Skip to comments.3 conflicts divide Episcopalians
Posted on 07/02/2006 4:21:19 PM PDT by sionnsar
Last week, the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church concluded nine days of meetings. Central to the work of this triennial national gathering was the development and articulation of the Episcopal Churchs response to a document known as, The Windsor Report. This report, issued in 2004, was the work of a panel of 17 scholars drawn from the breadth of the worldwide Anglican Communion at the behest of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion.
The precipitating issue addressed by The Windsor Report was the decision of the 2003 General Convention of the Episcopal Church to embrace as a wholesome example those living in noncelibate, nonmarital relationships.
The particular expression of this new sexual ethic was the Rev. V. Gene Robinson, who while living with his partner, was elected bishop by the Diocese of New Hampshire and confirmed by the General Convention. Additionally, the same 2003 General Convention granted each diocese the local option of developing and implementing liturgical rites for the blessing of same-sex relationships.
The Windsor Report concluded that these actions were outside the playing field of biblical, historical Christianity and enjoined the Episcopal Church to repent of its actions and express regret for breaching the bonds of affection with our sisters and brothers in the various provinces of the Anglican Communion.
Furthermore, the Windsor Report directed that a moratorium on the elevation of people living in noncelibate, nonmarital relationship be enacted. The stakes were high entering the 2006 convention.
It is now a matter of record that the just-ended General Convention did not engage the central directives of The Windsor Report in a substantial manner. This reality was acknowledged by the Archbishop of Canterbury in his statement issued June 27, responding to the crisis initiated and reaffirmed by the Episcopal Church.
He further stated that the crisis raging within both the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion is not primarily about human sexuality, though he noted that the election of a noncelibate homosexual as a bishop in 2003 was the trigger for much of the present conflict. The crisis facing the church is, in fact, much deeper and a confused teaching on human sexuality is merely a symptom of this conflict.
If human sexuality is merely a symptom of a greater problem, what are the issues at hand within the Episcopal Church? Where do the divisions run?
I would assert that there are at least three major issues in conflict:
The first area of conflict revolves around the place and authority of Scripture. I believe that The Diocese of South Carolina and St. Andrews in Mount Pleasant would want to assert that Scripture is the touchstone of life, doctrine and practice for the church and individual. Others in the wider church would articulate an appreciation of Scripture. They, however, would regard Scripture primarily as a helpful record of Gods interaction with humanity. Implicit in the latter understanding is a differing locus of authority.
This conflict was evident in a recent Post and Courier article from June 11 quoting a local priest saying: The church has no business monkeying around in peoples private relationships. However, the witness of the Old and New Testaments is that God, through his Word, proclaimed in the community of the faithful, does specifically speak into the private areas of our lives. Speaking from personal experience, Scripture has hands and lays hold of me. It has feet and runs after me. It convicts me of my secret sin and offers hope, through the person of Jesus Christ, that by repentance and belief I can live a different life.
Read it all.
Kind of like Dear Abby?
A church in Southern California ended up with an atheist pastor thirty-five years ago. The flock left, went across the street, and started a vibrant new church. Once only a dozen people remained, he departed, too.
The remnant hired a youth pastor from a nearby church to replace him. Since then, as a direct result of his efforts through the Holy Spirit, at least ten thousand have been saved worldwide.
A difference is that the Episcopal Church has always been a selk-stocking church. Many have a hard time letting go of the property.
Would love to hear more details on that story...
It is Sierra Madre Congregational Church, founded in the 1880s. When the atheist pastor presided, the congregation left and successfully formed Bethany Church. The atheist left, so the remnant approached Pasadena's thriving Lake Avenue Congregational Church and hired its Youth Pastor, Richard J. Anderson. On his first Sunday in 1972, he preached to 16 people, including his wife and three young sons.
Since then, Pastor Dick has led personally well over 1,000 people to the Lord. SMCC has 1,500 worshippers typically each Sunday (the physical plant, being an old urban church, is not readily capable of expansion). SMCC has planted daughter churches, which also thrive.
Pastor Dick's first pastoral hire was not a Christian Education director or an administrator, as is usual. Rather, in 1976 he and the Board hired a Minister of Evangelism to do outreach: Dr. Hugh Ross. Hugh was a postdoctoral astronomer at CalTech in nearby Pasadena (the proximity of CalTech and Jet Propulsion Laboratory have enabled several renowned scientists to worship at SMCC). Later, SMCC birthed a unique worldwide apologetics ministry. In 1986 Dr. Ross started Reasons to Believe, which reconciles science and the Bible. Hugh is the leading proponent of the old-earth creationist view. Through this ministry, many thousands have become Christians. See www.reasons.org.
We worshipped at SMCC until 1988 when we moved away. Pastor Dick is in his seventies now and it will be very interesting to see who God raises up to replace him. One trusts we will avoid another atheist, but you never know: God allowed one before and look what resulted!
Congregationalism is an old New England denomination which has gone largely spiritually dead. Yet these two churches (you should see the growth at Lake Avenue Congregational!) and their spinoffs have stood as spiritual giants in northeastern Los Angeles County. As you can see from the title, the power in Congregational churches remains largely at the local level, which permits rather more freedom for God to maneuver, if you will.
"Lay up your treasure in heaven...."
Apparently, you two are FRaternal twins, both having been born on 2000-12-09.
Correct. As a PhD chemist I have an especially high regard for Dr. Hugh Ross and his ministry.
Glad to hear it! You might be amused by a personal anecdote related to Hugh's ability to pull in local scientists to SMCC. Back in the mid-1980s I was teaching the New Believers class there when in walked Allen Sandage. Perhaps you're aware of him: Edwin Hubble's protege and then the world's most-renowned astronomer (subject of the NY Times #1 bestseller, Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos, remarkable for its incredulity at Sandage's religious persuasion). Here was the man who had peered farther into the physical universe than anyone else, coming to me for the basics of the even-vaster spiritual universe!
Even more notable is the path the Lord took Hugh on, from astronomer to pastor to ministry leader. I remember how tight it was for Hugh and Kathy, lugging copies in their small car of The Fingerprint of God to outreach events. But he still teaches his Sunday Paradoxes class at SMCC.
It's funny that I got to watch another ministry grow, too: Focus on the Family. James Dobson started next to an Arcadia church in a small office with a part-time secretary, then moved his growing staff into the second floor of a new building, then to a huge campus in Pomona, then to Colorado.
Actually, the greater Pasadena area has long been overrepresented (cf US Center for World Missions, World Vision International, etc.). It will be interesting to discover once in heaven what the historical roots were that resulted ultimately in this burgeoning. Who prayed? Who trusted? Who stepped out?
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