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Has the Episcopal Church really been "Falsely Accused"? Part II
Stand Firm ^ | 8/28/2006 | Matt Kennedy

Posted on 08/29/2006 5:14:36 PM PDT by sionnsar

...the elevation of a divorced man living in a sexual relationship with another man, represented a clear, deliberate, officially sanctioned change in the doctrine of the Episcopal Church. What scripture, tradition, communion, and reason forbid, we chose to bless. And on that day the Episcopal Church stepped outside the limits and boundaries of orthodoxy.

This morning’s article is the second installment in a series of articles responding to Fr. Tom Woodward’s article Falsely Accused.

In the introductory installment I provided a rough summary of Fr. Woodward’s assertion: that the AAC, Network, and Church of Nigeria (why just those three I wonder?) have falsely accused the Episcopal Church of heresy and apostasy by (mis)representing the marginal teachings of marginal teachers, Dr. Marcus Borg and John Spong, as though they were the mainstream teachings of official voices.

Both teachers, as most readers know, deny essential doctrines: the virgin birth, bodily resurrection, and the bodily ascension.

If indeed the Episcopal Church were the healthy, well-balanced, orthodox Church Fr. Woodward claims, you would expect to see widespread opposition to Spong and Dr. Borg originating not just from the traditionalist wing, but from the “diverse center” as well. You would expect Spong to be brought up on presentment charges and men like Borg to be ostracized by the ecclesial leadership.

Instead these men are lauded and celebrated. They are frequently invited to dioceses across the Episcopal Church to lecture, teach, and preach at the invitation and with the blessing of the diocesan bishop.

For example, here’s an article describing Spong's visit to Presiding Bishop-Elect Jefferts-Schori’s Diocese of Nevada where, apparently, he not only spoke to the clergy but was given pulpit access to the flock of at least one parish.

Spong Addresses 2003 Clergy Conference in Nevada

John Shelby Spong will speak at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Christ Church Episcopal, 2000 S. Maryland Parkway. The lecture, which is open to the public, is titled ‘God Beyond Theism.’ Spong also will speak Sept. 6 at Trinity Episcopal Church in Reno. His Reno lecture is titled ‘Jesus Beyond Incarnation.’ Spong also will address the clergy of the Diocese of Nevada at a retreat in Lake Tahoe. ‘Bishop Spong continues to be one of the important voices for an intellectually involved Christian theology,’ said the Right Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, bishop of the Diocese of Nevada. ‘You may not agree with everything he says, but you will not come away from a meeting with him without having examined what you do believe and why.
Lest you think the reporter somehow misunderstood or misstated the capacity or purpose of Spong’s visit or imagine that perhaps these things took place under +Jefferts-Schori’s radar or without her full knowledge, here’s the blurb from her diocesan newsletter:
Clergy Conference 2003 will take place September 4 to September 6, 2003 at Almost Home Group Retreats, South Lake Tahoe, CA. Our facilitator is the Rt. Rev. John Shelby Spong, former Episcopal Bishop of Newark, NJ, renowned writer and lecturer. He is one of the leading spokespersons in the world for progressive Christianity. He is author of 15 books including the best-selling Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism. A Profile of a Bishop: John Shelby Spong can be found on Coordinators in the North are needed to provide transportation for those arriving at the Reno airport to the center. Volunteers, please call the diocesan office 702-737-9190. A registration form will be in the mail shortly.
So only three years ago this marginal and unrepresentative teacher, this odd-man-out, was leading clergy days in the Presiding bishop-elect’s diocese and lecturing her flock.

And this is no anomaly. Spong and Dr. Borg are frequent welcomed guests in Episcopal diocese across the country.

At the same time, all of this is somewhat beside the point. I could link to diocesan newsletter after diocesan newsletter describing these men and their teachings in glowing terms and, while enlightening, it would do little to further the argument.

The problem, as I realized last night, is that Fr. Woodward and his fellow travelers at Episcopal Majority have a novel and rather odd understanding of what exactly constitutes “orthodoxy”. His claim that TEC currently stands within the tradition depends on a gutted definition of tradition.

Fr. Woodward, for example, apparently does not consider the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection, or the bodily ascension core doctrines. Here's one of his comments in the thread beneath my first installment.
I do not understand your charges or concerns about deconstructing the Creeds or Scriptures. I understand how those on the “orthodox” side are doing both—demanding a litmus test for choosing the correct understandings of “the Virgin Mary,” and theories of the atonement, the Second Coming and the resurrection as well as undercutting what had been a communion-wide consensus on the status of the Purity Code in determining doctrine in TEC.

