Skip to comments.Laodiceans [ECUSA]
Posted on 04/19/2006 12:20:44 PM PDT by sionnsar
Episcopal priest and retired Navy chaplain George Clifford is really tired of hearing about You Know What:
The Episcopal Church and much of the Anglican Communion suffer from a paralysis caused by long-simmering controversies brought to a boil by the consecration of an openly gay bishop and the blessing of same-sex unions. These controversies increasingly dominate conversation and agendas both formal and informal in parishes, dioceses and the Communion.
And some of you people like to fight way too much.
Like the man in Johns gospel who was paralyzed for 38 years, we desperately need to hear Jesus words: Stand up, take your mat, and walk (John 5:8). Sometimes, a sick bed or a paralytics mat tragically becomes the sick persons comfort zone. The cost of healing abandoning that comfort zone to re-enter the everyday world with all of its uncertainties and strenuous demands exceeds the allure of health. The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion act as if they prefer the comfort of the current controversies to the riskier and more demanding health of serving Christ.
Well, he's got me dead to rights. Walking away from the church I grew up in and spent 48 years of my life and walking away from just about every friend I had in the world was a most enjoyable experience. Driving by the place the first few months was perfectly delightful as were the conversations I had the few times I'd run into a friend who still went there. And you don't know how good it feels to be considered a Nazi simply because you believe that the Bible means what it says and shouldn't be rewritten unless there's a pillar of cloud and/or fire nearby.
George is right; I never knew just how sick I was. Three years ago, I should have preferred the "riskier and more demanding health of serving Christ" and stayed in my old parish. Of course, I didn't learn much of anything about Christ at my old parish but I guess that's splitting hairs. Moving on, too many of you have opinions about things.
Our persistence in this struggle reflects the exaggerated importance many people on both sides attach to the issues.
Translation: Robbie shouldn't have gotten a pointy hat and conservatives shouldn't have objected when he did.
But the energy, time and resources invested in these controversies that have paralyzed much of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion also indicate how comfortable we have become with these issues. Recent expressions of this myopic and paralyzing focus include the Eames Commissions Windsor Report with its recommendations for restructuring the Anglican Communion; the Episcopal Churchs House of Bishops response, To Set Our Hope on Christ; initiatives by other provinces; numerous diocesan resolutions; countless parish debates; and advocacy within the Church by lobbyists, networks and others. Sharp divisions, fixed opinions and the conviction that God is on ones side preclude consensus on these controversies in the foreseeable future. Further votes will create more winners and losers, exacerbating the paralysis.
We're Episcopalians. We don't do opinions. Then Clifford lets down his guard.
Jesus commanded the paralytic to stand. All the paralytic had to do was to obey. Christianity has never taught that any definition of sexual purity or particular sexual orientation constitutes a litmus test of whether or not one is a Christian. The only litmus test of Christian identity with which I am familiar is the one articulated by St. Paul and St. John: Do you acknowledge Jesus as Lord? Anglican Christianitys big tent is thus defined not by anyones views on any of the current controversies but by whether one has stood in obedience to Jesus healing command: stand up and walk.
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies(Matthew 15:19).
He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him(John 14:21).
If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Fathers commandments and abide in His love(John 15:10).
Not everyone who says to Me, "Lord, Lord," shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?" And then I will declare to them, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness(Matthew 7:21-23)!"
And the pièce de résistance.
But why do you call Me Lord, Lord, and not do the things which I say(Luke 6:46)?
George wants us to focus our attention on the true evil in the Episcopal Church.
Refusing to acknowledge a bishops authority because of the bishops stance, pro or con, on consecrating an openly gay bishop or blessing same-sex unions is tantamount to declaring that the bishop is not Christian. That refusal is without historical warrant as the early Church wisely recognized that the validity of a sacrament is not contingent upon the holiness or even Christian identity of the one administering the sacrament. Similarly, refusing to be part of a communion of disparate views and practices with respect to those issues either means ignoring Jesus prayer that his disciples be one or implies that those with whom one disagrees are not Christian.
I hope you Roman Catholics weren't drinking anything just now. But many of us don't consider many liberal Episcopal bishops to be Christians because, quite frankly, many of them aren't. You've read Spong, haven't you, George? J. Jon Bruno couldn't bring himself to sign a perfectly orthodox statement of faith, Frank Griswold's universalism is well-documented and John Chane essentially went Muslim three years ago.
Instead of paternalistically attempting to take responsibility for the acts or faith of others, no matter how abhorrent we may find their acts or beliefs, each of us must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. That was good advice when it was written, and it remains good today. Obedience is the only answer to Jesus command, Stand up.
While we're working out our own salvation with fear and trembling, George, what should we do about those Episcopalians who undercut the basis for our salvation and call it a movement of the spirit? Apparently nothing.
In a world torn by strife and division, a world in which millions starve to death because they have no bread spiritual or physical to eat, a Church that stands together and walks in Christs name would make a powerful witness. Anglicans have always found their unity as a Church that prays together, not as a Church united by common doctrines or structure.
The Episcopal Church. We Perform Ceremonies!
Basically, George Clifford thinks that the answer to all ECUSA's problems is for people like me to shut up, stop making such a big deal about a pecadillo, come back to ECUSA and triple our pledges. After all, we still have the right to think that it's wrong for a church to give a pointy hat to an unrepentant sinner, essentially do away with sin entirely and whore itself out to the secular culture.
As most intelligent people know, that "right" is, of course, totally meaningless. A conservative New Hampshire Episcopalian may think Robbie is an abomination but Robbie's still his bishop regardless of how he feels about it.
But George thinks that it would be a "powerful witness" to the world if a bunch of people with hostile, mutually-exclusive views of the Bible and the Christian religion assembled in Episcopal churches on Sundays and took part in rituals. I'm not at all sure what that would be a "powerful witness" of since public dishonesty has never impressed me very much.
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