Each month on the sixteenth morning, those who use the Psalter in the classic Book of Common Prayer read, pray and meditate upon Psalm 81.
In this (originally a Liturgy of Northern Israel) there is a divine oracle (verses 6b –17) in which God reminds his people that it was He who freed them from Egypt, fed them in the wilderness, brought them to the promised land, commanded them not to worship strange gods and punished them for disobedience. If they will but obey Him then he will take care of them and bless them with prosperity.
Verse 11 describes the exodus from Egypt and the provision of food in the desert and then in verses 12 & 13 we read:
But my people would not listen to my voice and Israel would not obey me.
So I (the LORD) repudiated them for their stubbornness of heart and they followed their own designs.
For details of this forsaking of the LORD their God by the tribes of Israel we must turn to the Old Testament – to the Books of Moses along with Judges and Joshua. It was always a great temptation to the Israelites to adopt the local gods, customs and ways of the local people.
What about the Episcopal Church?
Its history from the early colonial period through to the 1950s and 1960s is abundant with signs of the blessing, guidance and favor of Almighty God. Though there is apostasy from time to time, there is always a return to the Lord, to His Word and ordinances.
But from the late 1960s, on through each decade of the twentieth century, the Episcopal Church chose to be more influenced by the powerful changing secularist culture of western civilization. This culture absorbed a variety of innovatory ideas and movements (from rights to self-esteem etc.), and the Episcopal Church followed it. God-language became increasingly used to give authenticity to secular and even immoral themes and ideas taken into the doctrine and liturgy of the Church.
The remnant cried out in protest and in prayer to God but the apostasy, funded by the dollar, continued and does so to this very day. In this apostasy the remnant is inextricable intertwined event though it seeks to be faithful to its vision of what the LORD requires.
It would appear that what is stated in verses 12 & 13 applies directly to the ECUSA as an institution and as a religious denomination – Episcopalians (and especially their leaders) have not listened and do not listen to the word of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; they openly disobey this LORD God, and they have deliberately followed their own designs in stubbornness of heart. Even now as the whole Anglican Communion calls to them to engage in a great U-turn, they appear still to defend themselves and their apostasy out of the feelings and thoughts of their stubborn hearts and minds.
Yet, as God the LORD cried out to Israel, so he cries out to the ECUSA (vv.14-15):
If only my people would listen to me;
If only Israel would walk in my ways;
If there is a change of heart and mind, if there is a U-turn, then God the LORD will come to his people and restore them to his favor! With God such an intervention is always a possibility!
The Rev’d Dr Peter Toon November 16 2004