Undermining the Episcopal Church
September 21. 2007

11/3/07 Conference - Connecting with TEC

In This Issue:


Undermining the Episcopal Church- Introduction

The Episcopal Majority on 8/24/07 launched a series of articles entitled "Undermining of the Episcopal Church. An abstract of this long essay is included in this eNewsletter with links to the full text.

This essay clearly and graphically describes the critical concern that many Episcopalians have regarding the efforts of the ACN Network to undermine TEC in the name of "orthodoxy".

Fr. Mark Lawrence, bishop-elect of SC, clearly articulates the "orthodox" plan for TEC when he writes in June, 2006, "Our very survival, let alone our growth, necessitates the surrender of our autonomy to the governance of the larger church—that is, the Anglican Communion." (see article in this eNewsletter)

This series was written by the Rev. Thomas B. Woodward, an Episcopal priest who has served the Episcopal Church over 42 years as university chaplain at a number of campuses and as rector of St. Paul's, Salinas, California, John Steinbeck's parish church. He has written two books for Seabury Press, Turning Things Upside Down and To Celebrate.

About The Episcopal Majority Organization


Part 1: Cheap Substitutions Are Not Acceptable

While undermining or destroying the Episcopal Church may not have been the conscious intent of all those who now call themselves the “orthodox,” that has clearly been the effect of their actions – and it is past time to demand some accountability………….. Whether the undermining of the Episcopal Church has been conscious or unconscious, intentional or unintentional, it must be confronted and identified for what it is.

Cheap Substitutions Are Not Acceptable-full text


Part 2: Blasting Away at the Bedrock

………… In the Episcopal Church, there are several things that are bedrock, among which are:
• the Book of Common Prayer;
• our commitment to Scripture, tradition, and reason as determinative of doctrine;
• our insistence on the full participation of the laity in our worship and governance.

Bedrock also has allowed us over the centuries to be a church with incredibly varied and diverse people and perspectives.............. We in the Episcopal Church have never maintained that we are the True Church, nor have we claimed there is no salvation outside the Episcopal Church. What we say is that we are the church that rests on this particular bedrock – and in doing so we claim a unique place within the full Body of Christ, which is the fellowship of the baptized, whether Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Church of Christ. ................ If the Episcopal Church is not for you, there are a number of faithful churches that can provide you with the spiritual support and challenge you need……………………

What is new in the Episcopal Church is that a group of people unhappy about parts of life within the Episcopal Church are not thinking of leaving, but of replacing the Episcopal Church with a church of their own making. Further, they are proceeding in a way that smears the existing structures and leadership of the church, reinvents its history and theology, disobeys its Constitution and Canons, and undermines nearly every aspect of its life. The people who are doing “a new thing” are those who are seeking to undercut or destroy the very bedrock of our church.

How Have They Done This?

..........We (Episcopalians), with mainstream Anglicans, have understood Scripture to be profoundly meaningful and often nuanced and contextual. ………… Those who attempt to impose the results of a cut-and-paste approach to the Bible on the Episcopal Church undermine what we are at our best. ……..

Full Participation by the Laity - When we Episcopalians talk about our church to others, one of the things we most often mention is the central place of the laity in the Episcopal Church. …………. On both the diocesan and national levels of the church, nothing significant can happen without the assent of the laity. ………………

However, there is long standing tradition in the Anglican Communion that we don’t all have to be in lock step. In some parts of the Anglican Communion, the bishops do make the rules and define doctrine without consultation with anyone. In fact, it is the exception in the Anglican Communion to have bishops who are elected! …….

The Book of Common Prayer - A consortium of break-away groups of so-called “orthodox” Anglicans in North America have adopted their Common Cause Theological Statement, in which they proclaim their loyalty, not to the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church, but to the Prayer Book of 1662…………… While there are some gems and some wonderful turns of phrases in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, it does not take much to see that the move to adopt that prayer book as the standard of orthodoxy for the Episcopal Church is an attempt to undermine that which is us at our very best. .......

