Monday, December 04, 2006

Episcopalian Fractures Widen

The signs are all there. On the left, the American Episcopalian Church, which alienated itself from the global Anglican fellowship by its election of an openly gay bishop, are voices saying that they may have to go on alone, isolated from the rest of the Anglican world. While there are Europeans who would welcome the addition of gay bishops, the vast majority of Anglicans, now concentrated in the so-called Third World, are appalled by the prospect. That means not many will follow in the footsteps of the American Church, and certainly not the official Anglican church, centered in Canterbury, England.

On the right are American traditionalist Episcopalians just as appalled by the actions of their national church. Some individual churches have already withdrawn, as we at the Kirk did from the PCUSA. There is even an entire diocese (the equivalent of one of the PCUSA’s presbyteries) that is withdrawing.

In such a situation it would be sensible to agree to disagree and moving on separately. We've learned not to expect common sense or common grace from a liberal denomination. Like the PCUSA, the officialdom of the Episcopalian Church is dominated by the “tolerant” left wing. The Episcopalian liberal leadership is similarly bent on keeping property and punishing those who would leave.

The great irony here is found in the language used by the liberals as they criticize those leaving. They argue that they are preserving the faith!

The newly installed Presiding Bishop of the Episcopalian Church, Katherine Schiori, has sent the following to the Bishop of San Joaquin Diocese in Southern California, upon their progress toward separation from their denomination:
I have seen reports of your letter to parishes in the Diocese of San Joaquin, which apparently urges delegates to your upcoming Diocesan Convention to take action to leave the Episcopal Church. I would ask you to confirm the accuracy of those reports. If true, you must be aware that such action would likely be seen as a violation of your ordination vows to “uphold the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them.” I must strongly urge you to consider the consequences of such action, not only for yourself but especially for all of the Episcopalians under your pastoral charge and care.

I certainly understand that you personally disagree with decisions by General Conventions over the past 30 and more years. You have, however, taken vows three times over that period to uphold the “doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church.” If you now feel that you can no longer do so, the more honorable course would be to renounce your orders in this Church and seek a home elsewhere. Your public assertion that your duty is to violate those vows puts many, many people at hazard of profound spiritual violence. I urge you, as a pastor, to consider that hazard with the utmost gravity.
This comes from a denomination that has aggressively ordained openly gay priests (and a bishop), has championed same-sex marriage, and has wandered far from its original faith. For its leaders to criticize a conservative Bishop saying that he is no longer upholding the “doctrine, discipline, and worship, of the Episcopal Church” would be laughable, were it not so sad.

The Episcopalian leaders are also just as free as the PCUSA leadership with threatening language. Bishop Lee in Northern Virginia diocese is particularly bellicose:
I believe your successors in the future will regret that decision and its destructive consequences to the whole church,” the bishop wrote of congregations threatening to leave the diocese. Any congregation attempting to leave without a negotiated settlement with the diocese “will have repercussions and possible civil liability for individual vestry members."
My heart resonates with the statement of the vestry (board) of Truro Church.
The Episcopal Church thus has walked beyond any worldly hope of or expectation for returning to its original foundations. In addition, the toil of resisting and enduring its decline has taken a heavy toll on Truro, particularly in the three years between the General Conventions. The feedback that has flowed in from the congregation during our discernment period, in dozens of small groups, in written submissions, in congregational meetings, and in countless private conversations, has confirmed our sense of this toll and indeed shown it to be heavier than we had thought. We therefore have been constrained to conclude that, if Truro Church is to continue as a vital congregation, and if it is to preserve its witness to God’s Word and its fellowship for the Gospel throughout the Anglican Communion, we cannot persist any longer in The Episcopal Church. We must sever our ties, so that we might remain with those who do not hesitate to contend for the faith but rather delight in doing so.
This is where we at the Kirk found ourselves this last summer. We need to keep Truro Church and the San Joaquin Diocese in our prayers. Like the Episcopalians, we face opposition from denominational leaders content in their own unorthodoxy, but horrified at the unorthodox nature of our departure. Like these Episcopalians, we face the loss of the property that we have built, paid for, maintained, and lived in. I hope that doesn’t happen, but if it does, it is actually a small price to pay in order to delight in contending for the faith.

Keep praying--keep the faith,
Tom

1 comment:

Pamela Cook said...

Pastor Tom,

I joyfully give you an update on the San Joaquin Diocese. After the Bishop's tirade against them it had been reported that the diocese had backed away from their stance. However a report came out Sunday stated that they had voted to affirm its membership with the worldwide Anglican Communion. Here is the link: http://www.christianpost.com/article/20061203/23827.htm.

It appears that followers of Christ have reached their limit in trying to change these groups. I'm glad to see it. The Bible says that bad company corrupts good morals in 1 Cor 15:33 I believe. What is happening to these denominations is a glaring example of this. Those Bible believing leaders that did not kick out unrepentant leadership have been taken over by them. The 'tolerant' leadership are now persecuting the Bible believers. I hope that other leaders in groups where they are debating the issue of allowing unrepentant sinners in leadership are watching your congregation and the Episcopal Church. They will have the same end if they do not boot out the ones rebelling against the word of God.

It's time to roll out and get out of the madness. It must be a very hard decision to make but not making it will cause problems with God. Knowing that the Lord is pleased with these decisions I hope will give those leaders peace.