First Promise

[A forwarded message from the Rev. Richard Cantrell.   First promise was an organization, mainly of parish clergy and lay people who were disgusted with the slow action of our bishops in dealing with the apostasy in the Episcopal Church.  They began taking matters into their own hands, leading a few years ago to AMiA, the Anglican Mission in America.  E. Fox]

To the members of the Synodical Council:

On 8-9 September, I joined a group co-hosted by Fr. Chuck Murphy (All Saints, Pawley's Island) and Fr. Jon Shuler (NAMS) to consider current events within ECUSA and a reaction to them. The group were predominantly rectors of parishes from the south-east region, in all representing more than 30,000 souls in their respective congregations. Many of these individuals had previously not been heard from in the various conversation groups and networks; some were active ACC members; Synod members present included Fr. Dow Sanderson, Fr. Jeffrey Steenson, and myself. On the first day, Bishops Allison, Benitez and Dickson were present. Bishop Dickson remained for the second day, also. The group convened in a general atmosphere that it was now time (possibly past time) for all present to take a definitive stand in rejection of ECUSA pronouncements at General Convention.

The group debated and promulgated the following statement which, as you will see, is very much in line with the "Open Letter" and "Statement of Solidarity" issued by ESA at Rosemont. The title of the statement is "The First Promise" and, I believe, will be self-explanatory.

Bishop Dickson will take this statement to the AAC Board of Directors meeting which will convene in Dallas in two weeks. He will propose that the AAC endorse the statement and pledge solidarity with all who act upon it.

The message quoted below is from Fr. T. J. Johnson, Assistant at All Saints and de facto Secretary of the Group.

In the spirit of our solidarity and partnership with the AAC and with all who stand in defense of the true faith, I propose that the Synodical Council, on behalf of the ESA, endorse the statement, "The First Promise", and pledge our solidarity with all who take action based upon it.

-- Pete Moriarty [President, ESA].

Message from Fr. T. J. Johnson follows.

Appended you will find the document in final form. As I type this note the Presiding Bishop and the Presiding Bishop Elect have it on their desk. Ron McCrary had a good heart-to-heart meeting with his Bishop yesterday during which he shared the document with him and gave him permission to share it with the PB. I will be in touch with Jeffrey today to explore publication in the Living Church before Dallas.

Bishop Dickson has had some very encouraging reports from at least 2 Diocesan Bishops who have read the document. We will be pulling together more of this type of information for you shortly.

God's blessings -- TJ


THE FIRST PROMISE

Almighty and everlasting God, who gave to your apostles grace truly to believe and to preach your Word: Grant that your Church may love what they believed and preach what they taught; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. AMEN.

{Collect for St. Bartholomew's Day, amended}

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To our ordained brothers and sisters in Christ:

We believe that this church must repent for its failure to fully obey the Great Commission of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ (Mt 28:18ff), and that we must submit ourselves to God's reforming judgment upon us all.

We believe that the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, headquartered at 815 Second Avenue in New York City, and the present structures of the General Convention have departed from "the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this church has received them", and we declare their authority to be fundamentally impaired, and that they are not upholding the truth of the gospel.

Thus we resolve to take the following actions effective immediately:

1) Because the Holy Scriptures are "the rule and ultimate standard of faith" (Lambeth Quadrilateral), we will not receive any canon nor submit to any ecclesiastical action which ordains that which is "contrary to God's Word written" (Article XX);

2) We personally affirm, and will ask our parishes to endorse, "A Place to Stand: A Call to Mission" (1996), as an expression of and call to biblical fidelity on many contentious issues of our day;

3) We hereby endorse the "Kuala Lumpur Statement" (1997) as a true and accurate statement of the apostles' teaching concerning biblical authority and human sexuality. We affirm it as expressing the faith of Jesus Christ which we have received in this church, and we call upon the bishops of the Anglican Communion to endorse it as such and to discipline those who have departed from it;

4) We intend to "be in communion with that part of the Anglican Communion which accepts and endorses the principles aforesaid and not otherwise." (Resolution of the Province of South East Asia, 1997)

5) We believe the teaching of this church requires that our financial stewardship and giving must be "for the spread of the kingdom of God" {Catechism, BCP (1979) pg. 856}. We will therefore support, and urge our people to support, only those mission agencies and ministries which directly further the Great Commission. We will not fund, nor recommend funding, any legal institution, organization or person whose actions aid or further teaching contrary to the above principles;

6) We will not be bound, in the exercise of our priestly or diaconal ministries, by the legal or geographical boundaries of any parish or diocese, if those boundaries are being invoked to prevent the preaching and teaching of "the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them" {BCP (1979) Ordination of Priest, pg. 526};

7) We pledge to remain under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of faithful bishops who uphold our heritage in the gospel, seeking alternative episcopal oversight if necessary;

8) We further pledge to come to the aid of any brother or sister in Christ who is being persecuted for the sake of the gospel, as it has been received by this church, declaring that to attack them is to attack us all; and finally

9) We appeal to the bishops of the Anglican Communion, to reassert the apostolic truth and order which we have received in the gospel of Jesus Christ, to affirm and support theologically orthodox Anglicans in America, and to discipline those members who have departed from it.

