Rod Dreher of the Dallas Morning News has a post on his blog today about a recenct article in Again by Father Gregory and Khouria Frederica Mathewes-Green about their decision to leave the Episcopal Church to join the Antiochian Orthodox Church. I could not find access to the full article, but Dreher has some very interesting quotes from the article. In it, Frederica writes:
The straw that broke the camel's back, though, came during the 1991 General Convention of the Episcopal Church. I was present in the house of bishops when they voted on the Frey Resolution. It states: "Episcopal clergy should abstain from sex outside of marriage." ... After the votes were counted, we found that the resolution was defeated. I went out and found a pay phone and called my husband in tears. I said to him, "This is not a church anymore. It may be some kind of social workers' organization with excellent aesthetics, but it is not a church anymore, because it has no intention of obeying its Lord."
. . .
The one thing I worry about is those people who get heavily invested in what I call the "stay and fight" position. I think there's a negative side to that. Year after year of reinforcing the "stay and fight" identity can form you into the kind of person who loves to fight. The evil one can lure certain kinds of personalities into enjoyment of conflict itself, and into a love of playing for power. You can get addicted to saying the witty thing that slashes someone to ribbons. "You did not so learn Christ' (Eph 4:20). And there's a potential for vanity, too, in the self-valorizaiton as a courageous fighter. For people susceptible to these temptations, the alternative of being in a faithful church, working out one's own salvation queitly, can look boring. They have come to love to fight.
Rod elaborates on the point about not staying and fighting with his own personal experiences as a Roman Catholic (he too, is now Orthodox):
You regular readers know my story all too well, so I won't rehash it here. When I realized that the harder I tried to hold on to what I had, the more deeply it burned my hands, I let go before it seared my hand completely off. What I'm interested in hearing from y'all -- well, from you who have changed churches, religions, or left faith behind entirely, is what was the final point of departure? You know what it was for Frederica. For me, the breaking point was discovering that a Catholic parish we'd come to trust was harboring an accused clerical abuser with the full knowledge of the pastor, who'd hid it from his bishop. That, and seeing how I was destroying my faith and my family's spirituality with my unresolvable anger and despair -- the very thing Frederica points out in her article. I look back with dismay how me and some of my Catholic friends had gotten to the point when the only time we talked about the faith, we talked about the Church, and whenever we talked about the Church, we talked about Church politics and the scandal. You can imagine what that does to a healthy spirituality.
Read Rod's post here.
As one who takes the view that there is room in the Episcopal Church for all points of view on the issues of the day, Frederica's point about the spiritual dangers of "staying and fighting" hit hard. Her description of the spiritual dangers of the "fight" certainly rings true of what we are seeing on both sides of the great Episcopal battle--it certainly describes the power plays now occurring in many dioceses, and the nastiness evident on many blogs. Again, on all sides of the debate.
But the lesson here is not that we should therefore welcome a schism. That is the not the point of unity or communion. But, it is true that the notion of stay and fight is fraught with peril. Instead, we should urge all to stay and do God's will, which includes staying and attempting to reconcile.