Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What Happened?

We've been waiting for someone - anybody - to ask but no one seems to want to (or they just don't care). We have some good answers ready that we'd love to roll by anyone who will listen. Last night I found myself trotting them out to some friends who probably really don't care but just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. That's ok, I think - they 're good friends. It will take more than my church musings to drive them away any time soon. But I figured I better stick to my own forum where I can pretty much say whatever I want and nobody has to read it if they don't want to...

So, you might ask, what happened to you guys and the CEC? And what's up with this Orthodox thing? Well, thanks for asking! While our departure from our home parish may have seemed a surprise to some, it had actually been brewing for some time. Without going into details, suffice it to say that leadership styles were clashing and we felt like it was time to stop stepping on toes. We traced the problems back to the CEC's use of Government by Consensus (GBC) and outlined a whole host of pitfalls intrinsic within the way it is utilized and regulated by the CEC. While GBC was our exit from one parish, we started looking around really hard at the CEC as a whole. We communicated with a lot of people and did a lot of research. As we were confirming our suspicions about GBC, we also came across some other startling (to us) information about the mission and vision of the ICCEC.

When we came into the CEC 10 years ago we came in as Catholics. Looking around at the Roman Catholic church and being part of the Charismatic Movement we just couldn't figure out how to marry the two and stay true to God's leading. We couldn't ever stop being Catholic but we just didn't know where to turn. Enter the CEC with its promise of convergence worship and its mission of "providing a bridge" to seeking evangelicals, charismatics and catholics from one stream of worship to another. We spent years in the CEC boasting that we were more catholic than the Catholics. Our favorite priest used to talk about CEC'ers as Happy Catholics. Our bishops were in deep conversation with Roman officials to legitimize the apostolic succession found in the CEC's line and to begin conversations toward co-communion with Rome. We proclaimed prophetic words about the CEC clergy being the Knights of Orthodoxy and all the right buzz words were there to make us feel comfortably Catholic in a new and exciting movement of God.

But something happened. Our bishops who had been pursuing these orthodox and Catholic threads left (somewhat due to the problems we tried to raise with GBC). Along with them went the Catholic rhetoric and vision. Suddenly we found ourselves surrounded by bishops touting the CEC as following an "Anglican ethos". These words are echoed throughout sermons, documents and bishops' writings. Anglican ethos....Anglican - Anglo - of England? Huh? What happened to being that uniquely Western convergence church? What happened to our apostolic roots that gave us a connection to the historic church - all the way back to the apostles? Since when did we align ourselves with a Protestant movement whose roots can be found in a European king's desire to divorce his wife?

Again and again we came across these words - Anglican ethos. Then some bishops began openly denying that the CEC was ever called to be a bridge. The language is changing, the rhetoric becoming suspiciously Anglicized and we realized we'd been snookered. Tad's seminary training was rife with Orthodox and Catholic literature. They read all the right books, took what they liked and abandoned the rest. They could read about it but were never allowed or encouraged to visit an Orthodox or Roman Catholic or even Assemblies of God church (if we're going to build a convergence church, why not look closely at each stream before jumping into it?!). They were flying by the seat of their pants doing buffet theology - picking what they liked, abandoning some and special ordering their own brand of exegesis to make it all fit together. And we bought it hook, line and sinker.

Tad's inquiries to his bishop regarding the Anglicizing of the CEC were never met with rebuttal. It seems the remaining crop of bishops are perfectly aligned with this "Anglican ethos". But we just are not. Tad felt to remain a priest in the CEC he would have to begin crossing his fingers behind his back half the time he taught whatever the party line was becoming. He could no longer in good conscience support or teach or preach or serve from a church whose government is intrinsically failed and whose theology is developing into one contrary to his own belief system (and contrary from what he believed he had vowed to teach, preach and serve).

So after a lot of prayer, research and pillow talk we made the decision to move on and start anew. Tad had to lay down his priesthood in the process but since he couldn't excercise it in good conscience in the CEC anyway it was a sacrifice he felt had to make. He may pick it back up again in the future -that's for God to decide - but for now he has returned to being Mr. Dad (and we're enjoying having him around - no doubt!).

