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Bishop Schofield’s Address To Convention
Stand Firm in Faith ^ | 12/8/07

Posted on 12/09/2007 1:45:27 PM PST by Huber

Thousands of years ago two men stood before Pharaoh and said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go...’ (Exodus 5.1) Pharaoh’s response? He increased the work load and took away the resources that the people of Israel had come to depend on.

You know the story as well as I do. And, as one of our young priests reminded me recently, after the plagues, the exodus from Egypt, followed by the great deliverance at the Red Sea, when the Promised Land came into view, Moses sent the heads of each of the twelve tribes to spy out the land. Upon returning to report on what they had seen, they dissuaded the Israelites from entering the Promised Land. “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes,” they said, “ and we looked the same to them” (Numbers 13. 33) The people refused to take what God was offering to them. So, the Lord declared: “Forty years – one year for each of the forty days you explored the land – you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.” (Num. 14. 34)

One man had stood alone, Caleb of the Tribe of Judah. It was he who declared: “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” (Num. 13. 30) The end result was God’s blessing: “Because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.” (Num. 14. 24)

Timing matters. GOD’S timing is essential! Delayed obedience in Scripture is seen as disobedience when opportunities and blessings are lost.

For twenty years and more we have watched The Episcopal Church lose its way: straying, at first, from Scripture... to the point of dismissing the Word of God, in some instances, as mere historical documents – of value, perhaps in bygone eras – but no longer applicable to us, to appropriating powers to itself through the General Convention it had never had and, finally, on to unilateral decisions about theology, sexuality, and ordination potentially cutting itself off from the Anglican Communion. J. I. Packer, the eminent British Theologian now living in Canada, puts this in clear perspective when he says: “Liberal theology as such knows nothing about a God who uses written language to tell us things, or about the reality of sin in the human system, which makes redemption necessary and new birth urgent. Liberal theology posits, rather, a natural religiosity in man (reverence, that is, for a higher power) and a natural capacity for goodwill towards others, and sees Christianity as a force for cherishing and developing these qualities. They are fanned into flame and kept burning in the church, which in each generation must articulate itself by concessive dialogue with the culture pressures, processes and prejudices that surround it. In other words, the church must ever play catch-up to the culture, taking on board whatever is the “in thing” at the moment; otherwise, so it is thought, Christianity will lose all relevance to life. The church will inevitably leave the Bible behind at point after point, but since on this view the Bible is the word of fallible men rather than of the infallible God, leaving it behind is no great loss.”

For years organizations such as Episcopalians United, Episcopal Synod of America, American Anglican Council, and finally the Anglican Communion Network have been founded to explore ways to keep orthodox believers within the liberal Episcopal Church and to allow some measure of freedom to believe, worship, and practice the faith. The newest organization, the Network, went out of its way to declare itself operating under and within the Constitution of The Episcopal Church. However the gap has only widened; and Episcopalians have begun to do what we have always done... leave quietly. This drain was not mentioned at first, but one could hardly help but notice how a Church that had once claimed 4 million members was now announcing itself to the news media as a 2.5 million member Church. The leadership in New York still clings to this public image even though, by its own statistics, there seem to be fewer than 900,000 parishioners nationally in church on any given Sunday.

Individuals leaving did not seem to cause a problem at first...that is, until they left together as whole congregations. Within a short time two newcomers appeared: the Anglican Mission in America (AMia) whose original bishops were consecrated by overseas Primates and the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) sponsored originally by the Primate of Nigeria whose own membership numbers 20 million or more. These two organizations along with others who have fled for protection to the Bishops of: Bolivia, Peru, Argentina, Uganda, and Kenya account for more than 360 congregations or the equivalent of some SIX medium sized dioceses. These congregations are reporting amazing growth.

The rector of a newly formed congregation in Garland, Texas visited my office within the last two weeks. He recounted how he had been given 48 hours to vacate his church premises and find somewhere else to worship. With 80% of his congregation, they moved in that time period. Now, less than a year later, they have tripled in size, purchased six acres of land, and have in hand the money for a new church that will be larger and provide opportunities for ministry never part of the old structure. These faithful Anglicans, along with the Dioceses of Pittsburgh, Fort Worth, Quincy, Springfield and San Joaquin, lumped together with thousands who have simply stopped attending church altogether have been called “the Fringe” or the “insignificant and marginal minority” by the Presiding Bishop’s office... and dismissed. If this were so, one wonders why we seem to be worthy of intimidation, depositions, and law suits. Why not let this insignificant minority go? Why not forget Christ Church, Plano – the largest parish of the Episcopal Church, 20 parishes in Virginia, the Pro-Cathedral of El Paso, Texas who had to buy their way out of The Episcopal Church for $2 million, or the growing number of parishes in Los Angeles and San Diego who are looking for ways to depart? Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that every month several more parishes leave while 1,000 parishioners depart WEEKLY for an African Anglican jurisdiction. Growing, while all this is going on, also are the congregations associated with the Network who now see our numbers swelling to over 250,000 members. Again, why is it that within the past year four of our bishops have retired only to become Roman Catholics while another has joined Cana? This has never happened before! Something is drastically wrong!

