Thursday, July 12, 2012

"The End of the Mainline."

The Episcopal Church's General Convention, meeting in Indianapolis, has just ended.  As I reflected on this Convention, I was reminded of an article from the American Spectator about the death of Bishop Walter Righter in September 2011.   The article's overview of events surrounding the controversial Bishop Righter provides the background for much that happened in Indianapolis in the past ten days.   It is entitled, appropriately, "The End of the Mainline."

Bishop Walter Righter... set off a firestorm of controversy when he ordained an openly non-celibate homosexual man to the Episcopal diaconate in 1990.  His heresy trial concluded in 1996 with a 7-1 dismissal of charges by a panel of fellow bishops.  The episode further stoked disputes over scriptural authority and sexual ethics within America's once historically most prestigious Mainline denomination.

"I look around the Episcopal Church today where there are no impediments to the ordination of gay or lesbian members.…  None of that would have happened without Bishop Righter's leadership," pronounced a prominent pro-gay rights California priest [Susan Russell] in a Righter obituary.  "When the history of the movement for the full inclusion of the LGBT community in our church is written, there is no doubt that Walter Righter will be one of its great heroes."
Like many liberal prelates who fancy their supposed boldness in challenging Christian orthodoxy even as they embrace a far more suffocating secular liberal orthodoxy, Righter was proud of his "heresy" charges.  He reportedly introduced himself at the trial as "Walter Righter, the heretic," while his beaming wife's name tag unabashedly declared "heretic's wife."

The complaint against Righter was brought by 10 conservative Episcopal bishops who, at the time of the verdict, seemed surprised and unprepared for the almost inevitable victory for sexual revolution within the Episcopal Church.  Liberal skepticism of biblical authority, the virgin birth, and bodily resurrection of Christ, and other historic doctrines had swelled within the Episcopal Church's upper reaches for many decades prior to the Righter trial.  Traditionalists had long complained about enthroned revisionism but never fully effectively organized to arrest, much less roll back, its captivity of the denomination's seminaries, agencies, and ruling councils.  Righter's court in 1996 ruled that Episcopalianism had no core doctrine about homosexual behavior.  But it may as well have ruled that the denomination had no essential teaching except for devoted adherence to America's liberal secular fads. 
Calling Righter "a faithful and prophetic servant," Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori solemnly told Episcopal News Service that the bishop "will be remembered for his pastoral heart and his steadfast willingness to help the church move beyond old prejudices into new possibilities."  She did not mention how Righter's trial eventually divided her church in the U.S., estranged it from much of overseas Anglicanism, and accelerated an already unsustainable membership drain.  [Bold type added.]
Read it all.

"The End of the Mainline."  And so it is.

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