A minority of Episcopalians are truly concerned about the route into apostasy being taken by the General Convention of their Church. Many, but not all, of this minority are represented by the American Anglican Council & the Anglican Communion Network, whose membership claims to be “the orthodox” opposing “the revisionists.”
Yet any serious-minded, informed Episcopalian layman, desirous to be “orthodox” and to worship the Lord our God in the beauty of holiness in the best tradition of the Anglican Way will, I suspect, be VERY disappointed with the recently released second edition of “Equipping the Saints: A Crisis Resource for Anglican Laity,” first published in 2004 from the American Anglican Council.
Why VERY disappointing? Let me explain.
Not because what it presents is actually wrong. But because it avoids telling the more painful parts of the story and of painting in the dark colors of the picture to the laity. Put another way, it does not attempt to diagnose the serious disease and thus gives the impression that while there is a disease it is not of the very serious – even deadly – kind. (We may recall that much the same occurred with the introduction of the new prayer book in the 1970s – clergy leaders did not tell the whole truth about it and its contents, and eventually up to a million folks left the ECUSA after its introduction.)
In its survey of important and decisive events in the history of ECUSA, the pamphlet fails to note and underline three of the most significant, all of which illustrate the clear determination of the General Convention of this Church to depart from the received Anglican Way, historically known as Reformed Catholicism.
1. Though the claim is made in this document by the American Anglican Council that it is wholly committed to the biblically-based doctrine of marriage, it fails to state that the ECUSA, with its new marriage canon of 1973 and by the preface and content of its new marriage service of 1979, made this doctrine to be, at best, optional. In fact, it opened the door wide to very easy re-marriage of divorcees in church and taught that procreation is merely an option within marriage, and not part of what “one-flesh” means. This doctrine and discipline operates in AA Council/Network dioceses and parishes and a high percentage of the membership are divorced and remarried. The point being made here is that this real and unsolved problem with “heterosexual” marriages opens the door for the claims of those who promote “same-sex” partnerships as a matter of human justice and rights.
2. In the list of important events it is noted that a new prayer book came into use in 1979, and this is presented in such a way to give the impression that this was but a new edition of the one Book of Common Prayer, which had previously gone through gentle revisions (as in 1892 & 1928). In fact, it was not a new edition of an old book, but an entirely new book of varied services and varied doctrine and it replaced the classic book as the new standard of worship and doctrine in the ECUSA. Its adoption meant that the ECUSA had set aside the Religion it received from the Church of England in the seventeenth century and adopted a new religion – new prayer book, new ordination services and new catechism (new Formularies/Standards). This was revolutionary but nothing is said about it by the AA Council. This is amazing as also is the fact that many of the congregations associated with the AAC and Network use it, find little or no fault with it, and receive it as their Formulary. (A few only rightly use it as a book of alternative services and retain the classic BCP (1928) as their primary service book and formulary.) In so doing, whatever other statements they may make – as in this booklet – the majority declare that they have abandoned the historic, classical and biblically-based Reformed Catholic Faith of the Anglican Way in favor of “revisionism,” howbeit a less developed form than that of those who take the principles of the 1979 prayer book to its logical limits, the prophets of the new episcopalianism and of progressive liberalism.
3. Nothing whatsoever is said about the major innovation introduced into the ECUSA first illegally and then officially in the 1970s of the ordaining of women as deacons, presbyters and bishops. Anyone who studies how this happened cannot but be impressed by the fact that it entered because of powerful feminist pressure to gain equal rights and opportunities for women in the church’s employment opportunities. Of course, attempts were made to justify it from Scripture but this proved difficult, as also it had been when seeking to justify easy remarriage of divorcees in church. But the point is that this innovation most certainly energized the advocates of same-sex blessings and they too pressed the more urgently for their rights (often using powerful emotive testimonies at Gen Conv.).
What these three and other innovations (e.g., same-sex blessings) point to is the abandoning of the received Reformed Catholicism of the Anglican Way, and at a deeper level, the abandoning of God’s order for creation, marriage, and his Church. In that the American Anglican Council does not name these innovations and also encourages the acceptance and use of the 1979 Prayer Book which is the Formulary associated with them, one must truly have the worry that its leadership is not ready to make known to the laity what is the real depth of the problem, what is the extent of the disease, and thus what is the magnitude of the healing required from the God of all grace with whom all things are possible.
Therefore, to get the ECUSA’s General Convention of June 2006 to do a U-turn of some kind on same-sex matters will not really be to have addressed the real apostasy of the ECUSA which began most seriously in the 1970s. For the real story is that this is not a battle of orthodox versus revisionist in ECUSA as such; rather it is a call for ALL revisionists, of the intense and of the mild kind, to seek the old paths and walk therein (Jeremiah 6:16).
Here it may be added that the Report prepared by a theological commission for General Convention, One Baptism, One Hope in God’s Call, published on April 7 does actually call for virtually everything that the AAC and the Network has been asking for and it does it from the middle ground of the ECUSA (those who have been surprised and shocked by the universal condemnation of actions of the Gen Con of 2003). This Report may be called “mild revisionism” and such it appears is what the Anglican Communion is ready to accept as a basis for communion together in Christ. Whether it will get approved by the Gen Con is another matter for the forces of radical progressive religion are already planning its defeat.
But back to where we were. The laity were not told the whole truth in the 1970s about the massive changes in the worship, doctrine and discipline of the ECUSA. Let us not repeat the same mistake in 2006 despite the Report for Convention and the Pamphlet from the AAC. Let us be honest about the full nature of the revisionism in the ECUSA of which the same-sex agenda is merely the latest manifestation.
Do please visit www.anglicansatprayer.org for inspiration to pray for true renewal.
For a description of the major innovations of the ECUSA, read the 64 page booklet, Episcopal Innovations 1960-2004, published by the Prayer Book Society of the USA, and available to purchase at www.anglicanmarketplace.com and for download from www.episcopalian.org/pbs1928
The Revd Dr Peter Toon Lent 2006