Wednesday, May 23, 2007

What Way Forward?

The Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner, in a long article found here,

describes and laments how The Episcopal Church lost trust with the rest of the Anglican world.

Now, most of us who call ourselves "Anglicans" nod our heads in agreement with that, but Dr. Radner goes on to say,

And to add to this confusion, the unconscious attempt to rediscover an integral character has led to a proliferation of alternative manufactured “histories” and “characters”, especially among reactionary groups driven to uncover some new basis for Christian trust in their ecclesial existence. Hence, the appeal to the 39 Articles, this or that edition of the Book of Common Prayer, a particular scriptural hermeneutic or conversionary paradigm, etc., as if an embrace or establishment of this ecclesial criterion, fixed now de novo in the midst of a historical map that simply doesn’t lead to this singular destination, could create a cohesive authority capable of garnering the wide trust of any but a small group of local devotees.

OK, that's hard to understand. What he's saying is that many of us, rightly upset by the insanity and faithlessness of TEC, will grab onto some little bit of Anglican treasure like a piece of debris and hang on with a few friends (or maybe alone, with just our own opinions).

This need not be our way forward - indeed, it is a retreat. When we look at Anglicanism in Africa, or in the Diocese of Sydney (Australia), or Christ Church, Plano (Texas), we see missionary growth and vitality in the body of Christ.

So, whaddaya think? What is our way forward here on the Northern Plains?


TK of RC said...

First let me say that I am not a member of the ECUSA, but rather a former member of and Elder in the PCUSA and an active participant in its long and still continuing struggles. My wife and I terminated our membership in the PCUSA in 2005 and are now (somewhat) involved in a small non-denominational church body here on the High Plains that emerged out of the continuing house fellowship of 50 or so other folks who had left the same congregation in roughly the same time frame.

As most of you will know, Presbyterianism is as "connectional" as Anglicanism; the sense of desire to be "connected" to The-Continuing- Orthodox-Position is a defining facet for both traditions. My own experiences in the PCUSA and studied observations of the TEC and lots of others as well is we (whether "right/traditional", "left/progressive" or "moderate/muddled middle") are thus tempted to find and define ourselves based on some at least partially true idealogical views we hold... and often we hold these views unawares... and in fact, they function as Idols in our lives.

So, it seems to me, the danger The Rev. Dr. Radner highlights in the quoted part of his essay is real, and a potential for all of us... and manifests itself in sometimes very obvious and sometimes very subtle ways.

Again, it seems to me, that this is perhaps at least in part what Jesus was warning against (and providing the antidote for) in the "Vine and Branches" discussion recorded by St. John's Gospel in what we now know as Chapter 15, verses 1-17.

Please be sure I am not making an Idol of Inclusivity based on the final sentence: "This is my command: Love each other." I chose to leave the PCUSA because of its drift (or cascade... depending on one's point of view) toward a controlling paradigm which I cannot find a way to reconcile with its own stated Standards for Unity (in its case, a set of accepted Confessions and polity). Even love for one another rightly has its functional limits, as evidenced by Jesus' other words and actions we have recorded in the Gospels.

I could go on and on and on, but let me conclude with saying I think it is The Vine Himself, Jesus... a Person of the Triune Godhead... that we ought to seriously and consciously seek through participation in the Sacraments, fellowship in His Body, and our daily lives lived here in His Creation, as we continue to discover the "history" and "character" and connection we (correctly) desire and sense we need.

TLF+ said...

Thanks for contributing, tk!

You wrote,"...we ought to seriously and consciously seek through participation in the Sacraments, fellowship in His Body, and our daily lives lived here in His Creation..."

Matt Kennedy of the Stand Firm site says that the signs of the true church are right proclamation of God's Word, right celebration of the Sacraments, and right church discipline.

What characteristics of the church should mark an Anglican ministry in this part of the world? Sacraments are likely to be precious but infrequent due to the lack of clergy. And in what ways should we cultivate Biblical proclamation and Christian fellowship here?

TLF+ said...

Well, I can see right now that an Anglican presence here on the Plains needs to help people get over their Midwestern humility and good manners! It seems like "don't rock the buckboard" is the norm here... let's open up a discussion and move to action!

One clear need is for lay ministry. A few folks with The Book of Common Prayer and the Bible can get together, pray and be the church right where they are. If folks are waiting around for the arrival of clergy and the purchase of buildings, forget it .

Around the world, growing Anglican churches feature strong, active lay ministry and leadership. That's needed here.

Chip Johnson+, SF, CoJ said...

Well, for what it's worth. Our mission started, almost three years ago, as a lay-led fellowship, using at first 1979 Book of Services, Rite I, then as we were able to acquire the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, we have switched back over to it exclusively.

After several months, since I had also just finished reading for Orders and was a candidate for ordination in the Episcopal Diocese of South Dakota, I was able to be ordained as a transitional deacon in the Anglican Province of Christ the Good Shepherd, Diocese of St. Paul, by Bishop Randy DeHart, Ordinary, from Bedford TX; who also heard my profession as a Franciscan in the Company of Jesus blended Franciscan and Benedictine Order.

Now, almost two year later, we are still a small house church; but I am now a priest, and we have three services each Sunday: 7:00 am, "Church in the Park", at a city park downtown; 9:00 am at the Pine Hill Chapel, a retirement village; and 11:00 am at our house chapel.

The "Church in the Park" is also a seven day a week ministry through Labor Day, serving residents and tourists to the Black Hills.

We are in process of completing the first on-line term of the Foundations for Discipleship for Christian Ministry, an affordable and conservative Anglican answer to the Education For Ministry of TEC, and hope to garner enough interest over the summer for the theology module planned for this fall, either as an on-site residential offering, or the on-line courses. Contact me, or
for more information.

What Way Forward? Any that holds to the basic tenets of Holy Scripture and the Anglican liturgy. Don't wait for someone else to come and do it for you! Be proactive, launch out by faith, and let God have control of His people again.

Chip Johnson+, SF, CoJ said...

As a post script:

We have been approached by tribal leaders and extended family members on two reservations to come and help with the unchurched, and the underchurched in several of their communities.

Several Roman Catholic missions have been closed by the Rapid City diocese and the people and properties are still there, just waiting to be used for His glory.

In other areas, families feel underserved, because they have a priest rush in and rush out, with no time for any personal interaction, or home visits for communion for the sick, and we are praying about being able to serve both of these community clusters once a month, and develop the lay reader ministries again, to continue in weekly Morning Prayer at each mission.

In addition, one family in our mission holds property and membership on the Cheyenne River reservation, and plans to move there and build their place overlooking the river in a few years, and plans are to be able to send them out ordained, to work in that unserved area.

Our mission statement holds that we are a 'traditional Anglican mission, with a twist', that twist being inculturation of Native L/Dakota pateerns of respect and appreciation for L/Dakota belief systems.