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War of the Prophets [TEC]
VirtueOnline-News ^ | 7/22/2006 | Michael Heidt

Posted on 07/23/2006 3:07:49 PM PDT by sionnsar

Some feel that the age of the Prophets passed with the Apostolic generation, that it was a special charism granted the Church at her foundation and then ceased, perhaps made redundant by a heightened understanding of Holy Order.

All this is debatable but few would deny the absence of inspired utterance in the four hundred and fifty years or so of Anglican existence. But this has changed. Here at TEC, in a part of the Church that sounds more like an IT consultancy than a religious body, we find that everything is about the Spirit; everyone it seems is a prophet, so much so that our Convention became a veritable latter day Pentecost.

The question is, who was inspired and by what Spirit? Before we can attempt an answer it pays to reflect on several of our many brands of Seer. For the sake of convenience, these can be divided into two familiar groups, minor and major, both of which can be divided again in two, into liberal and traditionalist groupings. The latter, like their ancient forbearers, find themselves in a distinct minority in their homeland, but with them, have the benefit of the Church's support throughout the ages.

Dark Fudge

Our minor prophets seem to fall into two broad categories, both of which predicted, or advocated a "fudge" at General Convention. Conservative fudge theorists felt that moderate liberals would pass resolutions at the Convention giving the appearance of Windsor compliance. With precedence on their side, they believed ECUSA would draw back just enough from the brink of outright heterodoxy to confuse the issue, with conservatives lacking the will power to resist.

You could hear this at the beginning of the Convention, "They'll pass a set of resolutions using all the right language but evading the point and the Archbishop of York will go home to report a victory for broad church Anglicanism." The net result would be a lack of censure, leaving the LGBT pundits free to pursue their agenda and ECUSA bishops still on the list of invitees to Lambeth.

In the meanwhile, conservative Anglicans in North America would be left bogged down in a sea of "Rich Anglican Fudge" as the rest of the Communion and their own hierarchy went on with business as usual. According to this prophecy, the Liberals would win by obfuscation as the rest of the Communion went about its spineless way, with traditional Anglicanism in North America collapsing under its own weight.

In fairness to this point of view, described in detail by Auburn Traycik of the Christian Challenge (, traditionalists have shown a grievous inability to organize effectively in the face of opposition; also, there are many advocates of the kind of compromise just outlined. No wonder, then, that Liberals, headed up by the outgoing Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold, did attempt a centrist sleight of hand, with the hope of staving off accusations of "walking apart" from the rest of the Communion.

In fact, their move wasn't so sleight, as Resolution B033 appeared to be steamrollered through the Convention on its final morning and in the face of sharply divided opinion. Still, the liberal fudge prophets had their say and managed to get the delegates to approve a Resolution urging bishops and standing committees to "exercise restraint" by not consenting to the consecration of those "whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church."

This caused great upset to those who saw it as a betrayal of their gay and lesbian friends and some satisfaction to those who longed for middle ground; "The center has held!" gushed one overcome deputy and several bishops, presumably thinking that their brand of chewy confectionary would hold TEC and the Communion together. These prophets advocated fudge and served themselves up a double portion but by the end of the Convention no one was fooled, least of all the major prophets. These, despite the best efforts at achieving Anglican compromise, appear to have carried the day.

Spirit World

The major prophets, like their lesser cousins, come in two forms, liberal and traditionalist. The former are, of course, the true believers who unashamedly champion the new religion of Mother Jesus and the aggressive dismantling of patriarchal structures, not least the Church herself. Notwithstanding the tempting aroma of compromise cooking, moderate liberals found themselves unable to resist the heady homebrew of their stauncher allies and joined with them to vote in the world's first ever female Anglican Primate.

With Schori, LGBT champion and defender of the oppressed women, fudge was off the menu forever and the Convention both knew and liked it. Here, it was felt, was a truly prophetic act, a blow for "justice, inclusion and peace," against the institutionalized fascism of bigoted fundamentalists.

These had lost and the overwhelming majority of the Convention was ecstatic; a move of such bold conviction, aimed at the very heart of oppression, could only signal the movement of the Spirit. This, it appears, had overshadowed the Convention, for example:

"With Bishop Schori's election, the church enters the 21st century world visibly representative of that world... the Holy Spirit does not label us, but calls us to witness to God's love in... ways that reach all people... The Holy Spirit stirs in this place." Rev. Junkin, St. James, Laconia, New Hampshire.


"The Holy Spirit of God was operative (BIG TIME!) in the House of Bishops with the election of our new Presiding Bishop. Katherine Jefferts Schori is the very first woman Primate in history... the Episcopal Church has affirmed a place for all God's people at every level. It only took 2006 years!" Rev. Bill Exner, St. Matthew's, Goffstown, New Hampshire.

Foolish Church, for getting it so wrong for so many years! But the quotes are endless, suffice to say, this was felt to be a Spirit filled event, with TEC leading the world as it followed a mysterious, invisible force that will one day enlighten the rest of us. But is this force the Holy Spirit, or something else altogether, our old friend the "Inner Light", perhaps, or a darker entity altogether? Despite the immediate temptation to grapple with enthusiasm, it pays to consider the other half of major prophecy as evidenced at the Convention.

Fire on the Mountain

Like the immoderate liberals this group stood out against obfuscation and gooey compromise, like them again, they initiated something that had never been done before in the history of the Episcopal Church. Unlike their opposition, they were vastly outnumbered on the floor of the Convention but allied with the consistent teaching of the Church and the overall consensus of Anglicans worldwide.

