In what frame of mind should mature persons, who seek to be faithful to Jesus Christ as his disciples, and, at the same time do so by seeking to living within the inheritance of the Anglican Way, remain within the Episcopal Church of the USA?
This is not a question concerning whether or not to join the ECUSA as a catechumen, a transferred member or a transferred clergyperson from elsewhere. It is a question facing people of good intentions already within this denomination and intending as God wills to stay there, and who desire therein to be faithful to their vocation as servants, ambassadors, disciples and imitators of Jesus Christ, the Lord.
I suggest that an informed Christian of the kind just described should be well informed about:
1. the Anglican heritage as not merely liturgical Protestantism but as Reformed Catholicism. This means being well acquainted with Three Creeds & the contents of the historic Anglican Formularies – the classic BCP & Ordinal together with the Articles of Religion.(In practice this means knowing well the BCP of 1662 (now in 150 or so languages!) and the American edition of 1928.)
2. how the Episcopal Church has been and is governed – its Polity – and the reasons why its General Convention is as it is.
3. the Anglican Communion of Churches, its origins, its membership, its “instruments of unity”, the nature of its “communion” and the important reality and practical results of the autonomy of each of the 38 provinces.
4. the great harm done by the innovations introduced into the Episcopal Church from the 1960s onwards, in such areas of doctrine, marriage & divorce, liturgy, religious language, the ministry, and the power and descriptions of bishops, culminating most recently in the approval of same-sex partnerships and of clergy in the same. (and the reasons why various groups of people have left the ECUSA since the 1970s).
I suggest that also he should have the following aspects to his piety/spirituality:
5. Be a diligent student of Holy Scripture in the context of reading and meditating upon the Lessons of the Daily Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer.Also,
6. Be sensitive to where the Holy Spirit is being grieved in the life and work of the Episcopal Church and his own parish/diocese.
7. Recognize that the sickness of the Episcopal Church does not only exist apart from him only in others and in institutions, but it also exists in him, as a member of the same (sick) body, and as one who has failed in the past to do all that is necessary for the well being of the visible church on earth.
8. Be fully aware that all sin against God has to be confessed and confessed with a truly repentant heart and mind. Therefore to confess the sickness of the ECUSA and the sickness in himself is a daily, painful duty.
9. Pray for strength and wisdom to bear witness at all times to the Lord Jesus Christ -- to holiness of life, beauty of worship and soundness of doctrine. And be prepared to suffer for the truth’s sake in love.
10. Be as generous of mind and heart as possible in relating to all members and especially to those with whom one has the greatest disagreement, recognizing in oneself the same original sin and weakness that is in all others.
11. Pray fervently for the descent of the Holy Ghost upon this church to do what is necessary from the divine standpoint (see John 16: 8-10) according to the will of God.
I suggest that he does not engage in false evaluations such as:
12. If only the recent same-sex stuff could be reversed and removed then all would be really fine. The only thing really wrong with the ECUSA is its adoption of the LesBiGay agenda.
13. If only we could get all churches engaged in “the great commission” to evangelize then all would work out OK. It’s the lack of evangelization that is the real problem.
14. If we look to overseas bishops and primates and take their advice then things will work out fine. They can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
15. If we trim our theology and doctrine to make it attractive without being heretical, and thus make it easier to call people to discipleship, then that will be good. Is not this what the successful growing churches in the US are doing?
16. If we can persuade our bishops to be genuine leaders rather than chief liturgical officers and chief executives then the ECUSA will be turned around.
17. If we can get everyone involved in evangelically based charismatic-type services which are attractive, celebratory and simple then we shall leave behind the wrong stuff.
I suggest that he be prepared in grief and humility to be ready to walk out of this denomination if and only if he finds that his informed conscience so instructs him, and godly and wise friends so advice.
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.)