Monday, May 19, 2008

12 Steps to Anglican Recovery

Recently, fellow blogger and friend Mark Harris responded to a comment I made at his blog, writing, "So in some settled future if you are in a different sort of church thingy and I am in this church thingy, how are we to walk in some ecumenical way that respects the great creative genius that is the Spirit active in the body of Christ." It was a very gracious thing to say, but there was one word that broke out of the pack that has stayed with me since.

The word is ecumenical. It has troubled me since I read it because it denotes a sense that we belong to two different denomination, not one denomination that is in a family crisis of division.

This is contrary to what the court found in Virginia - that were overwhelming evidence of division within the denomination. It was the only way to satisfy the statute - it had to be within the denomination and the evidence, when you read the decision, is overwhelming. We are not experiencing ecumenical division - this is a division within the same denomination, within the same family.

For whatever reason - the denial continues. We deal with the old adversaries, Fight and Flight. Perhaps it is the lawyers that are advising their clients to speak this way in public - to talk about ecumenicalism as though we were, as the term is used, "predominantly by and with reference to Christian denominations and Christian Churches separated by doctrine, history, and practice." This is certainly not the case in the divisions facing The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. We are not separated by history or practice - we are all of the same history (until 2003 at least) and we are of the same practice (we use the same Prayer Book) - but it is at the point of doctrine that we are dividing.

The other night I went to a party where they were showing the classic film sequel, The Empire Strikes Back. There is a scene in that film where Yoda sends Luke Skywalker into the cave where he battles with what he thinks is his enemy, only to discover that the major battle he must first win is with himself. This is an illustration of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. We are all going into the cave and when we battle what we think is some outside invader (you pick your choice what that outside invader is, the choices are many on both sides of the divide) our real battle is within ourselves, as a people, as a Church.

Our problem is not an ecumenical problem, it's a family problem and it will take a family solution - just as it did with that young Jedi apprentice. Until we can face up to the fact that the division is real, that it's not going away, that it's getting worse, that lawsuits and threats are not the answer, to quit the PR campaigns and pointing fingers and calling each other names and finally just grow up - our family feud will grow worse.

What do we do? We do what families do when they are in crisis. Do we really need to ask?

* Step 1 - We admit we are powerless over our division - that our church-wide relationships are unmanageable.
* Step 2 - We believe that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us and our Church to sanity.
* Step 3 - We decide to turn our wills and our lives over to the care of God.
* Step 4 - We make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves and our Church.
* Step 5 - We admit to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs as a Church
* Step 6 - We're entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
* Step 7 - We humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings (which means we admit that we have them)
* Step 8 - We make a list of all persons we harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
* Step 9 - We direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others
* Step 10 - We continue to take personal inventory and when we are wrong promptly admitted it.
* Step 11 - We seek through prayer and worship to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry that out.
* Step 12 - Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

What if all litigation and public relation trips and statements ceased and we took this road instead? It's not pointing the finger at someone else and say, "you do it, it's your fault." It means we all agree to do it, ourselves. This isn't a Communique or a Covenant. These are major steps toward repentance and - God willing - revival. Come, Holy Spirit.


Kevin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Step 3 should have the words, "as we understandd Him", on the end.

Step 3 reads, "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him."

It's key in the program to work with God as you yourself understand him, and not to try to work within another's understanding of God.

It seems that this key part of Step 3, our understanding of God, is where our hang up lies after all.

Kevin said...

BB, Thannk for this I think it's spot on!


This weekend was one that highlighted some real dysfunction in my family (estate business can really bring out a family's dysfunction, more than anything else, I actually wish we were fighting over money and property because then I'd understand it). In one sense I'd love to divorce them & I take a very conservative view on divorce, but I do have a little more empathy for those who feel stuck (these are blood relatives, so I'm stuck with them).

Then both of my parents are following a trend of dysfunction, much more on one side than the other. A revelation came to just how much this has impacted me emotionally and caused troubles outside the family but also what a poor witness we present for any Truth claim for Christ.

I think BB hit the nail squarely on the head with, "Our problem is not an ecumenical problem, it's a family problem and it will take a family solution."

Forgiveness is mandated, but reconciliation is very hard and takes a lot of effort from both parties when things have gone this far.

My family is not as divided as the Anglican Communion is ... or maybe we are in that it's a family holiday thing were we all show up but most of the time live independent lives never really having to interact and when there is interaction there often little jabs. In the bigger picture, events happen that finally brought a rupture. I think BB's adaptation of the 12 steps is humbling yet also scary, for all parties would need to be willing to move through them close to the same time else it'd not work.

Still leaves the question dangling in my mind of what true repentance and reconciliation means in numerous circumstances.


Anonymous said...

Poster number 2 (anonymous):
"Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him."

Isn't that exactly what has caused the estrangement in the first place?

God has told us who He is. There may be nuances in the understanding his identity, but the present rift is not about nuance. It is about fundamentals.


Ralinda said...

BB, on Friday night I listened to a man practically beg the PB to find a way to settle these disputes out of court and he isn't any kind of active "dissenter". She told him "we haven't found it" [a way to settle], conveniently ignoring the fact that she ordered the litigation. It's hard to listen to that.

I sent the newspaper reporter who covered the story several of your posts regarding what went on in VA, along with the link to her video deposition where she talked about it. Unfortunately at least one liberal TEC member lurks at the top of the editorial food chain at that paper.

As far as the 12 steps, doesn't the typical alcoholic have to hit rock bottom to start taking those steps? That doesn't bode well for it happening anytime soon.

BabyBlue said...

Yes, you are right. It means coming out of denial and admitting that we are powerless.


sam said...

Perhaps this seems nitpicky, but "ecumenical" means exactly "within the family." (Within the "household".) We use the term in different ways, though...

Despite the family divisions, and if we were to take "ecumenical" as something beyond that, there are real "ecumenical" issues that arise within the Anglican family: the ordination of women is a very significant one. Fort Worth, Quincy, etc. do not have quite the same relationship with all other dioceses; I know some Anglo-Catholic priests who in attending liturgies with ordained women must think of it as an "ecumenical" gesture because the "practice" has very much differed.

Charles said...

I wonder if Mark Harris was using "ecumenical" in the future tense -- that is, recognizing that a division is happening and that we will at some point be two separate organizations. ECUSA has had discussions with the Reformed Episcopal Church over the years. beginning, I think, some 50 or so years after the REC left ECUSA. What had begun as a "family fight" became in time an ecumenical discussion.

Pageantmaster said...

I hope that 'ecumenical' is not going to be redefined, as 'reconciliation' has been.

Anonymous said...

bb you are awesome! I always enjoy your take on things and feel you are a voice of reason. Keep up the good work and may God bless you this day and always.

An admirer

TLF+ said...

With all the pain and havoc we've already experienced, what sort of hellish bottom do we have to hit before starting the 12 steps?????