For the first time publicly, at least, leadership within The Episcopal Church is showing signs of concern. An Interim Report, prepared by the House of Deputies Committee of the Episcopal Church, shows –according to news reports– the denomination continuing to decline with a 41% attendance drop... attributed directly to congregations departing over the sexual innovations in the church. Worrying – at LAST– about identity, mission, and organization, the report states: “We cannot be leaders within our Church nor in the global community if we are unsure who we are or where God is calling us to go. Criticisms that we need to be more proactive... or that we are aggressively reactive ... both relate to our understanding and embrace of God’s kingdom and the Salvation we are offered in Jesus Christ – or to our LACK of such understanding and engagement.” (Emphasis added)

On November 16 and 17, 2006 the Steering Committee of the Global South, meeting in Chantilly, Virginia, asked two things of Anglicans representing both those within the Episcopal Church and those who had left. They were: 1) To select a single spokesman who has the trust of all and is able to represent the many voices of orthodox Anglicans in North America; and 2) To bring together in a single body as many like-minded Anglicans as possible. (It had been confusing for overseas bishops to hear the voices of so many who were claiming to speak on behalf of orthodoxy.) Those two requests were met. The Rt. Rev’d Bob Duncan, Bishop of Pittsburgh and Moderator of the Network was chosen unanimously as spokesman. Shortly thereafter, Bishop Duncan called together the first meeting of Common Cause Partners. What a wonderful response he has had. Representatives of the Reformed Episcopal Church, Amia, Cana, and a number of Continuing Anglican Churches have come together. This Fall over 40 bishops of Common Cause met in Pittsburgh to affirm The Articles of the Common Cause Partnership and its Theological Statement.

Following the historic meeting in Chantilly, the Primates of the Global South insisted that Bishop Duncan be included in the larger meeting of all the Primates at Dar es Salaam where directives were given to protect orthodox believers within the Episcopal Church. There were unanimous decisions of the Primates to which Katherine Jefferts Schori publicly agreed. These included: The Primates request, through the Presiding Bishop, that the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church

1. make an unequivocal common covenant that the bishops will not authorise any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their dioceses or through General Convention; and 2. confirm that the passing of Resolution B033 of the 75th General Convention means that a candidate for episcopal orders living in a same-sex union shall not receive the necessary consent unless some new consensus on these matters emerges across the Communion.


The Primates request that the answer of the House of Bishops is conveyed to the Primates by the Presiding Bishop by 30th September 2007.

If the reassurances requested of the House of Bishops cannot in good conscience be given, the relationship between The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as a whole remains damaged at best, and this has consequences for the full participation of the Church in the life of the Communion.


On property disputes

The Primates urge the representatives of The Episcopal Church and of those congregations in property disputes with it to suspend all actions in law arising in this situation. We also urge both parties to give assurances that no steps will be taken to alienate property from The Episcopal Church without its consent or to deny the use of that property to those congregations.

Despite the attempt made to show that the House of Bishops and, therefore, The Episcopal Church, had met all the requirements and were Windsor Compliant, a surprising number of American bishops have continued to state publicly they will not be bound by overseas interference and will continue to permit the blessing of same-sex unions. Even though not elected as bishop, the Diocese of Chicago nominated a lesbian candidate contrary to the directive in the Dar es Salaam Communique. And one has only to read the newspapers to see that litigation is being pursued vigorously in Virginia and California with threats to do so again in the recent letters by the Presiding Bishop to Bishop Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh, Bishop Jack Iker of Fort Worth, and this week to me in San Joaquin.

