Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Diocese called to read, study, discuss primates' communique

[The Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida] 11 Apr 2007--The secular and religious press views the events at Camp Allen as a clear dismissal of the "pastoral scheme" and proposal for a primatial vicar to support those in the minority within the Episcopal Church. Even as the House declared its desire to remain part of the Communion, it presented a strong statement rejecting any interference in the internal affairs of the Episcopal Church by others within the Communion. One of our speakers suggested we should be proactive in our "walking apart" by abstaining from participation in the councils of the Communion.

The arguments stating why we could not accept the proposal were linked to our structure and polity. The arguments sound hollow given the radical change in our faith and order imposed by the legislative majority in General Convention. I believe it is ironic that much of the traditional doctrine and discipline common to the Christian community is easily dismissed, while we rigidly hold to autonomy and independence as of first importance.

The struggle in the Episcopal Church is open to a comparison to contemporary politics in our country. A cursory study suggests two major parties in the life of our church. There is a consistency in the theological and moral teachings within each that stands in opposition to the other. Our division begins with two radically different views regarding the authority of the Holy Scriptures.

One group tends to view the Scriptures as contextual to the times in which they were written and bound by culture. They hold as foundational truth that the Spirit may radically alter two millennia of mission built on the rock of revelation. For these individuals, human experience holds primary authority. The Scriptures are placed under the judgment and discernment of the Episcopal Church, and have authority within this Church only to the extent it allows.

For a minority in which I include myself, the Episcopal Church, like all Christian communities, will always stand under the judgment of the Scriptures. The Scriptures have authority independent of this church or any particular generation. The context is not a particular moment in history, but the history of a world in rebellion against God. Salvation we believe is not possible apart from the work of Jesus, God incarnate in human history. Jesus is not one way among many, but THE Way, Truth and Life for all humanity. He is the door to an intimate and eternal relationship with God. "The grass withers," wrote the prophet Isaiah, "the flower fades. But the Word of our God stands forever."

This difference in approach to the Holy Scriptures leads inevitability to major differences regarding specific theological and moral concerns such as the nature of God, the person and role of Jesus in human history, the meaning of revelation, and evangelism. Take any issue such as abortion vs. pro-life, globalization vs. nationalism, individual "rights" vs. communal "responsibility" and there tends to be a consistency of opposing views in the two major parties now at odds in the Episcopal Church. For many in the majority, sin is now subsumed under genetic determinism which I believe is at odds with human freedom and liberty to choose. What we hold in common is a passion for our faith commitment.

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