Life After General Convention
Greetings in the Lord:
The Episcopal General Convention has come and gone. If you wish detailed commentary, you can find it on our website at http://theRoadtoEmmaus.org. Some prognostications about the future of the Episcopal Church are in order and given below.
Also below is some striking news about what God is doing in Ambridge where I live. Please pray for God to move in the hearts of the clergy and town leaders -- who are coming together in an unexpected way.
* * *
I was invited by one of the chaplains at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, to give a talk on how the Christian faith can win in the public arena, that is, how reason and revelation are firmly wedded in the mind of God. "Come, let us reason together...." is a basic part of the strategy of God in drawing us into a rational, free-will covenant relation. (A tape of the talk, The Marriage of Faith and Reason, is available for $7 postpaid.)
The intellectual foundations of secularism are quickly eroding. The juggernaut rolls on only by inertia and by incompetence on the side of Christians. If we do our homework, we will see God acting in ways unheard of.
The Episcopal Synod of America, which met immediately after the disastrous Episcopal General Convention, stunned most of us (delightfully) by standing up and doing what was not expected -- they decided to draw the line in the sand and stand by it. Here is a summary from various sources of the ESA Plan in response to the 72nd General Convention of ECUSA:
* * *
* Our strategic goal is the establishment of an Orthodox Province of the Anglican Communion in North America, a province which is not connected with the Episcopal Church.
* Our strategic plan for reaching that goal is to "be the Church" in a coordinated way without regard to the Episcopal Church:
"It has become clear to us that the Episcopal Synod of America must more fully and thoroughly continue in its mission to 'be the Church', proclaiming the Gospel and shepherding the faithful." [The Good Shepherd Statement]
"There are a couple of differences, here, when contrasted with our statements and actions of the past. We will no longer speak of a mission to 'be the Church within the Episcopal Church', for we have concluded that the institutional Episcopal Church has lost the will to be reformed. This is what we mean when we say it is our intention to be the Church, proclaim the Gospel, and shepherd the faithful: we will do that without regard to implications of the institutional Episcopal Church." [D. P. Moriarty, Qs & As, 8/18/97]
* We intend to "be the Church" together with other faithful people in the Anglican Tradition.
"Open Letter from the Episcopal Synod of America to all Faithful People in the Anglican Tradition" [The Good Shepherd Statement]
"We are encouraged by the support we have already received from overseas bishops and provinces of the Anglican Communion, and will work energetically to extend our fellowship and work for the Gospel with them." [The Good Shepherd Statement]
"We welcome association with jurisdictions of the Continuing Anglican movement, the National Catholic Church (formerly the Polish National Catholic Church), the Charismatic Episcopal Church, and other judicatories. We invite them to meet us in discussions designed to lead to concordats of inter communion. We look forward to closer association with these jurisdictions." [The Good Shepherd Statement]
* We intend to establish missions where necessary, with or without the permission of the local Episcopal Church bishop:
"Individual believers in hostile parishes, and those who currently have no orthodox parish home, are encouraged to seek a compatible local community, or begin efforts to build one. In this activity, we have the support of the American Anglican Council and the North American Missionary Society. The former offers a place of succor for those witnessing in the structures of the General Convention, and the latter offers aid in planting new congregations." [Good Shepherd Statement]
"This missionary effort to plant new congregations can be undertaken with, or without, permission of the local ordinary." [ESA President's Opening Address]
* As we practice being the Church together we expect to emerge as a separate corporate reality.
"We have diocesan bishops who have declared with whom they are in communion. Their dioceses constitute the centerpiece of our community of faith. The convention delegates of these four dioceses met together last Thursday for prayer and to discuss how they might more effectively provide mutual support to each other. When faced with canons which violate their informed consciences, they will obey their consciences. Those dioceses will continue to be the Church; in effect, to function as the core of the province we have declared ourselves to be." [ESA President's Opening Address]
* The things we do corporately are likely to produce confrontation with the Episcopal Church, which will sharpen the distinction between us.
