Skip to comments.Dr. Stephen Noll on Abp. Akinola's statement in Pittsburgh
Posted on 11/13/2005 8:17:48 AM PST by sionnsar
By email, I received the following, attributed to Dr. Stephen Noll, who now resides and ministers in Uganda, about the statement by Abp. Peter Akinola of the Anglican Church of Nigeria at the Pittsburgh conference:
"What did Peter Akinola mean in saying conservative Bishops must choose whether to be in the Network or ECUSA?" It is possible, I suppose, that he is merely anticipating the failure of the ECUSA to repent at GC2006 [see note below] and is saying that the conservative bishops need to be ready to announce their separation from ECUSA at that time.You know, I had not thought about this quite in that sense, but Dr. Noll may very well be correct about the lack of shame in ECUSA and what that means; is it possible to have repentance for wrongdoing without some sense of same for that wrongdoing?
However, I am inclined to think he means RIGHT NOW! It is an amazing fact that after almost ten years of controversy since the Righter Trial, not one sitting diocesan bishop in the USA has announced himself out of communion with those who teach false doctrine. (Correct me if I'm wrong on this.) Back in 1999, I argued at length that announcing broken communion was THE proper way for an orthodox bishop to deal with heresy WITHOUT formally leaving the Church. Only two bishops, both retired, responded to my appeal (Dickson and Benitez).
Now a number of Archbishops and whole Provinces in the Global South have declared impaired or broken communion with ECUSA. They have been saying for years: "You Americans need to act. Don't keep waiting for us to act."
I suspect that Peter Akinola is challenging the American bishops to do something now, not later. Whether he is right or not may be another matter.
Maybe eight more months of playing coy and laying the groundwork for a break with the Establishment is the best course. But I have my doubts if they will be more ready then than now.
*NOTE: What struck me as the most profound thing Akinola said in the reported Q&A session was this: "Pray for ECUSA. They have not shown any sense of shame." Last Sunday we had "Family Sunday" at the UCU Chapel. The Sunday School children came up to the mike and recited Bible memory verses (one boy recited a whole chapter of Isaiah!). Anyway, one little girl of about 8 years started her verse and then got flustered and couldn't finish.
As she went back into the chorus line, she put her hands over her nose and mouth and kept them there for the rest of the performance. I really felt for her sense of shame. Now what I want to see out of the Episcopal House of Bishops is not some weasel-worded announcement of semi-regret and mini- moratorium, but a full-fledged placing of the episcopal hands over reddened episcopal faces. Now how likely do you think that is, short of the fire of the Lord coming down!
In the very same email, Dr. Noll was quoted in this essay as well, which is also very powerful:
A FINAL APPEALQuite frankly, if the bishops of ECUSA had acted in this manner in the 1970's we would not be at this pass today; this is truly a message that needs to be heard in all of Anglicanism--indeed all of Christianity.
Bishops in the Episcopal Church find themselves most frequently functioning as ecclesiastical administrators and politicians. No doubt that is their present lot. But that is not the primary vocation of a bishop according to Scripture or the Prayer Book. Bishops are to be teachers and defenders of the faith. You cannot teach ultimate truth unless you are willing to die for that truth. In the case of heresy, dying in our context means breaking fellowship.
Recently a young patristics scholar sent me a letter he had sent to the bishops of the American Anglican Council. It challenged them at the very point of their apostolic calling. He wrote:
The evidence of history is overwhelming: There is no theological precedent for continuing fellowship with those bishops and priests who stubbornly refuse to yield to the divine truth and morality set forth in Scripture and tradition. Why then, I respectfully ask, have you refused to disfellowship and excommunicate these false shepherds from our midst?
Given the clear precedent we find in both Scripture and tradition, the burden of proof rests upon you to demonstrate why the AAC has chosen to ignore the wisdom of the ages. Therefore, as a theologian and historian of the church, I challenge you to produce cogent and compelling theological reasons for your continuing inaction.
Your credibility as an organization and as ministers of Christ is on the line. There are many faithful Anglicans who will not abide your complacency and lack of courage much longer. Martyrs have given their lives for these very causes.
These are harsh words, I know. But, they are the stripes of a friend, not an enemy. I harbor no resentment toward the AAC or its members and will continue to pray for you and work with you.
With all due sympathy for the difficulties facing biblically-minded leaders in the Episcopal Church, I add my voice to his. It has been a long time since Western Anglican bishops have "shed blood" for the faith, even though our Anglican Church was founded on the blood of such heroes as Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer. Today Anglican bishops throughout many parts of the Third World face the risk of martyrdom for the testimony to Jesus. Who knows but that in this moment when the spiritual center of Anglicanism has shifted from the West to the South, God is calling us to relearn from them that ancient lesson that the testimony (martyria) of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (Revelation 19:10).
I understand, but in a situation of gradual changes the big problem is when to make the decison to take the action from which you cannot step back. Take a look at an historical case here::
"You see," my colleague went on, "one doesn't see exactly where or how to move. Believe me, this is true. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. ...Now in my mind the "one great shocking occasion" would quite obviously have been GC2003, or at least GVR's "consecration," but I was a couple decades gone from ECUSA by then.
We had a visitor at church today who some 15 years ago wrote the bishop of the local ECUSA diocese and told him why she could no longer be an Episcopalian. I don't know exactly what prompted her to take action, but it certainly did. (I think she will be back; unlike most of us who have committed Mass to memory she was following in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, but she was following through its little turns and jumps that sadly befuddle the first-timer. A quarter-century flashback for me -- I could see she had known this service. Another diasporate Anglican will be coming home, I think...)
ECUSA bishops such as +Schofield are becoming harder for me to understand.
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