tions of some of its clergy. Not surprisingly, many Episcopaliansrnabandoned the church, usually feeling that it had abandonedrnthem.rnThe chaos of the 1970’s was understandable in the contextrnof the political upsurges of these years, particularly the churches’rnweary quest to become “relevant”; but whatever the causes,rnthis was a decade that most Episcopalians should have beenrnglad to see end. What is baffling is that the church did not takernthe opportunity to retrench and recover after this turbulence,rnand throughout the 1980’s there was a steady slide in the directionsrnadvocated by the most radical. While the rate of declinernin membership has slowed somewhat in the last fivernyears, this is no cause for optimism. All this means is that thernceaseless hemorrhage of traditional Episcopalians is beingrncounteracted by an influx of refugees from other churches, whornbelieve that bad as it is, the Episcopal Church cannot be quiternas bad as their former institutions. Today, some 60 percent ofrnEpiscopalian Church members were raised in other Christianrntraditions. It remains to be seen how long such refugees fromrnother torn denominations can continue to staunch the flow.rnWhat can be so bad about this church? The central issue isrnauthority, or the lack thereof. Though the church has a traditionalrnEpiscopal hierarchy, it has become all but impossible tornfind a view or practice so bizarre, heretical, or outrageous as tornattract a critical word from a superior, still less a disciplinaryrnmeasure. Perhaps the best known Episcopal cleric today is JohnrnSpong, bishop of Newark, whose best-selling books have variouslyrndenounced the doctrines of the Trinity, the Virgin Birth,rnand the bodily Resurrection of Christ, all in the name ofrn”rescuing the Bible from fundamentalism.” “Fundamentalism”rnin this context means any belief in the historicity of mostrnaspects of the Christian story.rnSpong is especially radical on such matters as the women’srnrole in the church and the ordination of homosexuals. A scandalrnarose in 1989 when Spong contradicted explicit teaching byrnordaining a practicing homosexual (one church newspaper reportedrnthis moment with the memorable image “Spong laysrnhands suddenly on homosexual”). Apart from the illegality ofrnthis decision, the chosen candidate was thoroughly lacking inrncharity or diplomacy, as indicated when he suggested publiclyrnthat Mother Teresa would have been a better person if she hadrnsexual intercourse (though his actual language was far morernvulgar and explicit). Spong has explained the biblical injunctionsrnagainst homosexuality by declaring that St. Paul himselfrnwas “gay ” (though in most uses of the word, a less “ga)” personrnthan Paul is difficult to imagine). Spong has also denouncedrnthe alleged ill treatment of women by the “male-dominated”rnRoman Catholic Church, and his attacks have often venturedrninto the realm of strident anti-Catholicism. This singularlyrnunecumenical position is in fact quite common among thernradical and feminist wing of the Episcopal Church.rnNone of these actions has attracted the slightest censure orrnreprimand, and the lack of disciplinary framework has contributedrnto the intellectual anarchy within the church thatrnpasses under the guise of “spiritual freedom.” In 1991, thernbishop of Washington, D.C., ordained a noncelibate lesbian tornthe priesthood. Why should he not have? Spong had faced nornsanction.rnAnyone who believes that the universities are the purest bastionsrnof “political correctness” should venture into thatrnnational theological circus called the General Convention ofrnthe Episcopal Church, held triennially. The Phoenix gatheringrnof 1991 featured a systematic assault on the notion of ordainedrnpriesthood in the form of “eucharistic circles” passingrnaround the bread and wine, so that no one individual couldrnclaim a special elite authority to consecrate. Other notable elementsrnincluded a fulsome apology to Iraq and its governmentrnfor trouncing its armed forces in the Culf War. The EpiscopalrnChurch is firmly antimilitarist, except when the latest mediarnfad dictates the use of force. With the rest of the NationalrnCouncil of Churches, Episcopalians now demand military interventionrnagainst Serb forces in Bosnia, an act of stupidity thatrnfortunately has not yet come to pass.rnConnoisseurs of political faddery avidly awaited the 1994rnconvention, held at Indianapolis in August; they were not disappointed.rnHow could they be when featured speakers includedrnHillary Clinton’s personal guru Marian Wright Edelman?rnHigh points of the debates included passionate advocacyrnof ecclesiastical blessing of homosexual relationships and therncustomary circus of “feminist spirituality.” However, the centralrnevent was the plenary session on “Overcoming Sexism,”rnclearly the primary issue for any objective observer of the contemporaryrnworld scene or the modern spiritual malaise.rnBoth the Phoenix and Indianapolis conventions were mostrnnotable for their demonstration of the utter obsession of thernmainline church with matters of gender and sexual preference.rnThis especially manifests itself in the battle over “genderneutral”rnor “inclusive” language in liturgy or biblical translation,rnwhere the changes demanded by feminists have long venturedrnfar outside an)- concepts of traditional Christianity. The use ofrn”God the Father” or “God the Son” are obvious patriarchalrnabominations, but so is “Jesus,” because this form demands arnmale pronoun. “The Eternal Word” is an acceptable circumlocution.rn”In the name of the Father, the Son, and the HolyrnSpirit” is as unacceptable in many churches as racist jokesrnwould be in the mass media. This taste for the nonspecific andrnneutral also helps to dilute orthodox assertions of faith and tornexpand the overlap with generic New Age doctrines andrnthought. Another fashion involves extolling feminine biblicalrnimagery, a concept that may sound harmless until we see examplesrnlike the proposed liturgy declaring that “through Herrn[Wisdom] you formed the human race.” By this point, wernhave moved close to the goddess worship of both the New Agernand the Woman-Church movement.rnLinguistic and liturgical radicalism have affected the wholernrange of doctrine, with particular impact on the concepts of sinrnand atonement. In the radical perspective, the church shouldrnbe teaching pride and empowerment to the oppressed, andrnguilt and sin are “patriarchal” baggage to be discarded. ThernAtonement has even been described as the “ultimate in childrnabuse,” committed by God the Father against His Son. Andrnhow is it possible or justifiable to seek the conversion of a non-rnChristian if these outsiders are already privy to a truth at leastrnequally valid as Christianity? Episcopalians in the PacificrnNorthwest participated in a general apology to the Indianrncommunities of the region for having dared to evangelize themrnin previous centuries. In 1992, the denomination took the leadrnin the ritual denunciations of the Columbus quincentennial.rnFeminist influence is also manifest in the recent campaignsrnover “clergy sexual abuse,” a term that in the Episcopalian contextrngenerally does not mean the molestation of children byrnclergy but sexual associations between ministers and consentingrnadult women. This specific form of “abuse” has been thernDECEMBER 1994/19rnrnrn