Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Consumerism - the wrong approach

Probably the single most destructive influence in the Church of modernity and of the West is that of consumerism. Today, membership in the Church on all levels, from that of the individual in the parish or mission, to that of the Province in the Anglican Communion, resembles more an entitlement than a privilege and responsibility. The member in the parish, the parish in the diocese, the diocese in the Province, the Province in the Communion, all are using techniques of the enlightened consumer in holding the larger organization hostage to the particular wishes of the customer. It's the approach by which the client threatens to take his or her business elsewhere if the company or franchise fails to accede to his or her wishes.

There is little or nothing present in this approach that has to do with a healthy or Christian theology. To the degree that we have already acquiesced to this sort of relationship in the life of the Church, we have ceded to the predominance in secular culture of the idolatry of the self. To do so further with regard to congregational choice of alternative episcopal oversight would, in my view, be disastrous.

For instance, if it's true that bishops have largely abdicated their responsibility for the stewardship of the faith once received (shouldn't it be 'delivered'?), how much more so will bishops be compelled under the proposed arrangement to ignore further the burden of their due responsibilities in favor of pandering to the like-minded? Even more so than at present, we would have bishops seeking not to build up congregations or the Church, but to gather to themselves approving and paying audiences; dues-paying fan clubs. It would promote a trend in the Church toward cults of personality. It would make the episcopacy more, not less, a political entity, in every negative sense of the term. It wouldn't take long before each bishop would realize that he or she was only the bishop-du-jour. It would be clear that as soon as he or she displeased the adoring public, the congregation, network, or diocese would be back at the buffet line to choose someone whose 'oversight' was more palatable.

No, in my view, this sort of consumerism is exactly the wrong approach. Bishops in this Church (ECUSA) are already chosen by the people; they're elected. The move toward breaking away in response to unfavorable outcomes to elections just demonstrates that too little education is being done in the Church to inform people about their responsibilities as regards the elections of bishops and their obligations (vows) as regards membership in the Church.

Jim +

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