Skip to comments.Vicar of Calvary Anglican Church in Florida Writes to His Parish
Posted on 10/28/2005 6:29:27 PM PDT by sionnsar
October 27, 2005
Dear brothers and sisters of Calvary,
Greetings in the name of our glorious Lord Jesus Christ!
As all of you who were in church on Sunday know, the leadership of Calvary, by unanimous agreement, has announced our plans to separate from the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Florida.
On Tuesday Betty Collins, our Sr. Warden, and I met with Bishop Howard and his assistant, along with Neil Lebhar and David Dearing, who were representing the group of six who had appealed for alternative oversight. This meeting was an outgrowth of an agreement we had reached with the Bishop last week (along with the other five churches), expressing a commitment to consult with one another on any separation plans, so that the process could take place in an amicable and Christian way. Our meeting on Tuesday did in fact take place in a friendly atmosphere, and we are thankful to the Bishop for his graciousness in this process, and his willingness to allow us to take some of our effects to our new location. Our first service as the new Calvary Anglican Church will be on Nov. 6th, at the UNF University Center, at the Kernan Blvd. entrance to UNF (just North of Butler Blvd., see map included).
As is probably the case with most of you, this step leaves me with mixed emotions: a sadness over a division, and a very public one, in the Body of Christ, as well as about leaving our facilities, but alsoand I must confess this is the dominant onea tremendous sense of relief and hopefulness about moving forward in ministry without the cloud of a continued identification with an apostate church.
What I want to stress at this time is that our separation from the Diocese of Florida is the final chapter in a long effort to chart a course of disassociation from the Episcopal Church, a course we were initially hopeful would not conclude in this particular way. From the beginning, our concern has been to balance two Biblical principles: the importance of the integrity of the witness of the Church on the one hand (1 Cor. 5:9-13), and the call to unity in the Church on the other (Eph. 4:3-6). Thus the integrity principle is why we decided as a congregation as far back as August of 2003 that we could not stay in the Episcopal Church unless it reversed its course of action in approving and elevating what the Bible clearly condemns as sin, namely sexual intimacy outside the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (this, of course, was but the presenting issue: the underlying problem was and is the Episcopal Churchs increasing surrender to an un-Christian philosophy which redefines the nature of sin, salvation, the authority of Scripture, the work of Christ, and God Himself).
On the other hand, the unity principle is why we did not simply walk away in August of 2003: our concern has been to work in concert with our many of our brothers and sisters who find themselves in the same situation and share the same convictions, here in our diocese, across the U.S., and abroad. Im not claiming that weve been perfect in the way weve gone about doing this in the last 26 months, but I can say, on behalf of all of the leadership of Calvary (as well, I believe, as the others in our group of six churches), that seeking to faithfully honor both of these Biblical principles has been our prayerful aim all along, and I believe God has led us as a result. Concretely this has meant both taking certain steps along the way (such as withholding direct funding of the diocese, or appealing for alternative oversight), and restraining from taking other steps (such as, until now, leaving the diocese).
Until now the leadership of Calvary has not felt a release from God to take the step of formal separation, but now, having allowed over two years for a response from the larger Communion and having attempted to exercise the options available to us, we have come to a complete peace about the fact that there is nothing holding us back (following this letter is a brief chronology of events, recapping how we got to where we are today). In particular, while we were certainly hoping to be able to stay on our current property, we are not willing to allow it to be the determining issue, and we are certainly not willing to litigate for it, even if we thought we had a strong claim: we are ready and willing to fight for the Gospel; we are not willing to fight for our property.
As I mentioned earlier, it is a painful thing to take this step, especially as so many in our diocese are faithful, godly Christians whom we in some cases have known for years, and whom we continue to love and respect. That we are not formally part of the same denomination with them certainly does not mean we do not continue to enjoy Christian fellowship. At one level, it would be fair to say that our current action has mostly to do with the national Episcopal Church, and our relationship with the diocese is simply being affected as a result of it. But at another level it is also true that we have a profound disagreement with the current leadership of our diocese as to what the Biblical teaching is on the nature of the Christian life and Christian fellowship: we believe that while we all are sinners in need of grace, the hallmark of the Christian life is an acknowledgement of sin followed by repentance and transformation, and that the church has a duty to discipline its members when they refuse such repentance (with such a man do not even eat, says Paul, 1 Cor. 5:11, and also and such were some of you). The reason that Anglicans far and wide have taken so seriously the actions of the Episcopal Church is not that Mr. Robinson is tempted to have sex with other men, or even that he has ever had sex with another man; it is because he wants to continue having sex with another man and wants to call it right and good; and because the Episcopal Church has agreed to let him do so and make him a bishop.
But the Episcopal Church is not the Church. And we know that God is continually building up and strengthening His Church, and that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. In the midst of everything these last couple of years, one of the most exciting aspects for me has been to see a fresh demonstration of the true supernatural unity that we have in the Body of Christ. We have certainly experienced this at Calvary, through the wonderful oneness and peace God has given us. We have experienced it in our diocese in the relationships God has given us with like-minded churches, and, especially, with the five other churches weve worked so closely with these last several months: All Souls and Redeemer in Jacksonville, Grace in Orange Park, St Michaels in Gainesville, and Community of Life in Tallahassee. And we going to experience it increasingly, I believe, through the international partnership we will have with other Anglican believers. Im looking forward to seeing how God is going to continue to strengthen all of these relationships.
As I mentioned earlier, I have a tremendous sense of God having guided us up to this very point, in His perfect timing. I believe we are right in the center of His will for us right now. I am particularly thankful for the unexpected way in which He allowed for us to bring things to a conclusion with the Bishop and the diocese; it is always so much better if one can leave in a cordial and cooperative way, especially within the Body of Christ, and that is just what God has granted us, by Gods grace. We will certainly continue to pray for Gods blessing and guidance for both this Bishop and this diocese.
Finally, I am thankful that we are not stepping into a void. We have already been received into an overseas Province of the Anglican Communion, and I will be at liberty to announce this in the near future. We will be strengthening our relationship with the new Anglican Alliance of North Florida in our area, and are looking forward to partnering together in both ministry and mission. But most of all we know that we continue, simply, to be one part of the One Holy and Apostolic Church, the mystical Body of Christ which God is preparing and purifying for that day when He presents her before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy.
In our eternal Savior and Lord,
yours for His Kingdom,
David Sandifer, Vicar
A CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS
RELATING TO CALVARY, THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH,
AND THE DIOCESE OF FLORIDA
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"V. The purest Churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated, as to become no Churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan. Nevertheless, there shall be always a Church on earth to worship God according to His will."
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