We will not allow our rich comprehensiveness in theology, liturgy, and governance to be undermined by your ("orthodox dissenters") narrowing vision.” This is a time for faith, not fear. After all, Jesus said he had come to fulfill the Law, not to strengthen its hold on us. That is a vision worth living and worth protecting

Blasting Away at the Bedrock - full text


Part 3: A Case of Spiritual Adultery

We have a curious situation in the Episcopal Church. Several bishops, whose chief duty is the oversight of their dioceses, are publicly opposed to their church – and this is not simply a matter of having serious concerns about one’s church………… these bishops are active members of organizations such as the Anglican Communion Network and CANA that have been working for years to replace the Episcopal Church! On the whole, their strategy has consisted of public verbal attacks on the church, while seeking alliances wherever they can be found around the globe.

………At the consecration of a bishop in the Episcopal Church, the one being consecrated makes a solemn vow before God. Along with marriage vows, the words and the promise made at one’s ordination are the most solemn any human being can utter. In the 1928 Book of Common Prayer the vow is this:

“In the Name of God, Amen. I, N., chosen Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in N., do promise conformity and obedience to the Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. So help me God, through Jesus Christ.” (BCP, p. 552)

If you chose not to make the vow, you were not consecrated. Note that the vow of obedience is to the Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of the Episcopal Church, not to “what I believe the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the church should be” or “what primates from other parts of the Anglican Communion tell me it ought to be.” Note, also, there is no qualifier such as “all things being equal . . .” or “. . . until I believe otherwise.” The vow is absolute. In the 1979 Book of Common Prayer the vow is similar.......This is on top of the vow made at one’s priesting and when being ordered deacon:
“Will you be loyal to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them? And will you, in accordance with the canons of this Church, obey your bishop and other ministers who may have authority over you and your work?” (BCP, pp. 526 and 538)

Why Are Ordination Vows Important?

In our church, we take marriage vows very seriously. The vows made at ordination are equally serious. Why is that so? …………… When we break our ordination or consecration vows, we undermine the credibility of the Christian Church, the Body of Christ we were ordained or consecrated to serve. ……….. Spiritual adultery (pretending to be faithful to one while cleaving to another) …………. is holding onto your position of pledged loyalty and trust at the same time you are betraying it

Then Why Do These Vows Seem To Mean So Little?

It is scandalous for ordained men (very few women) to stand in the pulpit of the church that nurtured and ordained them, urging their congregation to break faith with the Episcopal Church. That is a violation on so many levels. It is breaking one’s vows publicly. It is a violation of one’s fiduciary responsibility to the Episcopal Church, to one’s diocese, and to one’s parish church. And it makes a mockery of anything like integrity.
………….. they continue to enjoy the perquisites of their positions in the Episcopal Church while they work nearly full-time to discredit and undermine the church…..rather than resign from the church they vilify and undermine, they use the power and prestige of their positions in our church in an attempt to replace or empty it.

It’s Gone Way Past Flirting

On another level, there are dioceses – such as the California Diocese of San Joaquin – which are attempting to remove any references to its constitutional dependence upon the Episcopal Church from its own Constitution and Canons. Why would those proposing such a move not simply resign from the church they so despise, instead of undermining and destroying it?

In similar fashion, it is clear that Pittsburgh’s bishop, Bob Duncan, in explaining his reasons for seeking Alternative Primatial Oversight (someone other than our Presiding Bishop) for his diocese, knows and his attorneys know that such a move is illegal and completely against the polity of the Episcopal Church, which he has sworn to honor.
……………

The Property Issue

The Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church are clear as clear can be about who owns the property. In order to be admitted into the Episcopal Church as a diocese, the petitioners have to agree that all their property is held in trust for the Episcopal Church, governed by the General Convention and Executive Council. When a group petitions to become a parish in a diocese, they have to agree, again in writing, that all their property is held by them in trust for the diocese and through the diocese for the national church. That has always been so in this church. …………

…………. the undermining of our Book of Common Prayer, our commitment to the full participation of the laity, our long tradition of honoring the Bible and its authority in the church and in our lives, and the holiness of our vows and our signed agreements about property is about destroying the bedrock of our church’s existence......

