Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Of heresy and schism: praying for the Episcopal Church

Those of you who know me well will recall that Katharyn and I have been diligently praying and discussing what denomination we will call home once we are married. Among the best options, we believe, to fulfill both of us (with my Southern Baptist theological perspective and her Lutheran practice) are both the United Methodist Church and the Episocpal Church.

I mention this to explain why I have been, of late, riveted to news of the Episcopal Church's 2006 General Convention, their triennial legislative assembly.

Among the issues facing the Episcopal Church:

• The Episcopal Church is (for now) the American expression of the global Anglican Communion, with its emphasis on (1) the Bible; (2) the Historic Creeds (Apostles' and Nicene; (3) the Two Sacraments (baptism and the Lord's Supper); and (4) the Historic Episcopate (bishops in the apostolic succession).

• In 1998, the primates (leaders of the national churches) of the Anglican Communion affirmed that homosexual conduct was contrary to Scripture.

• In 2003, the Episcopal Church consecrated V. Gene Robinson as the Bishop of Vermont while Mr. Robinson was continuing to engage in homosexual conduct unrepentantly.

• In 2004, the primates directed the American church that it must apologize for this "breach of the bonds of affection" between themselves and the Communion or otherwise "walk alone" -- no longer recognized as the legitimate national church of Anglicanism in the U.S.

• This year's General Convention saw the election of a woman as the Presiding Bishop (primate of the U.S.) who affirmed Bishop Robinson's consecration and desires for the liturgical blessing of same-sex marriages (which the 1998 statement by the primates would also exclude). Her election was seen by some as an open challenge to the global Communion.
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With all of these challenges facing the Episcopal Church, it is no surprise that conflict has arisen, and name-calling has taken place. One of the particularly stinging charges levelled against some is that they are reviving the ancient heresy of Donatism, where one group argues that only they have effecacious sacraments.

Others argue that progressives' reinterpretation of Scripture to allow for gay bishops and gay marriages is a revival of the heresy of Montanism, where one group argues that the Holy Spirit is leading them to "a new thing" for which the Scriptures do not explicitly provide.

All of the charges and counter-charges have lead one American Anglican to examine the issues at stake. His thoughtful post is an historical overview of the two heresies raised in the debate, and examines who may be closer to historic orthodoxy in the present debate.
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FEELING: Sad for the strife within Christ's one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church
LISTENING TO: Trying, at least, to listen for the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit

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