Why have we found these actions necessary? Because of the historical faith and theology of this church, and because of our solemn ordination vows to uphold the same.

In 1789 our spiritual fathers established the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, claiming in the Preface of the first American Book of Common Prayer "the freedom with which Christ has set us free" {BCP (1979) pg. 9}. They implied, by quoting from Galatians 5:1, their refusal "to submit again to a yoke of slavery."

They submitted instead to the yoke of Jesus Christ , and claimed for themselves and their spiritual heirs "the doctrine, discipline, (and) worship" of "the Church of England" as it had been reformed under God {BCP (1979) pgs 9-11}. They were convinced that thereby they were standing firm in "the Doctrine and Sacraments, and the Discipline of Christ, as the Lord hath commanded and as this Church hath received the same, according to the Commandments of God," and they required every presbyter ordained so to promise {BCP (1928) pg. 542}.

The ordination of those presbyters was to be done according to the Ordinal of the Church of England (1662) and the following things were therefore promised: Holy Scripture was to be their source "to instruct the people;" nothing contrary was to be taught "as necessary to eternal salvation;" they were solemnly charged "to banish and drive away from the Church all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God's Word;" they were to lay "aside the study of the world and the flesh (and) be diligent in Prayers, and in reading the Holy Scriptures;" and they were to frame their lives "according to the Doctrine of Christ." These were their solemn vows before God and the Church {BCP (1928) pg. 542}. Every priest ordained in the American Church, until 1979, promised these things.

In 1801 the Articles of Religion of the English Church were "established by the Bishops, the Clergy, and the Laity of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, in Convention" {BCP (1979) pg. 867}, and they have been printed in every Book of Common Prayer to the present day. These articles remain part of the doctrine of the Church of England (Canons A2 & A5), which our American foundational documents explicitly commit us to uphold {BCP (1979) Preface pg. 11}.

The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America has consistently made the historical and theological claim to be the legitimate inheritor of the faith of Jesus Christ, given through his chosen apostles, as that faith first came to England and subsequently to this land. That is our heritage. "It is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith," (Romans 1:16) and with the Apostle we declare that we are "not ashamed of the gospel."

When, in 1979, the then newly revised Book of Common Prayer required of every deacon and priest, AS THEIR FIRST PROMISE, to "be loyal to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them," it was appealing to that gospel heritage {BCP (1979) pgs 526, 538}.

When it further required of all the baptized to renounce evil, commit to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and to promise to "continue in the apostle's teaching and fellowship...," it was appealing to that gospel heritage {BCP (1979) pg. 304}.

We the undersigned, presbyters and deacons of this Church, hereby signify that we believe these promises bind us, and all others who have freely taken them, to a most sacred trust. That trust is "the substantial deposit of Christian Faith and Order committed by Christ and his Apostles to the Church unto the end of the world." We believe this trust is "incapable of compromise or surrender by those who have been ordained to be its stewards and trustees for the common and equal benefit of all men, " {Chicago Quadrilateral, 1886. BCP (1979) pg. 877}.

Further, we do believe the Lambeth Conference of 1888 did rightly revise the Chicago Quadrilateral, thereby clarifying that for all Anglicans, as for all Christians, "the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments... (are) the rule and ultimate standard of faith," {Ibid. Lambeth Quadrilateral, 1888}. In this light the quadrilateral defines the boundaries of our communion.

We have enumerated these points and principles because we are convinced that this Church has departed from them in many actions, and failures to act, over the last several decades, and that many of its leaders have abandoned "the faith once delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).

In particular we cite three actions of the 1997 Philadelphia Convention: the election of a primate who has departed from the teaching of the apostles; the mandatory and coercive enforcement of the ordination of women; and the failure to uphold and require a biblical sexual ethic for this church's clergy and people.

This departure from apostolic truth must be stopped. The call for repentance and a season of biblical reform, which has been sounded by many, must begin today, and by the grace of God we commit ourselves to this task.

We desire nothing more nor less than to exemplify in word and deed that Jesus Christ is Lord of this Church, and we pledge to stand with all who make it their desire "to obey all that he has commanded." (Matthew 28:20)

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May God the Father, who has called us to lead his people, make us "strong and courageous to do his will" and may we "not turn from it to the right or to the left" (Joshua 1:7). May Jesus Christ his Son be glorified in our witness and in our lives. May the Holy Spirit empower us for this sacred hour. AMEN.

Feast of the Martyrs of Memphis --(9 September 1997)

All Saints Church, Waccamaw, Pawley's Island, South Carolina

Jon C. Shuler

John Michael van Dyke

Charles H. Murphy, III

D. Lorne Coyle

Thomas W. Johnston

John D. Burley

Anthony David Norman Ferguson

Gregory S. Tournoux

Michael E. Hesse

L. Noland Pipes, Jr

Ronald L. McCrary

Michael E. Ellis

Tony Tripi

Geoffrey W. Chapman

Neil G. Lebhar

Terrell L. Glenn, Jr.

H. David Wilson

Larry A. Hall

Philip Jones

Samuel C. Pascoe

Jeffrey N. Steenson

David H. Roseberry

Timothy R. Smith

M. Dow Sanderson

David Harper

Frank P. Seignious, III

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