anthills–Episcopalians & the Anglican Communion

April 30, 2006

-ALL WILL / NOT BE WELL

Filed under: Anglican, Anglican Communion, ECUSA, The Windsor Report — anthill @ 12:21 pm

How does one represent in a title the double reality of a faithful Christian living through a crisis?

On the one hand, the best-known mantra of the fourteenth century English mystic Julian of Norwich, “all will be well,” claims a most basic truth. Through it all and after the worst, God will be present, sustaining and renewing for the individual believer.

On the other hand, the actual experience of the crisis may be painful to the extreme. “All will be well” may function as the last thread of hope a soul clings to.

All this is said for the individual; for certain human institutions, the use of the words, “all will be well,” may be part of “the big lie.”

One individual report (not a big-name personage) from the Synod of Province IV, just ended, is that the mood was “business as usual.” Resolutions attempting to press toward serious interaction with The Windsor Report were combined and replaced by a substitute resolution affirming “the spirit” of that report.

Province IV, comprising the southeastern states plus Kentucky, is arguably the most conservative of the provinces. If the watering down of the Windsor-related resolutions reflects an “all will be well” attitude, I’m afraid that doesn’t bode well for conservatives at General Convention.

Reinforcing this perception is the presence of five of the nominees for Presiding Bishop in the dioceses represented. These men are “powers” who exert their influence with words and without.

How can the outlook for conservatives at General Convention not be bleak? The Windsor Report is admitted to be the only explicit way that has been offered for keeping ECUSA in the Anglican Communion—our home in catholic Christianity.

“All will be well” seems to be the hope and prayer of those who seek to steer our church-ship into flow of the cultural mainstream. But the mantra that gives true comfort to individual believers, does not necessary apply to institutions.

If General Convention does not (and who would bet now that they will) humbly return to the Communion, then it can be predicted that a hundred thousand people would finally have had enough and walk away. There was a net loss of 27,252 people in Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) in 2004–the last year reported.

The “all will be well” leaders are bolstered for such a loss. Some will welcome it. But what a tragedy that multiple tens of thousands of sincere believers—many lifetime members—will be sacrificed for a purported forward step in the ministry of invitation and reconciliation. What a sad irony!

As an ordained representative of this church, I must say I have a foreboding feeling that “all will not be well” in ECUSA.

April 28, 2006

-A SWING AND A MISS

Filed under: Anglican, Anglican Communion, ECUSA, General Convention — anthill @ 8:30 am

The retiring bishop of the Diocese of California, William Swing, has posted an essay — "The Episcopal Church in the Balance" — at the diocese website. It is about what the Episcopal Church (USA) is really facing at General Convention.

It seems to him the crisis is not about how to apply Scripture, reason, and tradition to an important moral question. Nor is it about how to approach such decisions in communion with the international family that is your home in catholic Christianity.

It is about freedom, power-struggles, and church property. You should read this whole thing. It is probably a view deep into the minds of insiders in the leadership of ECUSA.

The only part of this rant that approaches a biblical theme is the word “freedom.” But is this the freedom in Christ found in the New Testament? We don’t know from the article, because the bishop doesn’t engage the New Testament or the gospel.

Freedom as he describes it is more freedom of movement or freedom in an institutional sense.

This essay is a depressing example of not granting any legitimate issues to your opposition. Swing sees his opponents as all about power and property when it gets right down to it. They must be using Scriptural concerns as a cloak for their power-plays. Swing allows no other room for their putative issues.

The title of Swing's essay shows how seriously he means to be taken. For the senior bishop in the House of Bishops to write like this adds greatly to the bleak outlook for General Convention. Knowing that he is still the leader of the diocese which has three gay priests in partnerships nominated to replace him is downright ominous.

Thanks to CaNN for the alert.

April 26, 2006

-GENERAL CONVENTION AS WATERSHED

Filed under: Anglican, Anglican Communion, ECUSA — anthill @ 10:48 am

The platform of "The Consultation" (eleven ECUSA organizations) was published on Susan Russell’s blog of April 17.

According to Russell, the platform is “not just a legislative agenda for General Convention but a vision for the Episcopal Church — grounded in the one Lord, one Faith and one Baptism that bind us together as the Body of Christ called to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.”

The following quote should be taken up word-for-word by those who don’t see things quite as The Consultation does:

We come to the 2006 General Convention in Columbus understanding clearly that the Episcopal Church is once again at a watershed moment in history. Now more than ever, it is critical to articulate what we believe and what we are called to do.

One only has to read between the lines a little to get the importance of this manifesto. The first “call” for the 2006 General Convention is to:

Continue the radical reformation [my italics] of the Church. [including] Remove all canonical obstacles to exercising the full baptismal ministry in the whole life of the Church.

If any Deputies to GC read the whole platform, please pay attention to the subtext that baptism, without explicit reference to vital faith in Jesus Christ, opens the way to consecration as a bishop. If I had to pick one factor that accounts for the scourge in our church, it would be bishops who give no clear testimony by their words and actions that they have a saving faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord.

Let Deputies be clear about one more thing. Many of those who represented these eleven organizations are ready and willing to sacrifice the Anglican Communion for faithfulness to their principles. This comes out subtly in Susan Russell’s preface to the platform:

It strikes me as an extremely hopeful sign that as we move closer to Columbus and General Convention 2006 there are faithful folks at work creating a proactive platform for a vision calling us to look beyond fighting over the unity of the institutional church to proclaiming the mission of the prophetic church: Alleluia, Alleluia!

Read the platform. Search for one reference to a priority for proclaiming the good news of eternal life through Jesus Christ—setting people free from the guilt and power of sin. Russell is aware of this component of our Anglican heritage. It comes out in one of her responses on her blog. But the evangelical and catholic mission of the gospel doesn’t make the list.