"The Synod is taking action to respond to a request from St. Paul's Brockton, Massachusetts, to provide episcopal oversight there, as St. Paul's has withdrawn from the Diocese of Massachusetts. We expect that there will be other such visitations as appropriate requests from parishes come in." [D. P. Moriarty, 8/18/97]
"The Diocese of Ft. Worth, last November, passed on the first reading a constitutional amendment declaring that actions of General Convention which are contrary to Holy Scripture and the Apostolic teaching of the Church shall be of no force or effect in that diocese." [Foundations, Jan/Feb 97]
* God willing, by the time our bishops arrive at the Lambeth Conference next year, it will be clear that we are an orthodox provincial reality in North America.
"We will take our case to the Lambeth Conference of Bishops next summer and to other Provinces throughout the Communion who are supportive of our cause." [Statement of Solidarity]
* * *
The ESA has thrown down the gauntlet to the pseudo-liberal establishment. I say pseudo-liberal because liberals are supposed to liberate. The pseudo's are putting us in bondage of the most unGodly sort.
The ESA's response is now to begin the process of becoming an independent province within the Anglican Communion. If separation comes, as it must, then we hope to get the affirmation of the majority of the other Anglican provinces that we are the authentic Anglican presence in North America.
The success of this venture lies in the hands largely of the bishops who will have to cross diocesan boundary lines, putting themselves at risk for ecclesiastical trial. They appear to be willing.
The even greater risk is now upon the local parish priests who can no longer accept the ministry of the local bishop. There are several parishes in the Philadelphia area which have told their bishops that they may not come on their property either to preach or to celebrate the Eucharist. That is a tough stand, and will bring reprisals.
The local clergy are much more at risk because their bishops can put strong pressure on them, attempt to defrock them, inhibit them from serving in that diocese, etc. The ESA and AAC bishops have said that they would not honor any discipline set against honestly objecting local clergy, and will support them in any manner they can.
It remains to be seen how sternly our backbone will resist the attempts of the pseudo-liberals. But this is a very winnable battle. Truth always is.
I said that a split is inevitable. That is because if the Biblical folks turn the ship around, the pseudo-liberals will leave. If the ship is not turned around, the pseudo-liberals will find some way to kick the Biblical folks out. God will clean house either way.
So keep the Episcopal Church in your prayers. Much is coming down the road.
The following from the Rev. Bill Atwood suggests what is coming - referring to comments by Anglican bishops in Africa looking forward to Lambeth conference next year, a gathering in England every ten years of the worldwide Anglican bishops:
The Archbishop of Nigeria (representing perhaps half of the Anglican communion) has declared that the Church of Nigeria will not accept any money from the American Church because he wants to insure that their representation is not compromised.
Another African Bishop said, "We will stand against the American liberal agenda, but you must understand, for us to stand against the liberals is going to be costly. We may well lose funds, and those funds are not for peripheral projects but for medicine and food. For us to stand is a life and death matter... some of our people may die. But we must stand, for there is more to lose than life."
Most of the African and Asian bishops mean business. They will not
tolerate the apostasy of our Episcopal leadership. Their support will help
turn the tide -- which will eventually happen -- if we remain obedient.
We have had two murders this summer in Ambridge (Pennsylvania), senseless and violent, 20 and 21 years old. One of the boys, who had worked for me around the house a few years back, was stabbed in the chest by his best friend in a fit of rage -- over a CD.
A few weeks ago the second of the two murders took place. A fellow was ejected from a party. He returned with a rifle, and shot the fellow who was giving the party 14 times in the back.
These two tragic crimes have been the trigger to awaken the town, but God had already been moving for some time to bring things together.
Last spring before all this happened, the chief of police had come to the Ambridge Ministerium meeting. I told him that he and his officers were having to pick up the pieces because we, the churches and synagogues, were not producing self-governing citizens. I asked if he would come up with a list of things to pray for if I would drop around periodically. He said yes. The president of the Boro Council came to another meeting, and I asked him the same question with the same response.
