Thursday, July 10, 2008

Separation of Church and State: Or, Look What I Found

(Note: please welcome our friend Fred Schwartz to the "team" here at OTA. Here's his first official post - thanks Fred! )
With the advent of the Southern Cone now taking titular oversight of John David Schofield and with many of our former Episcopalians now safely in the arms of foreign dictators it behooves us to take a look at what one long term scenario may hold for the United States. Please keep in mind that as far as I can find, there is no other province set up quite like the province known as The Episcopal Church in the United States. Our constitution and canons, our organizational structure and our underlying philosophy are all based on the revolutionary war and our break from the Church of England.

In today's U.S., revolution, should there be one, will come from within. This is nothing new, many scholars, far more adept than I, have posited this. In fact, each four year cycle, as we are fond of saying, a mini-revolution happens. Yes, our election system is geared towards just that event. Let me hasten to add, revolution does not necessarily require violence of the type we see in other areas of the world. In fact Thomas Jefferson said, a little revolution every once in a while is a good thing.

Given all of that I now call your attention to the following statement:
“The United States has a long tradition of separating church from state, yet a powerful inclination to mix religion and politics. Throughout our nation's history, great political and social movements – from abolition to women's suffrage to civil rights to today's struggles over abortion and gay marriage – have drawn upon religious institutions for moral authority, inspirational leadership and organizational muscle. In recent years, religion has been woven more deeply into the fabric of partisan politics than ever before.” PEW Research Center

We have seen a rise of the religious right in politics most notably culminating with the election of President George W. Bush. His use of the religious right to gain “traction” for certain issues is not only not secret he publicly courts the most famous of those including Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell types in order to muster support in all its forms for all sorts of issues.

Now, before we get carried away, the first amendment allows for the free expression of religion and we all take advantage of that freedom. Some more than others. A notorious case of the "others" is when the Bush Administration went after All Saints Pasadena, CA for anti-Iraq war statements. The Los Angeles Times wrote an article in 2006 about the IRS investigation that was eventually dropped.

“Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), who unsuccessfully tried to launch a Government Accountability Office investigation into the IRS' probes of churches nationwide last year, called the summons "a very disturbing escalation" of the agency's scrutiny of All Saints.

"I don't want religious organizations to become arms of campaigns," he said. "But they should be able to talk about issues of war and peace without fear of losing tax-exempt status. If they can't, they'll have little to say from the pulpit." “

So, clearly, we protect our right for political dissent through our churches. The PEW Research Group does go on to say:

“The model of social engagement of the religious right is largely exhausted and discredited. But it is not the crackup of religious conservatism; it’s the maturation of religious conservatism. It’s not something new; it’s something old and noble – as old as abolition, as old as the Scriptures. And this change has the potential to raise new issues and build new alliances that will change the American political landscape.”

New alliances they say? New alliances like:

“We thank God for the courageous actions of those Primates and provinces who have offered orthodox oversight to churches under false leadership, especially in North and South America. The actions of these Primates have been a positive response to pastoral necessities and mission opportunities. We believe that such actions will continue to be necessary and we support them in offering help around the world. “ GAFCON Final Statement

We now have in our midst the Global South. The Church of Uganda controls several parishes in Virginia. The Church of Nigeria controls several more and our own inimitable Archbishop Gregory Venables controls parishes in California. We also know that the likes of Americans have fully endorsed this statement. John David Schofield, Bishop Iker, Bishop Duncan, “Bishop” Minns and many, many more. Some GAFCON attendees were disappointed that the statement did not include a comment/decree on pro-life or actually, anti-abortion statements (Apparently divorce and polygamy are still okay). While not to get mired in the specific political issues, clearly many attendees at GAFCON wanted a much more political statement but those ideas were held in check --- for the moment.

Sooooo, we now have bishops and Archbishops with no knowledge or background of the socio-political environment of the United States. Having had several discussions with a retired bishop from Uganda I am further alarmed at the lack of knowledge these folks possess of the way in which we do our ordinary business in the Uniteid States. (BTW, I can hardly wait for our folks who have crossed the line to get to their first convention only to discover that when these guys said they spoke for the 35 million people they represent they meant ONLY these guys speak for the 35 million).

In fact the GAFCON statement goes on to talk about the 1662 prayer book!

“We rejoice in our Anglican sacramental and liturgical heritage as an expression of the gospel, and we uphold the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer, to be translated and locally adapted for each culture.” GAFCON Statement

I know everyone can count but that prayer book pre-dates our own prayer book by a couple of years. So, what is the big deal? Well, should this continue and with the money and power they gain everyday my question is how long before we elect another George W. Bush (type), hold a constitutional convention and decide to re-write the first ten amendments? Think I am kidding; California is now facing a Constitutional amendment on LGBT marriage.

If you think this can’t happen in your hometown, think again!
ello guys - I'm taking a day off, or at least the morning. If there's something you would like to discuss, and aren't seeing anything out there, maybe this is a good place to toss it out. This place doesn't have a set format.