Friday, December 01, 2006

Winner Take Nothing

Below is my address to the Convention of the Diocese of Los Angeles that met in Riverside, California December 1-2, 2006. There were well over a thousand delegates and visitors present. On the first afternoon, by a large majority the Convention passed a resolution distancing itself from even the bland statement of General Convention on the Windsor Report known as B033.

After the vote was taken, I asked Bishop Bruno if I could address the Convention as a point of privilege. I said that I had not spoken in the Convention for more than ten years, but now the time had come when I felt compelled to speak. I added that though I usually prefer to speak without notes, in this case I was reading from a prepared statement so that there would be no doubt about what I would say. I indicated that my remarks would last about seven minutes.

A moment later, on the advice of his parliamentarian, the Bishop informed me that I would have no longer to speak than those who had done so during the debate on the resolution. This surprised me since I was not speaking on the resolution. I had the impression that the Bishop conveyed the ruling reluctantly.

Suddenly having to edit my remarks on my feet, I read only those parts of the following text that are highlighted in blue. My text was already heavily marked from being edited during the debate and was hard enough to follow as it was. Having to skip parts on sight while trying to maintain a coherent presentation was difficult. I wish I had edited it a little differently, but I did the best I could under the circumstances.

At the end, there was polite, scattered applause. I think that having to cut out about half of my remarks without notice dulled whatever impact I had hoped my words would have, but it was evident that most people present were not interested in my address anyway. But when the Convention adjourned for the day, two or three people came over and expressed deep appreciation for what I had said.

In preparing the text, I made every effort to be as generous and irenic as I could, and bent as far as I could without breaking any of the essentials of the Faith as recognized and proclaimed by worldwide Anglicanism. I cannot go any farther in that direction. Considering the response, I conclude, at long last, after years of effort, that there is no longer any need to try.

I am David Baumann, Rector of Blessed Sacrament Church in Placentia. I hold traditional views on most of the controversial matters before the Church. It has been more than thirty years since significant changes began in the Episcopal Church. Those responsible for them have claimed to be exercising a prophetic ministry. Perhaps once in a while those who are “prophetic” need to be prophesied to. I address all who are here, but mostly I speak to those who voted in favor of the last resolution.

Within the household of God from the days of the Old Testament, there has been a venerable liberal tradition of compassion and justice, essential for the well-being of the people of God. Liberals challenge the family of God to keep them from becoming complacent and hard-hearted.

The conservative tradition is also venerable and vital for the well-being of the people of God. Conservatives challenge the family of God to keep them from departing from what is essential. Both traditions need one another and are indispensable for the fullness of our Faith.

Even if everything that you believe and practice is totally right—which I doubt—how you have gone about making it so in our Church is wrong. For years, many in our progressive ranks have claimed that they are guided by the Holy Spirit and that anyone who disagrees with them does not have the Holy Spirit. I have heard this stated more than once by clergy in this diocese, and across the nation I have seen it written many times. This “winner take all” philosophy has resulted in increasing polarization within the ranks of the household of God to the point that now the entire Anglican Communion is in crisis. This cannot be evidence of the work of the Spirit.

The liberal positions have much to commend them. Though I disagree with the conclusions of many of them, there is much truth in what you hold dear. Look at the many worthwhile programs and ministries celebrated at this Convention and throughout our diocese. Over the years I have learned and I have become more compassionate, and participated in a number of ministries I probably otherwise would not even have thought of.

I have a strong and healthy parish, but we need the witness of those dedicated to peace and justice, for it is in this area that we are weakest. I am thankful for those ministries, and we at Blessed Sacrament need them if we are to be more faithful to Jesus than we otherwise would be.

Likewise, liberals cannot be completely faithful without the influence of conservatism, or you will be like a ship with a full sail but no rudder.

It is possible truly to be comprehensive. I believe that we at Blessed Sacrament have done it. We encourage people of differing convictions to join and participate in leadership. All are recognized as full members in Christ; no one is rejected or considered second class. We have uneasy moments sometimes, but we have no “winner take all” philosophy. At one time, we had both the national leader of the Episcopal Synod of America (now Forward in Faith) and the head of Integrity/Southland in our parish. They didn’t agree on much, but they learned to value one another and the contribution each made to the welfare of the parish. They both knew that they loved Jesus. Neither wanted the other to leave nor felt that their own departure was necessary. For both, Blessed Sacrament was their home.

When the Anglican Communion has been put at risk, when tens of thousands of individuals have left the Episcopal Church, when congregations now numbering in the hundreds have left, and when entire dioceses are on the verge of leaving, and when several provinces in the Anglican Communion are willing to receive and minister to all of these—is it not obvious that something has gone dreadfully wrong?
Blithely going forward with “business as usual” is hardly prophetic. It is not even wise.

The real problem is not that people have differing convictions on the issues. That has always been so, and many times it has been healthy and worked for the good of the Church. The real problem is that you continue to take actions and make statements like this resolution that further the alienation and drive the wedge deeper. This is not liberalism; this is arrogance.

