At the recent Lambeth Conference I had a couple of conversations with so-called ‘conservative’ Americans, both amongst the press and the bishops. I was even able to give the Bishop of Springfield (no relation to ‘The Simpsons’) some pointers on the rules of cricket as we snatched five minutes in the bar to watch England being clinically defeated by South Africa.
Their depressing and urgent situation in The Episcopal Church becomes ever clearer over time, despite all of the efforts of their liberal church leaders to try and persuade the rest of the Anglican Communion that really we’re just like you. Close watchers of the US, and readers of this newspaper, will be more aware than most of the state of that Church. Heterodoxy is never punished, whereas orthodox impatience is the subject of lawsuits all over the country. And the amount of heterodoxy uttered in The Episcopal Church is truly astonishing. Even leaving aside the virtual atheism of Bishop Spong’s ‘Twelve Theses’, we’ve had bishops claim that the church can ‘re-write the Bible’, others make sweeping apologies for Christian mission to those of other faiths, while the Presiding Bishop views Jesus as just one way among many.
Furthermore, they’ve had scandals the likes of which would destroy the Church of England in the eyes of the world, with our much more effective national press conducting the funeral rites. They’ve had thrice-divorced bishops, a child-abusing bishop, as well as one who’s covered up sex abuse by his brother, a priest. There’s been a drug-dealing priest, others who’ve been exposed in a pornographic magazine for engaging in bizarre sex with Brazilians. This is truly only the tip of the iceberg. Any one or two of these cases would have been a national scandal in Britain, in the US it’s only a few column inches.With whole parishes and dioceses deserting the national Church amid such widespread heterodoxy and scandal, followed by a wave of litigation and squabbling over property, it’s impossible to see The Episcopal Church as anything other than a disaster area. If there ever was a Church under the judgment of God, it is this one.