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Leaving the Shire: say goodbye to your comfort zone
Stand Firm ^ | 2/20/2006 | Bill Boniface

Posted on 02/26/2006 3:14:55 PM PST by sionnsar

A short time ago I was attending a church mission partners meeting where a new couple had shown up to explore signing on with our team. After introductions, someone asked them what had brought them to our parish from one in another clearly orthodox and untroubled denomination where they’d been highly active and involved.

The reply to that simple question was both inspiring and intriguing: "We decided we had to leave the Shire and join the Battle for Middle Earth." The husband went on to say that they had watched the battle for the soul of the Episcopal Church raging from a distance, and after a great deal of prayer and discernment had felt called by the Lord to come and take an active part in it. They seemed to clearly comprehend that the battle in our own Church was but the front line in a war being waged against all churches - indeed any such forces that serve as moral authorities in an increasingly confused culture.

"We decided to leave the Shire and join the battle..." That was a metaphor I hadn’t heard before, but which resonated so deeply within me that I knew immediately that I was in the presence of kindred spirits. My wife and I had also left the comfortable Shire of a southern Maryland country parish at roughly the same time to venture across the river into Virginia. We knew a great army of faithful Episcopal clergy and laity was coalescing there to fight our denomination’s downward slide from faithful Anglican Christianity into apostasy and irrelevance. We knew that the battle to save our Church was raging there. And we, too, knew we had to travel whatever distance was necessary to join them if we were going to be more than observers of the decline of our lifelong Church. We, too, had felt the call to "leave the Shire."

Since the day when I first sat down in my new rector's office and reported for more meaningful duty as a foot soldier in this great battle, I've learned a great deal more about human nature and modern church life. Perhaps the biggest revelation to me after spending my entire adult life next to men and women who had signed on to risk and, if necessary, lose their lives for a principle was that the Shire has an attraction today that is almost overwhelming. Indeed many will never leave it. They are held fast by the compelling, seemingly gravitational forces of Comfort and Tranquility even in sanctuaries and parish halls where Anglican and Christian beliefs and ideas have long since faded to make room for a new, post-modern theology that refutes foundational Christian beliefs and gives preeminence to Doubt. Anything will be abided as long as it assures tranquility.

Our friend's metaphor is particularly compelling given its universal recognition in a society awash in media images. Everyone can immediately visualize what he means. Four small Hobbits leave behind an idyllic setting and venture forth from their comfortable existence to join the Battle for Middle Earth. The very spectacle of that battle is terrifying, but they know what's at stake and that it isn't just in the faraway places where the battle is raging that those stakes are so high. They see clearly that if the battle is lost, all of Middle Earth will be absorbed by dark forces anathema to their very existence. Even the Shire.

So it is with this great battle for the Episcopal Church. We have more "havens of tranquility" than we do fields where the battle for Christ's saving gospel rages. The beliefs that once brought us together in His name have been redefined into a sort of post-modern self-centeredness - where our children are taught to believe that it's now more about us than it is about Him. It's no wonder that we're lulled in great numbers into valuing our tranquility over the gospel. But make no mistake - to lose this battle also means to lose the Shire, for what comfort or tranquility will there be in a crumbling denomination that embraces and even blesses sin, rejects Christ's transforming and saving message, and misleads its children?

Martin Luther once said:

"If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not professing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ.

Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved. To be steady on all the battlefields besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point."

There is regrettably a lot of "flinching" going on today. Tens of thousands of our number go about their parish lives as if little or nothing is happening - taking great care not to rub the tranquility from their eyes and see that our Church is failing not just us - but Christ. Every Sunday as we kneel down to worship in the comfort of familiar pews, another 700 Episcopalians walk away from the Episcopal Church forever. Our denomination's continuing slide into statistical irrelevance in numbers should be enough to shake any of us into recognizing the insidious slide away from the gospel that has brought us there.

I have many, many wonderful friends in the Church who to this day cannot bring themselves to venture from the Shire - even as they digest reports of the desperate fight swirling around them. They are otherwise "boldly professing Christ" in some of the most inspiring ways. They are good and faithful people. But they fail to go where the battle rages, having lost sight of the fact that defending the faith is every bit as important as professing it.

Defending that faith today is no different from the way it was in the apostles' day. We have to stop merely inviting the misguided to "go to our Web site." We have to put one foot in front of the other and carry the saving gospel of Christ to people who are hearing a false gospel that neither comforts nor saves. If we truly love our neighbors as ourselves we won't sit in our personal comfort zones as they are abandoned to the darkness. We must - with God's help and for His sake - go where the battle rages. We have to leave the Shire.

Bill Boniface is a retired U.S. Navy pilot and author of A Senior Warden's Lament: Why I Left My Liberal Parish. He is founder of Episcopal Witness, recently adopted by the American Anglican Council.

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant
KEYWORDS: ecusa; virginia

1 posted on 02/26/2006 3:14:57 PM PST by sionnsar
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To: ahadams2; axegrinder; AnalogReigns; Uriah_lost; Condor 63; Fractal Trader; Zero Sum; ...
Traditional Anglican ping, continued in memory of its founder Arlin Adams.

FReepmail sionnsar if you want on or off this moderately high-volume ping list (typically 3-9 pings/day).
This list is pinged by sionnsar, Huber and newheart.

Resource for Traditional Anglicans:

Humor: The Anglican Blue (by Huber)

Speak the truth in love. Eph 4:15

2 posted on 02/26/2006 3:16:01 PM PST by sionnsar (†† | Libs: Celebrate MY diversity! | Iran Azadi 2006 | Is it March yet?)
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To: All
[An alternate view also from Stand Firm: --sionnsar]

Death March
Andy Figueroa, 2/15/2006

The Rev. Richard Kew recently posted a review of The Rev. Tom Oden's book, "Turning Around The Mainline," to his blog and to the TOWARD2015 mailing list.

Richard describes the book as "a compendium of resources, ... a report of the progress being made by confessing Christians in these historic churches, as well as a theological summary of why it is vital to stay in and fight this battle out," and then seems to buy Oden's thesis, hook, line and sinker.

I've realized for a couple of years how terribly difficult it is for those in the calling of pastor to make the ultimate decision that the battle for The Episcopal Church is lost and then to leave this field of battle to carry on elsewhere. The book is, therefore, terribly seductive and dangerously timed for those looking for a well argued apologetic to stay.

Unfortunately, the battle for the institution known as The Episcopal Church USA is over and lost. The only valid reason for staying in the short term is to rescue the wounded and evacuate them to the Network (our probable future) or other faithful churches where the Good News of the Gospel is proclaimed to the lost. Those who are committed to remaining in the rotting corps that The Episcopal Church has become, delude themselves and their followers at the risk of their very souls, and will very likely find themselves rotting as well.

3 posted on 02/26/2006 3:46:39 PM PST by sionnsar (†† | Libs: Celebrate MY diversity! | Iran Azadi 2006)
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To: Peanut Gallery


4 posted on 02/26/2006 7:08:30 PM PST by Professional Engineer (It's a bunch of hot air, crap flows down hill, and electrons go wherever they darn well please.)
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To: sionnsar

"So, you've decided to leave the Shire and join the battle..."

Someone used that exact line with me last Friday as we discussed our moving to Spokane from Colorado to plant an AMIA congregation...

5 posted on 02/26/2006 8:20:13 PM PST by Gman (AMiA Priest.)
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To: Gman

LOL. Well, at least you'll be on the red side of the state.

6 posted on 02/27/2006 5:20:55 PM PST by sionnsar (†† | Libs: Celebrate MY diversity! | Iran Azadi 2006)
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