I have read quite a few hard words against Episcopal Bishop Jeffrey Steenson on account of his desire to leave the Episcopal Church and enter into full communion with the Catholic Church
I’ve been following the posts and comments throughout the blogosphere. I have observed a few things. There are basically four responses to Steenson’s conversion:
1) Yeah! Welcome home! Yet another smart Protestant has become a Catholic! (from Catholics)
2) I feel betrayed. Steenson became a bishop not too long ago and he was supposed to help protect us from the liberals. Now he is “abandoning his sheep”. (from conservative Anglicans)
3) I am hurt and/or confused. This is another example of how bad things are in the Episcopal Church. (from conservative Anglicans)
4) Good. Perhaps this will facilitate future advancement of the Pastoral Provision and/or Anglican reunion with the Holy See (from conservative Anglo-Catholics who are Romeward minded)
I am primarily concerned with response #2 because that seems to be the one most often aired online.
People do not understand how a bishop could possibly walk away from his charge to protect the flock from error. However, when one is a cleric in the Episcopal Church, one is constantly having to make decisions of compromise. As an Anglican layman, I could avoid many of those compromises. However, when I became an Episcopal priest, these compromises became amplified. Take for example Chrism Mass in my old diocese of Fort Worth. Here I found myself standing with my bishop and my brother priests of the diocese. It was a glorious event…but the bishop was flanked by female “deacons”. Many don’t have a problem with women “deacons”. “They don’t offer Mass so it doesn’t effect the sacraments.” But Holy Orders is a sacrament and it does effect that sacrament. It reveals a deficient understanding of Holy Orders in general. Did Bishop Iker want to make this compromise. No. But as an Episcopal bishop, “he had to do what he had to do for the sake of more important things.” You can see how slippery this whole business is, especially for Episcopal bishops.
So what do you do? You stand there and suffer through it. Next week you’re asked to marry a woman to a man who has been married three times. You know it’s not Catholic, so what do you do? You just justify it somehow so that you can “keep ministering to the faithful without causing scandal.” Over time these little compromises grow.
Steenson is simply tired of the compromises. He is tired of the games. For crying out loud, he had to have Bishop Frank Griswold consecrate him to the episcopate. A man comes to a point where his conscience just cannot take it anymore.
So in defense of Jeffrey Steenson, let me just say that he likely came to his love for the Catholic Church not in spite of his being an ECUSA bishop but because he had the inhuman job of trying to be an “orthodox leader” in a sea of compromise. Nobody wants a magisterium as badly as conservative Anglican clergy because they have to teach with authority when they have no magisterial authority to back them up. A quick look at the “orthodox” groups in ECUSA reveals that doctrinal compromise is everywhere. Forward in Faith is hand in hand with groups that ordain women to the priesthood or who deny the objective real presence of the Eucharist. Why did they do that? Because “one has to do what he has to do in order minister to the remnant in ECUSA.”
I know several Anglicans who are hurt over this and all the other hardships occurring in ECUSA. However, let us show charity toward Jeffrey Steenson. Everyman must follow his conscience.