Over the past thirty years, traditionalist priests in this diocese have taken early retirement, moved, elected not to speak (as I did), and stopped attending conferences and conventions. Some priests, and eight congregations, even made the radical choice to secede. All of this happened because they felt neither listened to nor cared about. If you value inclusivity and comprehension but continually fail to listen to the voices you need to hear, those voices will gradually cease. In this diocese they are now almost completely silent, as this lopsided vote indicates.

I cannot go further without commending Bishop Bruno, for he understands what I have described, and I believe he is as grieved as I. He exemplifies comprehension in his words, deeds, stated convictions, and where he puts money. When my Vestry and I met with him last summer and I shared with him much of what I am saying now, he responded, “At last—someone who knows my experience.”

You have much to say and to contribute to the welfare of the Church if we are to be faithful to the Gospel together. You have a message the rest of us need to hear, and only you can say it. But you cannot be faithful to Jesus alone. By neglecting the witness of conservatives you have led us, as a world family, into disaster. Though you have a message to give, you must also receive. Do you really think that the moderate and traditional voices have nothing to teach you? Do you really think that the rest of the Anglican Communion has nothing of value to say to you?

My voice is now a whisper in this diocese, but the few voices like mine that are left are not the minority. My voice is still the voice of the overwhelming majority of Anglicanism. If you continue on the path you have chosen, there will come a time when the voice of moderation will speak here for the last time. I suspect we are not far from that time now. When the voices such as my own have finally disappeared, do not think that you have finally won. You will, in fact, have suffered immeasurable loss. You will have ignored all appeals and put yourselves apart from Anglicanism.

When my voice, and those few remaining who could speak as I speak, have gone, the only voice left to speak for moderation and true comprehension will be one of your own, who will first have to be enlightened. When those who are left all agree with one another and you look around and see that there is no one who thinks differently, I hope someone will say, “My God—what have we done?”

Maybe then you will finally begin really to listen to your brothers and sisters in the Anglican Communion. And only when that happens will they begin really to listen to you—and all will benefit. But so far you have been deaf, and so as of now, all suffer. I fear that only a few in this room understand that yet. If my words are prophetic, a time will come when everyone here will realize that all are suffering. On that day, then maybe the Church will indeed be changed instead of broken.


Emily said...

It's too bad that you couldn't read the whole thing. You're right that it is more powerful in its entirety. Still, maybe there were a few listening ears there. I'm impressed that you had the guts to speak up.

Anonymous said...

Father Baumann:

I was one of the delegates there, seated to the right and behind you in Fr. Ian Davies' delegation from St. Thomas the Apostle in Hollywood. I tried to find you after that session and your extremely heartfelt and eloquent words at the end of that day. I thought the delegates lost an opportunity to hand an olive branch to those who are uncomfortable with such rapid change in the Church without a greater consensus of what is right - on the ground, and in the pews - not just here but in the greater Anglican world. Asked what I thought of the resolution, I said, "It's not catholic." And, feeling the same way, our entire delegation agreed to not support it. My Rector was about to speak in support of that view and end with "Blessed are the peacemakers..."

Sir, I think you are in every way from your heartfelt words are trying to live up to that high and holy standard, and I want to commend you for it.

This very active parishioner from a very liberal parish socially but one where Jesus is held at the center of everything we do thanks you for your presence there. You spoke for us, too.

I can only hope and pray that kind, conservative Christians such as yourself will have patience. I can't ask you for any more than that. Only know that you have people - Christians even on the other side of the spectrum of a few things - that care for you and are praying for you and are thankful for your fellowship. Very thankful. I can only hope that we all can work together to be one, just as the Lord prayed we would one day be.

It is only through the work towards understanding by people such as yourself that that goal will be possible.

My wishes for you for joy in the coming celebration of the Nativity of our Lord and Saviour and in the New Year. God bless you, sir.

Richard & Diane Bollinger said...

Dear Fr. David,

You are our latest hero! We weren't at the convention this year, but we heard about your address. Thanks for standing in for us the way you did and for publishing your speech here so that our friends can read it too.

You remind me so much of another hero of mine, though probably not one of yours, as he was a full-on evangelical: A.W. Tozer. Commenting upon Jesus' "You are the salt of the earth" saying, he made this point (paraphrase):

Salt, though it is essential for life, consists of two deadly poisons--sodium and chlorine--either one of which alone will kill you! So too with the Christian religion and its two constituent parts: doctrine and ethics. A balance of the two must be reached. For ethics without doctrine produces the social worker, and doctrine without ethics the Pharisee.

We think that this is borne out in your wonderful testamony before the convention. It is the former that has poisoned the life of TEC and will kill her if there is not repentance. God's Word for us in our time: Deut. 30:19.

May the Lord bless you, faithful friend,

Richard & Diane Bollinger

Daniel Lozier said...

I sympathize with you, Fr. David, and pray that you too will find opportunity to lead your flock away from TEC which has become Universalist and Unitarian in both its theology and practices. But we have no one but ourselves to blame for allowing this to happen. What will happen to your flock when you are gone? The very souls committed to your care will be lost if given over to those who reject Jesus Christ as Savior of the world.

