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AAC Responds to ECUSA’s Explanation of Schismatic Events

( [email protected] ) Mar 31, 2004 07:52 AM EST

In reaction to the letter released on March 29 by the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church – the US branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion – explaining the crises that evolved since the consecration of an openly gay-man as bishop last November, the American Anglican Council – the network of conservative biblically sound Episcopalians – posted several responses to express their views to the “misinformation” presented by the national church.

The greatest flaw of the letter addressed to Archbisho Eames and the Lambeth conference, according to the AAC, is the ECUSA’s attempt to downplay the crises that has been destroying the church internally and externally.

To date, 13 of 38 international Anglican archdioceses broke ties with the ECUSA; 13 of the national bishops formed a separate network of Anglican communions and parishes; hundreds of parishes refused the oversight of local bishops who voted to consecrate the gay man; offerings to the national church has declined; the Orthodox church and the Catholic church, let alone several evangelical protestant churches, have rebuked the ECUSA and threatened to sever relations with the denomination.

The following is the statement released by the AAC in its entirety:

Experience and Context Driven Theology

“For at least 35 years the Episcopal Church has been engaged in a process of discernment about the question of homosexuality in the life of the church. This discernment began quite naturally on a local level as congregations began to be aware that certain faithful members of their worshipping communities were homosexual. In some instances these persons shared their lives with a partner of the same sex. It also became obvious that the quality of such relationships on occasion matched the mutual care and self-giving that we associate with marriage."

(Letter to Archbishop Eames)

“I realize this is not the case around our Communion but this fact of our culture must be taken into account given that none of us do our theology in a vacuum.”

(Letter to Archbishop Eames)

”This raises the very important notion of context, to which I alluded earlier. We must ask: are our understandings and applications of the gospel conditioned by the historical and cultural circumstances in which we live our lives and seek to articulate our faithful discipleship? I believe the answer is yes. As one primate expressed it “the Holy Spirit can do different things in different places.” When I think of a way forward, the first thing I think of is the need to be respectful of one another’s contexts, to trust one another, and to honor the fact that we are each trying to be faithful in very different circumstances. I pray we can acknowledge to one another that we are each trying, with God’s help, to articulate and live the gospel within the givenness [sic] of our own context.”

(Letter to Archbishop Eames)

“A closing thought: Communion, as Archbishop Rowan has made clear, exists on many levels; it is not simply a formal, ecclesial relationship. Therefore, I ask myself and the members of my own church in the midst of this profound and straining disagreement if there is not some invitation or opportunity to live the mystery of communion at a deeper level, as difficult and costly as it may be. Are we not being invited in a more profound way to make room for one another’s realities and one another’s contexts both at home and abroad? Do we not have things to learn from one another? Do we not all possess, woven into the fabric of our lives in virtue of our baptism into Christ’s risen body, dimensions of the truth as in Jesus, who is himself the truth? Are we not being given the opportunity to experience in the depths of the communion we share, which is our participation in the very life of God, the fullness of God in Christ which exceeds all that we can ask or imagine?”

(Letter to Archbishop Eames)

The Presiding Bishop seeks to justify the actions of General Convention 2003 based on the “experience” of the Episcopal Church. This is postmodernism at its best – we experienced it, and so it must be right and good. There is no pretense at solid theological debate or exegetical study. But this is a theme Bishop Griswold has been promoting for months to deflect the widespread condemnation of the actions of General Convention 2003. As usual, the Presiding Bishop’s support of “unity at all costs” is clearly demonstrated.

Truth Evolves

“Over these years homosexual persons, lay and ordained, have gradually become a vital part of our church. And, as a logical development, congregations have extended a pastoral ministry to their gay and lesbian members. In some congregations there has been acknowledgment of same sex commitments.”

(Letter to Archbishop Eames)

Where in Scripture or Church tradition can we find justification for sin or support for evolving truth? There is no justification for “new revelation” which clearly contradicts Scripture. The truth of the Gospel is unchanging – it is certainly not based on context. Context is actually irrelevant because the nature of the Gospel is timeless and for all times and all places. This kind of thought process is so far outside the parameters of responsible Christian thought as to be nonsensical. Revisionist Bishop Ingham of Canada is on record as saying that the next battleground will be the “particularity and exclusivity” of Christianity. He says we must move from understanding Christianity as “the” way to “one of many” ways. There’s evolution for you.