I had been having conversations about education with our local superintendent of schools for some time, and he also agreed to contribute to this emerging prayer network. We have also gotten on board TESM (Trinity Seminary), the fire chief, the Chamber of Commerce, the mayor, the high-school principle, and the Rotary. I visited the high-school principle (new this year), and we prayed in his office. (The high-school Bible study which has had a hard time getting official support will no longer be left out in the cold, I am sure.)
The prayer list gleaned from the leaders will be passed around to the clergy and churches to be distributed to prayer groups and anyone who will pray for Ambridge.
I was elected president of the Ambridge Ministerium for this coming year, so we now have two projects in mind. The first is the Prayer Network described above.
Second, and equally important, is the Ambridge Forum, a meeting of town leaders and clergy (and anyone else who will come) to discuss how to get politics, religion, business, and education back in the same boat, rowing in the same direction. Grossly misguided Supreme Court decisions, with the quiet acquiescence of the rest of us, have led us down a path to increasing debauchery taught in our government schools and violence on our streets and in our homes -- at almost every level of our common life.
Ambridge has a rich spiritual tradition (Ambridge was once in the Guiness World Book of Records for having had the most churches and the most bars per square inch....). But we Christians (clergy especially) have been asleep at the switch, engrossed in our own parochial interests, and almost totally ignorant of our Godly duties to the wider society. As a result, we are fast losing the Godly democratic republic for which our founding fathers risked their live, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. For the last several decades, the bars have won and the churches have lost. But in that gentle and persistent strength of God, we plan to take Ambridge back for God.
The town leaders are looking for help, and have without exception welcomed me when I have gone to discuss with them our circumstances and to offer the help of the clergy and churches and our synagogue also. I have been quite amazed, because I was not expecting any such reception. They do not all express it the same way, but they are fed up with the nonsense that we have swallowed which has undermined our once powerful Biblical moral and spiritual consensus.
The first Ambridge Forum happened on September 3, including most of the above town leaders and five clergy, hosted by the mayor, at which time I explained our two projects. The mayor keeps insisting that the clergy and churches are the key to turning things around, and that the community which prays together stays together.
The Ambridge Ministerium met today, Thursday, Sept. 11. About twenty were present, including almost all of the town leaders present at the Ambridge Forum. We reviewed what the Ambridge Forum had discussed and solidified our relationships. The spirit of the meeting was extraordinarily positive. The superintendent of schools was eager to attend again, as were others.
The Episcopal pastor, who lives on what has become known as "drug alley", who has reported drug dealers, told of a death threat on the phone. I am reminded of the African bishops who are willing to risk what they must in order to stand for truth (see quote above). This is the nature of the spiritual warfare in which we are engaged. We send soldiers off to fight for freedom at the risk of their lives. Sometimes the battlefield is in our own front yard. We either stand firm there, or we will pay a much dearer price later. Indeed, we are paying the price now because for so long we have not stood firmly.
I had spent a good deal of time crossing swords with the school board a few years ago, essentially with no effect. I was informed by the chairman of the board that I ought to find another forum in which to air my concerns. He simply refused to take anything I said seriously. I will be visiting the school board this evening to inform the board that the Lord has graciously granted us just such a forum, and that the whole school board is invited to attend and help us in the task of rebuilding the spiritual, moral, and social life of Ambridge.
Our first task is to create an arena where we will listen to each other, and where we can be candid about our beliefs and concerns. Or, as the Lord invites: "Come, let us reason together." If we are not first of all creating that space for meeting, all else will fail. It does not matter what the other side does, only that we do what God calls us to do. God will then win His own victory. Sometimes death has to precede life.
The world belongs to God, and He wants it back. We are fighting the same battle that began immediately with the Fall. But God is calling us from our sin and ignorance and laziness, and enlisting us on His side. God is moving in the hearts of many -- and He wants to raise up an army which will retake this town (and yes, America, and yes, the world -- it is all the same battle) back for Himself.
Jesus is Lord....
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