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Bishop James Stanton of Dallas: Stay-Leave-or Stand
titusonenine ^ | 2/25/2005 | Bishop James Stanton

Posted on 02/25/2006 6:32:05 PM PST by sionnsar

A meditation shared not long ago with the Executive Council of the diocese of Dallas and shared with Bishop Stanton’s permission–KSH.

“There is one body and one Spirit . . . one hope in God’s call to us; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of us all.” Eph 4.4-6

These words come to us from the Letter to the Ephesians. They reflect St. Paul’s commitment in the face of the awful human tendency to fragmentation – a tendency he knew all too well by divisions even within his own Churches, the churches he had founded. God’s call, he says, is to oneness. But this oneness is grounded, not in our human desire to get along, for all too often that human desire is missing or buried beneath other desires. No. That oneness is grounded in God Himself. So this is more than an exhortation to unity. It is a solemn declaration that God has established the truth that is one – one Lord, one faith, one baptism – and that therefore unity becomes possible only in the measure that we come, or come back, to Him.

So important is this declaration that it has come to form the gateway to our Baptismal liturgy in the Prayer Book. It is found not only there, of course, but in the Rite for Confirmation, which is the renewal of our Baptismal covenant; and in the solemn renewal of Baptismal Vows in the Great Vigil of Easter. In each instance that we participate in these liturgies, this opening reminds us of the truth that there can be only one Church – as the creed itself says, “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.” And each time we participate we affirm this truth and our commitment to it.

And if we ask more deeply in what this unity, this oneness consists, our Cathechism answers simply: “The Church is one, because it is one Body, under one Head, our Lord Jesus Christ.” (BCP, 854) It’s task, moreover is to “restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.” (BCP, 855)

Now there is a lot of talk about unity, and about disunity. And I want to reflect on that a bit here with you all at the beginning of what promises to be a year in which we will need to do a lot of thinking and praying – and acting – to preserve this unity that is God’s truth and the ground He has given us.

As you may know (or may not), just at the time of our Diocesan Convention, a set of minutes were released from a group calling itself – ironically – Via Media. The report from the Dallas chapter indicated that Bishops Stanton and Duncan would be ‘duking it out’ to see who would lead the ‘new’ church that would emerge from the General Convention of 2006. On what this prognosis was based is anyone’s guess. But it was at least interesting to note that the writers of these notes took for granted some sort of cataclysm as the most likely outcome of 2006, and that they were preparing to do battle to preserve the unity of their church. What kind of unity is a subject for another day.

But just here I want to pose for you a question I often get: “Bishop, if the General Convention in 2006 goes badly, will we stay or leave the Church?” And I want to suggest to you that putting the question this way is wrong.

On staying: What does it mean to ask if we will ‘stay’? I would have to ask, “stay with what?” Here you really have two options, as the dictionary makes plain. First, to stay means to stop, to cease moving, to remain put. The Church of Jesus Christ cannot look upon staying put as an option. The second option is to remain in a certain place or condition. I suspect this is what people really mean when they ask the question: will we remain in that ‘place’ or ‘condition’ of being part of the Episcopal Church structure and leadership.

But think about this for a moment: what ‘place’ or ‘condition’ does the Episcopal Church now occupy? Can anyone really say? The General Convention of 2003 took certain actions which put it at odds with the rest of the Anglican Communion, indeed most of the rest of the Christian world. It ignored pleas not to do so, ignored its own long-held beliefs that it should not act unilaterally, and ignored some of its own covenants in this regard. But it did all this without, actually, having changed its teaching officially. It did this by resolution. And, as we have been told again and again by the revisers, resolutions are merely recommendatory and have no binding force. So the problem is this: what ‘place’ or ‘condition’ has the Episcopal Church laid out that we can define. All the world knows what we did, but no one knows where we are.

There is, as they say, no there there.

Add to this reflection another, namely, that what one Convention has done the next could very easily undo, and the point becomes clearer. We may want to believe, for different reasons, that the Episcopal Church is well defined and committed – either bravely on the cutting edge, or stupidly on a blind precipice. But the fact is that the Episcopal Church is today merely a vapor floating across the ecclesiastical landscape. Its leadership is not living by its own Constitution and Canons – that is clear. Its formularies – here I think of the Book of Common Prayer – retain the form and, I believe, the substance of the Christian Faith. But as a discernible entity with a coherent life it seems to me to be seriously lacking.

So, I do not know what “stay” would mean. To those who ask if we will stay in the Episcopal Church, I have to ask in return, “Stay with what?” If the General Convention is a momentary gathering of individuals expressing in the moment their personal opinions and preferences, it is clear that that has no staying power. And if it cannot “stay” with itself, how are others to “stay” with it? Staying is not an option of any consequence. It is an empty choice.

