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A Letter on Unity in the Episcopal Church

F. Earle Fox

This letter, a bit edited, was sent to a group of Episcopalians who are working on whether to leave the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles which is led by Bishop Jon Bruno.  Bruno has been very friendly to and supportive of this very conservative and orthodox parish, even helping to fund the education for a candidate for the priesthood.  But the student just received notice that the diocese will not ordain him.  The message is that no candidate from this parish (as happened in other parishes who have already left) will any longer be ordained in the Diocese of Los Angeles.  I believe that the bishop has been sincere, but has capitulated to enormous pressure from hard-line homosexualists.  He is apparently still funding the student's education, who then can seek ordination in a different diocese. 

Greetings, Discerners, 

        The news from the bishop is both bad and good, as was pointed out.  The good being clarity.  But, if I were bishop, I would not be ordaining persons from their side either.  As it stands, we really really do have an either/or split, with no both/and possibilities, and need to face that.  So we can thank the other side for forcing clarity. 

        It is a shame that we did not long ago ourselves force that clarity.

        The only possibility of our working in the diocese would have been if they were willing to have an honest discussion of the issues (and I know there are people who would, on both sides), exercising the first level of unity about which I wrote in a recent Bethlehem article (you might want to review the next 3 levels, available at http://www.theroadtoemmaus.org/RdLb/31JdXn/Christnty/Unity4Lvls.htm ).  If they are not willing to have that agreement about truth-seeking, then we are in spiritual warfare.  Subversion of truth is, Paul says in Romans 1:18 ff., the first step in the Fall into idolatry and then compulsive and self-destructive behaviors.  We are seeing that in spades all over. 

        The truth is that they cannot afford such openness and honesty.  They know they would lose, and the prospect of such an encounter scares them to death.  They must hide a totalitarian (because feeling and pleasure rather than truth centered) mentality behind a pseudo kind of love, compassion, pluralism, etc.

        Our first response must be to insist on honest, truth-seeking discussion, where both sides can say -- "If I am wrong, I want to know, and am willing to go by the available evidence as far as possible."  That is a teachable spirit.  Persons with teachable spirits can disagree, even in fundamentals, and still live side by side.  That is what the American Constitution is about -- a genuine pluralism where the focus is on truth and mutual respect despite differences.   

        When someone cannot commit to that, all the rules of relationship change from honest discussion into spiritual warfare.  So we had better learn the strengths and skills needed for that.  If the first step of the Fall is subversion of truth, the first step of the way back is getting a teachable spirit ourselves, and then forcing honest discussion -- gracefully and reasonably.  It can be done.  It means taking the offensive with the two-edged Sword of the Spirit -- the two edges being revelation and reason welded back to back -- an invincible weapon.

        I say all this, of course, assuming our normal spiritual preparation for walking in the Light of Jesus Christ, picking up our crosses daily and following Him.  We dare not leap into spiritual warfare without ourselves being secure in Him.  But, in Him, it will be the subverters of truth-seeking running from the public arena, not faithful Christians, as we have been for about two centuries (because we were not really faithful). 

        Until the Lord comes back, there will be no final victory, and sin will always be around the corner.  But mature, faithful Christians will be able to force the evil-minded (those who subvert truth-seeking) back down under the rocks and into the caves, out of sight, and out of control of the public arena (see John 3:19). 

        We Christians had a good shot it with the development of science and due process in civil law (both of which are about truth-seeking) -- until we Christians (both "conservative" and "liberal") contrived to alienate both of those gifts from God.  Wow!  Good job, guys!   

I believe God is giving us another shot at it, and pray that we will do better this time around.  When truth-seekers on both sides of our present fences get together, we will see honest unity happening again in the Christian community -- the charlatans and pretenders on both sides being dismissed from the discussion.  That is what we need to work for.  That is the proper undergirding for any evangelistic effort. 

Blessings, Fr. Earle 

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