Sunday, March 8, 2009

Day of Judgement

From today’s gospel in the ECUSA (RCL) lectionary:
[Jesus] rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man."

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? Mark 8:33b-37 (ESV)
This reading was the sermon theme for Rev. Edward McNeill, in his last day after nearly 10 years as rector of St. Edward’s Episcopal Church in the Diocese of El Camino Real (i.e. San Jose). Tomorrow, Fr. Ed becomes rector of St. James Anglican, the first Bay Area parish to leave ECUSA this decade.

As Fr. Ed noted in his sermon: “I didn’t pick the gospel: it’s in the lectionary. I did not pick this day: other people did.” As with any other resignation of a rector, at the end of the service the bishop’s representative (here Rev. Canon Brian Nordwick) took the keys to the parish. However, after the service Rev. Nordwick presented Rev. McNeill with the bishop’s letter of inhibition — which has been the TEC’s way of firing clergy who are quitting the TEC.

Following the gospel text, Fr. Ed’s theme was how we must focus our minds on the things of God, and preparing for our final judgement day. Jesus rebuked Peter because he cared more about his salvation than his feelings — or, as Fr. Ed said, “Love has teeth, and we all needed nipping once in a while.”

The surreal thing for me was that this traditional reading of scripture — and the willingness to take a stand against the errors of TEC — was delivered in the context of a very contemporary liturgy. The 12 person praise band included a drummer, keyboardist, 3 guitars, a bass and assorted singers and other instruments. Even the one traditional hymn (“It is well with my soul”) was almost unrecognizable. As the parish website proclaimed back in 2006
The structure is the same but the music is really contemporary. Now when some churches say they have contemporary music they mean music that was written in the 1960s. We like some of that music as well, but lets get real for a moment...those are golden oldies. When we say contemporary, we mean this year or even the past five years. We do occasionally sing old hymns and even golden oldies, but when we do its usually with a remix to bring it up to date. At the moment, our Music Ministry is enamored with "Jesus loves me" Punk Style! It rocks.
Although most of the praise songs were composed in this decade, they made an exception at the end. The postlude was a medley of the R&B hit “People Get Ready” with the reggae “One Love” (which has become an official hymn of the Anglican church of Jamaica).

There were about 125 people at the combined service this morning. From what I saw, about 70% of the parish is leaving with Fr. Ed to form St. James, including the majority of the vestry and 8 of the 11 regular band members (one is remaining, while the other two are paid musicians that neither parish probably can afford now). The St. Edwards majority might have hoped to keep their building, but January’s California Supreme Court ruling made that seem like a longshot. After the ruling, my sense is that they concluded that if they had to start from scratch, they might as well start sooner rather than later.

St. James will be under the supervision of Bishop Robert Duncan, head of the Anglican Communion Network and primate-apparent of the planned Anglican Church of North America. However, it is the only Schism II church in the Bay Area, and none are waiting in the wings. The only other ACN parish in the diocese (St. John’s Chapel) is in Monterey, and there are none in the Diocese of California which has had radical bishops for almost 50 years.

In Santa Clara County, there are four other (Schism I) Anglican churches in four separate Anglican jurisdictions: Christ the King South Bay, St. Luke’s Chapel (Los Altos Hills), St. Paul‘s Anglican Church (Los Altos) and St. Ann Chapel (Palo Alto). As an AMiA contemporary worship parish, CKC may join with St. James under the same bishop, but the other three parishes are 1928 BCP and solidly Anglo-Catholic. Elsewhere in the Bay Area, parishes are similarly fragmented between jurisdictions.

In the rest of California, the picture is somewhat clearer. In central California, the Diocese of San Joaquin (headed by Bp. Schofield) represents those Episcopalians who left TEC largely intact in 2007. In Southern California, the Association of Western Anglican Congregations is the proto-diocese for Schism II parishes in the Los Angeles and San Diego metropolitan regions. (Schism I parishes such as the APCK and TAC remain outside the group).

The faith and courage of the St. Edwards (now St. James) parishioners is undeniable. And with their belief in women’s ordination and contemporary liturgy, they will be at home with Bp. Duncan, the AMiA, and many of those in the new province.

However, I am uncertain about common cause between the Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic parishes in the Bay Area. Once they are done fighting TEC, their differences may be more obvious than their similarities.


Elephantschild said...

Once they are done fighting TEC, their differences may be more obvious than their similarities.

I've been praying for "you guys" about that very thing since I watched the birthing of the new province on Anglican TV back in Dec.

I hope that a way thru the differences can be found; my own good ship Missouri faces some of the same challenges.

9.West said...

The Catholics have the Pope, and even he now and then has to rein in the excesses of post-Vatican II enthusiasm.

Anglicans historically have gone for a weak and decentralized authority, although the TEC has invented the concept of a strong national church in the past decade and used it to wage scorched earth warfare against the traditionalists.

Ironically, ECUSA had weak ecclesiastical hierarchy because it was created at a time of rebellion against the strong governmental hierarchy.

My guess is that in reaction to today's circumstances, the ACNA will not have a strong enough hierarchy to compel us to stay together. It will be like a marriage in a state with very liberal no-fault divorce laws and lots of temptation for future splits.

Vicar Josh Osbun said...

9, could you email me, please? I need to speak with you. It has absolutely nothing to do with this post. This is just the best way I know of getting in touch with you.

josh dot osbun at gmail dot com