Following an interesting link at YF’s I found an interesting article. The topic is on Episcochameleonism but I’d like to pull something else out of it…
The author (a conservative Anglican priest) writes:
28 years ago when I noticed that the opening of the Eucharist was a takeoff on the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, I went out and ordered three sets of Greek Orthodox vestments. It was early in my Anglo-Catholic days, and I was playing one of the classic Anglo-Catholic games–more high-church than thou. Even in a diocese that described itself historically as Anglo-Catholic, I won hands down. A year or so later I discovered the born-again movement, and it was time to play some different games.
Not every Episcopal cleric plays games like I did. At the time I didn’t know it was a game, and I did not mean to play games with other people’s lives as, regrettably, I often did. The fact is I found myself playing church for a living, and I was shocked.
He identifies something here that is very important for the recent discussions on the prayer book. There is a large percentage of the current Episcopal clergy who I regard as “seekers”. That is to say, they are still looking and searching for the deep connection with God and the holy that their soul calls them too. I’d hazard a guess that many of them are clergy because it gives them an opportunity to be a full-time “religious/spiritual person” and still be able to draw a salary. Some, like the priest quoted above, do this while remaining within the prescribed boundaries of the church (canon, creed, sacraments a la Chicago-Lambeth); others, not so much…
Is this seeking or spiritual adventurism necessarily bad? Maybe not as long as an individual stays within the boundaries of the Church but definitely yes when it stops being an individual journey and is foisted on congregations.
The Book of Common Prayer is, among other things, a defense for laity against spiritual adventurism on the part of the clergy.
That having been said, it is no fail-safe. Even when the rite is followed as written, ceremonial, vestment, and other choices can still throw things off quite a bit—but let’s at least keep in place what safeguards we have!
I am sympathetic to the spiritual adventurers, being one myself to a certain degree. I have always, however, had a conviction that my own personal spirituality not be placed onto a congregation and was perhaps the most significant reason that I left the ELCA’s ordination process. (I couldn’t live with the average ELCA parish’s attitudes towards the sacraments and would have felt compelled to change it; I can live with the average Episcopal parish’s sacramental sense…) I have enormous respect for the rector under whom M served as a deacon. He was an Anglican Missal guy but the way he adapted his use was such that the congregational text was always the BCP. He was a Missal guy—but no one else had to be just because he was.
On one-hand, I’m open to legitimate spiritual adventurism on the part of the clergy in so far as it reflects necessary growth and listening to the Spirit and transformation into the Mind of Christ. On the other hand, I believe that much of it reflects a failure of our discernment and formation processes. Yes, it’s fine to deepen, but I’m seeing a lot more wandering around than rooting down. Further liberalizing the already generous and liberal options of the prayer book to endorse these behaviors is entirely unwarranted. Rather, a re-focus of the issue placing it in terms of the obedience and stability necessary for conversion of life is the ticket.