Monday, February 4, 2013

I'm Not Sure What The Fuss Is About,

but I have some ideas. The blogosphere is a strange thing: some blogs, like this one, are aimed at exposing a particular problem that isn't worth media attention, or perhaps should have media attention but doesn't get it. I'm not doing autobiography here, I'm talking about a somewhat quirky corner of the Church Universal and some of the cobwebs in it. Other people blog, in effect, to remake themselves. They project an idealized persona that they'd like to be, or that they'd like other people to think they are. That's fine as far as it goes, whatever floats your boat.

In the end, though, it seems to me that religion isn't about projecting an idealized persona. Isn't that a little too close to hypocrisy, an issue that's at the heart of the Gospels? I think Stephen Smuts is at minimum a fantasy-style blogger: he's a "priest" in a splinter denomination who clearly spends a great deal of time posting pretty pictures on a blog that's mainly aimed at making him and his denomination look more respectable than they are.

Ms Gyapong and various commenters on her blog speculate that maybe, because the TAC is so small, it can't help ordaining people who don't have an MDiv, so that's OK. Isn't that a little backward? If you feel you have a vocation, wouldn't your motive be to follow that vocation through with as much integrity as you can muster? Wouldn't that include a desire to be properly ordained in a real denomination? St Paul talks about running the race in order to win it. I don't expect every Christian to be a Catholic or a Presbyterian or whatever, but shouldn't a vocation mean taking things seriously enough to dot the I's and cross the T's? If a denomination is so small I can't go to a seminary, shouldn't that make me decide to switch to a bigger denomination?

Stephen Smuts is basically just living out a blogosphere fantasy. There's a small number of people who for whatever reason want to share that fantasy. His main defenders in the comments are themselves a bit weird -- look at Michael Frost, a frequent commenter on various blogs. The guy claims to be Orthodox, and the biographical information he's given in various comments says he lives in the Omaha, Nebraska area. But also from comments, he says he frequently attends the ACA parish at St Aidan's Des Moines, Iowa, which means that although he claims to be Orthodox, he drives 125 miles on a Sunday to have an Anglo-Catholic "mass" at a parish with 25 members and call Louis Falk "Your Grace". This is the web, and none of this may be remotely true, but if this was the kind of person who thought I was a real priest, I'd feel uncomfortable.

UPDATE: Michael Frost has sent me the following e-mail: "I saw your comment regarding me and wanted to correct an inaccuracy in it. I do not live in Omaha, Nebraska. I haven't for a few years. I am Antiochian Orthodox and have worshipped in our Western Rite for a long time. While I love the Byzantine liturgy, I prefer our Western Rite. There is no Antiochian Orthodox Church in Des Moines. The local ACA church is about 4 miles from my house. I first visited this church in 1981 when I was taking a class on Comparative Christian Denominations. I met then Bishop Falk, now retired Archbishop, shortly after his ordination to the episcopacy and have had the great pleasure over the years to visit with him every time I was back home and had the chance to worship with them. So when I moved back home it was natural for me to feel at home worshipping with them on Sundays."

And that's just one of the regulars on the Anglo-Catholic blog comment sections. It's simply a bizarre crew -- Anthony Chadwick, for instance, appears to have undertaken a long and erratic spriritual journey without thinking to bring a GPS along. I don't have personal animosity for any of these people -- this is the web, and people can represent themselves as anything, so how on earth do I know whom to hate when you can be a bald, pot-bellied 55-year-old guy who posts as an 18-year-old redhead named Ingrid? And is it hateful just to point out that Ingrid isn't who she claims to be? What of the webizens who've fallen in love with the fake Ingrid and traded e-mails with "her"? Is it hateful to disappoint them?

I'm blogging about St Mary of the Angels because what happened there is a puzzle, with roots that go back at least two generations. I don't think it's accurate to say any particular individual was traumatized by one or another thing that happened last year. A lot of people have been affected in many different ways, over many years. It's a big story. And oh, by the way, there are lots of Ingrids in this story. Sorry to disappoint.