Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Consultant’s Advice For The Episcopal Church

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 (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  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 More of the core doctrine could be put into the historical documents section of the next prayer book.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


Dale Matson said...

This article was prompted by an excellent piece from the Underground Pewster on the "Not Another Episcopal Church Blog".

Alexi said...

Dale, Well said. TEC should just chuck the "christian church" identity and reorganize as a social justice/social work corporation. That would be the honest thing to do. However, don't hold your breath waiting for them to do it. For reasons, I don't understand, they really like the "church" thang.

SC Blu Cat Lady

Abu Daoud said...

Greetings from an Anglican in the Middle East, where we only need worry about daughters being raped and forced into marriages and churches being burnt down :-)

I am curious to know if you have received any responses on this irenic post. I mean, did anyone in the TEC mainstream read this?

Dale Matson said...

Abu Daoud,
Thanks for the response and may God's mercy be with you and your family. This article was posted on and one of the responses was an attack on the article and ACNA.

Kimberly Anne said...

I'm a little confused about Episcopalians denying the divinity of Christ. I've never heard that before. Where was that said/who said that? I have been an Episcopalian my entire life and my parents are both in Episcopal seminary, but I have never heard some of these things.

I believe in the Trinity.
I believe in the real presence at the Eucharist. (Although still confused about the who believes what and why and all the messy details...)
I believe in the divinity of Christ.
I believe in the Resurrection.
I believe in one Baptism.
I am confirmed.

These are things that have always been preached in every parish I have attended. There are clergy members who deny these things?

Dale Matson said...

Kimberly Anne,
"There are [TEC] clergy members who deny these things?" Surely you jest!
I see you are a follower of "Not Another Episcopal Church Blog". If so, you are well aware of the situation. How often has the presiding bishop even mentioned the name of Christ in her last 10 published sermons during Christmas and Easter? Weren't most about Environmental Sustainability and Social Justice?

Kimberly Anne said...

No, I do not jest. Being a full time graduate student and working two jobs, while I might "follow" a blog, it does not mean that I am up to date on all the happenings in my church. During my college years, I only attended church on Christmas and Easter. Christ was ever present. I have only recently started attending services again on a regular basis, where Christ is always then center of focus.

Dale Matson said...

Kimberly Anne,
Why not start with this open letter from an individual who left TEC?
There is also this from a friend of mine who left the same Episcopal church that I attended.
Finally, if you are being fed spiritually at that congregation then remain there. Just know where the leadership of TEC is taking folks.

consultant said...

Please continue to write more because it’s unusual that someone has something interesting to say about this. Will be waiting for more!