The Case for Intervention

NOTE: This was originally posted on TitusOneNine ( in response to an excellent article by Ephraim Radner. You can click on the headline above to read Radner’s article, entitled “Why I am Still a Member of the Anglican Communion Network.”

The General Convention in June will be the fifth that I’ve attended. General Convention, as we all know, is how the Episcopal Church actually governs.

Over the past twelve years that I’ve witness the events at General Convention, it is my opinion that there is almost what could be best described as a pattern of behavior that now has led to a massive intervention. What the Network and global friends from around the world are attempting to do, with love, is an intervention. The Episcopal Church is in form Anglican, but not in substance. Like a functioning alcoholic, the Church looks as though all is well, but underneath there are significant issues that are now tearing the Church apart.

I am reminded, then, of the process that a family goes through in making an intervention of a family member who has become an alcoholic, but in denial. We could make the case that the Episcopal Church has become addicted to substances that continue to tear the church apart from her Anglican roots causing spiritual and organizational decline. What has been happening over the past twelve years and is now coming to a head is that as a Church we are being confronted with an intervention to decide if we want to get help as a church or continue in our pattern of decline. The facts speak for themselves. The Episcopal Church is fading, she is loosing members daily, bleeding them to other churches in America or to agnosticism. The problem is severe and the presenting issue – Gene Robinson’s consecration – is a reflection of the deeper issues that have been fifty years in the making.

No one likes to be confronted with unhappy facts. For a long, long time the Episcopal Church has been able to maintain an outward appearance that all is well, has encouraged its government and its bishops to maintain this outward appearance, but now the laity and the leadership of the church are taking steps to confront this monumental problem. Is it not surprising that now, with the threat that the appearance is a really only a facade that we now have a major pushback from bishops who have been charged with maintaining that facade?

We should not be surprised, then, when those who are deeply entwined into the mechanisms of the church should now – as they start to comprehend that what we face is very very serious – begin to use every destructive method (name calling, intimidation, mud slinging, power grabbing and other forms that actually destroy the church rather than save her) that can be used.

One of the primary ways of discerning this kind of response is that often those who are being confronted with the facts accuse those doing the confrontation with their own sins. This is called “transference” and I think now, as Radner points out so well in his article, is what these diocesan bishops and other leaders in the Episcopal Church are doing. They have entered into “transference.”

So each time a bishop or Episcopal leader accuses the Network of something, it is very likely they are engaging in transference. We have to be ready, as those families who do interventions, to respond lovingly but firmly with the facts, as Radner here as done so well. It is not the Network who has caused the crisis in the Episcopal Church, but these very leaders who are now realizing how serious this situation is.

Understanding transference is also helpful for those who are being attacked to see what the bishop is actually doing. If the bishop is accusing the Network of a power grab, than it is likely that this bishop is actually engaging himself in powergrabing behavior himself or herself. Remember, the bishop is the one with the power. He cannot accuse someone else of grabbing power unless he is the one who is afraid of loosing power – so he/she will accuse others of grabbing power because that is what he/she is doing.

For years we can see that we have “enabled” the leadership of the Episcopal Church to drift further and further away from the Anglican Christianity that established the Prayer Book. We have engaged in “rescue missions” of our own, out of our love for the Church. But now that has to stop. No more rescue missions, no more enabling. Those days are over. We had own moment on August 4, 2003, to realize that rescuing and enabling was not going to work.

We also have to remember, as Radner states as well, that we are trying to see ECUSA get “sober.” The hope is redemption.

But at the same time, as families who have suffered through an alcoholic member, we have to be wise with our own resources. We don’t get in the car with someone who is not sober, we don’t give them money, and sometimes we have to move out of the house.

I have a member of my own family who had an intervention. It was a terrible moment in his life. He was successful, bright, handsome, full of the future and he nearly lost it all – he would have lost it all, except for a family intervention that confronted him with the truth. His career as he thought it would be was ruined, he had to start all over again, but he got help, he fought his way to sobriety and now he has a life that put him inside the Supreme Court a few weeks ago defending a case of national significance. He has become an extraordinary man, a real down to earth caring and compassionate leader. He was set free from the bondage he had known and today is an inspiration in my own life.

I think of him a lot these days as we go through this intervention in the Episcopal Church, remembering what he went through and what we went through as a family. It does seem as though we are at such a moment for the Church to decide whether to continue the spiral of decline or embrace spiritual sobriety