Does it have to do with the presence of Native Americans?

The following letter appears in the current edition of Church Times. Note especially the last paragraph, which is one of several complaints that have surfaced in conservative circles about our Church’s willingness to treat Native American Episcopalians as though they have something to offer us.

Sir, — It has been reported (News, 30 July) that a proposal brought to the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion to “separate” the Episcopal Church in the United States from the Anglican Communion was “rejected” because the “overwhelming majority” of the committee’s members thought such a separation would “inhibit dialogue” concerning “anxieties felt in parts of the Communion about sexuality issues”.

From the vantage of more than one of those “parts” of Anglican Communion in which I continue to serve, both inside and outside the Episcopal Church, “anxieties about sexuality issues” seem the least of the reasons why, in turn, the majority of the Episcopal Church’s own leadership should simply be acknowledged as having already “separated” themselves not only from the Anglican Communion, but from biblical and credal Christianity.

To observe, for instance, what passes for liturgy at many denominational events of the Episcopal Church, such as the putative consecration service for the new Bishops Suffragan of Los Angeles, is to understand the degree to which the Episcopal Church makes allowance, indeed makes deliberate provision, for a practice of religion which of its very nature “separates” its practitioners doctrinally from the Body of Christ.


Dean Emeritus of South Carolina

You can respond to this address:

Church Times,

13-17 Long Lane,

London EC1A 9PN


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  1. tobias haller

    Sad to see the former Dean display his ignorance of the rich tradition of Christian adoption of the practices and customs of other religions and cultures. One of the first things Gregory the Great advised Augustine to do was to adapt any native custom he might find in England that would lead to upbuilding the Body of Christ.

    Sorry he sees separation where what is happening is incorporation!

  2. Dä'ved Äyan | David Allen

    Obviously this person believes that the incorporation of indigenous religious actions or symbols is an abomination. In the 2,000 year history of the Christian Church many indigenous religious “things” have been “baptized” into Christian use.

    I was not aware that the Church in South Carolina was purged of all but the most ancient and primitive of Christian ceremony. I guess that unknown to the rest of us they have become the ultimate Puritans in SC.

    SC only has one dean? And he was one of the former folks who held this position?

  3. John B. Chilton

    Ha. My first thought was “Dean Emeritus of South Carolina” must have mean a former dean of the University of South Carolina, not the Diocese of South Carolina.

    As always, I wish to underscore that South Carolina has two dioceses. One is the Diocese of Upper South Carolina. The other is the lower diocese AKA the Diocese of South Carolina.

    If you do choose to respond do try not to write in a stilted style lest the dean think you are having fun at his expense.

  4. I think the tone of Dean McKeachie’s letter is instructive for hangers-on at the Episcopal Cafe who are offering comments on the upcoming CAPA conference (and on its funding). To my ears, the Dean’s letter provides a useful example of commentary that, by its tone, invites the reader to disagree. For instance, if your wish as a writer is to be irenic – to invite consensus – to engage the Other in friendly discourse – I think it could be helpful to avoid words like ‘putative.’ I’m just saying.

    Pamela Grenfell Smith

    Bloomington, Indiana

  5. Father Matt Tucker

    The title of this article and the comments below it show why actual conversation (and yes, argument) cannot happen in TEC today. The Dean has taken issue with practices which do not convey explicitly the Faith once given, and he chose to voice his issue. What he got in return was accusations of racism and historical ignorance. I have seen friends be accused of homophobia for not supporting same-sex marriage, another conversation ending tactic.

    While I tend to think that we are all too eager to incorporate non-Christian ritual and practice into the Divine Liturgy, I also think it edifying to explore ways in which local customs can, in fact, be “baptized” into canon. However, perhaps the mass of consecration of a bishop is not the place to explore these things.

    My hope is that we all, on both sides of all our issues, can assume that those who disagree with us have healthier motives than what I have seen here.

  6. Father Matt, if he can’t stand the heat, he shouldn’t write letters to the editor. He wrote pointed commentary and we wrote pointed commentary in resposne. No special pleading, please. Also, while we are at it, who exactly accused him of being a homophobe? Where?