A Case of Spiritual Adultery - full text


Part 4: Replacing the Christ with a Code …(Conclusions)

Part 4: Replacing the Christ with a Code ……..

The Nature of Revelation - For Episcopalians and most Anglicans, revelation has not been propositional; that is, it is not a set of precepts and rules. It has been primarily an understanding of the response of Israel to the actions of God in the world and through the person of Jesus Christ. We refer to Jesus Christ as the Word of God in good part because he is “What God meant to say…………. The Word of God is found primarily in the life, teaching, parables, and actions of Jesus, recorded in the Gospels: ………………..

Is there another strain in the Gospels? Of course there is! Jesus said “not one jot or tittle shall pass from the Law until all is fulfilled.” That verse seems to be the good news for the “orthodox.” The bad news is that inclusivity, diversity, and grace outnumber Jesus’ affirmations of the purity code in a ratio probably greater than 30 to 1.

What Does a Christian Morality Have to Do with Jesus? .....

Conclusion #1: The preoccupation with homosexual relationships as sinful may be rooted in Biblical material and supported through the church’s tradition, but it does not represent Christian morality except, mistakenly, in name.

Rejoinder: But aren’t there statements in the Bible declaring homosexual activity sinful?

………….. Henry Ward Beecher conceded that a defense of slavery [similarly, I maintain, to a rationale for condemning homosexual relationships] could be teased out of obscure, individual texts of scripture, but surely the defining message of the Bible was something else entirely.

The Utter Foolishness of a Single, Authoritative Christian Morality - Early Christianity was often referred to as “The Way,” ……………. One of the benefits of the description is its accurate portrayal of the young church as different from surrounding groups that were dependent on structures with strict rules for the ordering of their lives. Though humankind seems to have a penchant for the security of rules and proscriptions, Jesus refused to give into that penchant.

Instead, he spoke of human qualities in the Beatitudes …… Christianity is not a set of rules and regulations to which one gives assent; it is a response in faith to the revelation in Jesus Christ. If we are judged, Paul and Jesus both suggest, we are judged by the quality of our caring and of our relationships. The question is: How do your life, your relationships reflect the gifts of the Holy Spirit? What are the marks of Christlike love in your life with other people? You can’t get there by a list of do’s and don’ts! ………….

We must not embrace a morality that transforms our religion of faith and grace into a generalized list of do’s and don’ts that may or may not reflect current circumstance………… Here is what happens when we base our moral code on selected Biblical passages: in our history, that kind of thinking has led to our providing moral and military support for crusades and the Inquisition, centuries and centuries of church inspired anti-semitism, the segregation of our churches by race, the subjugation of women in marriage and in the culture, and on and on and on. Each and all of these confident moralities of their times fails the tests of divine love and of any real relationship to the person and the teaching of Jesus. They fail especially when compared to Jesus’ teaching in the parables of inclusion and reversal, such as the Leaven, the Marriage Feast, the Good Samaritan and the Pharisee and the Publican.

Yet, despite all we should have learned from that history, we continue to enshrine our personal prejudice into what we hold out as a timeless code of conduct. When we do that, we settle for the antithesis of a Christian morality.

Conclusion #2: Our moral rules, even when blessed with small Scriptural warrant and use over time, may, in fact, contradict the Truth or the Way as revealed in Jesus Christ – or in the overwhelming witness of the prophets and writers of the Wisdom literature of the Bible. When they do, we should abandon them, as our forebears have done over and over again through the centuries. Otherwise, we bring disgrace upon our faith and upon our God.

Morality – Even Christian Morality – Often Conflicts with Itself
…… Any absolutist version of Christian morality has no place for that insight and reality. Living morally as a Christian is full of doubt and discernment and struggle. While …. Our understanding of Christian marriage has undergone exactly the same kind of enormous changes over the centuries, from a time when polygamy was practiced in parts of the church, through the use of marriage to achieve various political goals, the long history of our subjugation of women, the issue of remarriage after divorce, and our continuing struggle to come to terms with some understanding of equal partnership within marriage.

Conclusion #3: Our increasing knowledge, understanding, and perspective do change the “contents” of our moral response to God.

