Saturday, September 27, 2008


Philip Cato has written a slam-bang article. I agree with him.

The Episcopal Church: excelling in irrelevance?
With each passing day, the profound irrelevance of the Church becomes more and more evident. In this irrelevance, the Episcopal Church excels.

Even a superficial knowledge of the events which are overtaking our nation is enough to make the case that our church has no direction to give and nothing intelligent to say.

Our economy is at the brink of total collapse. This is so self-evident that no argument needs to be made. Kevin Phillips, several years ago, in Wealth and Democracy, made the case that the United States was following the same pattern that proved the economic undoing of Spain, the Netherlands, and Great Britain. We abandoned a producer economy for one that is primarily financialized, with all our wealth in the form of traded paper.

What he predicted has come to pass. Wealth is concentrated in relatively few hands; the middle class (the former productive class) is greatly diminished, and regularly exploited for the benefit of the wealthy. Political power is oriented primarily toward benefiting those with wealth. The paper instruments upon which this wealth depends increasingly do not represent much that is tangible, the very conditions which preceded the 1929 stock market crash.

The current administration has accrued and claimed exceptional power to act as they choose without constitutional constraint. With sleight of hand, and a willful lack of truthfulness, they have led our nation into an ostensible “war on terror” which changes identity with predictable regularity as the need to justify preemptive war presents itself.

Almost every abuse of executive privilege and power has been on full display. Justice is regularly disregarded and trampled under foot. Disregard for the poor and antagonism toward the strangers in our midst are now a consistent and macabre caricature of Biblical teaching.

In the midst of all this, our Church, the Episcopal Church, squabbles with its internal critics, and behaves as if settling issues of sexuality, and its expression in the Church, are the only serious moral issues in view.

Our bishops waste time at Lambeth and in earnestly disciplining their recalcitrant colleagues while the moral, economic and political world is collapsing around us.

Somewhere in all of this, there is a mistaken hierarchy of values.

The church stands unprepared to deal with economic hard times; it spends unconscionable amounts of money and human resources on propping up failing congregations that have no sense of mission; it is completely unprepared to deal with either natural or health disasters; it eschews any prophetic stance against a corrupt government and a moribund Congress; and it seems to have no sensitivity to the plight of its own members.

When the Church becomes totally irrelevant, and that time is near upon us, those who have looked to it for spiritual and moral leadership will have to look elsewhere.

Though God loves the world; our Church apparently loves only itself and its institutional survival. And that survival increasingly makes very little difference.
The Rev. Phillip Cato is a retired priest of the Diocese of Washington. His current work is in bioethics, for the National Institutes of Health, and professional ethics.

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