Friday, May 21, 2010

2 1/2 traditional Episcopalians on staying in a messed up denomination

Ah, the days of our exile in The Episcopal Church (TEC). The last week featured at least 2 1/2 good reflections on same.

There was the Elder Oyster in Ohio, but he only counted as 1/2 'cuz he's reflecting on thoughts from The NonJuror, who's shrouded in mystery.

Then there's The Underground Pewster in South Carolina. You have to read down to the end to get his pensees on staying in TEC. He starts out kvetching about a service he attended but then, in his distraction, finds possibilities in a lesson about imprisoned Apostles.

All 2.5 bloggers, as is right, look to God. 1.5 assume that God has a purpose for them to stay (Oyster = "bear up & clean up"; NonJ = caring for the congregation that God has given him) and will not leave until God clearly removes that purpose. The other one, UP, sees our time in "jail" as rich with possibilities for demonstrations of God's power.

Since I'm just musing on their ideas I'll count myself in as a .5 and round this up to an oh-so-Trinitarian 3. The classical Anglican definition of "church" is really quite simple, spiritual and of limited trust for institutional religion:

Article XIX (of XXXIX, 1549 in the Church of England and, in 1801, formally "established by the Bishops, the Clergy, and the Laity of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, in Convention...").
Of the Church.

The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.

As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch, have erred, so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith.

That is to say, it's not the particular organization, tradition, branch or judicatory that matters. All are made up of human beings, and all will slip into errors. The true church is present when:

Some people, minimum two and no maximum, get together;

share faith in God;

hear reading and teaching from the Old and New Testaments, in witness to Jesus Christ who is the "Word of God;"

baptize others into Christ and, as possible, share Christ's presence in Holy Communion.

One can stay in a nominally "Episcopal" congregation and still be "the church." It is not without risks - but all churches can "err" in matters of morals, worship and even faith.

The key is to see if the markers of "church" are present when I gather with others in Christ's name. The setting need not be friendly, but the friends need to be faithful.


David Handy+ said...

Today, Stand Firm posted a fine pastoral letter by Fr. Rob Eaton to his parish (in central CA) about his response to the scandalous consecration of lesbian Mary Glasspool last weekend, and in it he explained very simply why he and his congregation have decided to continue to stay in TEC. Even though it's the only orthodox church left in the rump Diocese of San Joaquin.

And what I like is that he says they are syaing as an "aggressive biblical witness." And for those like you, Tim, who have made the same decision, I commend you for undertaking the daunting, thankless task of being not just a quiet, persistent witness to biblical truth, but a bold, even aggressive witness in an apostate denomination like TEC.

As it's Pentecost Eve, it reminds me of the Risen Lord's promise at his ascension, and fulfilled for the first time at Pentecost:

"But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you (Tim, Rob, etc.) shall be my witnesses..."

And if the northern prairies don't count as bearing witness to just about "the ends of the earth" it's hard to imagine what could.


TLF+ said...

Thanks, David+. Hard to overstate the limits of my impact and hard to understate my failures. May the Lord, by his awesome promise, bring himself glory.

David Handy+ said...

You're welcome, Tim. Your parish may be small (actually, since the median size in TEC is about 70 in ASA, it's medium size), but thanks to this blog, your influence reaches far and wide. In my book, you're still a "flagplanter."

Keep up the good work, brother.

And let me correct a bad typo in my earlier post. I meant that what I like about Fr. Rob Eaton's letter is that he says that they are staying as an "aggressive" witness to biblical truth.