A discussion starter… by Peter Toon
President Bush is confident that he will see “victory” in Iraq. Others think that “victory” is not possible there. So much depends on what “victory” actually is. And here there is at best only general agreement over what it will be - e.g., that Iraq will have democratic forms of government in place, there will be a viable economy, that there will be little terrorism and that people will enjoy some basic rights and freedoms.
Let us move now from American foreign policy to internal American religion, and to the Episcopal Church in particular. It may be asserted that some members – I do not know how many or what proportion of the whole -- of The Anglican Communion Network and the American Anglican Council predict “victory” at the next General Convention of the Episcopal Church at Columbus in Ohio in June 06. At the recent Rally of The Network at Pittsburgh in mid-November, not a few people visiting the exhibit of the Prayer Book Society or in the halls around told me that they were confident that “victory” was in sight for 2006. Their confidence was not bravado, but a belief that right was on their side, many Primates were behind them, much intercessory prayer was being offered, that they had good leadership, and that people were giving money generously to fight the cause.
But what is the “victory”? Well, as the war was started over the consecration of a “gay” man to be a bishop in the ECUSA, the “victory” must necessarily be related to this incident and the context in which it occurred and the pain it caused. And as the controversy caused the setting up of a commission which produced “The Windsor Report” then the “victory” must also relate to what that Report recommends.
So, it may be suggested, that, as a minimum, “victory” will include an apology by the General Convention, or the House of Bishops on its behalf, for going ahead with a major innovation in doctrine and discipline without seriously first taking the advice of the majority of the member Churches of the Anglican Family. It will also include a moratorium on any further ordinations or consecrations of active “gay” men or women. Further, it will make full provision for alternative pastoral care for parishes which are not able to see their bishop as their true pastor under the Shepherd of the flock, the Lord Jesus. And Gene Robinson may be asked voluntarily to stand down and retire as bishop.
If this “victory” were to be won by a majority of votes on the floor, then, as I understand it, The Network will see no reason at all to consider secession from the Episcopal Church and will be in favor of the ECUSA as a province being accepted again as a full member of the Anglican Communion. The Network will continue as a “church within a church” or as “a school or party within a denomination;” but, it will be legally and practically, as heretofore, within the ECUSA. It will look to the rest of the Communion to help it maintain its rights and liberties within the ECUSA and it will maintain “fellowship” with certain other Anglican bodies in the USA (e.g., the REC).
I want to suggest that unless the majority of persons in the General Convention actually engage in more than political apologies and sorrow then the “victory” through majority-voting will be hollow and meaningless in the long term. What is needed is godly repentance and godly sorrow, a real sense of having done wrong, of being guilty before God, of seeking God’s forgiveness and of putting wrongs right. Without this moral and spiritual conversion, a political apology and turning will be without genuine content. It will be hypocrisy.
Also I want to suggest that unless the Evangelicals who are pressing for this “victory” at Convention realize that the recent innovations in sexual doctrine are intimately connected to certain major streams of thought and experience that run deep in ECUSA, they will deceive themselves. Sexual innovations did not come out of nowhere for they were part of the continuing adoption of “rights” by this Church. Having incorporated the rights of the divorced for remarriage and the rights of women for ordination into canon law, the next step (following on from what civil society is doing in the West) is the incorporation of the rights of those who are deemed to be a special group in society, “the homosexuals.” Further, having taken unto itself the right to call a “Book of Varied Services” by the ancient title of “The Book of Common Prayer” in 1979, the Church had shown that it has new definitions of “truth” and “order” and “honesty.” All in all the Church has shown that it receives “Revelation from God” more from the enlightened views of the West than from the ancient written “Revelation from God” written in Holy Scripture. And where these differ the ECUSA goes with the former over the latter!
So for there to be any real “victory” for “the orthodox”, the “revisionists” who are “the progressive liberals” have to do a mighty big U-turn (which may take two Conventions to make!). At the same time, the “orthodox” who are the Evangelicals have also to become more acquainted with the errors of the ECUSA, to repent of them and to establish new and firmer foundations for their movement of reform and renewal.
A last thought: bearing in mind the history of the ECUSA in the twentieth century and the fact that liberal denominations have as yet in the USA made no U-turns back to “orthodoxy’, perhaps to talk of “victory” in any sense is unrealistic! In fact “victory” is normally achieved in the USA by “secession” from the “apostate” mother Church, as many examples illustrate!
firstname.lastname@example.org December 8, 2005