Neither rainbow flags nor bashing: here's how old-school tolerant conservatism works at S. Clement's.

At least since building the Ben Franklin Parkway right after WWI wiped out the neighbourhood that was S. Clement's parish (families who lived in the rowhouses near the church and happened to be Episcopal), the church has been a magnet for artistically inclined gay men of certain old-fashioned high cultural tastes (stereotypes don't tell the whole truth but they exist because lots of people fit them), also something Anglo-Catholicism's been known for since it began, when Tractarian theology got together with romantic artistic nostalgia in the 1800s. (Lots of other young fogeys are gay.)

Except for an unfortunate period in the 1970s - Clem's modern mainstreamish Episcopal phase - this fact of a gay majority has never affected the integrity of the liturgy or the preaching there.

The Episcopal diocese knows most of Clem's is gay so it doesn't take them seriously, assuming that underneath all the old-school Roman Catholic religion they're secretly on its side.

Clem's knows that the diocese knows that and thinks that, and is happy to let it think that so they can practise Tridentine Anglo-Catholicism undisturbed, which will work (practically if not theologically) as long as the bishop's not a woman who won't give them an episcopal visitor.

(Which seems off course from the original Anglo-Catholic claims of Anglicanism's Catholic character and the hope truly held 50-60 years ago of corporate reunion with the Roman Catholic Church. Also the reason, besides Thomas Day's masterly explanation of American RCs, why Clem's isn't the RC national parish – update: in one of the coming RC ordinariates for ex-Anglo-Catholics – it should be.)

Liberals think it's hypocritical; conservatives are inclined to bash. Clem's at its best sees it as inclusive not in the liberal but really Catholic sense: all are welcome to come and pray but the church is not a vehicle for secular causes.

June 28, 2009