I must disagree with you completely on one issue: Bishop Bruno is as arrogant as they come. He persists in waging legal war against those parishes that have left. It is religious persecution and costing the diocese hundreds of thousands of dollars...when at the very basic level there has been shown to be no legal basis for his lawsuits. AND it was clear at last year's Diocesan Convention, the vast majority of people and clergy want him to drop the lawsuits.

R said...

Father Baumann,
I found your statement very interesting and thought provoking. However, I had difficulty with one theme illistrated in this quote:
"For years, many in our progressive ranks have claimed that they are guided by the Holy Spirit and that anyone who disagrees with them does not have the Holy Spirit."
I deplore this sentiment in the liberal AND conservative movements. I think it is unkind and untrue to blame one side and not the other of this claim. I wish we could all step back and agree that no one will force you to officiate a wedding you are not comfortable with - but neither should you have the authority to refuse my priest the ability to marry a committed couple in my church. For my part, I am very sorry if you feel unheard, and I wish you could feel welcomed at any and every table in the Episcopal Church. At the same time, please realize that many of my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Christ have often not felt welcome at many of those tables. Thank you again, and I hope for a day we can discuss our differences at the same table rather than in a courtroom.


Anonymous said...

I was a vendor at the convention. I noticed they allowed Susan Russell's address to be broadcast to the vendors, but I did not hear yours.

I have a question. Could you explain what the main speaker meant by saying that the evangelicals believe in Jesus and we believe in Christ? I was surprised by that statement.

Anonymous said...

Dear Father Baumann,

I just read your comments from Convention and want to thank you for speaking up. For many of us who had been active and passionate supporters of the Church, though, the time to leave came some years ago. With fewer voices of reason heard at each successive Convention, and with a continuing drive toward a secular, Leftist agenda, my wife and I decided we would not attend another Convention. In fact, we and our children have left the Episcopal Church altogether.

I applaud you for speaking up, but for many of us, it's now a lost cause. It saddens me to say it because for most of my life The Episcopal Church had been at the center of my life and the life of my family; now, we roam from church to church searching for a new home.

Daniel Lozier said...

I comment to Fr. Baumann & his Vestry the statement released today from Truro's Vestry:

Anonymous said...

Fr. Baumann, May our only Lord and Savior Jesus Christ preserve you and give you strength.
Your explanations break my heart. If you felt it necessary to dilute any mention of our Faith to an almost untraceable level, then it's time to acknowledge openly what you know to be true. You were not speaking to a roomful of believers in the Faith of the one holy catholic and apostolic church. Most have become, or have always been, faithful to quite a different god--one of their own understanding. To those who serve the Lord, speak Truth boldly. Vague conciliatory statements will not wake the sleeping or open furiously deaf ears. Trust God to protect you.

Tim Campbell said...

Hi Father David--

I just finished reading your unabridged address to the convention on your blog. Bravo! As one of the moderate-to-liberal members of the congregation and Vestry, I want to re-affirm what you said. Rosa and I have never felt anything but total acceptance and love from you and the congregation. It is a shame some of the liberal members of the clergy can't break out their self-created cocoons and come to Blessed Sacrament to see what "inclusive" really means! Inclusive means so much more than using the right politically correct words--that's that's the easy part. The hard part is including and respecting those who may have different opinions but who share the common faith. I think you used the perfect adjective--arrogance--to describe the current direction in the church. Perhaps its a sad sign of our times, but civility in discussing issues on which we may differ is becoming a lost art in our society, and I can think of no more important place for us to retain it than in discussions about the faith.

The liberal leadership reminds me of saying from one of my historical heroes, Clarence Darrow: "fanaticism is forever hungry, and needs feeding to survive, and it eventually feeds on itself". I can see a future where the leadership continues to impose increasingly stringent and narrow-mined (yet seemingly "liberal") rules on the church, continually excluding those whose opinions may differ, until there is nothing left but words without real faith. And that is a shame. But there at least two "liberals" who have no intention of abandoning the core faith, nor Blessed Sacrament. Keep the faith!

Bill R. said...

Fr. David, thanks for being a buoy of sanity in episcopalianism! May Christ reward you!

JaneC said...

My best wishes and blessings on Fr. Baumann from one who fled with her children from the diocese of Los Angeles. I did not feel I could raise my kids as Christians ie. believing that Christ is THE WAY, with all the statements and varying beliefs publicly expressed, loudly and often in the diocese. My prayers are for the families and children we left behind.

Jonathan said...

Father David,

Thank you for speaking. This speech is moving and courageous. Thank God that it was heard. Your witness is a shining example of Christ to me, our parish and the world.

Anonymous said...

I hear your pain. I remember my pain the day that a priest turned his back on me, walking away, instead of offering me the sacrament because I am a lesbian and was with a group from Integrity. There is much pain in this situation. Often that pain becomes haughty as we seek to hide our fear of exclusion. There is enough pain and haughtiness to go around for everyone in this situation. There are no winners or losers in this situation. Only pain and much fear.