We may claim that in terms of polity and organization the Episcopal Church is unique. Its form of government, modeled on the U S Congress, gives full place to laity, clergy and bishops, meeting in General Convention every three years. The meeting in June 2006 will be its 75th.
But, the ECUSA is unique in a further sense, according to the Bishop of Olympia in Washington State. Responding to those in the Church and in his diocese who think that the ECUSA can have it both ways over the episcopate of Gene Robinson – that is, there can be support for Robinson while regretting the time and the manner by which he became bishop – Bishop Warner states:
“We are in danger of losing our identity and our voice. We are a church that was born in revolution and we shouldn’t back down now. I believe that all members of the church can be in all orders of the church. And everyone should have both the rights and the rites of the church. God shows no partiality. I hope that the church will not only have that dream but will live it.” (Episcopal Voice ,June 2006, Magazine of Diocese of Olympia, Front Page story.)
Warner states the nature of the revolution, the radical progressive agenda, of the majority in ECUSA as clearly as it can be stated in a few words. In a nutshell: All forms of ministry are to be open to all baptized members & every baptized member has full access to all the rights and rites of the Church. So, in terms of the current controversy, no actively gay person should on this account be barred from any form of ministry in the Church. This is so important, says Warner, that no concession should be made to the bullies in the Anglican Communion who are trying to make the enlightened leaders of the ECUSA express regret (for doing what for them is prophetic and right!).
We need to mark, learn and inwardly digest the fact that this revolutionary agenda is given sacramental and doctrinal force by such as the current Presiding Bishop and Warner because it may – with all reasonable justification – be traced to the “covenant” made between the baptized and God in the “Baptismal Covenant” within the Baptismal Service of the 1979 Prayer Book (itself the doctrinal standard) of the Episcopal Church. In this Service promises are made by the baptized or by their sponsors to pursue peace and justice and to respect the dignity of all persons. This form of commitment has always been interpreted by the ruling elite in the ECUSA in it original 1960s meaning as including working for the full rights and opportunities within the Church of all persons – women, divorcees, minorities, homosexual persons and so on. Thus from the perspective of the “Baptismal Covenant,” understood as a post 1960s revolutionary statement, the election of Gene Robinson, a gay activist, as a bishop is wholly proper and reasonable: and to deny it or to regret it is to trample upon the sacred promises of the same Covenant, in terms of what they have meant in the post 1960s world and what they currently mean for the “Peace and Justice Commission of the ECUSA itself. ”
So let us admire Bishop Warner’s consistency even if we reject the very revolutionary doctrine of the ECUSA which is the basis of it.
And let us recognize that too many who claim to be “orthodox” have turned a blind eye to the radicalism of the Baptismal Service, which though it looks like a modern form of a traditional Anglican text, is in fact – as the elite know well – a charter for revolution in doctrine and ethics.
Let us acknowledge that too many of us, as priests, have allowed people to commit themselves to this radical form of Episcopalianism by actually using this service un-edited, and by also encouraging the novel practice of “renewing baptismal vows/the baptismal covenant” by everyone present.
Surely part of the repenting/regretting to which the ECUSA is called is the setting aside of the present Baptismal Service and using its predecessor, that found in the classic BCP of 1928 – which can speedily be put into contemporary English by competent persons so that it has a “Rite One “ and “Rite Two” form.