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Response to Episcopal Forum
VirtueOnline-News ^ | 9/15/2006 | The Rev. Richard Belser

Posted on 09/18/2006 4:51:57 PM PDT by sionnsar

paid, full-page statement from The Episcopal Forum of South Carolina appeared in the Sept. 5 Post and Courier. I was troubled not only by what was asserted or implied in the statement but also by what was denied or omitted altogether.

The supporters of the statement are concerned that a new bishop in the Diocese of South Carolina be committed to the ordination oath to conform to the "doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church." What the statement fails to mention is that those who take the oath are responding to this question. "Will you be loyal to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this church has received them?" That is the first promise made by every ordained Episcopalian. Apparently, members of the Forum want our new bishop to be committed not to historically received principles of the Christian faith, but to whatever the modern Episcopal Church has decided to stand for.

The statement mentions that "the Diocese of South Carolina has joined fewer than 10 percent of all Episcopal dioceses in an alliance, "The Anglican Communion Network." Forum members apparently want to ignore that the Episcopal Church, which claims 2.3 million members, is barely three percent of the 78-million member Anglican Communion, the overwhelming majority of whose members are theologically orthodox.

The Forum fails to mention that the Network was organized by several American bishops, including our own Bishop Edward Salmon, in response to the suggestion of the Archbishop of Canterbury that theological conservatives in the Episcopal Church find a way to support each other.

The Forum claims several sinister proposals for the "alliance," including the diminishing of " our democratic tradition of governance." This is an odd statement to describe the Network, an organization that clearly states its real purposes in its "Memorandum of Agreement."

It states: "The purpose of the Network is to bring together those dioceses and congregations, which hold to the centrality and authority of Holy Scripture and, in keeping with the Preamble to the Constitution of ECUSA, to be faithful in upholding and propagating the historic faith and order; pursuing the apostolic mission to a troubled and fallen church, nation, and world."

The statement expresses the Forum's concern that the Network will "narrow the permissible understanding of Scripture." This can't mean that the Forum recognizes no limits to the interpretation of scripture, because, in a later paragraph, the statement mentions that "faith, as understood in the Episcopal Church, is based on the centuries-old Anglican understanding of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason." Members of the Forum, as good Anglicans, clearly recognize that tradition and reason have always posed some limits to biblical interpretation. Could it be that the Forum's fear of limiting "permissible understanding of scripture" stems from members' devotion to an authority higher than tradition or reason? For some Forum sympathizers, personal faith experience is more important than biblical revelation.

But it is the unlimited, self-serving interpretations of the Bible that will further fragment our denomination. What will enrich our common life is faithful adherence to the teaching of Holy Scripture, as the Church has traditionally understood it, over the ages.

The Forum statement hints ominously that participation in the Network will lead our diocese to place its members "under the authority of appointed leaders, some from other countries and cultures." The statement doesn't mention African archbishops, but the thinly veiled racism in its warning hardly seems to fit the inclusive worldview claimed by Forum sympathizers. Further, while warning about the threat of appointed leaders, the statement fails to mention that alternate primatial oversight has been requested by the Diocese of South Carolina and six other dioceses. We are asking for orthodox spiritual leadership. No one is forcing us to submit to any unwanted authority.

The Forum statement asserts that "we are a vibrant national church." How can that possibly describe an organization that has lost more than a third of its members in the past 40 years? While there are undoubtedly many local examples of exciting Gospel ministries taking place in Episcopal congregations across the country, the statistics released by our denominational headquarters tell a different story. We are a dying church, and smiling denial can't change the diminishing number of baptisms and confirmations and the crisis of many parish and diocesan budgets relying on dwindling endowments. The Forum apparently believes that "a Constitution and Canons (the body of Ecclesiastical law) ... bind us together in our common mission and ministry." It is our tragic lack of a "common mission and ministry" that leaves us unhappily shackled together by "a body of Ecclesiastical law."

The members of the Forum demonstrate an astonishing ignorance of current events when they say, "We can always trust the leadership of the Episcopal Church to make a place for those who are not in agreement with its direction." This has certainly been true in the Diocese of South Carolina, but have the Forum supporters not read the articles that document case after case of Episcopal bishops filing charges against biblically orthodox clergy who disagree with the theological direction of their diocese? If the priest and lay leaders of an orthodox Episcopal congregation refuse to give financial support to a revisionist diocese or to arrange for a biblically skeptical bishop to come for a confirmation service, the priest might soon find himself charged with abandoning the communion of the church. That canonical charge allows the bishop to remove a disagreeing priest without a formal trial.

When the Forum statement "affirms Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord," it's not telling the whole story. Left out are the words, "for us." Many Episcopalians believe that Jesus is Savior and Lord for us, because we grew up in a Christian environment, but it's not necessary for people who faithfully practice other religions to believe in him. The statement claims that the convention did not reject Jesus' lordship as an "essential article of our faith."

Here are the facts. The convention discharged from consideration a resolution that read, in part, "Resolved ... that the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church declares its unchanging commitment to Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the only name by which any person may be saved ... and be it further resolved that we acknowledge the solemn responsibility placed upon us to share Christ with all persons when we hear his words, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.' " By not considering this resolution, the convention chose not to reaffirm "this essential article of our Faith." To say Jesus is our Lord but not necessarily Lord for the whole world is to deny the unique nature of the Son of God.

The Forum statement concludes: "The Episcopal Church welcomes all with love, leaving judgment and rebuke to our Lord's great mercy." What's missing here is the mature recognition that "welcoming with love" means more than sentimental acceptance of each other. God welcomes us just as we are, but because he loves us, he is not content to leave us captive to ideas and attitudes, beliefs and behaviors that are unhealthy for us. He calls us to become holy, as he is holy, and this means helping each other face the need for repentance and renewal. God's Word judges between right and wrong. Tolerance of behavior the Bible calls wrong is not love. It is shortsighted moral isolationism and long-range cruelty.

In their effort to promote a kinder, gentler brand of Christianity, the members of the Forum have turned their backs on what the Bible calls "the faith once delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). Some members of the Forum might be ready to follow the current national leadership of the Episcopal Church, but most members of the Diocese of South Carolina want to be faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ and to the heritage of faith in which we stand.

---The Rev. Richard I.H. Belser is rector of St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Charleston

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant

1 posted on 09/18/2006 4:51:57 PM PDT by sionnsar
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To: ahadams2; cf_river_rat; fgoodwin; secret garden; MountainMenace; SICSEMPERTYRANNUS; kaibabbob; ...
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Speak the truth in love. Eph 4:15

2 posted on 09/18/2006 4:52:38 PM PDT by sionnsar (††|Iran Azadi| 5yst3m 0wn3d - it's N0t Y0ur5 (SONY) | UN: Useless Nations)
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To: sionnsar
Forum members apparently want to ignore that the Episcopal Church, which claims 2.3 million members, is barely three percent of the 78-million member Anglican Communion, the overwhelming majority of whose members are theologically orthodox.

Somehow this reminds me of a bit of C.S. Lewis from "The Great Divorce."

"All Hell is smaller than one pebble of your earthly world: but it is smaller than one atom of this world, the Real World." ... "It seems big enough when you're in it, Sir."

Those in the TEC are looking through the wrong end of the telescope--the lens of Scripture. For them, Heaven seems a distant place and only those things that are right here and immediately self-evident (i.e. the flesh) are what matters.

The comparison in numbers between the heretical bishops and their followers over against the rest of the "Real" Anglican world is, in some way a glimpse of Heaven.
3 posted on 09/18/2006 7:39:43 PM PDT by newheart (The Truth? You can't handle the Truth. But He can handle you.)
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