Monday, December 08, 2008

The Inside "Strategy"

I have been fighting a battle within myself regarding the Episcopal Church and the fact that the majority of its leaders - Bishops and General Convention delegates - support unchristian acts such as blessing sins, sueing (other) Christians, and redefining the faith. I believe that the majority of the HoB ranges from heterodox, to heretical to actually apostate.

So, what should I do about it? I long for a Church where the Gospel is unashamedly proclaimed and where the faith is lived out courageously and where others are brought to faith in Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

But I won't find such a Church on earth. Every congregation and diocese and province has its problems. While the Church's one foundation is Jesus Christ (as we hear in that wonderful hymn) we also know that the Church has been "by schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed." Our great heroes of th efaith, from Anthony through Athanasius, the Capodicians, Ratramnus and Radburtus, Benedict, Anselm, Dominic, Francis, Aquinas, Luther, Cramner, Latimer, Ridley, Hooker, Jewel, Wesley, Pusey, and a host of others have all found the problem of heresies in the Church. The problem is not that the Church is beset by heresy. It has always been beset by heresy. The problem is that we lack the discipline to do anything about it in TEC. And because we lacked that discipline in the past, we are in a place where "discipline" is being taken against the orthodox believers.

The conservatives' fight for the soul of TEC has been lost.

So, part of me wants to depart of a place where this is not the case. To a place where conservatives win the day and where I don't have to say "I am an Episcopalian... but a different kind of one."

But, I am convince that God wants me to stay in TEC. I know that I cannot win the battle. Banding together with other conservatives will not even win the battle. But God has shown me that winning the battle is not my job! My job is not success. It is faithfulness. The battle is not mine. It is the Lord's.

The inside "strategy" is not a political one where we hope to overthrow the liberal/revisionist/reappraiser hierarchy. It is a strategy where we band together for mutual support in our faithfulness to the faith delivered to us. My strategy is to be emptied (=kenosis)
of my desire to win and to accept that God has other plans for me rather than victory in this life. The strategy is to be faithful to God and be a faithful witness to God's power to make new. Even when we lose politically and even when we suffer for the Gospel, we are to be faithful. Even in the midst of a people of unclean lips, we are to be faithful. Even when the whole house of TEC plays the harlot and worships at the altar of society, we are to be faithful. Even when God calls TEC "not my people," we are to be faithful.

My strategy is faithfulness in the face of opposition and faithlessness. I am not called to win. I am called to witness.

Phil Snyder


Anonymous said...

Dear Phil,
I think other "stayers" like Fr. Dan, and Ephraim Radner are also doing some self examination about their reasons for staying. My questions to you folks would be, "Who is listening to your witness?" What are the fruits of your labor? My concern is that each will eventually turn the corner from that of an apologist for orthodoxy to a critic for the sake of criticism. At some point TEC will become a place where the water is boiling. Since this is happening one degree at a time, will you get out in time? Some have heard "brighten the corner where you are" and some have heard "come ye out from among them.

YBIC Dcn Dale

plsdeacon said...


I don't care if anyone listens to my witness. I am not called to be successful. Like the watchman on the tower, I am called to raise the alarm. If no one heeds the alarm, their blood is on their own hands. If they listen to the alarm, then they are saved.

If I do not raise the alarm or I run for my own safety and the people are not warned, then God will require their blood at my hands. I know that sounds arrogant, but then accepting ordination as God's minister (=diakonos) is also arrogant. I have a task to do and I am sure God will let me know when that task changes.

Phil Snyder

Anonymous said...


I'm puzzled that you would say that you don't care if anyone listens to your witness. It bothered St. Paul a great deal that the Jews rejected his Gospel. I don't believe you can disconnect the witness from those to whom you witness. It bothered me a great deal that the leadership of my TEC congregation would not listen to my witness. I shook the dust from my sandals. I believe this decision has been blessed ten fold.

Dcn Dale

Rob Eaton+ said...


Given what else he said in his post, do you really think Dcn Phil doesn't want anyone and everyone in TECUSA to mind God's presence and will when he speaks? If God didn't care (and that is the real question, isn't it?), then he wouldn't send watchmen.

On testifying without concern for the fruit of testifying:

10Then Jesus said to them, 'Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs
from heaven. 12'But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13This
will give you an opportunity to testify.
14So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; 15for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 16You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17You will be hated by all because of my name. 18But not a hair of your head will perish. 19By your
endurance you will gain your souls. (Luke 21:10-19)

And I'm sure what Phil was talking about regarding those who hear or don't hear, but that the bearer of the tidings must assume the first priority of telling out at all:

from Ezekiel 33:
1-5 God's Message came to me: "Son of man, speak to your people. Tell them, 'If I bring war on this land and the people take one of their citizens and make him their watchman, and if the watchman sees war coming and blows the trumpet, warning the people, then if anyone hears the sound of the trumpet and ignores it and war comes and takes him off, it's his own fault. He heard the alarm, he ignored it—it's his own fault. If he had listened, he would have saved his life.
6 "'But if the watchman sees war coming and doesn't blow the trumpet, warning the people, and war comes and takes anyone off, I'll hold the watchman responsible for the bloodshed of any unwarned sinner.'