”In the gospel Jesus speaks about knowing a tree by the fruit it bears. In congregations where persons known to be homosexual became a part of congregational life, it became obvious that they possessed the fruit of the Spirit: generosity, kindness, and many of the other characteristics that we associate with Christian virtue. I think here of the experience of the church in Acts, having to deal with the fruit of the Spirit working in the lives of those outside the recognized community, in this case the Gentiles. The fact that in many instances good fruit appeared on trees that were condemned by the church obliged many clergy and others to ponder the scriptures afresh in the light of this reality. If the fruit of the Spirit is discerned in the lives of homosexual men and women is that not in some way an indication by God that these people are to be treated and seen as full members of the community and to be entrusted with ministry on behalf of the community? So, based on the reality around us of men and women who were part of our lives, we continued our discernment.”

(Letter to Archbishop Eames)

This is truly the most vacuous justification for sin imaginable. People are nice, they come to church and they do good works; therefore, their lifestyles don’t matter. Sin is no longer sin. The Presiding Bishop’s attempt at exegesis is misguided at best. Scripture is clear that we are to be transformed by faith in Jesus Christ, to repent and seek to live lives of holiness. All people who profess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are called to a higher standard and calling – individuals with a homosexual orientation are not exempt from this any more than any other human being.

Unilateralism Reigns: Who Cares What the 4 Instruments of Unity Declare?

”I think every province of the Anglican Communion has its own realities and each province is going to have to live its realities in its very own way….That means that the Church of England is going to have to figure out its own way and establish its own criteria, just as the Episcopal Church in the United States is going to have to make its decisions.”

(David Frost interview with the Presiding Bishop)

“None of our work and prayerful discernment has produced a common mind, and we have managed to live with the tension of diverse opinions on these matters, agreeing to disagree. We were living in a very Anglican way with divergent views until the circumstances of our life, and the canons of our church, forced us into making an either/or decision in a very public way with the election of the bishop coadjutor of New Hampshire, and the canonical necessity for giving or withholding of consent. This either/or decision did not allow for the middle ground, which the report of the Theology Committee of the House of Bishops (which was submitted to the primates prior to our meeting in Brazil) had sought to establish.”

(Letter to Archbishop Eames)

“The consent to the New Hampshire election has been a presenting issue in our present strains within the Communion.”

(Letter to Archbishop Eames)

Bishop Griswold absolutely ignores declarations of the four instruments of unity that uphold the historic understanding of human sexuality and exhorted ECUSA not to abandon 2000 years of apostolic faith and practice. The authoritative bodies of the Anglican Communion have in fact reached a “common mind” on human sexuality. Many in ECUSA simply disagree and moved unilaterally to shatter the communion.

Death of the Church as Counter-Cultural

“It is important to realize here that in many areas of our church, particularly urban areas, homosexuality is a very ordinary reality. The whole question of homosexuality is widely and openly discussed. And homosexual persons are quite public in areas of politics, sports and entertainment.”

(Letter to Archbishop Eames)

The prevalence of homosexuality and its broad cultural acceptance is an unbelievable argument to justify embracing major innovations in Christian faith and practice. Christianity by its very nature is designed to be counter-cultural. The Church is called to uphold the standards of Scripture and the Truth of the Gospel in bold and dramatic contrast to the world. Culture does not, and must not, determine theology or the teachings of Scripture. It is outrageous to suggest that the Church should build theology and doctrine based upon what the world, especially the entertainment industry, promotes. The fact that these words were written by a primate in the worldwide Anglican Communion is unconscionable.

ECUSA’s Downward Spiral

“Then, as a logical consequence of the acceptance of gay and lesbian persons in the life of congregations and dioceses, the church as a whole has been engaging the question of homosexuality, including in the formal legislative context of the General Convention. At the General Convention in 1976 a resolution was passed stating: “…that homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church.” Ten years ago, at the General Convention in 1994, a resolution was passed amending the canons such that “no one shall be denied access to the selection process for ordination in this Church because of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, disabilities or age…” Our engagement as a church with questions of homosexuality has lead to a series of studies and dialogues which have been broadly undertaken and involved persons of a full range of opinion.”

(Letter to Archbishop Eames)

The Episcopal Church has moved inexorably toward blessing of same sex unions and ordination of active homosexuals in all orders. It has been a well-orchestrated and well-funded plan – no one can deny the effectiveness of revisionists’ liberal strategy. To suggest the results are a matter of simple evolution and leading of the Holy Spirit is beyond disingenuous.