One the other hand, what about “leaving”? Well, again, one might ask, “leave what?” If there is no there there, leaving is about as meaningful as staying would be.

But there is another dimension to leaving. Leaving for what? Christians are one Body under one Lord. There is no “leaving” if that is true. Denominational affiliation does not make a Church a Church. What makes a Church is the presence of the Risen Lord, operating through His Holy Spirit, confirming and strengthening the apostolic faith once delivered to the saints. Some years ago it came to me that no structure, no organization, no affiliation can impede the people of God from proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus Christ or the great Good News this is for the world. The Church has often had to confront evils and distractions both from without and from within that would deter it from its mission of being the one Body, with the one Lord and one Faith Paul claimed for it. It demonstrates that it is the Church, however, not by leaving the field of these confrontations, but by being clear, determined and courageous in the face of them.

One could, I imagine, “leave” a certain denominational organization. But then what? What would a Church be which did this? Would it not still be the Church? Would it not then have to set out with the same clarity, determination and courage to know Christ and make Him known that was its task before? It could not stand alone, that is for sure. Since there is one Body under one Lord, it would have to be connected to all other apostolic Christians in some way. But could it not do this as well in the one case as in the other? Do we not give to those forms which “are passing away” – human organizations such as denominations – too much power if we think that the only way to be the Church is to leave (or stay in) them?

What was the Church in its earliest generations? Before there were organizations, long before the word denomination was invented to describe them, there were Churches. What made them so? “They continued daily in the apostles teaching and in communion, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers.” (Acts 2.42) They worshipped, taught, and lived under the guidance of the Spirit of the Risen Christ. They made disciples. They gave to the poor. And they were connected, not by charts and manuals, constitutions and canons, but by their bishop and around him the people and their priests, to that great community of believers in other parts of the world.

So, again, I ask what would it mean to “leave”? I think this is as empty a choice as the one to “stay”.

What is the alternative? For me it is simple. We stand. We are the Church. We are not the Church alone, of course. But we are the Church. And we have a mission to fulfill. We must stand on that mission.

The Apostles’ teaching is the charter of our mission. To that we will be loyal and energetically dedicated for as long as we are given the opportunity. No one can deter us from pursuing this mission. It is only our own weakness and misgivings that will take from us our ability to be faithful to our call. We need to be quite clear about this.

We will remain Christians rooted in the Anglican tradition. That is not just a nice thing to be. For many of us, for myself in particular, this tradition is rich and deep and has fed and nourished our sense of Christian Faith in profound and far-reaching ways. I am humiliated when this tradition is invoked by some to justify teaching and actions that go contrary to the Apostles’ teaching – I am also infuriated that this should be permitted. But the fault is not in our tradition so that I would for a moment think of fleeing it. Rather, standing firm in “the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this Church has received them,” I propose to stand and be counted. In the strength that comes from the Spirit who has led us so far, I propose to continue!

–The Rt. Rev. James Stanton is Bishop of Dallas

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant
KEYWORDS: ecusa; homosexualagenda; schism
[I highly recommend clicking through and reading the comments. --sionnsar]
1 posted on 02/25/2006 6:32:09 PM PST by sionnsar
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2 posted on 02/25/2006 6:33:13 PM PST by sionnsar (†† | Libs: Celebrate MY diversity! | Iran Azadi 2006 | Is it March yet?)
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To: Professional Engineer


3 posted on 02/25/2006 8:51:21 PM PST by Peanut Gallery
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To: sionnsar
With this from Bishop Stanton and he following quote from the other day (virtueonline):

"Conservative bishops are angry and they are swearing allegiance to the Archbishop of Canterbury if the ECUSA does not repent of its actions at GC2006, but they are not going to leave the Episcopal Church and no orthodox diocesan bishop has said, at least publicly, that he will pull his diocese out of the ECUSA after General Convention. The revisionists have already caused schism and have been told to "walk apart" by the Anglican Consultative Council."

It seems clear to me that the decision has been made and the "pieces" put into place. All that is left is to wait for the other side to make its move. At that point, that which has been put into place will proceed in motion.

It's like programming a coffee pot to make coffee at 6:30am. You program it, and go about your business. Then, when the time comes, the machine turns itself on and makes coffee. It's rudimentary, but that is basically how I perceive things as they may be (or at least I hope they may be this way).
4 posted on 02/25/2006 10:01:00 PM PST by Peanut Gallery
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