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Divergence [ECUSA]
Stand Firm ^ | 4/22/2006 | George F. Woodliff III

Posted on 04/24/2006 2:51:29 PM PDT by sionnsar

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Almost exactly two years ago I wrote a paper for my diocese titled Rediscovering Christian Orthodoxy in Episcopal Anglicanism, in which I quoted this excerpt from a letter written by The Very Reverend Robert S. Munday, Dean of Nashotah House, to the Archbishop of Canterbury on August 19,2003:

"I have just returned from the Episcopal Church’s General Convention where I served as a member of the House of Deputies. The appropriate committees of the General Convention held two hearings where deputies and bishops heard several hours of testimonies in the days prior to the votes on the consent to the election of the Bishop-elect of New Hampshire and the resolution concerning the blessing of same sex unions. What struck me as I was listening to the hours of testimonies is that I was not listening to members of one church in dialogue with each other, I was listening to members of two different religions in dialogue with each other - two different views of Holy Scripture, two different theologies - two different understandings of God and His ways in the world." [Emphasis added]

I continue to struggle with this insight, because I find it very disturbing. Part of me wants to deny it, but part of me knows that it is a hard truth which I must courageously face.

I believe it is incumbent upon all of us in the Episcopal Church to wrestle with Dean Munday’s insight and ask ourselves two questions. First, is it true? Are there really two different religions co-existing under the same ecclesiastical roof? Second, if it is true, what should we do about it?

With respect to the first question, I have recently come across some compelling evidence in support of Dean Munday’s proposition. I am indebted to Doug Leblanc for bringing this to my attention here on the Stand Firm web site. This evidence consists of two different questionnaires employed by two different dioceses in the process of their selection of two new bishops. These are significant writings, because they are official documents promulgated at the diocesan level concerning the selection of arguably the most important person in our polity. The very name Episcopal means that we are a church of bishops. The two persons elected will not only be the leaders of their respective dioceses. They will also sit in the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church and be bishops in the Anglican Communion. If they in fact represent and embody two separate religions, the repercussions will extend far beyond their diocesan boundaries.

The two dioceses are Albany and California. It is important to read both of the questionnaires in their entirety and then reflect on their significance to this first question of the co-existence of two different religions in the Episcopal Church. I shall reproduce them both below:

The Episcopal Diocese of Albany
Disciples Making Disciples

A Call to A Special Convention


Instructions: Please respond to the following questions as briefly as possible, but not surpassing the word count specified at the end of each query. Should you choose not to answer any question, please respond to it by writing, "I decline to answer this question." In your response document, include the number and the question prior to your response; skip two spaces between end of a question and the beginning of the next.

1. As stated in The Examination of a bishop-elect on page 517 of the Book of Common Prayer, a bishop is to proclaim Christ’s resurrection, interpret the Gospel, and testify to Christ’s sovereignty as Lord of lords and King of kings. In addition, a bishop is to guard the faith, unity and discipline of the Church; to celebrate and provide for the administration of the sacraments of the New Covenant; to ordain priests and deacons and to join in ordaining bishops; and to be in all things a faithful pastor and wholesome example for the entire flock of Christ. Please elaborate on your understanding of each of these different roles and responsibilities of a bishop, and how you would attempt to live them out if elected bishop. (Use 1,500 words or less)

2. Why do you want to be a bishop in the Diocese of Albany, especially considering the current climate in the Episcopal Church in the United States? (Use 250 words or less)

3. Using the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, find what you would consider the clearest expression of the doctrine of the Trinity and identify it. Does this coincide with your own personal belief and practice? (Use 500 words or less)

4. Are there any articles of the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds with which you are in anything but full personal and theological agreement? If so, which and why? In your response, please address the following questions: Was Jesus raised bodily from the dead, such that the tomb was empty of his physical being, and in his body he appeared unto his disciples until his Ascension into heaven? Do you believe Jesus was virginally conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary? Do you agree that the Persons of the Trinity are only the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and no other expression or naming may be substituted? For example, do you believe that a person baptized in the name of "Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier" is validly baptized? (Use 500 words or less)

5. If you were asked by a teenager what is meant by the phrase "the Gospel of Jesus Christ," what would you include in your answer? (Use 500 words or less)

