Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Inside and Outside Strategy

The Episcopal Church is broken. It may not realize its brokenness and I doubt that it realizes the harm it has done to Anglicanism specifically and Christianity in general. In the name of "Justice" it has begun to bless sins and to pursue a "schorched earth" policy against clergy, congregations, and dioceses that cannot, in conscience, remain within TEC.

This both saddens and angers me. I love TEC. I was raised in this Church. I learned to serve God in this Church. I received New Life in this Church. I was fed with the Sacraments by holy and unholy men and women in this Church. I have served (as lay-chaplain and as a Deacon) nine different bishops in four different dioceses. I received ordination as a Deacon in Christ's one, holy, catholic and Apostolic Church in TEC.

TEC is sick and refuses to go to the doctor. She refuses to take the medicine that will make her well.

Since the 60s and 70s, there has been a steady left-ward march from TEC's leadership. The problems today are not new. They did not drop out of thin air. They are the direct result of the problems of decades ago. If I were to pick a starting point, I would pick the lack of discipline for Bishop Pike. Bishop Pike became apostate by denying essential doctrines such as the Trinity and the House of Bishops refused to discipline him. This led to more heresy and apostacy being practiced without consequences within the life of the Church. The culmination was not the consecration of Bishop Robinson. The culmination was the acquital of +Walter Righter in the famous trial where the bishops sitting in judgment of +Righter (many of whom had committed the same offense) made up the concept of "Core Doctrine" (something new to Anglicanism) and declared sexual morality outside of "Core Doctrine."

The whilwind we are reaping today is a direct result of the seeds we planted in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s.

Along with each of the milestones along the way, there were people who left the Church to form their own Anglican body. The largest of these Exoduses was after the Ordination of Women and the approval of the new Book of Common Prayer in 1976. Each time people left, it made the orthodox groups politically more vulnerable. These "Continuing Anglicans" were not part of the Anglican Communion and they fractured into many different bodies - each with its own special take on Anglicanism.

It is this history which I fear is repeating itself with today's "Outside Strategy." The only difference (and this is a huge difference) is that today's version of the "Contuing Anglican" movement strongly desires to remain part of the Anglican Communion. That is the outside strategy's saving grace. But there are still way too many different bodies within the outside strategy group for my comfort. As I understand the Anglican Church in North America, ACNA, proposed constitution, each "group" (or "network" such as AMiA, CANA, etc.) will continue to have its own ecclesial and political structures - each being part of ACNA. So, there is an AMiA bishop in charge of the AMiA congregations around Dallas. There is a Southern Cone bishop in charge of the Southern Cone congregations around Dallas. There is a Kenyan Bishop and a CANA bishop with similar responsibilities. This is madness and not workable in the long run. Until there is a return to one bishop in an area for churches in communion with each other, I cannot support the Outside Strategy. If the persons and personalities involved in the outside strategies cannot empty themselves to the point that they submit to another authority, then I cannot submit to them.

But the inside strategy cannot work! The inside strategy will not reform the Episcopal Church.
As I said in an earlier post, reforming TEC is not my responsibility. It is God's. I am called to witness to the power of God to make all things new. I am called to show the joy of following Jesus Christ in my own life and I am called to witness to the Truth. If I am to fight, God will provide the weapons and armor. If I am to die, I will die willingly. I am not called to success, but faithfulness.

I long for a faithful Church. My heart desires to abandon TEC and be joined to a more faithful expression of Anglican Christianity. But, I cannot abandon my Bishop, my Rector, nor my congregation to follow my heart. If I have learned one thing as a Christian it is that my heart (like all human hearts) is faithless. My heart is not God's heart. So, I must trust that God will let me know what He wants me to do.

My prayer is that those pursuing the Inside Strategy and those pursuing the Outside Strategy will work together, pray together, worship together (when possible). Witness to God's strength inside and outside. Do not depend on political expediency alone. Do not trust to committees. Do not trust in courts. Trust in God. Trust in Him Alone. Let the inside strategy be the anvil and the outside strategy be the hammer that God uses to reform TEC.

One thing that both we one the Inside and and those on the outside need to do is to let go of anger. The insider feel anger at being abandoned in the fight by the outsiders and the outsiders feel anger at the insiders who are collaborating. Both feel abandoned in their time of need. Both are right. But both need to move past the need to be right. We need to empty ourselves of our agendas and desires and be filled with God's faithfulness. Only then can either of us be fit instruments for reforming Anglicanism in North America.

Phil Snyder


Andy said...

I have to tell you that you're an example and inspiration to this postulant to the vocational Diaconate. I came to appreciate your insights when I was associated with NAAD. I know that you made a vow to your Bishop at your ordination, the LORD bless you for keeping that vow.

Is reformation from within possible? What do you see as requisite to this happening. Part of me would much rather see TEC restored than to see it languishing in slow motion death.

God's Peace,

plsdeacon said...

Hi Andy,

Is reformation from within possible? By our strength and our political wrangling, no. But with God all things are possible.

I would rather see TECUSA restored and I pray that God will recall her to Himself soon. Until then, I will witness by being faithful to the "...doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them. The past perfect "has received" is important. This "new thing" is not part of what "has been" received.

What do i see as requisite to reformation happening? Well, that's a good topic for another post, isn't it?

Phil Snyder

Andy said...

Encouraging, I hear echoes of Jude's Epistle in your comment.

BTW, It's much more than a "part" of me that desires to see TEC Repent and be restored. I'm a "quasi-cradle" Epsicopalian, raised in an RC/PECUSA hosehold. My affinities had always leaned towards to latter. Too, its the church where I surrendered to Christ's call to salvation and where I discerned the call to the Diaconate.

God's Peace,