Skip to comments.Protecting the Roots
Posted on 11/10/2005 8:54:53 AM PST by sionnsar
In all of the controversy over sexuality and doctrine, there is an important distinction being overlooked: the distinction between the essential Episcopal Church (the way it is established by its constitution) and the existential Episcopal Church (or the Church as we now find it buried in turmoil).
It is this existential Church that is accused of having no fixed principles, no normative faith, no discipline. In other words, not able to champion the basic foundational doctrines which differentiate Christianity from other ethical world religions.
Looking at the weak statements coming from the Presiding Bishop, the Executive Council, and the House of Bishops, an outsider could easily believe this is true. Many church leaders wonder why our membership has dropped, unwilling to understand that if a Church doesnt speak sound doctrine with a clear voice, fewer and fewer people will be interested.
In increasingly significant numbers, members of the Church are breaking away because they do not believe the Episcopal Church will ever again be able to articulate sound doctrine. They want to start with a clean slate and leave the mealymouthed equivocators behind so they can get on with the Churchs central purpose of bringing people to Christ. What a huge temptation. And the temptation will get much worse if the next General Convention follows the United Church of Christ in the approval of same-gender marriage.
Sadly, the abandonment of basic Christian morality seems inexorably linked with the abandonment of sound Christian theology. It is as though very few of the General Convention deputies ever attended a really solid confirmation class. In some churches, such classes are no longer taught, or consist of inquirers sharing each others spiritual walks in ignorance. Indeed, some bishops are in favor of dropping the sacrament of confirmation altogether. In some seminaries candidates for ministry are taught by tenure-driven skeptics, and thus find themselves ill equipped to instruct their people in the real reasons for believing the creed and the rest of the Churchs doctrine.
We remember the words of the Spirit to the Laodiceans: I know your works, you that are neither cold nor hot; and because you are lukewarm, I will spew you out of my mouth. Many of the unchurched spew the Episcopal Church out of their mouths before they ever attend just because of our seemingly lukewarm approach to Christianity.
So much for the existential Church. The essential Church, though buried by all thats going on existentially, is far different. The doctrine of the Episcopal Church is solid as the rock upon which it is built. The doctrines of the Trinity, incarnation, and resurrection are totally intact. The doctrine of the divinity of Christ as second Person of the Trinity is clear. Where?, you ask. In the Book of Common Prayer, the book we all hold in our hands nearly every time we gather for worship. It is our foundational document after the Bible itself, setting forth in the context of our worship the complete doctrine of the Episcopal Church. It is simple, clear, and straightforward. There is no confusion or chaos in its pages. It is as modern as tomorrow, yet as sound as gold.
Does it take some instruction to understand the great richness of the prayer book? Carefully read, the prayer book is almost self-teaching, but any body of knowledge worth our time needs some explanation. If we think our relationship with God is worth the time, then we should seek the instruction.
Our beloved Episcopal Church is like a fine old oak tree caught in a hurricane. The leaves are being stripped and the branches are cracking because hurricanes are violent, with winds howling and debris flying through the air. We gaze in sorrow at the damage being done by the chaotic and furious winds. But the trunk and the root, the faith and worship of the prayer book, are still there, eagerly waiting to leaf out again when the storm has been stilled. Of course, a direct attack on the root and trunk is possible. If such an attack were mounted successfully, the great old oak would die; but it has not happened yet, and those of us who love the Church had better stand fast and make sure it does not. In the meantime, we must learn the faith and spread it.
Our guest columnist is the Rev. Hugh Edsall, the author of Whole Christianity. He serves at St. Lukes Church, Live Oak, Fla.
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.