On the Church and Society April 17, 2006
Over the past year or so, I visited two local Episcopalian churches, with the experiences as different as night and day.
The contrast was not about church architecture. While distinct, both buildings were beautiful and inviting. Nor did a large chasm exist in liturgical styles.
Instead, the disturbing difference was over the foundations of the faith. One parish clearly subscribed to orthodox Christianity, while the other adopted a revisionism straying from Holy Scripture and church tradition. This, of course, reflects the current strife within the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) at large.
But as the ECUSA leadership has taken a sharp theological left turn, an announcement last week reminded one that an orthodox laity stands willing to fight for a traditional Christian voice from the U.S. within global Anglicanism. On April 13, a group called Lay Episcopalians for the Anglican Communion (LEAC) launched a national petition drive to bring 35 bishops to trial over the installation of V. Gene Robinson, a non-celibate homosexual, as Bishop of New Hampshire.
In a statement, LEAC declared: "We believe our church judicial system should determine just where we stand canonically, for there is no doubt where our Episcopal rank-and-file in the pews stand spiritually. We have been and are a traditional church."
In August 2003, the ECUSA's General Convention failed to pass a resolution reaffirming "Holy Scripture as the foundation of authority in our Church." The gathering also approved Robinson's appointment, and gave a green light to blessings of same-sex unions. That was followed in November by the consecration of Robinson.
According to the American Anglican Council (AAC), a network of laity, deacons, priests, bishops, parishes and specialized ministries "who affirm Biblical authority and Christian orthodoxy within the Anglican Communion," after the 2003 General Convention, "22 of 38 Anglican Communion provinces declared broken or impaired communion with the Episcopal Church." Or as LEAC puts it, 75 percent of the 78 million global Anglicans are in broken or impaired union with the ECUSA.
Is this all about sex? Ultimately, it is about the authority of Holy Scripture in the church. The revisionists redefine Scripture, particularly regarding sin, to fit their own whims. So, they attempt to explain away clear biblical condemnations of sexual activity outside of marriage, including homosexual acts.
The AAC recently issued a valuable publication titled "Answering the Tough Questions," which addresses the mistaken or deceptive assertions made by those trying to redefine sinful behavior.
One frequent assertion is that in biblical times, homosexuality was not understood. The AAC properly responds: "All of the human conditions that we find today have been with us since the days of humanity's fall into sin this is evident in both Scriptural and secular writings. The Bible condemns all varieties of sexual sin, emphasizing that sexual expression is reserved for marriage. Orientations or proclivities toward sin are irrelevant to the condemnation of sinful behavior."
Though orthodox efforts face a daunting task, these traditional Christians are not shying away from the challenge.
LEAC has declared that the time for reaching into the pews is "long overdue." The group compared its efforts to "getting the mule's attention with a hearty swat with a 2 X 4," and pledged to "stimulate discussion on unpleasant issues and, hopefully, delineate areas for realistic approaches to reconciliation." They added: "If reconciliation fails, as nearly all Anglicans in the USA expect, LEAC will work with clergy-led groups to educate and rescue" the "silent 80 percent middle" of Episcopalians in order to create "a much larger surviving Anglican group" than many seem to think possible.
The next General Convention will occur in June in Ohio, with a new presiding bishop to be chosen. In January, the AAC concluded: "We are deeply disturbed that the list of nominees does not include any candidate who is representative of orthodox Anglicanism."
Barring intervention by the Holy Spirit, no one should be surprised if the Episcopal Church in the near future no longer counts as the voice for Anglicanism in the U.S. Hopefully, traditional Anglicans, including the AAC and LEAC, will rescue as many Episcopalians as possible from an apostate entity, and bring them home to a church faithful to God's word.
Raymond J. Keating, also a columnist with Newsday, can be reached at ChurchandSociety@aol.com.
Copyright © Raymond J. Keating