On the Church and Society
June 30, 2006
Ronald Reagan used to say he did not leave the Democratic Party; the Democratic Party left him. That sentiment can be applied today to the Episcopal Church USA.
Reagan's declaration came to mind as four dioceses and the largest Episcopal congregation in the country have announced efforts to separate from the Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of Anglicanism, since the Episcopalian General Convention came to a close on June 21. But the dioceses of Pittsburgh, South Carolina, San Joaquin, California, and Forth Worth, Texas, along with Christ Church in Plano, Texas, are not really leaving the Episcopal Church; the Episcopal Church left them.
That was clear from the statement issued by Rev. David H. Roseberry, rector at Christ Church in Plano: "The mission of Christ Church is to make disciples and teach them to obey the commands of Christ. The direction of the leadership of the Episcopal Church is different and we regret their departure from biblical truth and the historic faith of the Anglican Communion."
The Episcopal Church has turned its back on the global Anglican Communion, traditional Christian teachings, and Holy Scripture.
Of course, this isn't exactly a new development. The Episcopal Church's leadership has been drifting left for decades. But matters hit crisis levels in 2003 when Rev. V. Gene Robinson, a divorced, non-celibate homosexual, was consecrated as bishop in New Hampshire.
In response, a committee set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, issued the Windsor Report in 2004. That document demanded that the Episcopal Church apologize for the election and consecration of Robinson, and place moratoriums on appointing gay bishops and blessing same-sex unions. The Episcopal General Convention, though, had none of this, thumbing its nose at the rest of Anglicanism.
The convention also elected Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of Nevada as the new presiding bishop, a revisionist who supported Robinson's confirmation and pushed for same-sex unions in her own diocese. And not only did she indicate after being elected that homosexual acts were not sinful, but in her homily at the General Convention, she declared: "Our mother Jesus gives birth to a new creation ... " Confusing the gender of Jesus Christ can only be rooted in a militant feminism.
All of this, of course, points to an even more fundamental corrosion. Consider that at the 2003 General Convention, the bishops, by a margin of 84-66, actually voted down a straightforward Christian resolution holding Holy Scripture as the foundation of authority in the Church. The 2006 convention similarly rejected a resolution laying out basic Christian tenets. These were non-controversial resolutions on the most basic of Christian beliefs.
The reaction to the 2006 convention has been striking. While independent congregations have done so, the efforts under way in Pittsburgh, South Carolina, San Joaquin, and Forth Worth mark the first time that entire dioceses have requested to be moved under a foreign presiding bishop in the Anglican Communion, according to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Meanwhile, in a June 27 letter to primates, Archbishop Williams suggested: "The tacit conventions between us need spelling out not for the saake of some central mechanism of control but so that we have ways of being sure we're still talking the same language, aware of belonging to the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church of Christ." He called for a "covenant" between local churches that would be an "opt-in" to become a "constituent" church within Anglicanism.
The letter offers hope to orthodox U.S. Anglicans. Rev. Robert Duncan, the Pittsburgh bishop and moderator of the Anglican Communion Network, a traditional group with some 200,000 members, told the New York Times: "This is to say as we have long said that we are legitimately the Episcopal Church in this place, and that we believe that we'll be recognized by the world as the legitimate inheritors of the Anglican trademark."
In a pastoral letter, Duncan concluded: "The Anglican Communion Network has never been more united. We are gaining strength, both domestically and internationally. This is the time for biblically orthodox Anglicans to hang together, supporting one another in solidarity, in prayer and with expectancy."
So, while the Episcopal Church leaves traditional Christianity behind, it does not mean that orthodox Anglicanism will leave the U.S. Amidst all of this Anglican angst, there is hope ironically, perhaps greater now as tthe Episcopal Church makes its apostasy clear to all Christians.
Raymond J. Keating, also a columnist with Newsday, can be reached at ChurchandSociety@aol.com.
Copyright © Raymond J. Keating