Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Fr. Jonathan Millard of Pittsburgh offers a great summary of TEC's deepest problems

Ten Examples of how the essentials of the Christian faith are being eroded, challenged, or contradicted by The Episcopal Church
Presented to the Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburghby the Rev. Jonathan Millard November 2, 2007

1. There is confusion concerning who God is:
Over the past 40 years there has been a drift away from orthodox ways of speaking about God. In some places in TEC instead of God being referred to as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, He is addressed only by function as creator, redeemer and sustainer, and not in personal ways. The problem with this approach is that it makes God more remote and the fact is God has revealed himself to us through the Scriptures not just by function, but in personal terms as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Another example is when the name LORD is replaced with “God.” So instead of the Liturgical greeting: “The Lord be with you” you may encounter in some parts of TEC “God be with you” or even “God is in you” with the response: “and also in you.” The word LORD apparently is perceived as too male, and too authoritarian. The earliest creedal statement was simply “Jesus is Lord.” And yes, it was meant to be authoritarian. I was very sad when I attended the Interfaith service at Calvary last week, to see precisely such a change had been made to the liturgy. When it came to share the Peace, the wording was not: “The peace of the Lord”, but rather “The Peace of God.”

2. There is a lack of clear teaching about the divinity of Christ:
In answer to a question referencing the divinity of Jesus, in an article published earlier this year, the Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Shori, said this: “If you begin to explore the literary context of the first century and the couple of hundred years on either side, the way that someone told a story about a great figure was to say ‘this one was born of the gods.’ That is what we’re saying. This carpenter from Nazareth or Bethlehem – and there are different stories about where he came from – shows us what a godly human being looks like, shows us God coming among us.”
At best that is ambiguous or confusing, and at worst it is false teaching. Jesus was much more than someone who “shows us what a godly human being looks like.” And the Church does not say that he was “born of the gods.” The biblical witness and the faith of the church is that Jesus is the Son of God: fully God and fully man. The Word became flesh (John 1). We proclaim this truth weekly in the Nicene Creed.

3. There is a lack of clear teaching about Salvation and Sin:
Questioned about selfishness and falleness, the Presiding Bishop said this:·”The human journey is about encouraging our own selves to move up into higher consciousness, into being able to be present in a violent situation without responding with violence ... “ and in the same interview she went on to say: “The question is always how can we get beyond our own narrow self-interest and see that our salvation lies in attending to the needs of other people.”
This is not the Gospel story of sin and redemption. The Scriptures teach that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Rom. 3:23). The Scriptures teach that salvation is not through our works, or our efforts to move up to a higher consciousness, or even through attending to the needs of others. Our salvation lies in Jesus, “who while we were still sinners, died for us.” (Rom. 5:8); and all who believe in the LORD and call upon his name will be saved. (Rom. 10:13)

4. There is a drift towards universalism:
The Presiding Bishop says of Jesus: “we who practice the Christian traditionunderstand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box” (Time Magazine: July 17,2006). Jesus said: I am the way the truth and the life no one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).
When, some years ago, I first heard Bishop Duncan speak of us living in a time of Reformation of the Church throughout the world, I confess I wondered if that was a little grandiose. I now believe, without a doubt, that he was right. This was illustrated for me, once again, just last week. I was deeply saddened to hear Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu deny the particularity of the Christian Faith, mocking the idea that Jesus could possibly be the only way to God, and declaring that all religions are worshipping the same God, just by different names. The archbishop is a great man who has done wonderful work for reconciliation and peace. I salute him for all the good he has done, but I am sad and troubled that he would be so dismissive of the supreme work of love and salvation that our Lord Jesus Christ did for us on the cross.

5. There is a loss of confidence in the Gospel as Good News for all:
The official teaching of the Anglican Church on the issue of human sexuality is that which has been set out by the Lambeth Conference in 1998 (Resolution 1:10). But here’s the key point concerning the Gospel that I want to make:
[The Conference] “recognises that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God’s transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships.” [emphasis added]. It is that confidence in the transforming power of God that the actions of TEC now challenge. So instead of welcoming and loving all into the church so that they might experience transformation, TEC simply welcomes and affirms people just as they are – denying them the healing and hope and transforming power of God.