6. Under what circumstances would you authorize the use of rites for or any practice of same-sex blessing, union, or marriage in this diocese or support such rites or practices anywhere in the Church? Under what circumstances would you permit or approve the ordination or licensing of a person who is sexually active outside the bonds of marriage between a man and a woman? (Use 500 words or less)

7. In John 14:6, Jesus stated, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (NIV) What is your understanding of this passage, and what does it say about Christianity’s relationship with other world religions? (Use 500 words or less)

8. Given the diversity of worship styles in the Diocese of Albany, how would you as "Chief Liturgical Officer" set the tone for the liturgical culture in the diocese? (Use 500 words or less)

9. As a Bible is presented to the newly consecrated bishop, these words are spoken, "receive the Holy Scriptures. Feed the flock of Christ committed to your charge, guard and defend them in his truth, and be a faithful steward of his holy Word and Sacraments." Do you believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary for salvation, and to act as the rule and ultimate standard of faith? Please explain. (Use 650 words or less)

10. What Scripture passage best describes your vision for ministry? (Use 100 words or less)

11. Describe your personal devotional life. To whom are you accountable and how do you live this out? (Use 500 words or less)

12. Detail your commitment to Lambeth Conference Resolution 1.10 Human Sexuality, Section 3, below and your sense of its call to the Diocese of Albany: "This Conference: 3. recognizes that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God’s transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptized, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ." (Use 500 words or less)

13. Describe your leadership style. In answering, please include two personal strengths and two personal weaknesses and how they impact your ministry. (Use 600 words or less)

14. The mission statement for this diocese is currently "Disciples Making Disciples." What is a disciple? Describe how your vision for Albany fits or does not fit with this mission statement. (Use 500 words or less)

15. Identify three characteristics of the diocese that you would seek to maintain and three that you would seek to change. (Use 500 words or less)

16. Describe your view of the mission of the Church. (Use 500 words or less)

17. Have you had the opportunity personally to lead someone to faith in Jesus Christ? Explain. (Use 500 words or less)

Questions to be Answered by Nominees for the Eighth Bishop of California

The following questions aim at giving you the opportunity to reflect in some depth on various aspects of your experience, your character, and your conception of Christian ministry. Giving approximately equal attention to each question, please limit the total number of pages for your six answers to no more than five, using single-spacing, in 11- or 12-point type. The set of brief essays should be included with the other nomination materials and should be sent to by October 1, at the latest.

1. How do you deal with conflict? Give at least one specific illustrative example.

2. What pastoral situations make you most uncomfortable? Why?

3. What has been for you the most valuable learning experience in ministry outside of your current primary ministry?

4. Tell us about a difficult situation in your ministry which you felt you did not resolve very successfully. In retrospect, what would you have done differently?

5. Based on your reading of the diocesan profile:
     A. what do you see as your greatest challenge as the bishop of California?

     B. what excites you most about the position?

6. What have you found most compelling in Christ’s call to you? How is this related to your interest in becoming the bishop of California?

The differences between these two questionnaires could hardly be more striking. It is difficult to believe that they are really seeking persons to fill the same position, and yet they are.

Here are some of my own observations and reflections about these different questionnaires, but I invite you to make your own.

With respect to the Albany questionnaire, I first note the thoroughness and specificity of the questions. My first reflection is that these questions reflect what a bishop should be, and that such questions should not even be necessary to ask. The sad commentary on our current condition as a church is that such questions now must be asked, because the answers to these questions can no longer be taken for granted.

I also note the priority given to theology in questions 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. Theology matters in the church. It has been the gradual slipping away from our doctrinal moorings that has led us to the current crisis. Moreover, because of the deconstruction of language, it is now necessary to ask such pointed questions as these: "Was Jesus raised bodily from the dead, such that the tomb was empty of his physical being, and in his body he appeared unto his disciples until his Ascension into heaven?" The specificity of such language seeks to prevent dissembling and equivocation. Do you actually believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, or not? We need to know, and we can no longer assume the answer.

The first question reminds me that although the present crisis has exposed numerous and serious theological deficiencies in the 1979 Prayer Book, there is still much there that is good and strong and worthy of preservation, and the Examination of a bishop-elect on page 517 of the Prayer Book is an example of that which is worthy of commendation. The connection between questions 1 and 4 is obvious. If you as bishop are to proclaim Christ’s resurrection, then you really must believe in it yourself.

