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Can Mathematics Transform the Episcopal Church?

Can Mathematics Transform the Episcopal Church?

By Ladson F. Mills III
April 1, 2017

Clarity came at last to the Episcopal House of Bishops during its recent meeting at Kanuga from a most unexpected source. In her sermon to the house Diocese of Washington Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde candidly admitted her diocese is declining and many parishes financially unsustainable. She identified what was described as the elephant in the room; The Episcopal Church is dying.

Even the most optimistic Episcopalian should hardly find this surprising. After years of disappointment and the last decade dedicated to the predatory annihilation of its orthodox members the truth can no longer be politely overlooked.

There has been something incredibly sad in watching the current Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s attempt to return the 1960’s civil rights movement as a defining issue. And the world has come too far for any serious thinker to equate true justice with transgender toilet choice. As the old joke states, it’s not ‘rocket surgery.’ Just close stall door and get on with it.

Curry follows on the failures of his predecessor Katharine Jefferts Schori who could not rid herself of chancellor David Beers’ toxic influence. Beers would rather litigate than negotiate, but who can blame a man who bills by the hour.

Taking the House of Bishops on the road trips to Taiwan and Ecuador may have been fun, but it exposed a tragic flaw. There is a mounting disconnect between the leadership and those in the pew who bear the cost. It seems at long last the bills have come due.

It is too early to be determined if Budde’s transformation will be lasting, and there are many reasons to be cautious. The Episcopal Church has exercised cruel dominion and friendships which once seemed unbreakable are now broken; perhaps never to be restored. Even my old cynical heart has been broken.

But there was something incredibly honest in Budde’s admission that she would have to examine, ‘all that it cost for me to be part of the House of Bishops. I must evaluate my efforts, and ours, based on the fruits they produce.’

Her powerful words were more than criticism. They are an open and public declaration that the House of Bishops is dysfunctional. And it comes from a bishop long regarded an enthusiastic supporter of the revisionist direction of the church.

It might be timely to remember that it took decades for the Episcopal Church to sink to its current level and it will not be transformed overnight. Often forgotten is that all institutions, even those that are left leaning, are conservative when it comes to self-preservation. Regardless of ideology the entrenched have a stake in maintaining the status quo.

During Edmund Browning’s tenure as presiding bishop his predictable left-wing responses noticeably changed whenever addressing issues of financial stewardship. He could then quote scripture in manner that a bible thumping, Prosperity Gospel, televangelist would covet.

“Red” Browning may have preferred the company of the left, but he understood basic economic necessity when it came to financing the Episcopal Church. The National Church is a bureaucracy and money drives the engine. Deep financial support comes from healthy parishes which are increasingly orthodox.

The purpose of a bureaucracy is to perpetuate itself. I gather this is at least one reason why the recently dismissed National Church staff members were secretly taping Executive Council meetings. Knowledge like money is a way to protect interest.

My friends from the 12 -step community are quick to remind me that all recovery begins with admitting powerlessness followed by accepting that only a power greater than ourselves can save us from ourselves. Since the 12 Steps of AA were written by an Episcopal Priest and based on Christian Spiritual principles the answer is obvious.

The church must return its primary call of proclaiming and witnessing the Gospel to the world. The culture is in desperate need of the transformation that can only come from Jesus Christ.

Many years ago, as a high school student my teammates and I stood facing what can only be described as a very unhappy coach. He was a man who took every athletic loss as a personal insult and our previous performance had been especially humiliating.

On a cool morning while the rest of our school mates enjoyed a holiday from classes we were summoned for remedial practice.

Expecting a rant and then a slow painful death (hyperbole intended) we were surprised when he quietly asked if anyone happened to be taking Algebra. I was and said so.

Ahh, yes, he responded. Well here’s a question. In algebra, what is the meaning of X? Heartened by what seemed to be a relatively simple mathematical equation I responded; ‘X is an unknown.’

I will never forget the smile, which reminded me of a hungry wolf about to devour his prey. Right you are. And that is how long you will be practicing today-unknown.

Is it possible the Episcopal House of Bishop’s has unmasked the equation that has eluded them for years.

HOB + X = BFO (House of Bishops plus Christ equals a blinding flash of the obvious)

After all these years it still comes down to ‘X’. *

*(“X” is the Greek letter “Chi” a recognized symbol for Christ)

Ladson F. Mills III is a retired priest with over thirty years pastoral experience. He lives with his wife in South Carolina. He currently serves as Scholar-in -Residence at Church of Our Saviour, Johns Island. He is a regular contributor to Virtueonline.

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