Various divines think that they know the future of the Independent Sacramental Movement. The truth is, though, that none of us really know the truth. You have various people on one side saying that there should be no structure--that the ISM should continue as a loose knit group of clergy who, like Johnny Appleseed, are spreading their Orders and Grace throughout the universe. Then there are those on the other side who think that we should create little mini-Roman Churches complete with our own "accredited" seminaries, titles, and trappings expected of a "respectable" denomination.
Me? I'm somewhere in the middle. I don't think that it is realistic to have a completely independent model. There are too many liabilities both legal and ethical to have absolutely no accountability. However, this doesn't mean that I think the word "vagante" is a bad one. After all, wasn't Jesus a vagante or itinerant rabbi?
On the other side I don't think that completely replicating larger denominations is a fantastic idea. Some possible rationales for wanting to create an established jurisdiction:
- Recognition by the Union of Utrecht. This will never, ever happen. Why do Old Catholics in America delude themselves in thinking so? Why would the Old Catholic Churches of Europe, which are dwindling in number, risk their relationship with the 2 million member Episcopal Church of the US? The Episcopal Church is our national church in America, for better or worse. Some will argue that there was the PNCC, but that was more of a historical abnormality--formed before the Bonn Agreement. And Savonarola still isn't accredited!
- Replication of Rome. Some folks are upset because they could not be Roman Catholic priests. Maybe they're gay, or a woman, or divorced and remarried, etc. However, if you join the ISM you have to realize that the RC ship has sailed. You can join the long line of dissenters that will go nowhere--be they the almost dead Continuing Anglicans or the going-nowhere Roman Catholic Women Priests. Movements that are founded purely out of objection tend to not last more than a generation. True, there are rare examples like the Old Believers. That takes an almost Siberian stubbornness, though.
Somewhere in the middle is ok with me. Not lawlessness but not so rigid that the Spirit is not allowed to move. Without that movement there would be no women clergy, openly gay clergy, etc. that has been the independence of the ISM from the very beginning. That's the beauty of small jurisdictions--each person can find a place that fits their sympathies and personality well.
That's not to say that our clergy and laity should not be well informed. But, maybe the 3 year M.Div. model is not well suited to the ISM. And maybe we do have a bit more bishops than needed, but then again why does Rome need the Secretary of the Papal Laundry to be a bishop? Maybe we won't all become stipendiary parish clergy, but look at the complacency that has developed in other traditions.
Let us mentor one another, encourage one another, and fellowship together.
"The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."