How could such a thing happen to what seemed to be such a solid and venerable institution? It's probably more reasonable to ask, "How could it not happen?" When a tree is uprooted, it cannot live for long. A body cannot live without a head. When there is no legitimate authority to guide, chaos will take over. Even what seems to be beautiful, when separated from discipline, eventually grows ugly.
As you read the article, you might be tempted to shake your head in disbelief. Rather, give thanks to God that He has allowed us to preserve all that was true and beautiful and holy in Anglicanism by bringing it back to its birthplace; namely, Christ's Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church.
What Ails the Episcopalians
By Jay Akasie
Episcopalians from around the country gathered here this week for their church's 77th triennial General Convention, which ended Thursday. Although other Protestant denominations have national governing councils, the Episcopal Church's triennial gathering stands apart. For starters, it's one of the world's largest such legislative entities, with more than 1,000 members.
General Convention is also notable for its sheer ostentation and carnival atmosphere. For seven straight nights, lavish cocktail parties spilled into pricey steakhouses, where bishops could use their diocesan funds to order bottles of the finest wines.
During the day, legislators in the lower chamber, the House of Deputies, and the upper chamber, the House of Bishops, discussed such weighty topics as whether to develop funeral rites for dogs and cats, and whether to ratify resolutions condemning genetically modified foods. Both were approved by a vote, along with a resolution to "dismantle the effects of the doctrine of discovery," in effect an apology to Native Americans for exposing them to Christianity.
But the party may be over for the Episcopal Church, and so, probably, its experiment with democratic governance. Among the pieces of legislation that came before their convention was a resolution calling for a task force to study transforming the event into a unicameral—that is, a one-house—body. On Wednesday, a resolution to "re-imagine" the church's governing body passed unanimously.
Formally changing the structure of General Convention will most likely formalize the reality that many Episcopalians already know: a church in the grip of executive committees under the direct supervision of the church's secretive and authoritarian presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori. They now set the agenda and decide well in advance what kind of legislation comes before the two houses.
Bishop Schori is known for brazenly carrying a metropolitan cross during church processions. With its double horizontal bars, the metropolitan cross is a liturgical accouterment that's typically reserved for Old World bishops. And her reign as presiding bishop has been characterized by actions more akin to a potentate than a clergywoman watching over a flock.
In recent years she's sued breakaway, traditionalist dioceses which find the mother church increasingly radical. Church legislators have asked publicly how much the legal crusades have cost, to no avail. In the week before this summer's convention, Bishop Schori sent shock waves through the church by putting forth her own national budget without consulting the convention's budget committee—consisting partly of laymen—which until now has traditionally drafted the document.
Whatever its cost, the litigation against breakaway dioceses—generally, demanding that they return church buildings and other assets—has added to the national church's financial problems. Many dioceses are no longer willing or able to cough up money to support the national organization, and its bank accounts are running dry. On Monday, for example, the church announced that its headquarters at 815 2nd Avenue in midtown Manhattan—which includes a presiding bishop's full-floor penthouse with wraparound terrace—is up for sale.
In the past, General Convention, for all its excesses, at least gave ordinary laymen a sense that they had a democratic voice in governing the church. But many Episcopal leaders have chosen to focus more on secular politics than on religion over the years. Donald Hook, author of "The Plight of the Church Traditionalist: A Last Apology," estimates that church membership has declined to fewer than one million today from three million in 1970. This is another reason, along with financial woes, to save money with a slimmed-down legislature.
And yet there are important issues at stake if laymen are further squeezed out of what was once a transparent legislative process. A long-standing quest by laymen to celebrate the Eucharist—even taking on functions of ordained ministers to consecrate bread and wine for Holy Communion, which is a favorite cause of the church's left wing—would likely be snuffed out in a unicameral convention in which senior clergy held sway.
Also in jeopardy would be the ability of ordinary laymen to stop the rewriting, in blunt modern language and with politically correct intent, of the church's historic Book of Common Prayer. The revisionist bishops who would hold sway over a unicameral convention in the future haven't hid their desire to do away with all connections to Thomas Cranmer, who was appointed archbishop of Canterbury by Henry VIII. He was a classic figure in the English Reformation. But today the man and his prayer book are deemed too traditional by some church bishops.
For some, the writing on the wall is already clear. On Wednesday, the entire delegation from the diocese of South Carolina—among the very last of the traditionalist holdouts—stormed out of the convention.
Mr. Akasie, a journalist and Episcopalian, lives in New York City.