6. There is erroneous teaching and practice regarding human sexuality:
Over the past couple of decades there has been a serious rejection of the clear teaching of the Bible and the Church on human sexuality and marriage. The clear teaching of Scripture and tradition and of the one, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic church is that sex is for marriage. The only sexually intimate relationships that are good and holy according to Scripture and tradition are those between a man and a woman, within an intended life long, faithful covenant of marriage. That means that pre-marital sex, extra-marital sex, gay sex, any sex outside of marriage is all contrary to God’s will. This is the clear teaching of the Bible and of Jesus.

7. There is a seemingly ‘social justice only’ view of the mission of the church:
I have struggled to find any clear statements from the Presiding Bishop about the basics of the faith. From her inaugural sermon through to all kinds of talks and sermons and interviews that I’ve seen or heard extracts from she seems to be concerned primarily with a political and social gospel. She seems to be concerned principally about the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. There is much to be commended about these goals and much to challenge us – but they are by no means the same thing as the message of salvation for those who are perishing. (John 3: 16). If the Millennium Goals are our gospel message it falls seriously short of the message of proclaiming “Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).

8. There is contempt for the Authority of the Bible:
Bishop Bennison has said: “The church wrote the Bible, and the church can rewrite the Bible.” No, that is a serious error.

9. There is failure by Bishops to defend the faith:
The role of a bishop in the words of the 1662 ordinal is: ‘‘to banish and drive away from the church all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to the Word of God.” – Here in the States, the very opposite is true. Rather than drive away false teaching many of the bishops of TEC embrace it, celebrate it and declare to be good and holy that which God declares to wrong. To ordain an openly gay, non-celibate man – when the rest of the world urged TEC not to do this – is not only contrary to Scripture but is also an arrogant display of American intransigence.

10. There is a lack of respect for truth or unity:
There seems to be a cavalier spirit among many in TEC that disregards the mandate for unity with the one holy, catholic and apostolic church. Claims are made by ‘progressives’ that they are putting truth ahead of unity. However the ‘truth’ they claim is that it’s a matter of social justice and Christian virtue to bless same sex unions and permit practicing gay and lesbian people to hold any office within the church. This is, of course, is contrary to the truth as revealed in Holy Scripture. And the only unity they secure is among a tiny minority of the church worldwide.


cp said...

I sure wish I knew what it is that is so scary about gays and lesbians that causes all this consternation.

Alice C. Linsley said...

This is a very accurate assessment of TEC's sickness.

The answer for right-believing Anglicans is prayer and a deeper understanding of who Jesus Christ is.

TLF+ said...

cp - But just look at all the points Fr. Millard makes before ever bringing up sexuality.

Whether you like it (intend it) or not, LGBT have become a smokescreen (willing or unwilling) for heretics. In order to win church entitlements, LGBT are in coalition with people who throw out pretty much everything distinctive about the Christian proclamation.

That's what's scary and causes consternation. Not who you sleep with affectionately, but who you sleep with theologically. Much bigger issue.

Anonymous said...

On Stand Firm and Kendall's Titus1:9 I'm now known under the screen name "New Reformation Advocate." So I might as well do that here too, if Fr. Tim allows the switch.

Anyway, I welcome the posting here of the fine summary of the severe problems with TEC by Pittsburgh's Fr. Jonathan Millard. His top ten list of theological errors in TEC seem to me sufficient to call for that New Reformation.

For those of who who may not follow all the many conservative Anglican blogs out there, I hope you'll check out the thread on Stand Firm in Faith that is about Bishop Bruno of LA refusing to ordain an orthodox graduate of Nashotah House. Midwestnorwegian added a comment there that is priceless. He praised Tim and Melissa Fountain as a tremendous gift from LA to SD and teasingly concluded: "SEND US MORE LIKE HIM."

Amen. But this only goes to show why this drastic New Reformation is needed. It has become almost impossible for orthodox Christians to function in any leadership capacity in more and more parts of the Episcopal Church anymore.

Potent new wine often requires new wineskins (see Mark 2:22). Or to put it another way, the old corrupt form of Anglicanism in North America has to die, in order for the New Anglicanism to rise and flourish.

