Friday, October 24, 2008

Properly Framing The Episcopal Church Crisis

In my last posting, I discussed how God had called me into service in Christ’s one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, specifically in the Episcopal denomination. This calling was supported by the local body, St. Andrew’s, and confirmed by Bishop Iker. I have now served as a priest for three years now in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.

In this calling, I (and indeed all other clergy in TEC) have taken a vow “to be loyal to the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this Church has received them and, in accordance with the canons of this Church, [to] obey [my] bishop and other ministers who may have authority over [me] and [my] work.” This is our obligation.

In fact and in short, the bishops and priests who consented to the consecration of V. Gene Robinson have not abided by their ordination vows to uphold the doctrine “of Christ as this Church has received [it]”. By their consent to Robinson’s consecration, they have violated the authoritative, plain and unified teaching of Holy Scripture concerning homosexual behavior, which is also expressed as the mind of the Anglican Communion in Lambeth 1.10.

Indeed, a long line of facts laid bare reveals that clergy of TEC have violated, even repudiated the doctrine "of Christ as this Church has received it" (read “Small Steps Down a Slippery Slope” by Forward in Faith) openly and, sadly, without recourse. It is not that the sin of accession to Robinson’s consecration is more egregious than other doctrinal violations committed by those clergy per se; rather, it is simply that this one is “the straw that broke the camel’s back”. Those who consented to Robinson’s consecration are the “caboose in a long train” of doctrinal violations. Their violation of the doctrine of Christ requires ecclesiastical discipline, an action that is simply long overdue.

But, therein is the first problem. If one is unwilling to accept the “first principles” of doctrine that homosexual behavior is sinful, then there would be no need to discuss discipline of the same. This, of course, is the position of those who agree with the consecration of Robinson, in spite of the facts that stand against them. They continue to overlook the facts and proceed, much like running a stop sign.

But, for those clergy who are abiding in the Truth of Scripture concerning homosexual behavior, Jesus offers plain teaching on their duty-bound and proper response to the violation of His doctrine in Matthew 18. In short, three steps are necessary: (1) If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault….; (2) If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses; (3) if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Again, the mind of the Anglican Communion concerning homosexual behavior is plain. It was available to TEC (long) before Robinson’s consecration. Following Robinson’s consecration, TEC has been told, told again, and told a third time, according to Matthew 18. Simply put, they will not repent.

Now we attend to a complication that exists concerning exercising godly discipline. Within the ecclesiastical structure of TEC, the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is in a minority position. What does this mean? What to do?

Indeed, being in the minority does not make us wrong in our belief concerning homosexual behavior, it just means we’re in the minority within TEC. Conversely, being in the majority doesn’t necessarily make us correct in our belief either. What matters is abiding in the Truth of God’s Word revealed. Concerning homosexual behavior, God’s Word is plain – it is sin (addressed above).

And, God’s Word is also plain concerning the discipline of the Church. Simply put, because the Diocese of Fort Worth is in the minority within TEC, separation from its unrepentant ecclesiastical structure is the only course of “backwards discipline” we are able to exercise at this time. For five years, TEC has not repented of its consecration of Robinson to the episcopate - enough is enough.

Concerning the future covenantal structure being proposed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Katherine Schori has already indicated her objection to bringing it before the General Convention of TEC in 2009 for consideration, citing lack of time to give it due consideration. The indications going forward are that TEC will not change.

There is no exploration of alternative solutions that relieves the church of its fundamental duty to reject heresy and discipline those who promote it, much like a wayward child requires the correction of his parents. If we cannot do it from the majority position within the structures of TEC, we will do it "backwards" but it shall be done. Let the early, undivided ecumenical Councils of the Church be our guide in this matter: doctrinal disagreement is not a banner to be waived, but a concern to be addressed and an issue to be resolved.

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