Fr. Dale Matson
In addition to my teaching and director duties during my professional life, I was a university program reviewer for the state of California. The most important criteria for program survival in the accreditation/continuing accreditation process, was the need to answer the following question. “Is the program doing what it claims to be doing?” Putting it another way, “Are you who you claim to be?” Actually, this is not just a question for a program or an organization. As a person, is our action consistent with who we claim to be? There are related questions also. “How well is the philosophy of the program understood and articulated by leaders and participants?” This was especially looked at in satellite programs in other locations. There was a tendency for mission drift the further we went from the flagship school.
I am a priest in the ACNA and was on the TEC website recently http://www.episcopalchurch.org/ (I forget why) and read through the "What We Believe" section. It seemed rather robust and orthodox. It is consistent with my understanding of how things were for my family in the eleven years we spent in TEC but it is not what TEC has become/is becoming. It needs updating to conform to the current theology. It doesn't even have gender neutral language for the Trinity! But what is the current theology? It would be useful for the leadership to review it, which reminds me of the song, "The Way We Were" by Barbra Streisand.
I think the 'random' sample of TEC folks in the “Who We Are” section http://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/i-am-episcopalian better typifies the current ideology of TEC than the core doctrine that is probably met with a wink and a nod by the leadership. More of the core doctrine could be put into the historical documents section of the next prayer book.
One problem for TEC is that in an effort to be relevant in a contemporary society, it is chasing the social trends in an effort to catch up, embrace and include them. The orthodox theology has really become an impediment. Doctrine that once served as an anchor has become a millstone. That is why the theology, currently mushy (some within TEC would say evolving) is of necessity more malleable. TEC really does need new vision and mission statements. It could divest itself of the Anglican label with its attendant constraints and form its own worldwide organization. It has already adopted the millennium development goals (MDG) of the United Nations. TEC thinks of itself as a global church but has forgotten that it has actually downsized. It used to be part of the cosmic church.
It would serve TEC well to reexamine their ecclesiology and missiology. Work it backwards if you must. What are you doing? Where are you investing (spending) your resources? The words that come to my mind are social justice, equity, fairness, human flourishing, GLBT etc. issues, feminism, pluralism, diversity, inclusion, preservation of legacy, reproductive rights, and environmental sustainability. How do the existing doctrines of the church justify and organize these efforts? You still refer to yourself as Christian church. To you however, Christ is not divine and only one model among many. The presiding bishop rarely mentions Him in her talks. How do the budget lines reflect what you believe?
As you examine this list, it is really about the kingdom of this world for you. Do you even need theological underpinnings? I have no hard feelings toward TEC. The adversarial relationship has helped us to reassess our priorities. TEC does not need a task force on marriage as much as it needs a task force on organizational identity. If it does not do this it will not survive as an organization let alone a 'church'.
Pax et Bonum,
Dale Matson Ph.D., Consultant