As many of my readers will know, the Diocese of Quincy became the third Diocese to remove themselves from the Episcopal Church, USA recently.Â The official line from TEC is still, of course, that only individuals can leave, not Dioceses or parishes.Â Yet, I believe out natural human inclination to say that such-and-such parish or such-and-such diocese has left is revelatory.Â It reveals the truth that a parish or a diocese is nothing if not made up of the people within it.Â It also reveals that the claims of the Episcopal Church to a certain type of formal authority and heirarchy are not only on historically thin ice, but simply do not fit the reality of the moment.
Sometimes attempts at clarification help more than arguments. This is especially true of marital quarrels: Iâ€™ll rarely convince my wife Iâ€™m right about this or that course of action, but I can at least try to explain what I thought I was doing.
It may be helpful, in light of Fr Dan Martinsâ€™ compelling essay, to explain briefly what Quincy thinks it did last Friday afternoon. I canâ€™t claim to speak for the diocese. But I can work through some theological reasons employed at the synod (from the debate itself, and addresses by Bishops Ackerman, Beckwith, and Parsons as well) to try to explain what Quincy thinks it did. This may or may not correspond to what it actually did. Iâ€™m not going to judge the synodâ€™s action, which means Iâ€™ll neither agree nor disagree with Fr Martinsâ€™ assessment of it. Iâ€™m merely going to use his terms â€“ rebellion and revolution â€“ to explain what Quincy thinks it did.
The nearest dictionary defines rebellion as “an act of violent or open resistance to an established government or ruler,” and revolution, “a forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system.” Fr Martins rightly notes their virtual synonymity. Different shades of meaning only emerge retrospectively, when historyâ€™s victors tell their story â€“ when, that is, rebels become revolutionaries by successfully establishing and valorizing their own regimes. However, rebellion and revolution are identical in one objective condition: the rejection of established political authority.
It wouldnâ€™t be hard to imagine how to apply these terms to the present situation, even if Fr Martin hadnâ€™t already ably done so. A rebellion is in progress, the rebellion of a handful of dioceses against TEC â€“ which nevertheless may in the long-term end up looking more like a revolution. Only time will tell.
Perhaps. The problem with this way of understanding Fridayâ€™s action is that Quincy doesnâ€™t think it has rebelled or revolted. Iâ€™ve already implicitly explained why. To rebel or revolt, there has to be some established political authority to rebel or revolt against. And though many will beg to differ, Quincy emphatically does not think it has rejected an established political authority. Neither therefore has it rebelled or revolted.