And let's be clear. Evangelical Episcopalians embrace the social and cultural implications of the gospel for our world (although I don't see the implications as most of the Consultation platform sees them). We are the hands and feet of Jesus in God's world.

But, if there is one thing, apart from a refusal to turn back to the Anglican Communion, that will drive me from the Episcopal Church, it is the abysmal omission at the national level of this church of evangelical priorities.

April 22, 2006

-DEEPEST DIFFERENCES

Filed under: Anglican, Anglican Communion, Episcopal Church — anthill @ 9:03 pm

The Presiding Bishop of ECUSA, many bishops, and other leaders are banking on an appeal to the Anglican Communion to hold diversity in tension while seeking a new consensus on sexuality and to get back to a shared mission.

I am persuaded by those serious-thinking people on both “sides” of our present argument who assert that the debate over homosexuality goes way deeper than the surface issues.

Our understanding of the mission of the Church, in practical terms, is one area of deep disagreement. Related to this, we often have radically different understandings of the good news of Jesus and the meaning of reconciliation to God.

Many other foundational points could be explored, but let’s start with mission and salvation.

In a previous diocese, I was part of a weekly lectionary group with three or four other Episcopal priests. Again and again when the readings had clear statements of the call to be reconciled to God and to receive eternal life, I would ask if they saw a personal element to this salvation. Not once did they agree; always it was communal, societal salvation.

Take the readings for the third Sunday of Easter. If you are to preach, what will you preach? If you are to hear, what will you hear? With some exceptions, you will see one of the deepest divides in our church played out in the sermon.

The BCP lectionary and the Revised Common Lectionary only share Luke 24:36b-48 this week. During an appearance of the risen Christ we hear:

Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

This purports to give one version of “The Great Commission”—“…repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations….” Of course, those who have bought into the post-modern, neo-gnostic outlook will deconstruct this classic scripture into a power-play by the later church.

The BCP readings then have (in order of the settings) Acts 4:5-12. Peter and John are arraigned ominously before many of the same people who condemned Jesus. The leaders ask what authority they claim. Peter answers:

…this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus is `the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.’ There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”

Another ringing proclamation of “salvation” and being “saved” (shades of Baptist-like preaching)!

Finally, in chronological order, we hear 1 John 1:1-2:2—“concerning the word of life”:

…if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
….
…if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

“Atoning sacrifice” is the RSV/NRSV soft translation of hilasmos—translated in earlier versions by “propitiation,” with its hint of the wrath of God. This was too much for the translators of the post-WWII boom. But Leon Morris, in The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, gave a rock-solid defense of the harder translation.

So, those who follow the BCP lectionary will be confronted by three “hammers of grace” ringing our bells.

What will the preachers do with these monumental texts? Mark my words—Many will ignore them and default to the equally classic reading from Micah 4:1-5:

In days to come the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised up above the hills. Peoples shall stream to it, and many nations shall come and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

He shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken. For all the peoples walk, each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the LORD our God forever and ever.

Some who preach will make special pleading about the world situation. Micah must be preached. But if the world were at peace, they would still find a reason (or give no reason) to bail out to Micah.

Those who follow the Revised Common Lectionary do not have such an out provided. Along with the gospel noted above, they will hear Acts 3:12-19—the episode that provoked the reading above from the BCP lectionary. And even here, the conclusion pressed on the crowd of witnesses to the healing is this:

And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out.

Jesus suffered to deal with the problem of sins. Repentance and a “turn to God” is the way to grasp God’s gift. This is individual salvation. Are there corporate, societal implications. Well, of course! But these begin with personal reconciliation to God.

The RCL, in chronological order, has a reading from 1 John 3:1-7:

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God….
…..
You know that [Jesus Christ] was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.

All these readings are cut from whole cloth. They cohere. Will those who preach this Sunday give ringing appeals for people to be assured that they are personally reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, knowing that eternal life will further call them to serve God in the world God made? Or will these golden texts be bypassed as an anachronism?

See how it is where you worship this Sunday. You will be hearing a most basic part of the deep, defining, differences in the Episcopal Church. Two radically different gospels will be proclaimed across the ECUSA.

This post is being adapted into the beginning of a new “page” in the right column.

March 30, 2006

-THE SITUATION OF ALL EPISCOPALIANS

Filed under: Anglican, Anglican Communion, ECUSA — anthill @ 12:25 pm

All Episcopalians have been drawn into the actions of General Convention 2003. No one can say they are not involved in the issues facing GC 2006.

Episcopal advocates of same-sex blessings and ordinations have declared victory. They claim GC 2003 gave “permission” for same-sex blessings (see second paragraph of Integrity's plan for GC 2006, called “No Turning Back the Clock”).

We think their perception of "permission" is virtually correct. The wording adopted by General Convention declared: “We recognize that local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions.”

Note well the difference from a more objective alternative: “We recognize that local faith communities are […] explor[ing] and experienc[ing] liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions.”

This has been declared to be “recognized” within “our common life.” “Common” in this case must mean “shared.” All Episcopalians are drawn into these actions now.

And GC 2003 approved a gay man in a committed relationship being consecrated bishop of New Hampshire. Since bishops are consecrated for the whole church, V. Gene Robinson belongs to all of us.

The Primates—the presiding bishops—of the Provinces of the worldwide Anglican Communion and the Archbishop of Canterbury have declared that these innovations have not been justified. ECUSA is in a state of suspension from the only representative body in the Anglican Communion.

All Episcopalians should take a deep interest in the debates of the General Convention. 

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