...and the ELCA Is Rushing to Catch UpFr. Jonathan Millard, rector at the Church of the Ascension, Oakland, Penn., offered this diagnosis of the crisis in the Episcopal Church as a defense for the Diocese of Pittsburgh to depart TEC and realign with another province within the Anglican Communion. You can read his entire statement here, but what he describes is all to familiar for those of us in the ELCA since at least the "Call to Faithfulness" free conferences in 1990 and 1991. Lutheran CORE has been founded so we will not have to reach the point of having votes to leave in order to be part of a faithful church body.
Ten examples of how the essentials of the Christian Faith are being eroded, challenged, or contradicted by The Episcopal Church:Sounds an awful lot like the direction the ELCA is being led, doesn't it?
1. There is confusion concerning who God is:
Over the past 40 years there has been a drift away from orthodox ways of speaking about God. In some places in TEC instead of God being referred to as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, He is addressed only by function as creator, redeemer and sustainer, and not in personal ways. The problem with this approach is that it makes God more remote and the fact is God has revealed himself to us through the Scriptures not just by function, but in personal terms as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Another example is when the name LORD is replaced with "God." So instead of the Liturgical greeting: "The Lord be with you," you may encounter in some parts of TEC "God be with you" or even "God is in you" with the response: "and also in you." The word LORD apparently is perceived as too male, and too authoritarian. The earliest creedal statement was simply "Jesus is Lord." And yes, it was meant to be authoritarian. I was very sad when I attended the Interfaith service at Calvary last week, to see precisely such a change had been made to the liturgy. When it came to share the Peace, the wording was not: "The peace of the Lord", but rather "The Peace of God."
2. There is a lack of clear teaching about the divinity of Christ:
In answer to a question referencing the divinity of Jesus, in an article published earlier this year, the Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Shori, said this: "If you begin to explore the literary context of the first century and the couple of hundred years on either side, the way that someone told a story about a great figure was to say ‘this one was born of the gods.’ That is what we’re saying. This carpenter from Nazareth or Bethlehem – and there are different stories about where he came from – shows us what a godly human being looks like, shows us God coming among us."
At best that is ambiguous or confusing, and at worst it is false teaching. Jesus was much more than someone who "shows us what a godly human being looks like." And the Church does not say that he was "born of the gods." The biblical witness and the faith of the church is that Jesus is the Son of God: fully God and fully man. The Word became flesh (John 1). We proclaim this truth weekly in the Nicene Creed.
3. There is a lack of clear teaching about Salvation and Sin:
Questioned about selfishness and falleness, the Presiding Bishop said this: "The human journey is about encouraging our own selves to move up into higher consciousness, into being able to be present in a violent situation without responding with violence ..." and in the same interview she went on to say: "The question is always how can we get beyond our own narrow self-interest and see that our salvation lies in attending to the needs of other people."
This is not the Gospel story of sin and redemption. The Scriptures teach that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Rom. 3:23). The Scriptures teach that salvation is not through our works, or our efforts to move up to a higher consciousness, or even through attending to the needs of others. Our salvation lies in Jesus, "who while we were still sinners, died for us." (Rom. 5:8); and all who believe in the LORD and call upon his name will be saved. (Rom. 10:13)
4. There is a drift towards universalism:
The Presiding Bishop says of Jesus: "we who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box" (Time Magazine: July 17,2006). Jesus said: I am the way the truth and the life no one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6).
When, some years ago, I first heard Bishop Duncan speak of us living in a time of Reformation of the Church throughout the world, I confess I wondered if that was a little grandiose. I now believe, without a doubt, that he was right. This was illustrated for me, once again, just last week. I was deeply saddened to hear Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu deny the particularity of the Christian Faith, mocking the idea that Jesus could possibly be the only way to God, and declaring that all religions are worshipping the same God, just by different names. The archbishop is a great man who has done wonderful work for reconciliation and peace. I salute him for all the good he has done, but I am sad and troubled that he would be so dismissive of the supreme work of love and salvation that our Lord Jesus Christ did for us on the cross.
5. There is a loss of confidence in the Gospel as Good News for all:
The official teaching of the Anglican Church on the issue of human sexuality is that which has been set out by the Lambeth Conference in 1998 (Resolution 1:10). But here’s the key point concerning the Gospel that I want to make:
[The Conference] "recognises that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God’s transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships." [emphasis added]. It is that confidence in the transforming power of God that the actions of TEC now challenge. So instead of welcoming and loving all into the church so that they might experience transformation, TEC simply welcomes and affirms people just as they are – denying them the healing and hope and transforming power of God.
6. There is erroneous teaching and practice regarding human sexuality:
Over the past couple of decades there has been a serious rejection of the clear teaching of the Bible and the Church on human sexuality and marriage. The clear teaching of Scripture and tradition and of the one, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic church is that sex is for marriage. The only sexually intimate relationships that are good and holy according to Scripture and tradition are those between a man and a woman, within an intended life long, faithful covenant of marriage. That means that pre-marital sex, extra-marital sex, gay sex, any sex outside of marriage is all contrary to God’s will. This is the clear teaching of the Bible and of Jesus.
7. There is a seemingly ‘social justice only’ view of the mission of the church:
I have struggled to find any clear statements from the Presiding Bishop about the basics of the faith. From her inaugural sermon through to all kinds of talks and sermons and interviews that I’ve seen or heard extracts from she seems to be concerned primarily with a political and social gospel. She seems to be concerned principally about the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. There is much to be commended about these goals and much to challenge us – but they are by no means the same thing as the message of salvation for those who are perishing. (John 3: 16). If the Millennium Goals are our gospel message it falls seriously short of the message of proclaiming "Christ and him crucified." (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).
8. There is contempt for the Authority of the Bible:
Bishop Bennison has said: ""The church wrote the Bible, and the church can rewrite the Bible." No, that is a serious error.
9. There is failure by Bishops to defend the faith:
The role of a bishop in the words of the 1662 ordinal is: ‘‘to banish and drive away from the church all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to the Word of God." – Here in the States, the very opposite is true. Rather than drive away false teaching many of the bishops of TEC embrace it, celebrate it and declare to be good and holy that which God declares to wrong. To ordain an openly gay, non-celibate man – when the rest of the world urged TEC not to do this – is not only contrary to Scripture but is also an arrogant display of American intransigence.
10. There is a lack of respect for truth or unity:
There seems to be a cavalier spirit among many in TEC that disregards the mandate for unity with the one holy, catholic and apostolic church. Claims are made by ‘progressives’ that they are putting truth ahead of unity. However the ‘truth’ they claim is that it’s a matter of social justice and Christian virtue to bless same sex unions and permit practicing gay and lesbian people to hold any office within the church. This is, of course, is contrary to the truth as revealed in Holy Scripture. And the only unity they secure is among a tiny minority of the church worldwide.
You probably know that the Diocese of Pittsburgh's vote to begin leaving the Episcopal Church passed by a wide margin.
Thanks to Shrimp over at the Shellfish blog for bringing this to my attention.