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A series of essays in the Episcopal Church

Bishop Stanton's Analogy

Bishop Stanton's Analogy

By Terrence Doyle

The Dallas Morning News for January 10, 2004 notes:

He [Rt. Rev. James Stanton, Bishop of Dallas] said the faction of the church that approved of Bishop Robinson's election rushed to prevail in Minneapolis. He likened the process to a vestry's deciding on a plan for a new building.

"If one half of the vestry, one large group of the vestry, said we want a very traditional church and the others said we want a very modern church, you'd talk that out and come to an agreement before you started doing anything," the bishop said.

"But when one side said, well, we've had enough talk, ... if you had people going out and buying bricks and mortar and putting up the church of their dreams, the other side would not look kindly on that," he said. "And that's kind of where we are.

"What we see at St. Michael's we see reflected at the national level, we see it reflected in the international Anglican community. There are deep divisions over this matter, and people are in deep inner turmoil about whether they can belong to the church."

Terrence Boyle has graciously given me permission to publish his response. -- LC

Bishop Stanton compares the election of V. Gene Robinson to vestry deliberations over building a church. One faction wants a traditional building and the other a contemporary design. He suggests that such a vestry needs to spend more time talking in order to come to agreement. In Stanton's view, the church has not talked enough about the inclusion of gay and lesbian people, and the actions of General Convention in Minneapolis (in which very large majorities of the House of Bishops and the House of Delegates affirmed the election of Robinson) was like one of the factions rushing ahead to buy bricks and mortar before the vestry as a whole had come to an agreement.

Consider the good bishop's metaphor in another way. A vestry spends over thirty years talking about the designs for a new church. Meanwhile the roof continues to sag on the old structure and support beams are getting rather tired. They try to listen on a deep level to one another. They make adaptations to accomodate one another as best they can; although there is one small, embattled faction that persists in raising objections about any change that departs from their hope for a traditional design.

An emerging majority-though not a complete consensus-is shaping up in favor of the contemporary plan. At certain points, when this majority becomes a two-thirds super majority in favor of a new design, they say: "Enough talk; it is time for action. After all, the roof of this old church is going to fall in and its beams and supports are creaking. The foundation is still intact, but it desperately needs shoring up, too. If we don't act, our church will be a pile of rubble and we will have no place to give glory to God."

You are welcome to submit your essays for consideration for this series. Send them to Identify yourself by name, snail address, parish, and other connections to the Episcopal Church. Please encourage others to do the same.


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