Skip to comments.Sometimes a parish has to cut ties
Posted on 11/27/2006 6:57:34 PM PST by sionnsar
Strolling up to this church in Elmhurst on a recent Sunday morning, the name on the building drew my attention - St. James Anglican Church.
You don't typically see the word "Anglican" on churches in this country, as the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion is the Episcopal Church in the USA. So, what's the deal at St. James?
Well, this parish made a decision. Carlo J. Saavedre, senior warden at the church, told me: "We were getting out of the Episcopal Church, and we wanted everyone to know." So about a year ago "Episcopal" came down and "Anglican" went up.
Parishes looking to leave the Episcopal Church have become somewhat more common. St. James stands out in part because of its history. The church dates back to 1704. The Rev. David Leo, rector at St. James, pointed out, "We actually precede the Diocese of Long Island and the Episcopal Church in America." In fact, the original 1704 building still stands just up the street from the current church. Its exterior recently underwent a historic rehabilitation.
St. James has initiated legal action against the Long Island diocese to make clear that the parish owns its property. The question of who owns church buildings and land - the particular congregations or the dioceses - has hindered many parishes from taking steps to leave the 2.2-million member Episcopal Church.
But why leave? What's the beef?
Particularly over the past four decades, leaders in the Episcopal Church, with the leadership in many other mainline Protestant churches, have wandered from the fundamentals of traditional Christianity. The proper emphasis on enduring truth and Holy Scripture has been replaced with moral relativism and social activism. Carrying out the Great Commission from Jesus Christ in Matthew 28 - "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" - apparently has become far less interesting than getting involved in the latest cause du jour.
"I think for many people the proverbial straw," Father Leo observed, was the consecration of V. Gene Robinson, a divorced, non-celibate homosexual, as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003. Leo added that "it has gotten even progressively worse since then." He went on to explain that the Episcopal Church has strayed "from any type of dogma, doctrine, Scripture. It seems like a basic whatever-feels-good-do-it mentality. Many faith communities...felt no other recourse but to separate themselves.
"What we make very clear here," Leo added, "is we did not leave the church, the Episcopal Communion left the church...We are the ones who are maintaining the faith handed down from Christ to the apostles."
But where to go? St. James joined the Anglican Church in America, which, Leo says, has 200-250 parishes and four dioceses and is part of the worldwide Traditional Anglican Communion, with sister churches in many countries. On Dec. 9, St. James will host the consecration of the Rev. Brian Marsh as assistant bishop of the Anglican Church in America's Northeast Diocese.
"We're just basically looking to do the work of the church here," Father Leo said. "The parish has a beautiful history, a beautiful tradition, and we want to keep that tradition going as the parish was founded 300 years ago."
Indeed, so many frustrated clergy and laity simply want to do the work of the church that was begun some 2,000 years ago. Too often, though, their denominations work in a different direction. Sometimes the answer is to push for reform from the inside. But when matters are too far gone - as it seems today with the Episcopal Church - then moving on is the only way to serve the Lord in good conscience.
Raymond J. Keating can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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