These prophets were led by the Diocesan delegation of Fort Worth, who stood alone amidst general rejoicing over the election of a new Presiding Bishop, to announce their request for immediate Alternate Primatial Oversight.

It was a singular moment; animated by the Spirit, both minor and major breeds of liberal had combined to bring clarity to the waters but the vote was out on whether traditionalists would be able to respond in kind.

Only Fort Worth had the necessary cohesion to do so, and it should interest upholders of orthodoxy that this action was moved by Anglo-Catholics, by a force which any objective observer would consider well nigh spent. Still, Fort Worth appeared to be so outnumbered as to merit irrelevancy. Events post-Convention have proved otherwise.

Shakedown Street

So far, six dioceses have followed the Anglo-Catholic lead, CAPA and the Southern Cone have endorsed it, Nigeria has consecrated an American priest as a missionary bishop in the US and the Archbishop of Canterbury has acknowledged that serious and perhaps irreconcilable divisions exist within his polity. All this to say nothing of the continued drain of churches away from the inclusive TEC, not least several cardinal parishes, with membership in the thousands.

It appears that Fort Worth was not irrelevant but acted as a catalyst, being the prime mover in a necessary process of realignment. Bishop Nazir Ali of Rochester put it well in his sermon to the AAC at Columbus, "Fudge won't do. Sometimes you have to recognize that there are two irreconcilable positions and you have to choose between them." The liberals too, both minor and major, realize as much.

Jim Naughton, of the Diocese of Washington D.C., speaks for them, "At some point we need to recognize, just for self-preservation, that meeting the needs of Rowan Williams's diplomatic agenda could cost us evangelical opportunities in our own backyard. We have already alienated the people our actions were likely to alienate... Let's not blow it by going all "wobbly"... I am so happy. So so happy. Those who want to go, have no reason to stay. God bless them."

As the Bishop of Rochester reminds us, there comes a point when compromise doesn't work and it seems that this long overdue horizon has been reached in the U.S. There is no middle ground left, which leaves the prophets of either side locked in a face off which promises to turn bloody. As Dr. David Virtue ( informs us, within less than a month after the close of Convention, three liberal bishops are about to present the bishop of San Joaquin, an Anglo-Catholic, because they "fear he will take his diocese out of The Episcopal Church."

Whether they do or not, outspoken traditionalists should expect short shrift in mainstream TEC Dioceses. And, to be fair, the same probably applies to their opposite number in the minority of dioceses controlled by FiFNA, or Network bishops. Battle lines have been drawn, whether for good or for ill.

Elijah and the Bears

Some, on both sides of the fence, will use this as an occasion for jingoism and an unchristian lack of charity, and we must remember that conflict in the Church is a tragedy, whether played out on the large stages of Conventions and Synods, or at the smaller, local, and parochial level.

Even so, we must discern the rights and wrongs of the opposing parties, and this brings us back to our opening question. That the Holy Spirit is active in the Mystical Body of Christ is a given, that He was present at General Convention is also true, but whose side was He on? He cannot be on the liberal side because He is the Spirit of truth, which does not admit self-contradiction.

But it is just this that the liberals are demanding us to accept, that the Spirit led the Church into grievous error for two millennia and then into truth in 2006, speaking, remarkably enough after all this time, to middle-class liberal protestants in Mid-West America. I suppose stranger things have happened at sea, but not by much.

Again, the Spirit is at unity in Himself and brings this quality to the Church. As we have just seen, the liberals deny the former, and one would have to be blind indeed to say they encourage the latter. The Spirit they invoke must therefore be some other beast than the Person who proceeds from the Father and the Son.

This leaves the remaining major prophet, the traditionalists led by the catholic Diocese of Fort Worth. As I recall, they did not presume upon the indwelling power of the Holy Ghost, they did stand for the Faith as received by all Christians, everywhere, from the days of the Apostles till now. They stood for truth, instead of meaningless contradiction, and for the unity of the Body of Christ at the expense of popular, secular opinion. Surely, on both counts, we find ourselves on spirit filled ground; that bishop Iker and his delegation struck a blow for the Spirit against error, heresy and schism there should be no doubt. Equally, we should be certain that those holding such ground will draw down fire on their position. We know that this will be unfriendly, we also know the fate of the false seers who put their trust in strange spirits and of those who mocked the prophets sent by God.

---The Rev. Michael Heidt is rector of St. John's Episcopal Church in Norristown, PA. He is a columnist for New Directions a UK magazine serving Evangelicals and Catholics seeking to renew the Church in the historic faith. This article will appear in the August issue of New Directions.

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant

1 posted on 07/23/2006 3:07:50 PM PDT by sionnsar
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To: ahadams2; secret garden; MountainMenace; SICSEMPERTYRANNUS; kaibabbob; angeliquemb9; ...
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Speak the truth in love. Eph 4:15

2 posted on 07/23/2006 3:08:18 PM PDT by sionnsar (†† | Iran Azadi | SONY: 5yst3m 0wn3d, N0t Y0urs | NYT:Jihadi Journal)
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To: sionnsar

This is what happens when a church is run by politicians. I can barely stand dealing with government, why would I worship in such a place?

3 posted on 07/24/2006 8:28:58 AM PDT by gogeo (The /sarc tag is a form of training wheels for those unable to discern intellectual subtlety.)
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