Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Church in frenzy: A long tradition
August 24 '05
By Dave Shiflett
Published: Wednesday, August 24, 2005 10:25 AM EDT

A wise old European gent once told me he had "no problem with God. It's his ground crew you have to watch out for." Wariness of religious organizations and factions has a long history and in our day it has taken on renewed vigor since some holy fellows took up the devotional act of hijacking airplanes.

In America, however, the stories tend to concern turmoil and disintegration within historic denominations. And while the headlines often suggest this is something new, the slide into chaos, incoherence and perhaps oblivion seen in some denominations - especially in the Protestant mainline - has been long and not without its amusements.

While reporting for a new book, I enjoyed looking back at the long slide of that train wreck known as the Episcopal Church, which is by now a mere postage stamp of a religion, claiming allegiance, by one estimate, of a walloping 0.78 percent of the American public. Despite its micro-membership, the Episcopal Church is often in the headlines.

The most recent glut of stories has concerned the aftermath of the ordination of Eugene Robinson, a homosexual, as bishop in New Hampshire. A group of traditionalist Episcopalians has responded to this act of gay ordination by establishing a network of dissenting churches. By my estimation, this seemed an odd place to draw the line. After all, this church has put up with much worse.



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