A routine little news item that could easily slide by unnoticed:
[ENS, Source: NOEL] -- At the invitation of the White House, a group of 20 religious leaders, including Bishops James Stanton of Dallas, Keith Ackerman of Quincy, Peter Beckwith of Springfield, and Daniel Herzog of Albany, met with President George W. Bush on May 3 in Washington, D.C.
Other Episcopalians present were: the Rev. Canon David Anderson, president of the American Anglican Council; Sharon Stockdale of the Episcopal Church Missionary Community; and Georgette Forney, president of NOEL, formerly known as the National Organization of Episcopalians for Life. Also present were leaders from the Methodist, United Church of Christ, Baptist and Lutheran denominations.
Bush led a discussion that included abortion, challenges in Iraq and the Middle East, Social Security, and the value of faith-based initiatives for the American people. Stanton commended Bush for his work against AIDS in Africa. NOEL President Forney said, "As a woman who regrets her abortion and works with many others who feel the same, I worry about the emotional and spiritual consequences for those who choose euthanasia for a loved one or support the destruction of embryos. We especially need to help women so they can choose to have their babies and care for them."
As Marine One landed outside to take Bush to Air Force One for a commitment in Mississippi, Ackerman asked Bush if they could pray for him before he left. The President accepted his offer and those on either side of him, Ackerman and Forney, laid their hands on him as all prayed.
Touching scene, literally. What needs to be understood is that these were not just any group of religious White House tourists. This gathering was a Who's Who of Episcopalians who dissent from the generally liberal, posture of the denomination. And they not only dissent. Having lost repeated internal debates about the meaning of the Christian call to live the Gospel in the contemporary USA, they want to split the church.
The ECUSA, which fifty years ago might rightly have been called "the ruling class at prayer," has undergone a wrenching evolution to become something of a bastion of liberal Christianity. It has achieved this posture through endless reflection and conversation, committee meetings, prayer and agonizing. It has ratified the posture at a series of General Conventions at which delegates from the dioceses, somewhat democratically selected, make policy pronouncements for the Church. Episcopalians are genuinely divided over the consecration of an openly gay bishop and consideration of the possibility of the church blessing gay partners. But most in the pews aren't going anywhere, despite the vigorous efforts of conservative activists, grouped in the American Anglican Council (AAC) and the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes (the Network.)
Bush's visitors are the leaders of the forces willing to blow the church up rather than accept their minority status. Of course they say God is on their side.
Bishops Stanton, Ackerman, Beckwith and Herzog are among those who have repeatedly asked the worldwide Anglican Communion to throw out the US branch of the Church. Beckwith is AAC vice-chair and president of its "Bishops Network."
Canon Anderson is the organizing brains behind the AAC; he is quoted as saying of church's approval of gay Bishop Robinson: "It's a shattering of the Episcopal Church," Anderson said. "It's the first step to the Episcopal Church -- as we know it -- coming apart."
Georgette Forney, president of NOEL leads an organization whose aim is to teach "about the negative physical, spiritual and emotional impact of abortion on women and let then know help is available."
Okay -- all these people have politically and religiously conservative views -- that is their right. And they apparently are supporters of the President (though I have been told Bishop Herzog is a Democrat) -- again their right. But doesn't this read as if Bush is blessing their alliance against mainstream Episcopalians, while they bless his controversial policies?
More reasons show up every day to struggle for the separation of Church and state. I certainly don't want Bush deciding who is a legitimate leader of my church!