Thursday, May 29, 2014

Bishop Robinson’s breakup with his partner was not a surprise—many people knew of their struggles for some years previously, with revisionist activists in TEC attempting to quell the gossip and hoping they stayed together until after the bishop retired.  Informed Episcopalians believed that the relationship between the two was in trouble during much of Bishop Robinson’s episcopacy, and speculated [probably correctly] that the only reason to maintain the relationship was because of how much worse it would look for a gay bishop whose narcissistic actions **in part** devastated the Episcopal Church to then up and separate from his male lover. Bishop Robinson succeeded at doing that—managing to scrape over the line of retirement before the separation was revealed publicly, although his retirement came with the speed of all TEC bishops these days.  Episcopal bishops simply are not lasting—the job’s not as fun as it once was, for obvious reasons.

Further, one cannot “divorce” if one never actually married—and Christians don’t accept legal redefinitions of lots of words, so why start now. No sacrament of marriage took place [two people of the same sex purporting to marry is merely tawdry display, not reality], and couples of both sexes break up all the time.
It’s hard enough for married people to stay together. Mere lovers can’t be expected to do better.

So I wasn’t in the group of conservative or traditional Episcopalians who tut-tutted over their “divorce” and acted as if something significant had happened in regards to their breakup. The fact that they broke up doesn’t make the behavior of our current revisionist activist leaders in TEC any worse or better over the past decade.  Had Robinson and his lover broken up mere moments after Robinson’s consecration, the damage would still have been done to the church, though certainly there would have been more Egg-On-Face at that point then there is now.

All of the above being said, and acknowledging that I met the news with a shrug and an inward “meh” . . . the occasion of Bishop Robinson’s breakup is a good time for Episcopalians to briefly reflect once more on the epic disaster that has been the past decade in The Episcopal Church. Many thousands of people left the church in the wake of the decision of General Convention to consecrate Bishop Robinson, completely annihilating hundreds of the smaller parishes, devastating many dioceses [some are not going to make it], causing four entire dioceses to pack up and leave TEC, and other dioceses to sell off camp and conference centers and cathedrals in order to make it financially, and plunging the international Anglican Communion into deep deep division due to our church’s leaders unwillingness to exercise church discipline in accordance with the New Testament’s clear teachings.

At the time of his national, formal, legal, official, public *approval as bishop* by our church’s highest body, the liberal activists in our church talked about how the cacophony of objection and “division” and consequences would be all over in a matter of months. And that our church would be flooded with new happy liberal inclusive gay people and other happy heterosexual liberals who yearned to be a part of a welcoming, kindly, inclusive church and we would “grow and thrive.”

I do wish I had a dime for every one of those statements.

It’s a decade later and the cacophony and division and consequences *have never died down* in part because, despite the departure of thousands of people, there are still many more thousands of people who remain who are either like *me* [“cacophony-city”] or like most conservative passive-aggressive Episcopalians—who have re-drawn their wills to direct money *away* from their church, or refuse to support their parishes financially, or have distanced and detached themselves from their diocese and church while remaining sullenly and firmly Episcopalian. As long as their are people who believe the Gospel within The Episcopal Church the division within this institution will continue.  The only way that The Episcopal Church will be unified around one gospel—the particular custom gospel constructed by our current leaders—is for those who believe the Gospel to all leave.  Then TEC will be unified at last—only much much tinier.
In case people think I’m needlessly engaging in histrionics when I talk about the radical auger-into-the-ground of The Episcopal Church, here are the domestic stats from 2002 [the year before Robinson was made bishop] and 2012 [the most recent year we have of church stats—but trust me, 2013 is a’comin’ and it will be typically awful].

2002—7,305 parishes/missions
2002—2,320,221 membership
2002—846,640 average Sunday attendance [the gold standard for church statistics]
2012—6667 parishes/missions
2012—1,894,181 membership
2012—640,142 average Sunday attendance

So yeh . . . staggering losses over a 10-year period.

The Diocese of New Hampshire is on its last legs too.

My favorite line from one article from early May over at Red State is this one:
“Robinson, broke new ground as an Episcopal priest. First, by openly living in a homosexual relationship and then by convincing the moribund Episcopal Church to abandon several millenia of Western Civilization and jettison two thousand years of Christian theology on the altar of his libido to consecrate him bishop.
This set off a division in the Episcopal church that is still raging to this day.”
The only thing that the liberal activists can now say in defense of those horrific, scorched-earth desolate numbers [and boy do they look a whole lot worse “on the ground” amongst individual parishes] is that “all the churches are declining” by which they mean “all of the mainline churches that have done the same thing we’ve done—gutted the Gospel and also, as a sideline, declared sinful behavior to be holy and blessed by God, are declining.” That’s true, of course, but the problem for my denomination is that we started out small, so losing 24% of your average Sunday attendance is Not A Good Thing.

I don’t know of an organization or company, in fact, that has survived such a stunning repudiation by its customer base. When you lose 24% of your customers because they loathe your product or are so old they died [some of them before they could leave], your company is . . . it’s . . . well, it’s Not Quite Dead, but it’s mighty close to Bloomin’ Demised.

Those were my thoughts on hearing of Gene Robinson’s breakup. Not a big deal . . . but the occasion of the approval of a bishop living in open and scandalous sexual sin by our highest church body . . . that was a very big deal.

Church history will note that decision as one of the, if not *the* key turning point in the demise of a historic mainline church.

I’m sure that Bishop Robinson’s desire for attention won’t be quite as well-fed in his new role as a circuit speaker about the Great Woundedness of breakups. But he can take comfort that he played a small part—he was a key player—in the death of a denomination.  That’s a comfort.

On a personal and side-note . . . it’s good to be back blogging!

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