What are we to make of this duplicity? Surely the Primates are aware, as are we, that a major part of the House of Bishops in The Episcopal Church –along with members of their dioceses– have no intention of complying with the requests of the greater part of the Anglican Communion. Pride alone would suggest that the rest of the world will eventually see the validity of what is being done in the United States. Therefore, we are being prophetic in our actions. It might also suggest that there is a wholesale indifference to what the rest of the Anglican Communion thinks. Whichever it is, WE in San Joaquin need to ask the Lord what WE must do as Anglican Christians both evangelical and catholic.

Today we stand at a critical juncture in history. It would be myopic to imagine that the rest of Christendom, let alone the Anglican Communion, is not watching and praying as we deliberate. Pray that the Holy Spirit will lead us in the momentous decisions that lie before us.

It is only natural to experience fear, for what we are considering takes the Diocese of San Joaquin into unchartered waters. The leaders of the General Convention have expended enormous energy to spread their mantra: “Individuals may the leave the Church, but Parishes and Dioceses cannot.” No one seems to know who dreamed up this idea. What we DO know is that it is simply not true! During the time of the Civil War in the 1860's when this nation was torn apart, dioceses in those states called the Confederacy withdrew from what was then known as The Protestant Episcopal Church. During the war years they held their own conventions, developed their own Constitution, had there own House of Bishops, elected a Presiding Bishop, and consecrated a bishop for one of their dioceses. Nothing could be clearer. The southern dioceses had departed and had created a separate church. Today we might call it their own Province.

Unlike many of the Protestant denominations, however, it didn’t make sense to Episcopalians to maintain the separation when the war ended. Not only were the southern bishops and their dioceses welcomed back, the newly consecrated bishop was recognized, and no punitive action was taken against anyone. Presumably the southerners had taken their property with them when they left. And, they would not have been the first to do this.

Centuries before, King Henry VIII, with the help of Parliament prevented all English money from going to Rome. This action was followed up by taking all the property of the churches, including the monasteries and shrines –many of which he dismantled and sold. Today, were you to go to Ireland in search of a name or a tombstone of anyone buried before 1540, your search would have to be in Anglican –not Roman Catholic– churches and cathedrals. Somehow the Pope never asked that they be returned to him...and they weren’t.

Colonial churches, especially those in Virginia, whose existence pre-date not only The Episcopal Church but the United States itself, were never given back to the Lord Bishop of London nor to the Archbishop of Canterbury when, after the American Revolution, Anglicans identified themselves as Episcopalians. They took their property with them.

History is replete with instances in which dioceses, too, have moved from one Province to another – no matter how it was accomplished. Liberia moved from The Episcopal Church to the Province of West Africa, Venezuela moved from the West Indies to The Episcopal Church. Mexico has moved back and forth from The Episcopal Church more than once.

Historically, Provinces, such as The Episcopal Church, are not, and never have been, an essential part of Catholic Order. On October 14th this year, Rowan Williams, our present Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote to Bishop John Howe of Central Florida: “...Without forestalling what the Primates might say, I would repeat what I’ve said several times before – that any Diocese compliant with Windsor remains clearly in communion with Canterbury and the mainstream of the Communion, whatever may be the longer-term result for others in The Episcopal Church. The organ of union with the wider Church is the Bishop and the Diocese rather than the Provincial structure as such.” Later, in the same letter, Archbishop Williams strengthened what he had said already by adding: “I should feel a great deal happier, I must say, if those who were most eloquent for a traditionalist view in the United States showed a fuller understanding of the need to regard the Bishop and the Diocese as the primary locus of ecclesial identity rather than the abstract reality of the ‘national church’.” (Emphasis added) Abstract realities do not own, nor have they ever owned, property.

There is no question that what we are considering today will be called Schism. We will be told that unity trumps theology. We shall be told that we are doing is destructive and against history and Catholic Order. Once again, the words of J.I. Packer are most helpful. He notes: “Schism means unwarrantable and unjustifiable dividing of organized church bodies, by the separating of one group within the structure from the rest of the membership. Schism, as such, is sin, for it is a needless and indefensible breach of visible unity. But withdrawal from a unitary set-up that has become unorthodox and distorts the gospel in a major way and will not put its house in order as for instance when the English church withdrew from the Church of Rome in the sixteenth century, should be called not schism but realignment, doubly so when the withdrawal leads to links with a set-up that is faithful to the truth, as in the sixteenth century the Church of England entered into fellowship with the Lutheran and Reformed churches of Europe, and as now we propose gratefully to accept the offer of full fellowship with the Province of the Southern Cone. Any who calls such a move schism should be told they do not know what schism is.”

