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The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Monday, December 31, 2007

Spirituality Bunk

Schofield, Spirituality – The Ruin of the Church

Few of my readers will be surprised that I write that the notion of Christian spirituality rife in the church today is the ruin of the church. One of the most prominent spiritual directors in the Episcopal Church today is Bishop J.D. Schofield of San Joaquin who is pulling his Diocese out of the Episcopal Church. When he was vicar of St. Columba’s Church, Inverness, California, the church was a center of spiritual direction, retreats and prayer groups. He led spiritual direction seminars all over California and became so well known he was elected Bishop of San Joaquin. St. Columba’s was not a thriving parish. It had few members, was not self-supporting, but the people prayed a lot. That emphasis on spirituality to the exclusion of social service and social action accompanied by an anti-gay agenda hurled Schofield into the limelight.

The 1950’s and 60’s the leadership of the church was convinced Christian Education and then the group life movement were the salvation of the church. Then along came spirituality and the church continues to wallow in wandering purposelessness but now at least we pray at every possible turn. When the present Bishop of California was elected in 2005, Bishop William Swing, presiding, appointed a chaplain to the convention. The chaplain uttered a prayer at every possible pause in the proceedings. We gave God a proper dose of “thy will be done” that day as if she needed such a constant reminder.

The present Bishop of California, Marc Andrus, has a motto of Christan action based in a vigorous prayer life. I see programs in diocesan propaganda on spirituality, Taize services, spiritual formation, centering prayer, contemplative prayer, stewardship, how to run a vestry meeting, youth group, quiet days etc. I see no programs on how to develop a social action ministry in parishes or diocese. How do we help ay people move from prayer to action? How can a parish church be a peace church, be anti-war, teach young people about the evils of war. How can the diocese help parishes resist racism and sexism in local communities, private clubs, private and pubic schools? Do we help parents handle bullies in their families and schools or do we leave that up to the local school. What should our churches do when the sponsor Boy Scout troops that discriminate against gay members and leaders? Can the diocese teach parish churches and clergy to protest war, racial profiling and gay bashing?

The General Theological Seminary in New York of which I am an alumnus came out with a Spring catalogue of classes for lay people. There was not one social action course, lecture, discussion or movie on how to implement prayer and spirituality into action. We prepare people to pray but not to act.


Here are some sermon topics for action oriented preachers. They are lines written by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

“Challenge capitalism as a masquerade for democracy.”

“Liberate have-nots and enrage despots.”

“Make permanent waves not just on the heads of stylish women.”

To coin a phrase, “Faith without works is dead.”

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