Discrediting the Opposition

“For example, in the United States and probably here [UK] as well, there is a theological latitude that simply does not exist in a nation that has, let us say, a very strong Muslim presence, because if the Christian community admitted a variety of points of view or interpretations they would probably suffer tremendously because the other religions are so fierce and clear.”

(David Frost interview with the Presiding Bishop)

“Another dynamic is the role members of my own church with a particular point of view have played in shaping opinions, shall we say, since before the last Lambeth Conference. We must openly acknowledge the fact that part of the reason issues of homosexuality have so overtaken the Anglican Communion is because a number of the members of the Episcopal Church – along with individuals and groups motivated by political ideologies rather than theological convictions – have, by virtue of their connections and resources, been able to garner the consciousness of bishops around the world. Their unstinting efforts have made this issue more central to our life than the spreading of the gospel and the living of the Good News of Jesus Christ. We must ask ourselves if this preoccupation with sexuality is truly of God.”

(Letter to Archbishop Eames)

These statements are fraught with disturbing innuendos: Muslims are dangerous; Christian leaders (including Primates) in areas with a large Muslim population only respond negatively to innovations in sexuality because they are fearful. There is a racist undertone to this train of thought that is untenable as he implies that the Global South leaders are incapable of reaching theological conclusions on their own but rather must depend on western minds.

He resorts to what debaters would call an "Ad Hominem" attack – attributing wrong or negative motives to your opponent and then discrediting his/her point of view because it comes from such a person. He implies his point of view is well founded in everyway and certainly theologically correct, but says that those who differ from him are motivated by political ideologies rather than theological convictions.

What’s the Real End Game Goal?

“Well, again, I hate to try to predict things, but certainly looking at some of the pastoral response that have been made within congregations thus far to gay and lesbian couples, I think it may be the case that in the future there will be some pastoral response on the part of the Church that will be less guarded.”

(David Frost interview with the Presiding Bishop)

It is my hope that in finding a way forward we can simply agree that for any number of reasons we are not in agreement about concerns of homosexuality, and indeed human sexuality more broadly.”

(Letter to Archbishop Eames)

What does “sexuality more broadly” mean? What’s next? Where do we go from here? Do not assume that the revisionist agenda has reached its conclusion.

Authority of Scripture

“As part of this work, in 1993 the House of Bishops commissioned from theologians representing diverse points of view a series of papers dealing with authority of scripture. The papers reflected different ways in which scripture may legitimately be approached within the context of the community of faith. I realize that some provinces of our Communion have a dominant tradition for interpreting scripture. I would note here that it is part of the reality of the Episcopal Church that we live with divergent points of view regarding the interpretation of scripture and understandings of the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church. Though we believe “the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation,” as it is stated in our ordination liturgy, there is no neutral reading of scripture, and we interpret various passages differently while seeking to be faithful to the mind of Christ. It is therefore important to recognize that people of genuine faith can and do differ in their understandings of what we agree is the “Word of God.”

(Letter to Archbishop Eames)

Clearly for Bishop Griswold, there are no absolutes, and Scripture is a tool he uses when convenient. The Anglican Communion has reached consensus (on multiple occasions) on the authority of Scripture in general and the standards of sexuality in particular. The vast majority of Anglicans worldwide uphold orthodox, historic, traditional interpretations of Scripture across the board.

Democratic Process Outweighs Scripture and Tradition

“Therefore I think it is important to acknowledge that there is a diversity of practice in appointing or electing bishops around the Communion and to say something here about the nature of our election and consent process, which is open, democratic, and participatory – flowing out of the life of the community. The manner in which bishops are chosen in the Episcopal Church involves a protracted search process undertaken by the diocese, lasting usually a year or longer, in which a profile is developed by the people and clergy of the diocese. Names are put forward and a search committee composed of lay and clergy members reviews the names, checks backgrounds, addresses questions to potential nominees and then puts forward a list of names to be considered. The diocese then has an opportunity to meet and ask questions of all the nominees. This was the process followed in the Diocese of New Hampshire, and at the end of that process the diocesan convention elected the Rev. Canon Gene Robinson, someone who had ministered among them for 17 years.

Once a person has been elected, the election must be consented to by a majority of Standing Committees of dioceses and a majority of bishops holding jurisdiction. When an election occurs within 120 days of the General Convention, the consent process takes place within the context of the General Convention, which is precisely what happened in the case of Gene Robinson and nine other bishops-elect.