Since those of you in SE SD are in such a bastion of Lutheranism, perhaps you'll pardon me for reminding you of that wonderful last verse of Luther's great hymn Ein Feste Burg:
"Let goods and kindred go! This mortal life also. The body they may kill. God's truth abideth still. His Kingdom is forever!"

Alice C. Linsley said...

The idea of the Church being in constant "reformation" isn't biblical, in my view. I don't find it in either the Old or the New Testament. The Church exists because of one comprehensive Reality: the Blood of Jesus. As many as are baptized into Christ have "put on Christ" and are members of the Church. Each must live the implications of the shed blood in his and her life. This involves transformation day by day. The reformational concept is political and distracts from the Reality. In fact, this notion can contribute greatly to the fracturing of the Body of Christ.

Having said that, I rejoice that many are leaving TEC. It is very dangerous to be associated with those who reject the Veil of Jesus' Blood. Your reference to Archbishop Tutu is relevant. You wrote that you were saddened that "Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu deny the particularity of the Christian Faith, mocking the idea that Jesus could possibly be the only way to God, and declaring that all religions are worshipping the same God, just by different names. The archbishop is a great man who has done wonderful work for reconciliation and peace. I salute him for all the good he has done, but I am sad and troubled that he would be so dismissive of the supreme work of love and salvation that our Lord Jesus Christ did for us on the cross."

For more on this you might want to read my essay on "Genesis and African Bishops" here:


Best wishes, "New Reformation Advocate"

Anonymous said...

David - thanks for the "props" and for noticing the comment about TF. I appreciated the reference to "A Mighty Fortress", and note that the ELCA is only a couple of years behind TEC in jumping like lemmings off the cliff! I know many nervous Lutherans these days who are watching TEC disintegrate and seeing their own institution's future.

CP - it isn't about sex and you know it. Your comment is one of the tactics being used to further the agenda, because it counts upon unwritten rules of common acceptable public social behavior to not intrude upon individual privacy to shut up the opposition.

I could care less about what anyone does in his or her bedroom. What I care about is the message being sent by the Church to ALL people - especially me, a sinner.

No, this is about a systematic dismantling of the Faith by people who largely don't have any faith in particular (except a strong belief in self) and are using the institution for non-religious socio-political activism; who do not understand the underpinnings of the Faith nor care to understand them; who want to use the institution of TEC to put a visible and public "seal of approval" upon their own particular self-interests without regard to what that approval costs the institution itself -but especially- the cost to our own salvation.

Simply, if sin no longer exists (and if any group of humans can decided themselves what is sin and what is not), then there simply is no reason for the Church to exist. God is dead. Yes, I think that is the ultimate goal...and I'm not pinning that specifically upon the GLBT "community", but upon a great many of people with whom have aligned themselves with the GLBT movement. And, who would want God dead? To those of us who believe in "good" and "evil", the answer is clear.

With the mass exodus of Christians leaving TEC, why aren't throngs of grateful, "liberated", affirmed persons joining TEC to fill the pews and coffers? They aren't coming, because the institution has served its new purpose.

The fact that one can begin to hear a death rattle emanating from TEC is testimony that God continues running things.

Anonymous said...

I'm always saddened when people use the statements of the PB as if they define the doctrine of the Episcopal Church. One of the wonders of the Anglican tradition is that our doctrine is defined by what's in the BCP, and I believe the overwhelming majority of churches in TEC, except those on the left and right fringes, use straight BCP every Sunday (including the creed and "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit"). All the stories of "Muslim and Hindu" influences in Episcopal worship (as a bishop in England said, as if it were fact) are completely bogus, except in a very small number of notorious places. My guess is that you could walk into 95% at least of churches in TEC on a Sunday morning and not know what side they are on in the current Church Wars unless the Priest says something in the sermon or there's something in the bulletin.

You would think that church conservatives, of all people, would take the long view. There are lots of 40 year periods in church history when bad things happened, and yet the church righted herself. The best witness to faith is to sit tight and trust that the Lord will make it clear which innovations are of the Spirit and which are not. It's his ministry we're taking part in, after all.