7-9 "You, son of man, are the watchman. I've made you a watchman for Israel. The minute you hear a message from me, warn them. If I say to the wicked, 'Wicked man, wicked woman, you're on the fast track to death!' and you don't speak up and warn the wicked to change their ways, the wicked will die unwarned in their sins and I'll hold you responsible for their bloodshed. But if you warn the wicked to change their ways and they don't do it, they'll die in their sins well-warned and at least you will have saved your own life.
(also found in chapter 3)

And justification for believing there is any calling whatsoever to be in TECUSA is illustrated in Psalm 127:

Psalm 127:1
If God doesn't build the house, the builders only build shacks. If God doesn't guard the city, the night watchman might as well nap. It's useless to rise early and go to bed late, and work your worried fingers to the bone. Don't you know he enjoys giving rest to those he loves?

plsdeacon said...


Exactly. It may sound arrogant to place myself with the prophets. But all of us who have been ordained have some form of prophetic ministry. We are all called to speak the truth as we receive it from God and called to discern when God's voice sounds too much like our own.

When I say that I don't care if anyone listens to my witness, what I am saying it that I am not responsible for the effectiveness of it. It does hurt me when people will not listen and I do gain satisfaction when people do listen and tell me so. But God did not call me to success. He called me to faithfulness. I'll let God worry about the success or failure of my witness and will as for the grace to be faithful.

Phil Snyder

Anonymous said...

Dear Dcn Phil and Father Rob,

I am well aware of the call to prophesy to God's people. What I will repeat is there also is a care about whether people listen or not. The prophets wept over Jerusalem. Phil, you clarified that you are hurt when people don't listen. This is a crucial (perhaps the crucial) issue for the "stayers" because a continually rejected witness can harm both the witness and the one who is witnessed to. The measure of this is whether you can still witness in love or you begin to resent those who will not listen. One must discern if faithfulness to the call to witness is simply stubbornness of one's own ego. I cannot emphasize this point enough. Ephraim Radner said, "stay and die". I know that he is not referring to the spiritual life of the witness. That is God's witness to him. I don't believe that all who are staying to this point in TEC are called to witness to the point that their spiritual life would be put in peril. Just be careful about the stay and die part.
In His service, Dcn Dale

plsdeacon said...

Dcn Dale,

When I am hurt by the actions (or in actions) of others, I have two choices. The first is to nurse that hurt and let my spiritual life be wounded and to let the hurt stay and fester in my heart such that I lash out in anger to those who hurt me and anyone who reminds me of them.

The second choice is to forgive. Daily, I ask God to forgive me in the same way that I forgive others. When I seek to forgive those who hurt me, and I ask God's help in forgiving them, my spiritual life is protected and the anger and bitterness does not fester.

While it is true that staying can be in service to one's own ego, leaving can also feed the ego. There is nothing in our lives that we (or Satan) cannot turn into evil. Likewise, there is nothing in our lives that God cannot turn to His benefit.

So, I choose to stay. I choose to witnesss and I choose to forgive. I also choose to submit my work to God for His blessing.

Phil Snyder

Anonymous said...

Dear Dcn Phil,

Godspeed and Amen.


Dcn Dale

TLF+ said...

Good discussion here (and of course a good post to get it started!)

I have been fascinated by some of the Daily Office readings this week - in particular Isaiah 6, in which God tells the prophet to speak up so that the rebellious people will not hear and repent, but be brought to emptiness and ruin.

Today, II Thessalonians 2:1-12 came up. It says that God sends a delusion among those who reject the truth, so that they will follow their lies to the worst possible consequences.

These kinds of passages support our host's position: witnessing, whether or not folks respond. This is also embedded in God's charge in Ezekiel 2.

Anonymous said...

The same issues in Isaiah have not been lost on our Morning Prayer attendees either.
You might recall that there was a bit of a flurry of comments on weblogs by reasserters "welcoming" the ambiguous and inarticulate Christian witness from various TECUSA leaders, including the PB. "This only brings more clarity!" is still heard occasionally. Actually, I think it really got started at Columbus GC among reasserter strategists - but I digress.
Anyway, what would be the purpose of championing such often-so-loose-theology-it-can-be-classified-as-heresy? To make it perfectly clear who is who and what is what.
For instance, if the House of Bishops and General Convention as a whole brings more and more such "clarity", it only makes it the more easy for the majority of the Anglican Communion to see those leaders and those GC decisions for what they are not, ie, deserving of full inclusion within the life of the Anglican Communion.
That being what it may, God infers through the prophet Isaiah that as the advent of the coming of the Lord looms, God himself causes or makes it possible for the people to be clearly distinct one from another. The cutting line is clear. For God's sake as he cuts.
We noted that this kind of preparation is consistent with Jesus' teaching on the sheep and goats being separated as the Lord comes in his glory.
And for those (as in Revelation) who can't seem to make a decision, the Lord will eventually make the decision for you. That's scary and awesome.
Bottom line, applied to evangelism, when GOD speaks so many do not listen, and we pray that they respond appropriately for their soul's sake. But at some point, even in dealing with God himself, listening will come to an end. And only will remain the proclamation of his glory.