Rejoinder: Doesn’t that mean that St. Paul may not have gotten homosexuality right?

Given all we know about real people in real relationships, living out their lives with all the marks of the Holy Spirit and in full dedication of their lives together to Jesus Christ, do we even have to ask? Our inherited moral codes regarding homosexual relationships were based on little more than a few verses from the Jewish purity code and the feeling that such behavior was “sick” or “nasty” or “dirty.” Today we have a choice. We can choose to hold on to that inheritance, or we can base our morality in the context of observing the loving, caring, and committed relationships among people we know. Sexual and interpersonal morality should be no different for married heterosexual couples than for partnered same-gender couples; there is behavior that is hurtful and cruel in both, as well as behavior that is loving and life-giving in both. We can tell the difference. Really, we can.

“But I Believe in the Faith Once Delivered to the Saints!”
The obvious question is “Which saints?” David Rhoads, in his recent book, The Challenge of Diversity, identifies four quite different understandings of Jesus’ teaching about love among the four evangelists and three pretty much mutually exclusive understandings of atonement. The diversity of ritual and ethics and theology was incredibly rich and diverse in the first centuries of the Christian Church. So the question is proper: Which saint? Was it Peter or Paul? Matthew or John? Irenaeus or the author of the Didache? and on and on.
When you get right down to it, “the faith once delivered to the saints” usually translates to “What I wish Jesus had established as an ethic for all time.”

Conclusion #4: You have to squash an enormous diversity of insights and awareness if you want to propose an unchanging Christian morality for all generations. When you do that, the result will be the opposite of a faithful response to the Scriptures as the Word of God.

Rejoinder: But isn’t it true that the Bible says certain things are right and certain things are wrong?

It may be argued that, on the whole, we don’t pay much attention to very much of anything Biblical writers urge upon us, unless their urgings happen to match our prejudices. However, in response to the Rejoinder, the Bible doesn’t say anything. It is more faithful to say “St. Paul says/teaches that . . .” or “The author of Leviticus says/teaches that . . .” The Bible does not teach that women must have their heads covered in worship; Paul does. Because it is Paul who teaches that, not the Bible itself, we can deal with that requirement in the light of everything else we know. ……………. The Episcopal Church has no reason to fear diversity in experience and in faithful response to the loving gifts of God. God did not die shortly after Biblical times. God has not delegated to the Anglican Communion Network or any other group the responsibility to exclude or to impose limits to the elements of Creation eligible for God’s blessing! …………

The Proposal

The Episcopal Church could sacrifice the centrality of our Book of Common Prayer, our reverence for Holy Scripture and its study, our understanding of life as sacramental, our belief in the authority of the laity in the governance of the church, our trust in the vows our clergy make, and our longstanding refusal to countenance a morality which is neither Christian nor moral……….. what would we get in exchange? We would get to revert to the primatial oversight we rejected at the birth of our church. …………That is a proposal we can and must refuse.

Replacing the Christ with a Code-full text


Fr. Mark Lawrence - A Prognosis for this Body Episcopal

The abstract below is from an essay which appeared as a Reader’s Viewpoint column in the June 11, 2006, issue of The Living Church (pp. 32–33 of vol. 232, no. 24)


The Episcopal Church in the United States of America is dying—a comatose patient on life support. The insufficient apparatus of aging communicants, and the evaporating wealth of prior generations will not sustain the patient indefinitely. Keeping vigil at its bedside, Episcopalianism, by which I mean the ethos of that body of Anglicans in the U.S., waits, gripped by a culture of denial, which includes its inability to look at either the declining health or the ecclesiology of the dying institution to which its constitution and canons tie it. Moreover, it has lost its Anglican identity, even while it has failed to reach its own American culture in any significant way. The average Episcopalian, parish church and mission, bishop and priest, seem to prefer to sleep at the bedside of the patient, thoughtless of the impending trauma, than to prepare for the inevitable or take swift action to avert it.

Worse yet, Anglicanism is in a crisis from which it will not survive if its leaders do not act boldly to correct its fatal allegiance to provincialism. In a global age, remaining committed to an insular form of provincial governance will lead only to deeper fractures or an irrecoverable break. Anglicanism has been trying haphazardly to come to grips with the transformation brought about by its dramatic worldwide expansion during the last 150 years. ……….