I believe that at this time it was necessary and appropriate for Albany to ask the candidates about the potentially church-dividing issues of our time: the blessing of same-sex unions (#6) and the uniqueness of Jesus’ offer of salvation (#7).

The primacy of Scripture is reflected in questions 9 and 10. I think that it is very revealing that question 10 presupposes that the candidate’s vision for ministry will be rooted in Scripture.

Question 11 is of the utmost importance. Christianity is more than doctrines and creeds; it is a way of life. The candidate’s spiritual disciplines and personal relationship with the Lord will shape his character and inform his reading of Scripture. A diocese needs to know about the devotional life of its prospective spiritual leader.

Question 14 points to the importance of discipleship, arguably the most essential area of development in the church today, and question 17 reminds us that all of this is about leading people "to faith in Jesus Christ."

In dramatic contrast to the clear direction and focus of the questions in the Albany questionnaire, which are entirely consistent with the mission of the Church Universal, the questions from California could be used for the selection of the leader of any secular organization. The name "Christ" is mentioned only in the sixth and last question, almost like an afterthought. In the context of these questions and in the context of our times, the word "Christ" is merely a cipher into which can be poured any content or meaning that the candidate desires.

The entire emphasis of the questionnaire is upon the candidate’s own personal experience and feelings and what he can offer to this organization, primarily in the areas of conflict management and problem-solving. There is an utter lack of a sense of transcendence or of truth or of the submission to something much greater than themselves. The focus is on the internal needs of this organization rather than on the mission of the Church. The questions reflect a realpolitik not unlike that of our society which seeks to manage and control competing world views and hold conflicts to a minimum. More importantly, what is not said or asked concerning Scripture, theology, Christology, soteriology, evangelism, and simple fidelity to the Gospel of Jesus Christ speaks volumes about the direction or lack thereof of this diocese. In a larger sense, these questions are all about the candidate and the diocese; they are not about Jesus.

There should be very little doubt that these two questionnaires and the processes which they reflect will result in the selection of two very different bishops and that these two bishops will be on two very different paths which now co-exist under one ecclesiastical roof. These two questionnaires are for me further evidence of the existence to two different and competing religions within the Episcopal Church.

If that is so, then what should we do? I believe that The Windsor Report reluctantly acknowledges this reality and points the way forward with its recommendation of a new Anglican covenant. In a sense, Albany’s questionnaire is a prefiguring and an anticipation of such a covenant and its necessity.

According to legend, on or about March 4, 1836, Col. William Barret Travis addressed approximately 187 men defending the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, against over three thousand Mexican soldiers. He drew a line in the sand with his sword and invited those who wanted to remain and defend the Alamo to step across that line. All but one accepted the challenge and gave their lives for the independence of Texas.

No one knows how God in His infinite wisdom will guide us through the current crisis and reconfigure our ecclesiastical structures. I leave that in His hands. However, I do believe that those of us who think that there are two religions co-existing must now "step across the line" and declare where we are standing. For a start, the Albany questionnaire can be adapted to many different situations for the selection of priests, deacons, seminary deans and professors, and leaders involved in the formation of Christian disciples. We need to know where the leaders of our church stand.

The language of The Windsor Report is "walking together" or "walking apart," but before we can make that decision, we all must first decide and then declare where we stand. The time is rapidly approaching when that decision can no longer be avoided.

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant

1 posted on 04/24/2006 2:51:32 PM PDT by sionnsar
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To: ahadams2; meandog; gogeo; Lord Washbourne; Calabash; axegrinder; AnalogReigns; Uriah_lost; ...
Traditional Anglican ping, continued in memory of its founder Arlin Adams.

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This list is pinged by sionnsar, Huber and newheart.

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Speak the truth in love. Eph 4:15

2 posted on 04/24/2006 2:52:02 PM PDT by sionnsar (†† | Iran Azadi 2006 | SONY: 5yst3m 0wn3d - it's N0t Y0urs)
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To: sionnsar

I'm in the Diocese of Chicago. We just heard from our Bishop that he's resigning (health issues). Our Deanery is going to have a meeting in a couple of weeks to talk about how the search for his successor will be done. I have been invited to attend. I wonder if they'll take proposed questions from the members of the Deanery? If so, I now have some questions to propose.

3 posted on 04/25/2006 7:13:27 AM PDT by RonF
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