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Bizarre Ordinations at Near Empty Washington National Cathedral

Bizarre Ordinations at Near Empty Washington National Cathedral
Historic landmark faces financial crisis
Bishop Budde rejects Trinity, prays only "in the name of God"
Priests don't talk about God, said bishop

By Sarah Frances Ives
Special to Virtueonline
www.virtueonline.org
June 16, 2015

The Washington National Cathedral, under the leadership of Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde, now struggles even for minimal survival. According to one insider, the Diocese of Washington and the Cathedral appear desperate for cash as it struggles to pay its massive parking garage debt. Recently, the Cathedral announced even more closures with the end of the 75-year-old Herb Cottage business closing its doors on June 30, 2015. To exacerbate the already poor public image of the Cathedral, Budde led a bizarre ordination on June 13 at the Cathedral that, according to one priest, the Commission on Ministry did not attend. The only physical entrance into the Cathedral now heads into aggressive employees demanding a fee to enter. The Washington National Cathedral presents an image of an organization in free-fall as it demands more and more cash to stay solvent.

On June 13, 2015, Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde ordained four people in the Washington National Cathedral. In the tense service, Budde issued a series of warnings to both the ordinands and the congregation of about 150 people who sat in the empty looking Cathedral. She stated that the future deacon and three priests had no promise of lifetime employment and that these four had seen the worst that church life offers. In fact, she said, they had been knocked-around by the church. Budde added that with the current state of the Diocese of Washington, she was surprised that these persons wanting ordination had even "showed up" for the ceremony.

In an oddly narcissistic sermon, she talked about her own ministry saying nothing about the past or future ministry of these ordained leaders. Budde explained in a meandering fashion that she gets asked frequently about "the state of the Diocese of Washington." She says that she has to take a "deep breath" before she answers. She continued that there are good days, but then ended by saying in an anxious voice, "there are bad days."

Budde stated that a new study concluded that members in the Episcopal Church have no regularly disciplined spiritual practices and that even priests do not talk about God. She admitted that this is true about the Episcopal Church. In fact, Budde herself no longer refers to the Trinity and prays only in "in the name of God." Even the altar she uses in the Cathedral has no cross on it. In her language and theology, Budde has cut the Trinity out of the Christian faith.

Awkward moments abounded in the chaotic ceremony. During the ordination, Budde tried to get a chasuble over an ordinand's head and could not. Nervous giggles emerged from those watching the frantic actions. She stumbled over the words of the liturgy during the consecration. During announcements, Budde stated the wrong place for the reception. Some women in the congregation began to yell at her about where the reception was. After uncomfortable moments of several women yelling different messages, they finally got Budde's attention and communicated to Budde about her mistake. She anxiously corrected herself.

Budde had planned communion stations all over the Cathedral that were not needed for the tiny congregation. Sadly, two Eucharistic leaders went to a section of the cathedral where only one person sat. During the communion these Eucharistic ministers just stood looking uncomfortable.

At the reception, some wondered what bad things were happening that Budde seemed so upset about. Maybe the $550,000 in legal fees the Diocese of Washington spent in order to destroy Mrs. Ruth Gregory Soper's trust so the Diocese of Washington and the Cathedral could afford to continue? Maybe the declining attendance in her Diocese? Maybe the end of the gracious and respected Herb Cottage store on Cathedral Hill? No wonder Budde avoids and shrugs off questions about the state of the Diocese of Washington.

What are we seeing here? "The end of casual Christianity" is what Michael Gerson in the Washington Post recently called this now prevalent social phenomenon (May 26, 2015). He based his observations on a recent Pew Research Center report on "America's Changing Religious Landscape." The study reports that theologically liberal churches are disappearing into the culture in what Gerson calls the "mainline's comeuppance."

Comeuppance indeed. Having deleted the Trinity and keeping only culturally acceptable ideas, the Washington National Cathedral and the Diocese of Washington is failing at all of its tasks.

Sarah Francis Ives is an Episcopal priest and VOL writer and contributor based in Washington DC

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