The actions of the Episcopal Church in the consecration of V. Gene Robinson in 2003, and the same-sex blessings in the Diocese of New Westminster (Canada), have revealed the Achilles heel of the Anglican Communion. While claiming to be a worldwide communion within the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, it is actually only a loose confederation of provinces, each unduly autonomous, with profoundly different forms of governance, ethos, and doctrinal commitments………..

As I see it at present, of the four instruments of unity, the only one capable of such inclusive yet negotiable action is the most recently established of the four, the primates. They alone have a sufficiently representative authority to set theological boundaries and perimeters for the individual provinces until the Communion can do the necessary constitutional work to realize the intercultural, inter-provincial unity we have claimed for ourselves over the past two centuries.

Such primatial authority in things doctrinal and moral will cause much distress, as will the separate matter of developing a unifying constitution. It will mean that Episcopal Church polity, as well as the polity of the other autonomously governed provinces, will be supplanted by a new, emerging form of Anglican governance sufficient for the age of globalism. …………Our very survival, let alone our growth, necessitates the surrender of our autonomy to the governance of the larger church—that is, the Anglican Communion.

Some may consider what I am suggesting as being “undemocratic,” “unduly hierarchical,” and, most damning of all, “un-Episcopalian.” But I believe our current crisis is rooted in, and has been brought about, at least partially, by an inadequate understanding of the church and its model of self-governance. We need to redress radically what has led to this current crisis. Surrender of the Episcopal Church’s autonomy is an admittedly radical suggestion, but we are in need of lifesaving action. I believe it may be our spiritual rebirth—a surgery that frees us from the “heresy” of a national church or, more accurately stated, from an ecclesiastical nationalism and the provincialism that has led to the deepening fracture within our Church………….

Redressing our ecclesiology may at first lead to more questions than answers. For example, how would we carry out our corporate life while the primates establish temporary perimeters for belief (doctrine) and behavior (morals)? What do we do with bishops and priests whose current practice and belief is beyond what the primates understand as within the boundaries of Anglicanism?.........

The Rev. Mark Lawrence is the rector of St. Paul’s Church, Bakersfield, Calif.


A Prognosis for this Body Episcopal


11/3 Conference-Connecting with The Episcopal Church in 2007

The Episcopal Forum of South Carolina will sponsor a conference November 3rd at Middleton Place Conference Center in Charleston, SC. Speakers will include: Bonnie Anderson, Sally Johnson and The Rev. Frank Wade (SEE DETAILS BELOW)

The goal of this conference is to connect Episcopalians in the Diocese of SC with The Episcopal Church nationally. Join us to be more informed about and connected to The Episcopal Church during these challenging times.

Presentations, panel discussion/Q & A with:

BONNIE ANDERSON was elected Vice President of the House of Deputies in 2003 and was elected President of House of Deputies in 2006. She holds the highest ranking lay office in The Episcopal Church.

As President of the House of Deputies, Anderson's canonical responsibilities include among many others presiding over the House of Deputies, serving as Vice Chair of Executive Council, serving as Vice President of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS) (the corporate entity under which TEC operates). Anderson maintains a presence at TEC Center in New York City, and serves as ex-officio member of all TEC Standing Commissions.

FRANK WADE - The Rev. Frank Wade is a prominent speaker and consultant who served 22 years as rector of St. Alban's on the grounds of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. He is a trustee of the Alliance for Christian Media.

Wade is a well-known preacher and conference leader. He has served as a deputy to many General Conventions, has been chaplain to the House of Deputies, chaired the education committee and served on the Council of Advice for President of the House of Deputies.

SALLY JOHNSON - Chancellor to the President of the House of Deputies. Her responsibilities include employment, ecclesiastical discipline, legal and other risk management situations arising in the Episcopal Church.

Middleton Inn Conference Center


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The Conference fee is $25 per person including lunch. Send your name and address and the number of seats you wish to reserve using the link below.

Link: REGISTER FOR THIS CONFERENCE


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