Musings of an Anglican/Episcopal Priest

Month: April 2005 (Page 2 of 2)

The Diversity of Christendom

The Garden of All Saints

I’ve often lamented the parochial understanding of American Christianity, yet it is a daunting task to take into account all the varieties of Christianity that exist. It is sometimes hard to grasp, given the conservative (Western) Christian emphasis on mission and the liberal (Western) Christian de-emphasis of conversion and evangelism, the full extent of Christianity’s success. Understanding the lengths of Christian success in the world is something that makes it hard for me to countenance an understanding of the faith that sees only decline as possible as we move toward the eschaton–this is a conservative protestant error, I think, and illustrates a persecution fixation. The problem is that persecution tends to strengthen the church, not weaken it. But I digress… the point I’m trying to make is simply this: Christianity has been wildly successful, it is the largest single religion in the world and, if one believes Philip Jenkins, it is growing more rapidly now than it ever has before.

All of this means that the diversity of Christianity is simply increasing… if there’s any hope for a more fully unified (not necessarily in institution but in purpose and work) Christianity, then we need to wake up to that diversity and use the opportunities of globalization possitively to better understand our long-separated brethren. To this extent, I have been working–slowly–on a page that provides some information about what different Christian groups believe and how they are related to Christian groups with which many people may be more familiar.

So, what made me think of this? Evidently, some Syrian Jacobites have approached the University of the South about the possibility of a relationship with the University and Seminary. This has led two of our professors to try to figure out exactly who these folks are, and if we can have a relationship–the problem is there are so many different little tiny Oriental Orthodox groups.


April 14, 2005

Dear Bishop Andrew and Brothers and Sisters of the Standing Committee,

We, the undersigned, write to you out of the deepest grief and concern for our beloved Episcopal Church, and specifically for those within the Diocese of Connecticut who are now under threat of deposition as clergy, removal as lay leaders, or reduction to mission status as congregations.

We ask in all sincerity how you can suggest they have abandoned the Communion? Neither these clergy nor their laity have ordained contrary to the received teaching (not only of Lambeth but of the whole Christian Church). They have not voted for the innovation represented by the New Hampshire consecration or for the blessing of same sex unions as “within” our practice. They have not laid hands in consecration despite the unanimous call of the Primates not to do so.

The clergy and people of the six parishes now in sustained conflict with you are in full communion with us. They preach and teach what the Anglican Communion preaches and teaches. They preach and teach what we preach and teach. It would be impossible for us to recognize any inhibition or deposition imposed upon them.

We understand that the standoff between the Bishop and Standing Committee and these clergy and their congregations has, in part, to do with Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight. Was it also the case that financial demands were tied to any possible provision of such care, stipulations we find absent from the plan our House agreed? In any case, did not “Caring for All the Churches” stipulate the possibility of provincial appeal? How did that appeal go forward?

What are we to do? We have agreed as bishops not to cross diocesan boundaries. But was not this moratorium based on other moratoria being observed as well, and on the maintenance of status quo as regards actions against the conservative minority? Were not the commitments we made to one another at the March meeting of the House of Bishops also based on the assumption of the functioning of the Panel of Reference, called for by the Primates in February 2005? And was it not notification of their intent to appeal to the Panel of Reference by the six parishes, given by letter to the Bishop of Connecticut, that immediately precipitated the threat of inhibition and deposition of the clergy of those parishes?

We also ask: was Title IV, Canon 10, intended to be used against clergy who have resolutely maintained their commitment to the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, as these clergy have? What about due process and right to ecclesiastical trials, both of which are denied when this Canon on Abandonment of Communion is used in this way? Who is it that has abandoned the Communion?

This is a painful letter for us to write. We pose much of this letter as questions. Is there some way to head off the terrible confrontation that now appears inevitable, not only in Connecticut, but also among us bishops? Please know that we are more than eager to be part of the resolution of this crisis in every appropriate way.

“The whole world is watching”, as we used to observe in the sixties. We do not seem to be commending the faith that is in us in any way that the watching world can appreciate or fathom. Whatever shall we do to reverse the course of the scandal that besets us?