I also understand the confusion of many people in dealing with religious language, which is often metaphorical rather than propositional. I think of “sitting on the right hand of God,” which refers, I believe, to the core of the doctrine of the Ascension rather than to a physical event (a man disappearing into the clouds may be an enormous “Wow” but does not mean much without the meaning attached. Your citing the question about belief surrounding “The Virgin Mary.” I do not believe it is a matter of core doctrine that Mary was a virgin at the birth of Jesus—that His birth was at the divine initiative is important, but the history of the phrase, coming from a questionable interpretation of Isaiah, particularly its function at the time it was inserted into the creed indicate that it is the divine initiative that is important, not the nuts and bolts of it. We get to differ about the nuts and bolts—unless that is defined for us at General Convention, in a new Book of Common Prayer or in a common agreement in a new (and pretty scary) Anglican Covenant.
Of course, if these articles are not essential or core articles of the Christian faith, then certainly Fr. Tom, Episcopal Majority, and the Jesus Seminar, Spong and Dr. Borg and ultimately anyone else who mouths the Creeds can be considered “orthodox.”
In fact, from Fr. Woodward’s responses it would seem that the criteria for orthodoxy are 1. “possessing” a 79 prayerbook with a catechism, 2. “reciting” the Creeds (without necessarily believing the propositional content of the words), “celebrating” the resurrection (at least as a metaphor) and adhering like a fundamentalist to a literal reading of the Canons of the Episcopal Church.

In which case, it is difficult to see how this conversation can progress.

Here is the definition of Christian orthodoxy within the Anglican Communion to which I and the vast majority of Anglicans everywhere adhere:
Doctrine, teaching and practice consistent with Scripture and traditions of the Church (based on the four Councils of Nicea, Constantinople, Ephesus and Chalcedon; the 39 Articles of Religion; the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral; and the 1888 Lambeth Conference).
By this standard the Episcopal Church is clearly a heretical body and we do not need to dig up references to John Shelby Spong or Dr. Borg to prove it. Simply turn to the election, consent, and consecration of V. Gene Robinson to the office of bishop in the diocese of New Hampshire.

His consent represents a blatant rejection of the plain reading of Scripture, 2000 years of Christian tradition, the contemporary teaching of every branch of Christendom (Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant…with the exception of the UCC and the Metropolitan Church) the clear teaching of the Anglican Communion as articulated at Lambeth98 in resolution 1.10, and, lastly, godly reason by the official consenting body of the Church.

His consecration in November 2003, over and against the unanimous warning of the primates in October, represented a public confirmation of that rejection by the presiding bishop and all those assembled.

Before 2003, the heretical bent of the Church was just that, a “bent”. After 2003, heresy became official.

A bishop in the catholic tradition is a bishop not just of his diocese, but of the whole church. He is to “share in the leadership of the Church throughout the world” ('79 BCP p.517) Further, by his life and doctrine, the bishop represents and embodies the life and doctrine of the Body. He is “called to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church…and to be in all things a faithful pastor and wholesome example for the flock.” ('79 BCP p.517)

The bishop is an emblem of the teachings of the Church.

Thus, the elevation of a divorced man living in a sexual relationship with another man, represented a clear, deliberate, officially sanctioned change in the doctrine of the Episcopal Church. What scripture, tradition, communion, and reason forbid, we chose to bless. And on that day the Episcopal Church stepped outside the limits and boundaries of orthodoxy.

At GC2006, that step was reaffirmed.

The charges Fr. Woodward cites in his apology are true (though they are mischaracterized and misstated in his piece). I shall begin the process of demonstrating that in the next installment.

But first it is important to understand that the official adoption of heresy by the Episcopal Church is a matter of historical record. It took place in the summer of 2003 and was completed by November of that same year.

The video, Choose this Day, is accurate, correct, and “prophetic” in its portrayal of the current state of the Episcopal Church.

But the accusations in question (carefully articulated in the video) merely enumerate some of the legion of errors that under-girded the officially sanctioned heretical act of 2003.

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant

1 posted on 08/29/2006 5:14:41 PM PDT by sionnsar
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2 posted on 08/29/2006 5:15:15 PM PDT by sionnsar (†† |Iran Azadi| SONY: 5yst3m 0wn3d, N0t Y0urs | 8/30: National Geek Day)
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