Skip to comments.Slouching Towards Rotarianism
Posted on 07/31/2005 8:12:48 AM PDT by sionnsar
A distressingly poor performance by my Bishop, Duncan M. Gray, III, in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger yesterday:
The Episcopal Church is much in the news these days. The consecration of the first openly gay bishop, the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson as bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire, has reverberated beyond our church and into the worldwide Anglican Communion of which we are a part.
Our ecumenical relationships have been impacted, and people who could never spell or even pronounce "Episcopal" have suddenly found a new villain (or hero) within the pantheon of Christian denominations in this country.
Many faithful members of our church in Mississippi seriously disagree with the action but gather week after week at a common altar to worship God and break bread together with those who rejoice in the consecration of Bishop Robinson.In reality, though, fewer and fewer people are gathering in the Diocese of Mississippi to worship. More than 150 families have left St. James - the largest parish in the diocese - in the past eighteen months alone. Budget crises of varying seriousness - due in whole or in part to the crisis in the national church - have afflicted most of Jackson's "big four" churches at one time or another since Gene Robinson's consecration.
How can this be, I often am asked.
How can such serious disagreement be reconciled within a single denomination?
The truth is, it's not being reconciled at all. In fact, it's threatening to tear this diocese apart. If those who believe we should reject the "new thing" that pro-gay revisionists are pushing, and those who think we should embrace it, should go their separate ways, this diocese would crumble. The theological committee charged with charting a course to this fall's special council (called to deal specifically with the Windsor Report) has yet to issue the first statement, and from an outsider's perspective appears DOA. I have spoken with several large donors who have drastically cut their giving out of disgust with the direction of the national church and the bishop's lack of leadership on the issue. I have spoken with dozens of people who have been members of the diocese for over a quarter-century, who have either left the Episcopal Church entirely, or are hanging on by a thread.
Bishop Gray is making a dangerous miscalculation by mistaking patience for compliance. There are many members of this diocese - thousands, in fact - who have persevered through crises of priests embroiled in adultery scandals, compromised by various addictions, and engaged in all manner of other depravity. They have seen gay priests, and priests in non-celibate relationships outside of marriage, come and go. Many are biding their time, waiting on the crisis to be resolved one way or another by the powers at the international level, before deciding what to do in the long term. The image +Gray paints - of a sea of contented parishioners agreeing to disagree, and "move on" - is simply false.
Since we were birthed out of the Church of England, a brief look at our English history provides an important insight into our present situation and personality.
In the 16th century, the Protestant Reformation exacted a bloody toll in England. A succession of monarchs beginning with Henry VIII produced an ecclesiastical pendulum swing from Protestantism to Catholicism to Protestantism.
The political, social and religious fabric of the nation was under enormous pressure.
However, early in the reign of Elizabeth I, a new direction was charted. Queen Elizabeth refused to take sides in the theological disputes and through acts of Parliament she directed that the unity of the Church of England would be based not on doctrinal conformity (as the Protestants demanded) or on magisterial authority (as the Catholics required), but on a common liturgical worship.
Thus, from our earliest moments as a distinct Christian community, liturgical worship, the act of saying our common prayers together, has held us together in the midst of remarkable theological diversity and conflict.
The tensions within our church challenge us. But in a culture that is increasingly polarized, I continue to believe the struggles we are going through have much grace to offer this extraordinarily divided nation and world.
In recent years, many Episcopalians have been guilty of reducing the Almighty God into a sort of one-dimensional beacon of love. We have summarized what little we have been taught of the Scriptures, and incorrectly concluded that love is all that really matters - that this is all that God expects from us. Basically, the new theology is that God is love, and we should try to be like God. End of story. People don't want to get bogged down with a lot of Scripture or be "preached to" and told how to live. It is easier to just love people.
Others take a broader view and rightly proclaim the necessity of obeying Gods direction for their lives. However, these people are often regarded as unenlightened Christians who are needlessly obsessed with behavior. So often, they are dismissed and lumped in with the Pharisees and Sadducees - whom Jesus scolded for their arrogance and blind preoccupation with the law. Of course, it is true that keeping God's law does not save us - nor is it meritorious. This is because grace is free to those who follow Christ. But for us to outwardly reject and defy Jesus' directives as a means for experiencing grace is to fall into a state known as "antinomianism" (meaning anti-law). The apostle Paul spoke directly against this. He also wrote: "Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, 'Do not covet.'" So, if we are not aware of what is sinful, then it is impossible for us to live rightly - and therefore impossible for us to repent and experience grace when we fall short.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives.
- 1 John 1:8-10
Unless I missed something, their bible classifies the act as an abomination. Enough said.
Anyway, they got better music ~ and you can dance to it too! Their theology is at least Bible based.
Surely at a minimum, "Good Queen Bess" required assent to the 39 Articles, even as she was drawing, quartering and burning at the stake any "Papist" priests she could find. So much for Anglican "doctrinal tolerance."
And a couple of generations later, she was followed by Cromwell, who was known for his religious tolerance.
There wasn't any religious tolerance until briefly under the "Catholic" James II, who enacted tolerance for both Protestant dissenters and Catholics. However, that was quickly put paid by King Billy of Orange and the "Glorious Revolution", and there was no real religious toleration, at least for Catholics, until Catholic Emancipation in the early 1800s. Even the apostle of religious toleration, John Locke, specifically excepted Catholics along with atheists from toleration as threats to the state.
Pretty much reveals the problem as far as I'm concerned. Our parish is showing the same signs of declining membership, which we may IMO directly attribute to this conflict.
One issue that should be addressed is that of the difference between an actively gay priest or bishop as opposed to an actively gay member of the parish. Most of us wouldn't even object to the idea of a gay priest or bishop as long as he is not active. Nor would any reasonable person have a problem with a gay parishioner, particularly if he is repentant.
But I wouldn't take communion from an actively gay priest, nor one who is an active bank robber in his spare time, if I knew about it.
Those who cannot separate the "wheat from the chaff," so to speak, think that this attitude violates some precept of "inclusion," which is of course ridiculous in the extreme.
I was being sarcastic. The Westminster Confession, as originally drafted, referred to the Pope as the antichrist.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.