Faithfully in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Keith Ackerman
Bishop of Quincy

The Rt. Rev. David Bena
Suffragan Bishop of Albany

The Rt. Rev. James Adams
Bishop of Western Kansas

The Rt. Rev. Stephen Jecko
Assisting Bishop of Dallas

The Rt. Rev. Peter Beckwith
Bishop of Springfield

The Rt. Rev. Henry Scriven
Assistant Bishop of Pittsburgh

The Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan
Bishop of Pittsburgh

The Rt. Rev. William Skilton
Suffragan Bishop of South Carolina

The Rt. Rev. Bertram Herlong
Bishop of Tennessee
{Yay!!! Hurrah, Hurrah!!}

The Rt. Rev. Daniel Herzog
Bishop of Albany

The Rt. Rev. John W. Howe
Bishop of Central Florida

The Rt. Rev. Jack L. Iker
Bishop of Fort Worth

The Rt. Rev. Terrence Kelshaw
Bishop of Rio Grande

The Rt. Rev. Edward Salmon
Bishop of South Carolina

The Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield
Bishop of San Joaquin

The Rt. Rev. James Stanton
Bishop of Dallas

The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey Steenson
Bishop Coadjutor of Rio Grande

Grace Aboundeth

Anna and I had an interesting conversation last night reguarding the issue of the Immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary. One of the arguments (evidently) made by John De Satge was that one must have a doctrine of the immaculate conception tied to grace in order to contend that Mary’s response “let it be done to me according to your will…” was not merit. Yet, in considering, I’m not certain that one can hold to that without also contending that grace was not operative before the incarnation… I know some who argue this, but not many Anglicans…. still need to do more reading and thought…

The Islamization of the Church

The message at a recent funeral of a distant relative is in many ways typical. A girl had died after struggling under her physical handicap for twelve years, supported by the intense, warm, and loving care of her parents. The pastor spoke about the plan of God for each life: God does not make mistakes. He had given that child to her parents to teach them these things, which they had learned. Now it was time to call her back to himself. In God’s sovereignty he had permitted the handicap. Now he had decided on her death. This was good. We were all the richer for it: Lessons learned, sovereignty affirmed, events approved. End of sermon!

What an insult to the God of the Bible!

An interesting essay from Christian
Check it out…..

Mary, Mary Not Contrary

Advent Icon of Mary and Jesus

This morning in doctrine we had an interesting discussion of Mary and the doctrine of the immaculate conception. Our professor made the point that the Marian doctrine of the Immaculate conception has nothing to do with sex–Mary wasn’t the product of a virgin birth. Instead, the idea is that in order to be a “fit vessel” for Christ, she must have been sinless in her-self… the way this is played out by an evangelical Anglican by the name of John De Satge is that Mary enjoyed a sort of prevenient grace. His argument is that, unless one has some sort of docrine of the immaculate conception connected to grace then Mary’s response “Let it be done to me according to your will” would indicate merrit. I’m going to get his book…. I need to think more about this…

What is interesting though is that the formula Maria Theotokos was promulgated in order to counter those who would make Jesus only a “good man,” yet it becomes a way of combating the idea that Jesus was only divine as well. This is because Jesus is God, but also man–as the Chalcedonian formula states:

of one substance (homoousios) with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like usin all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men (humans) and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer (Theotokos);

This means that Jesus is God, yet revcieved his flesh, his humanity, his human nature and indeed, as Dr. Hughes says, his soul (if one allows that the soul is in fact an emergent property of the body), from the woman Mary. The definition goes on to define Jesus’ nature:

one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures(divine and human), without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the Fathers (the 318 fathers of Nicea) has handed down to us.

This means that Christ has a characteristically human nature that is in union with the divine nature through his hypostatic union with the Word. This does not mean that the human nature is divinized or that the divine nature is humanized. The eastern Church has a doctrine known as Theosis, which Dr. Hughes claims usually works itself out in the west as a sort of “Ray Bradbury” theology. But what is meant is that, through our membership in Christ, we participate in Christ’s hypostatic union with the Word and therefore, as Christ is Divine, so can we be “divinized” in Christ… theosis then, speaks to the idea that we (can) have unity with the Father through Christ.

{more later}

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