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The Parting of Friends
The Kew Continuum ^ | 11/26/2005 | Richard Kew

Posted on 11/27/2005 6:59:52 PM PST by sionnsar

As you look back over the history of the church over the last several hundred years, there have been times of disruption which have been marked by the parting of friends. Having studied church history as both an undergraduate and postgraduate level, I have had the opportunity to read in depth about certain of those agonizing seasons. Back when I was doing this I didn't expect to find myself living through such a time, yet hardly a week goes by these days when I do not find myself saying goodbye to some other soul alongside whom I have worked in gospel ministry, and who for one reason or another cannot continue in the life of the Episcopal Church -- and I have shed many tears.

Separations like these occurred in the 1660s, when the newly restored monarchy callously sought to get its own back on the Puritans and seemed determined to make it impossible for some of the wisest and godliest to stay in the Church of England. Yet while Richard Baxter and others walked, men like William Gurnall stayed, alongside Edward Reynolds who was to become Bishop of Norwich. While I have never read any record of the discomfort of the severing of ties that took place between the Puritans who conformed and those who left at the Great Ejection, I am sure that there were many sacred friendships that died and oceans of tears that were shed.

Another such period was when the Oxford Movement was in his heydey in England in the 19th Century. David Newsome wrote a wonderful book many years ago called The Parting of Friends, which chronicled the journeys of Christians who had once shared ministry together in different directions. This is the experience so many of us are having now.

After he converted to Roman Catholicism, John Henry Newman never returned to Oxford, the scene of his greatest ministry during his Anglican days. Yet in one of his biographies there is a touching episode when as an old man the cardinal was traveling from London to the north, that the train stopped in Oxford. As they slowed to enter the station he could see the places that were once dear to him and his mind for days after was flooded with fond memories that had been cut short and lost following his changed allegiance. I suspect there were dear friendships that he wished had not died when he "poped."

If you read Alan Guelzo's magnificent history of the Reformed Episcopal Church, For The Union Of Evangelical Christendom, there are touching pictures of evangelical Episcopalians whose lives were torn from one another when the REC split from the Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA in the 1870s. Some of my most treasured experiences in recent years have been forged in the process of building new relationships with our REC brothers and sisters -- but why did it take 125 years for us to be able to kiss and begin making up?

And now it is happening all over again. As error stalks the Episcopal Church, and a blatantly heterodox agenda is being forced upon it, some faithful Christians are forced to flee, some flee of their own accord, while others of us stay put for a whole variety of reasons, many of which are very good. In a diocese like my own it is at present easier to stay than to flee, but also for me there were solemn vows of canonical obedience to my bishop which I made getting on for forty years ago that are as sacred to me as the marriage vows I made before God to my wife on our wedding day. Besides, I could not live with myself if I were to leave the field in the midst of a conflict that, despite the pundits' brayings, is far from over.

Yet however we read this there is the inevitable pain we experience as men and women we have walked and worked alongside not only say they can no longer be part of what was once a shared mission, but because into these once-fond relationships division have been introduced festering sores. I have every hope that the divisions we experience as others seek refuge in other jurisdictions or under the umbrella of other provinces of the Anglican Communion, will be short-lived, maybe ten to twenty years at the most, but coming together will not be made any easier if we are determined to develop the habit of looking down on one another as if staying or leaving were the more spiritual thing to do.

One of the less attractive sides of the Renewal Movement in the Sixties, Seventies, and Eighties, was a tendency for some who experienced renewal by God in a certin way, to start looking down upon others who had not received that experience of God through the Holy Spirit. There were antagonisms and underlying tensions that took a long time to heal following those circumstances. Once again, friends were parted from one another.

I have tried through these difficult recent years not to cast aspersions on the actions of others that are different from my own believing as Paul urges when he writes to the Corinthians that we be careful of those who have sensitive consciences. I may not agree with the actions others have taken who have gone elsewhere, but I must respect that they may not see things precisely as I do. However, I had hoped that perhaps this time those who parted might find ways of staying in fellowship with one another so that rebuilding can take place together once the demolition begun in 2003 has finished.

Maybe I was naive to think that it could happen this way. But I still have hope.

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant
KEYWORDS: anglican; bookreview; churchhistory; ecusa; oxfordmovement; schism

1 posted on 11/27/2005 6:59:53 PM PST by sionnsar
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2 posted on 11/27/2005 7:01:33 PM PST by sionnsar (†† || (To Libs:) You are failing to celebrate MY diversity! || Iran Azad)
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To: sionnsar

Thanks for posting this where I could read it as I surely would have missed it otherwise.

It is the most hopeful writing I have read, and it encourages me to stay where I am and continue to fight.

I took this course of action during the Viet Nam war when SDS and other groups were taking over my college campus. I've taken this position on numerous other occasions, and it has affirmed my opinion that we can stay and be orthodox while not countenancing the "sin" of 2003. Like the writer, I am in a pocket of Orthodox conservative Churches but now am in a Diocese where the Bishop voted "no" on the Robinson consecration.

I remain steadfast in my hope and desire to "take back" our Church and will not just up and leave and let such as "Via Media" take it over without a darn hard fight.

3 posted on 11/28/2005 7:38:20 AM PST by TruthNtegrity ("I regret that by Saturday I didn't realize that LA was dysfunctional." Michael Brown, 9/27/05)
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