Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Big Fish -- Small Pond?

A viosior asks,
How much do you think that being a big fish in a small pond effect is part of the attraction of some of these members? In some sense, we all want to feel useful, and looking at mega churches like Joel Olsteen's, I imagine that having any real influence on such a large church must fall to a very small inner circle. But if you are a member of a group in formation, I could see how one could feel very important. Reality is a different thing, of course. As a reference, there are small Protestant nondenominational churches all over America, that meet in shopping lease space, and high school gyms. Something has caused these people to reject the steeple and choose the laundromat sign as a marker to find spiritual enrichment. I think it is because they are seeking something genuine, that they feel is not present in the traditional structures. I would imagine that a group in formation is somewhat similar, but with a goal of getting out of the strip mall.
This raises a host of issues. Pope Francis in Gaudete et Exsultate stresses the importance of a parish, the steeple in other words, over the laundromat. The storefront is a Protestant phenomenon, and I would guess that many of the small-group types would rather go their own way in figuring out what the "Anglican patrimony" is -- and let's keep in mind that a good many OCSP members, especially the most prominent (including some of the clergy) have been riding the denominational carousel, and this ain't their first storefront.

In fact, those who lived through 2010-12 at St Mary of the Angels know that the dissident leaders, Mrs Bush, the Kangs, and even Dcn-Fr Bartus, were quite new to the parish and the "continuing" movement, but this didn't keep them from the conviction that Fr Kelley and the vestry majority had it all wrong and needed to be purged. There seems to be an inherent drive toward cliquishness in this mindset, but at the same time, we're talking about some basically unpleasant people with poor interpersonal skills. They'll never be popular outside the small groups they can variously flatter or bully.

In fact, this may be a reason why these groups can't grow beyond the storefront or the basement chapel -- the big fish aren't the sorts who can share leadership or defer to people with real talent where it's needed. Let's recognize again that the former Houston regime is said to have acknowledged that the lay leadership and capabilities in TEC vestries and parish staff never came over to the OCSP, and this was a major reason for the failure of the ParishSoft implementation.

I would also say that poor leadership and personal qualities among the lay big fish in the small groups -- as well as what must be lack of such qualities among the clergy -- have probably kept OCSP groups from thriving. Try to imagine, for starters, how newcomers would react to seeing Mrs Gyapong or Mr Schaetzel running the show, and the clergy who let them do it.

I think Anglicanorum coetibus had a limited understanding of Anglicanism -- by and large, especially in North America, these are Protestants who look like Catholics in certain superficial ways, and indeed, it reflects a certain amount of wishful thinking about Protestants overall. The decision to become Catholic for a Protestant will always be intensely personal, and I think the process isn't that far from how the Holy Father sees the call to holiness among Catholics.

Just for starters, it needs a parish to thrive. A couple of dozen people in a storefront, or indeed, a couple of dozen people meeting for said mass at 5:30 Sunday evenings in a basement chapel, is not a parish. I think Houston needs to rethink this issue, and this would include serious evaluation of the clergy whose groups aren't thriving. "Up or out" isn't a bad philosophy.