For those of us who are facing the unknown, Provinces and Property seem to be among the top concerns. As bishop, I would like to suggest to you that a ‘NO’ vote at this convention will not provide the imagined protection needed to get on with our lives uninterrupted. Many do not realize that for 40 years, with the first twenty under Bishop Victor Rivera, and now nearly twenty years with me, as bishops we have been able to provide a buffer for our people from the innovations that abound in dioceses all around us. A quick trip north, south, east or west is all that it takes to wonder if we’re in the same church with those folks. Years ago, it was the moderate Bishop John MacArthur of West Texas who first stated clearly that “we are two churches under one roof.”

A ‘NO’ vote would require my retirement in two years. No reasonable person could expect an orthodox successor. One has only to look at what happened to South Carolina when our own Mark Lawrence, bless him and Alison, went through two separate electing conventions and were close to being unanimously elected at each convention on the first ballot.

The Lectionary, where we draw our biblical lessons from for public services, has already been changed. The fact that you may not have noticed a difference is due directly to the permission I have given to our clergy to continue to use the Lectionary we all know. This along with many other innovations not only would –but will– come about under a new bishop.

If it is property that seems to be your main concern, if you are incorporated and a parish, you own your own property. You, or others before you, bought the land, built the church, have maintained the buildings and grounds, and your name is on the title deed. A ‘NO’ vote might seem to be the “safe” way to go. The effect of such a vote, however, would be to guarantee that this moment in time will NEVER come again before the General Convention meets in 2009. We should need two Annual Conventions to insure the protection we have before us today. With a ‘NO’ vote, everything reverts back to where we were before last December’s Convention. By the summer of 2009 no reasonable person could believe that Canon Laws will not be introduced... making it impossible for dioceses and parishes to leave. There are no such laws now. Property that once belonged to parishes and dioceses will belong to what the Archbishop of Canterbury rightly describes as the abstract reality of the “national church” for whom it will be held in trust. Without a single law suit, it will all be accomplished. Freedom to have the bishop you want, freedom from innovations that are contrary to Scripture, freedom to hold your own property will disappear. A ‘NO’ vote will inevitably bring about the worst of what we have tried to avoid...even if it were to take two years. Job sums it up for us: “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.” (Job 3.25)

Finally, lest anyone thinks a ‘NO’ vote would keep the diocese in tact and very much the same is living in a fantasy world. There is good reason to suspect that many of our brothers and sisters’ conscience is at stake because of the major departures from Christianity The Episcopal Church continues to make unabated. Why would San Joaquin be spared the massive exodus of priests and congregations now going on in Central Florida, Texas, Rio Grande, Colorado and California? Many of these dioceses are experiencing a loss that could easily challenge their viability financially. Were we to lose a major portion of parishes where the Gospel is truly believed as God’s revelation and where tithing is accepted as a Scriptural mandate, the Diocese of San Joaquin could be hard put to continue to provide even the basic services most parishes now depend on. No, it is not a matter of “stay the same and be safe” or “leave and face the unknown”. Quite the opposite is true. We are in that critical moment where a ‘YES’ vote tomorrow with a majority brings us into union with a faithful Province, places us under a real Archbishop and Primate who is a holy man of God, and keeps us in the mainstream of Anglicanism. For my part, THIS is worth fighting for!

In the end, it is all about freedom. It is about freedom to remain who we are in Christ. It is freedom to honor the authority of Scripture and to keep the Lectionary we now have. It is freedom to worship with the Prayer Book we know and freedom from innovations and services that are contrary to the Word of God. It is freedom to hold and practice the faith that the Episcopal Church received as a precious gift. It is freedom to “Go” witness, to welcome churches who are looking to us in hostile areas, to plant new churches – in a word, freedom to respond to Jesus’ own command: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28. 19,20) Can we not do these things now? We can, but for how long? A ‘NO’ vote would place us under the authority of those who admit they do not know where they are going and who tell us all relates “to our understanding and embrace of God’s Kingdom and the Salvation we are offered in Jesus Christ– or to our lack of such understanding and engagement.”

This is the time to know who we are in Christ, where we are headed, and to heed the words of Jesus: “Go ye...”

God, give us the different spirit of Caleb who cried out “go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” Amen.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: anglican; belongsinreligion; schofield; southerncone; tec

1 posted on 12/09/2007 1:45:30 PM PST by Huber
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To: ahadams2; MBWilliams; showme_the_Glory; blue-duncan; brothers4thID; sionnsar; ...
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2 posted on 12/09/2007 2:20:43 PM PST by Huber (And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. - John 1:5)
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