Sunday, July 21, 2002

Betrayed!

I am utterly in shock. I've considered it a great opportunity, privilege, and honor to visit Anglican cathedrals while I'm over here. I've visited National Cathedral before, but never for services. Since the Episcopal Church, USA and the Church of England are both members of the Anglican Communion, I haven't had much difficulty at all, and in fact would be hard-pressed to find a church around here that wasn't Anglican or Roman Catholic. I've been to Westminster Abbey and the cathedrals at Canterbury, St. Paul's, Edinburgh, Southwark, St. Philip's (RC) in Brussels, and today, St. Alban's. The cathedral itself was very pretty, and the fact that it was built only just after the Norman conquest only heightened my happiness. There were three male priests decked out as is customary in England, and everyone was very reverent and polite. After singing the first hymn, the first selection from the Bible was read, and was a passage from the Book of Wisdom. This jarred me, since I didn't recall that one, but figured that perhaps Proverbs or Ecclesiastes was called that over here, as the Song of Solomon is often called the Song of Songs in various traditions. Afterwards, I went to the cathedral shop, picked up a King James version, and searched in vain for the Book of Wisdom. I then looked through several other versions, with the same result. Looking around and seeing that another prominent book on the shelves was "How to Pray with Icons," it occurred to me that something was amiss. The cathedral certainly was Anglican and Church of England, but that reading wasn't, and Anglicans don't usually pray with icons. When I got home, I immediately went online and searched for "Book of Wisdom," since it did ring a bell. Sure enough, the Catholic Encyclopedia came to my aid, and my suspicions were confirmed when I saw that this book was from the Apocrypha, which Protestants and Anglicans do not recognize.

I'm feeling betrayed by my own church and churches I'm in communion with. We should not have female or openly gay priests. In fact, we should not have priests at all, but merely ministers. People marrying someone other than their former spouse after being divorced in cases other than those resulting from adultery should not be allowed to get married in church. Sex before marriage is a sin. Apostolic succession, while not essential, is a core belief of the Anglican Communion, and is thus something that ought to be preserved. By forming a common communion with the Lutheran Church, which does not have apostolic succession, this is diluted. I won't debate the political views of the ECUSA and CofE, so long as they don't interfere with worship, but I do disagree with them.

I'm once again coming to a point where I'm not sure what to do. I don't know if my church has become too corrupted to be saved, and if a pilgrimmage rather than a purification is in order. I told one of my teachers, who happens to be a Presbyterian minister, what I thought of my denomination, and he suggested that I try and stay and purify from within. In the past, disgusted by many actions it had taken, I stopped going to Episcopal services and attended Methodist services instead, without ever actually resigning my Episcopalian membership. I have theological disagreements of one magnitude or another with each denomination I've examined, and I will say that one of the major reasons I'm still an Anglican is because I'm most used to it. I know how many Roman Catholics feel, betrayed by the church which they've trusted to help them. It does help to remember that the church isn't what saves you, but faith in Christ and, by extension, the Trinity. The church is merely a means to advance understanding and knowledge, and not an end in and of itself. However, when a church does not fulfill its stated and obligatory goal, there must be a change, either from within or from without.

UPDATE: Mark Butterworth seems to think that I'm overreacting, and points out that the Book of Wisdom has a lot of, well, wisdom. I, for my part, don't deny that this is possible, having never read it. However, a Bible reading is supposed to be from the Bible. The Anglican Communion regards the Book of Wisdom as noncanonical, and thus not part of the Bible. What shocked me was that a minister would so callously read from something that he knew his own church didn't accept. While it's not quite on the scale of reading from the Koran or Book of Mormon, there's still something wrong about reading it as if it were part of the Anglican Bible. Would Roman Catholics be pleased if their local priests began occasionally quoting from books considered noncanonical by the Vatican but accepted by the Russian Orthodox or Coptic churches, or if they began quoting from the Gnostic gospels? There may well be wisdom in there as well, but it doesn't mean that those books were "God-breathed." It's not a question of whether the reading was edifying, but whether it was misrepresented as being Biblical when it shouldn't have been, at least according to the Anglican tradition. Of course, when barely half of Anglican ministers believe in the Virgin Birth and there are some who do not believe in the Resurrection or even in God, it's not surprising that they'll ignore what they're supposed to do in favor of what they want to do.

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