Skip to comments."Hope and a Future" at Pittsburgh [Reflections]
Posted on 11/16/2005 3:48:35 PM PST by sionnsar
Reflections from Dr Peter Toon
November 10 - 12
The "hope and a future" conference was like a political rally, that is a godly rally, where speakers encouraged those present to be faithful as Christians and as Episcopalians or Anglicans. The 2,500 present saw themselves as the "orthodox" standing against the "revisionists" of the Episcopal Church. Most of them were Episcopalians but a few were from jurisdictions outside the Episcopal Church, groups now referred to by the Network, rather patronizingly as the "diaspora"!
They were told from the podium that a new era had dawned and that God was doing a new thing in their midst. They should see themselves as part of a renewal of the Anglican Way leading to re-alignment of the "orthodox" inside and outside the Episcopal Church. So they were as pioneers blazing a new trail for Anglicanism in North America. At the same time they were as conservationists, preserving that which is good in American Anglicanism for the future. Pre-eminently they were the people of the Book, God's Word written, and they must not look to any other authority (such as contemporary Experience via the social and psychological sciences)
Yet the way ahead for this volunteer, enthusiastic army was not made wholly clear. The goal it is to reach, the route it is to take, the weapons it is to use, the polity it is to assume and the formularies (under the Word of God written) it is to adopt were left (deliberately?) vague or unmentioned. Why? Probably because the US generals of this volunteer army seem to work on the assumption that the goal, the route and the polity, let alone the formularies, cannot be specified until after the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in June 06 and maybe not till after the next Lambeth Conference of 2008.
Thus it appears that this army will only ever go on the offensive when its generals in Pittsburgh decide that what they aim to achieve (which plan seems not to have been shared in any detail with the warriors in the army) cannot be gained by the present vague policy of holding their ground, watching and waiting. In other words, they seem to be hoping that God will be present miraculously in judgment and grace at the General Convention and that there will be seen there the beginnings of a turning away from the innovatory sexual agenda and thus "orthodoxy" (as they understand it) will become maintainable in the Episcopal Church again. Then they will not have to march anywhere at all.
Now this situation of an army that stays in barracks to defend what is presently held, contrasts vividly with the powerful message of the guest speaker, the Baptist pastor, Rick Warren, who is well known internationally from his advocacy of the purpose-driven Christian life and the purpose-driven church. He advocates whole-hearted commitment to clear goals, based on the kingdom of God, and consecration to the Lord in the pursuit of them. His army does not stay in camp but is out conquering for Jesus! While much of what he said harmonized with what the Archbishops from Uganda and Nigeria said, it seemed to belong to a different approach and mindset to that of the leadership of "The Network." While he is bold they are cautious; where he is clear, they are vague, for they are, after all, Episcopalians, who have absorbed some of the compromising doctrine and ethos that they now oppose specifically on one front in its doctrine and practice of sexuality.
I could not help contrasting this Conference with a similar one in Fort Worth in 1989, to which I came from London with the then Bishop of London, Graham Leonard and his chaplain. The Texas one was organized by anglo-catholics and the Pittsburgh one by evangelicals but they were similar. The Episcopal Synod Congress raised high expectations amongst the troops from the parishes but the energy and drive created at Fort Worth in 1989 soon dissipated, primarily, it would seem, because the generals (the anglo-catholic bishops of the Episcopal Synod of the ECUSA) did not lead their army anywhere at all except back to barracks! They allowed the Episcopal Church to determine the agenda and the rules of the warfare and the movement fizzled out! I fear that much the same will happen to this evangelical movement, even though it has the support of overseas archbishops. It is not sufficiently "purpose driven" to inspire, march and win decisive battles for Jesus.
What could the Pittsburgh leadership of this 2005 movement do to let it be known that they intend to be purpose- driven for the recovery of a biblically based and Holy Spirit energized Anglican Way, perhaps even a new Province in North America?
Here are a few starters:
1. All the bishops of this movement could declare that they are not in Eucharistic communion with the Presiding Bishops and all members of the House of Bishops who have clearly adopted the innovatory sexual doctrine and practices. Let them really mean this and do so humbly and graciously but firmly. This will really clear the decks and truly set in motion a godly war and allow a purpose-driven movement to march forward with a clear goal.
2. All the bishops of this movement could declare themselves true Episcopalians and Anglicans by adopting the historic Formularies of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA, and in so doing declare that the 1979 Prayer Book is only a Book of Varied Services and is not and can never be the Doctrinal Formulary of the Network. The Network could without ambiguity declare its genuine Anglican credentials both at the top and amongst the troops/ Whether high church or low church, the worship, doctrine and discipline could become recognizably Anglican (Reformed Catholic) and not (as now) more like a generic Evangelical Charismatic mixture. [To this end the Network could authorize a truly contemporary English form of the classic BCP of the Anglican Way, the BCP of 1662, and while doing this do the extra work to provide the same for the USA 1928 BCP. Let the troops begin to use the military handbook of the Anglican Way, the classic BCP, whether in the traditional English or in a good Contemporary equivalent.]
3. The Bishops could together covenant with each other to stand together and support each other and to commit to clear goals so that the Network is a purpose-driven agency for the Church of God. That is, they could determine not to allow others, "the revisionists", in General Convention or elsewhere effectively to create an agenda, aim and objective for them. Certainly they could take advice from godly bishops overseas but they could actually get on with the work of godly leadership themselves as they look unto the Lord, forgetting their status and pension plan and retirement expectations.
The evidence suggests that the troops wait to be commanded to go to war! But they need to follow generals who have a strategy and are prepared to fight the good fight. If they are not commanded soon, they will lose heart and return to their former lives and cares.
--The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford) is a Church of England priest. He now lives in Seattle and is president of the Prayer Book Society. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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