THE BAND PLAYED ON

Terry Kelshaw observes the spin doctors of American Anglicanism rendering the unpalatable acceptable.

This has not been a good year for the Episcopal Church in the United States. Some would say it has not been a good decade, with unprecedented losses in membership, a veritable rush of clergy resignations, a number of 1000+ congregations exiting the church, and diocesan bishops seemingly doing what they please with no way of stopping them. The present financial scandal in the American church produced efforts in damage control by giving little information, while spin doctors, led by Jim Solheim, editor of the church-funded Episcopal Life (and chief attack dog for Bishop Browning and Co.) launched into a major rewrite of events, blaming all our ills on the former Treasurer. Funds dwindle as people say “Not with my money, you don’t” : all symptoms of isolationism.

Disparagingly, the Episcopal Church Centre in New York has been called ‘the Castle’, and for some it seems that the drawbridge has been firmly raised during this decade, while a huge party has been going on inside. Its participants are firmly rooted in all the quagmire of 60s politics. The Presiding Bishop has made it clear that he is intent on his 60s ‘program’ even if there are no church members left. The party-goers are convinced that only they are right. This is the broad, open, listening world of liberalism, mind you! This is why bishops call so often for the ‘opposition’ to leave Anglicanism: they need space for a party they cannot fund. Could it be that the former Treasurer is no more than a symptom of a disease widely spread in 'the Castle'?

Some fear the influence of the Church Centre will lean heavily on the Lambeth Conference, and many saw signs of it at the Primates’ Meeting at Windsor, where the influence of the long-retired former bishop of Atlanta was clearly recognized. The appointment of Canon John Peterson as Secretary of the Anglican Consultative Council did not escape those who joke that he secretly renamed St George’s College, Jerusalem after his friend Ed Browning. Neither was there much surprise when Bishop Browning’s long-time friend, Bishop Ottley, was named Anglican 'observer’ at the United Nations. It is generally held here that Bishop Browning has great force at Lambeth Palace, with an army of those committed to ‘inclusivity' - a program only for those who accept ‘enlightenment’ and the ‘broader spectrum'. The rest are excluded because they are assumed to stand against progress toward ‘human dignity’!

Spin doctors belong to politics. They are now in the Church to make even the worst things appear palatable. American spin doctors are ready for a field day in the English Church. To some it looks as if they are winning.

The Rt Revd Terence Kelshaw is Bishop of the Rio Grande.

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