  7. Father Matt Tucker

    Jim, no one accused the Dean of being a homophobe, nor, if you read my comment again, did I say anyone did. I merely pointed out that if anyone wants a true conversation on any issue, accusing your opposite of racism or homophobia (or whatever) will not yield that conversation. And if I don’t plead for some manner of Christian civility, it appears no one will.

  8. My bad, you didn’t say anyone called him a homphobe. Sorry. To your other point: Pointing out that people who are ignorant of historical facts are ignorant of historical facts is not uncivil. It is a public service. Funny how the first comment you left on the Cafe accused people of heresy, and now–besides being an arbiter of liturgical practice– you are the apostle of civility. Please.

  9. John D

    Oh Fr.Matt, I suppose the good Dean’s referring to the consecration of two bishops for all of Christ’s Church as a “putative” event was just his way of looking for friendly conversation. Really. South Carolina presents itself as an arrogant island where that doggone “Faith once given” is kept safe from the rest of us, even if we just live up the road in Atlanta.And don’t even get me going on “what passes for liturgy” in some places around Charleston.

    John Donnelly

  10. Father Matt Tucker

    Pointing out heresy and accusing people of being hateful are two different things, Jim. And to my point about civility: imputing righteousness to the motives of others, especially to those with whom you disagree, is helpful in communication. Being snide, on the other hand, rarely helps.

  11. tobias haller

    Fr. Matt, truth hurts sometimes. The aspects of native culture the Dean critiques with his dismissive letter to the editor are no more inherently non-Christian than the use of incense or the name of Easter.

    As he no doubt does know these things, he is demonstrably rude not to make use of that knowledge to engage in real dialogue, to say nothing of casting about words like “putative” to describe the ordination itself.

    He shows no indication of interest in dialogue or civility, but rather dismissal and discipline of those he finds offensive.

    Civil is as civil does. Were the Dean actually interested in dialogue, he might have cited those “practices” at the liturgy that could “separates us doctrinally from the Body of Christ.” (I’m not even sure what that means, let alone what might accomplish what “nothing in all creation” can do.)

    The Dean is interested in division, not dialogue.

  12. Jeffrey L. Shy, M.D.

    Interestingly, a google of the Dean Emeritus of the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul of the Diocese of SC shows that he is presently a ministry associate of St. Andrews Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Ft. Worth. A quick trip to the church’s website shows it to be a self-proclaimed “1928 Prayerbook parish.” Its worship schedule is for Sunday Morning, Morning Prayer with Communion on the first Sunday of the month (keeping alive, presumably, that great OT tradition of the New Moon Festival)

    While I certainly acknowledge the importance of the ’28 Prayerbook in our American liturgical heritage (in equal company with its predecessor prayerbooks), having weekly ’28 prayerbook morning prayer and monthly communion hardly screams a mainstream liturgical practice. Indeed, it would seem to make “deliberate provision for a religious practice of religion which of its very nature “separates” its practitioners…”

    It is hard for me to see how such a person in such a parish could throw barbs about deviant liturgical piety.

  13. MarkBrunson

    Conversation is impossible because some people pretend there was *ever* a faith “once” delivered and then put their fingers in their ears and scream “heretic, heretic, heretic.”

  14. tgflux

    Pointing out heresy and accusing people of being hateful are two different things

    Right up there w/ “Hating the [most important, holy truth about our lives], while loving sinner” and (historically) “burning the body to save the soul”, I’m sure.

    You can stop already w/ the “public service”, Fr Matt. With friends like you, who needs…

    JC Fisher

  15. tgflux

    Pointing out heresy and accusing people of being hateful are two different things

    Right up there w/ “Hating the [most important, holy truth about our lives], while loving sinner” and (historically) “burning the body to save the soul”, I’m sure.

    You can stop already w/ the “public service”, Fr Matt. With friends like you, who needs…

    JC Fisher

  16. tgflux

    Sorry for the double post. JCF

  17. Father Matt Tucker

    Wow, with respectful and thoughtful comments like these, it’s no wonder our Church is in the shape she’s in.

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