So the question became where do we go now? For reasons he'll have to explain, Tad didn't want to journey back into the Roman Catholic church. We looked at the Polish National Catholic Church and even visited one in Baltimore city for a few weeks. The people were great, the theology workable but God just was not leading us there. I don't know what triggered it one day but I suddenly grabbed hold of Orthodoxy. Tad had been mentioning the Eastern Orthodox for years. His favorite theologian he encountered in seminary was Schmemman (I know I slaughtered that spelling!) and he had relied heavily upon his teachings when teaching his own series on the sacraments. I had read bits and pieces. He had referred me several times to Frederica Mathewes-Green's blog over the years. We followed Fr. Patrick Cardine's journey from the CEC into Orthodoxy. We dabbled in using icons for personal meditation. And one day all the pieces flew together in my mind and my spirit. I knew that was it. I told Tad so and he was...surprised. He didn't know I'd been listening, I guess. But here's the bottom line. If we left the CEC because of its failure to ground itself in the ancient, historic church, then we would be hypocrites to go anywhere from there *but* Orthodoxy (esp once you look past the revisionist history taught within the Roman Catholic church).

So here we are. Once again pilgrims on a new road but this time the road leads East. Lest anyone think I was wearing the pants in this decision, don't believe it for a minute. It just took me about 7 years to get to where my husband was leaning toward all along. He'd been waiting for me to see the light and now we are joyfully walking hand in hand together with our 10 little charges behind.

As a footnote, I thought I would add Tad's (slightly edited) response to this post. He was able to clarify some points from his pov that I think are valuable comments. In some cases, my response to his response is in italics.

A couple of points:
- The post seems to imply that the bishops left after we raised problems with GBC. We were latecomers to that game.
(Yeah, I didn't mean to imply that. Those guys were flagging problems long before we opened our eyes...)

- Some folks separate "Anglican" from "Church of England" by claiming Anglican really is the Church founded in Britain before Roman Catholic missionaries showed up and took over. Hence, the "Western Orthodox" claims. However, you are right -- the current Anglican churches have very little in common with the ancient British Christians.

- We weren't exactly snookered, per se. We were following people who had been snookered. I think our bishops (Zampino and Sly) were completely forthright with us. They seem to have been taken for a ride somewhere along the line, though.

- Nobody ever said we weren't allowed to visit other churches. It wasn't strongly encouraged, but it wasn't discouraged, either. In fact, the Seminary course on Orthodoxy used to require students to visit an Orthodox service. That requirement was dropped when I took the class. But, your greater point is valid -- the ICCEC borrowed theology and practice from other groups but never engaged them in order to learn from them.
(Well, I'm not sure how it would have gone over to ask to be relieved from a couple of Sunday morning's worth of obligations to explore other church practices either...)

- No bishop ever denied being Catholic. In fact, [our most recent] bishop claimed it rather strongly. However, his definition of the word seemed to be awfully fuzzy, so it wasn't even a point I could press. There was some disagreement with my points, but no real counterarguments were raised.

- You almost spelled "Schmemann" right!
(How 'bout that!)

- I don't think I ever wanted to be Orthodox. All the fasting and rules and prayers still scare me because I'm so bad at them. I wanted to be Orthodox-like, without all the hard stuff. The one justification I had was that I thought you would like the disciplines even less than I did. Now I don't have that excuse, so I have to walk down that road. At least I have your beautiful self by my side to keep me company.... ( I didn't say you wanted to be Orthodox, I just implied that you were intensely interested in it...)

- Ten little (and not so little) charges behind, and one in front! (Referring, of course, to Pickles in the oven - he's so clever sometimes!)


stlouismb said...

Great post. I must say, however, that as a Roman Catholic, I am not sure we can place blame on revisionism only in one camp. I am happy for your direction regardless of how we might disagree about the "non-essentials". :) (from the On our Way Home forum topic covering that topic to exhaustion)

Say Hi to your dh,

Mike Baldwin

Mairs said...

He he...I had to get that one in there Mike! As a cradle Lutheran, I heard my share of revisionist church history growing up! I guess my anti-Catholic slip is showing...I do love the CAtholic church, I do!