I think it is very important to be clear about this process. When we met at Lambeth the primates asked me if I couldn’t have intervened and stopped the consecration. I made it clear that I could not because of the canonical realities by which I am bound, and that it is my responsibility to uphold the decisions formally made by the church. I think it is problematic that some view the bishops who participated in the ordination and consecration of Gene Robinson as having performed some unfaithful act. This is to overlook the fact that it was a formal decision made by a majority of bishops with jurisdiction and majority of clergy and laypeople representing the 100 domestic dioceses.”

(Letter to Archbishop Eames)

ECUSA has canons and resolutions from General Conventions – who needs Scripture or the weight of Christian tradition? For enlightened advocates of liberal Protestantism, human reason, understanding and experience are paramount. Rather than canons and resolutions of the democratic process conforming to Scripture, revisionists attempt to conform Scripture and tradition to their innovations.

Honesty Justifies Sin

“I might say that the very public and open nature of our actions is a factor here. This is both healthy and problematic. Not long ago I was at a meeting in Spain which included Christians from a number of ecclesial communities, one of which had made strongly critical statements about the New Hampshire consecration. I had a long conversation with the bishop representing that church, who castigated me for having allowed the ordination of Gene Robinson to occur. Once he had delivered himself of his anger he surprised me by saying that there were indeed homosexual clergy and bishops in his church, but that it was looked upon as “human weakness” and a private matter between themselves and their spiritual fathers. Only if their homosexuality became public was the church obliged to intervene. I said to him that though I could appreciate capitulation to “human weakness” I was concerned that he was describing a climate of secrecy, and a practice that was tolerated that stood at variance with the public position of the church.”

(Letter to Archbishop Eames)

“Was that not a dishonest stance? Would it not be far more helpful and truthful, albeit difficult, to deal openly with the reality which heretofore has remained hidden? Is not secrecy the Devil’s playground? It has been extremely difficult for the Episcopal Church to deal honestly with this issue, but that is the course we have taken and, as I said, the decision of which course to take – openness or secrecy – was one that was forced upon us.”

(Letter to Archbishop Eames)

If we are honest, naming our sin and openly practicing it, it becomes justifiable. It is secrecy rather than sin that is evil.

Naiveté or Disingenuousness?

“I believe that part of the strain within the Communion, and the reaction to a decision taken within the Episcopal Church is the disproportionate influence that the United States has in other parts of the world, leading to the fear that whatever happens in the United States will be imposed in some way on other parts of the world. I am well aware of the negative effects of globalization. I need to make plain that because something may appear to be an unfoldment [sic] of the Spirit in the life of the Episcopal Church that does not mean that it should or ought to become normative elsewhere. Never would our church wish to impose patterns that may be appropriate within the life of the Episcopal Church on other provinces of the Anglican Communion. I remember vividly when I visited the Church in Nigeria and was asked if I was coming to tell them they must ordain women. I told them I firmly believed that is a decision they will have to make within the reality of their own context. There is not one right way. Immediately, there was relief on the part of the bishops.”

(Letter to Archbishop Eames)

Does Bishop Griswold really not understand that ECUSA has crammed revisionism and division down the throats of orthodox Episcopalians much less the entire Anglican Communion? How generous he is to promise not to try to force the rest of the Communion to embrace ECUSA’s innovations! ECUSA has no compunctions, however, about forcing domestic bishops to accept female priests against their conscience. In addition, embracing heretical actions in one part of the communion has a severe negative spiritual impact on the communion as a whole.

Communication is the Real Culprit

“There are several other dynamics at work in creating the strains we feel within our beloved Communion which I will briefly mention. One is electronic communication. Events in one part of the world are instantly transmitted across the globe. Our contexts invade one another without explanation. Because our world has become very small we need to remember that our day to day realities are vastly different.

As well, the speed of communication can oblige us to react to situations and events in other parts of our Communion without the benefit of knowing how brother and sister Anglicans were led to a particular decision. I vividly recall being in Uganda driving through a very remote area and having the primate called on his cell phone by a reporter in Canada for his reaction to an event in the Church of Canada.

Electronic communication also makes it easy for misinformation to be spread abroad and take on a life of its own. This is all the more reason for us to deal directly with one another when there are serious questions or concerns, and not rely on interpretations or reports that may be untrue or biased.”

(Letter to Archbishop Eames)

It almost sounds as though the Presiding Bishop is saying something like, “What they don’t know won’t hurt them.” Or perhaps his point is, “I need to spin the information in order for it to be palatable.”