Monday, October 23, 2006

No Safe Place: Getting more and more lonely (in the Diocese of Dallas)

There’s a problem (among many) with staying in liberal denominations like the Presbyterian and Episcopal Churches – you find your orthodox allies become fewer and fewer and fewer. It could be subtle as when I moved years ago and decided I wasn’t going to join another Presbyterian Church, period. Or it could be very public, even finding its way to the newspapers, as when healthy congregations decide it’s no longer healthy to stay. But the result is the same – you have fewer allies standing with you in your denomination. Hopes of reform dwindle. And it becomes an even less safe place.

If anyone ever thought there was an orthodox safe place in the Episcopal Church, it would be the Diocese of Dallas. Heck, if I still lived in the diocese, it’s possible I might be a member of one of its parishes. There are no less than three that have had quite an influence on my Anglican journey – Christ Church Plano, St. Matthias Dallas, and St. David’s Denton.

Yes. You may have noticed that one has left, and another is probably leaving the diocese and the Episcopal Church.

And the Diocese of Dallas has therefore and suddenly become less safe.

Precipitating factors in orthodox Dallas Episcopalians becoming fewer are not just General Conventions ’03 and ’06, but now the Dallas diocean convention this past weekend. At Bishop Stanton’s urging, the convention decided to stay in the Episcopal Church for now. And many orthodox who have had enough are therefore leaving. And I suspect Christ Church Plano saw this coming, and that’s why they left.

The Catch 22, of course, is that if the time comes when the Bishop of Dallas decides it is indeed to time to leave TEC, he may not have the numbers at convention to do so because the waiting drove too many orthodox out. Waiting may cause the diocese to become trapped in an apostate denomination.

(By the way, I'm not necessarily saying the convention made the wrong decision, but staying and waiting is nevertheless problematic.)

I’m trying to get more details of the convention. But Christopher Johnson has a good summary up. He especially has the problem of staying and losing allies nailed:

The Network's position gets weaker with each passing month.

And the longer the right waits, the more people like me will throw up our hands, find other Christian traditions and get on with our lives. If and when the Network decides that the line has finally been crossed, it may find that there are few left in their pews who will care.

As he notes, the Diocese of Dallas and the rest of the Network does not have time on its side. The relentless attrition of the orthodox in TEC is a (the?) big reason for that.

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