach such hatred, lies and condemnation and to do such spiritual violence to the Church, much less to the souls who comrpise her. It has not once delivered a rationale stating why preachers of division must be given free reign to attack and undermine the Church from inside itself. It has not once made the case for why bishops, especially, must be the ones to undermine and attack the Church.
The Church must not continue to suborn this type of hatred and bile by turning a blind eye to it. It is a spiritual violence that has spread too far and that must be confronted and stopped. The Church must take clear action to remove such men from their positions. They are supposed to be symbols for, and real examples of, Christian unity. But what too many of them have become are real examples of a corrupt and swinish episcopacy.