Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Hepworth on TEC and Departing Parishes

Our hearts and our prayers are with the former members of the Episcopal Church – from Virginia and other places - as they begin to "walk apart".

We understand their experience that is at once painful and joyful. Joyful, because there can only be joy for those who walk in His ways. Painful, because being forced by the power of conscience to follow the way of Jesus and separate themselves from a church that has chosen the way of sinfulness, involves the risk of leaving family and history and much-loved places. It involves leaving good people who are still confused and not yet driven by their consciences to this point. It involves, above all, leaving in the knowledge that others have done the wrong, and we are paying the price. In the Crucified Christ, we gaze at the one who has already paid the price, and he was without fault.

Our feelings for those now walking apart are intense, because we began walking this way thirty years ago, and it has been a long time in the wilderness. For Anglicans in the Catholic tradition (who until then were in beautiful balance with Anglicans of the Evangelical tradition, producing an Anglicanism that was a true Communion, with a dynamism that took the Faith to the furthest corners of the world), the point at which conscience broke was the ordination of women to the Priesthood. Catholic Order could not be stretched that far, for we could not be party to Sacramental and Eucharistic schism against the pleading of those who led the Catholic and Orthodox churches of East and West.

We grieved then, and still grieve, that our fellow Anglicans little understood the cause of our reluctant decision to walk apart, and that in many places they embraced this first wave of Anglican gender revolution with enthusiasm. We understood that we were following the demands of the Gospel and the practice of the undivided Church (to which all Anglicans once appealed) in upholding the great doctrines of Creation, Incarnation and Redemption, each of which is challenged by the ordination of women.

Separation in the Church can never be justified by the sinfulness of a minister, even a chief minister. Each of us sins and cries out for redemption. We have in our turn struggled to understand those who seem to be now separating because of the unworthiness of fallen human nature to be immersed in the work of God. But we recognise that we are now dealing with much more than sinful ministers. In the Episcopal Church, and elsewhere in the Anglican world, those very same doctrines, of the Father in Creation and the Son of God in Redemption, are denied by those who deny the power of God's will in human creation, and the even greater power of God's will in the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus, his Son. "Mother Jesus" and "Gay marriage" offend the mind of God with just the same intensity as "gender is irrelevant" offends His creating Spirit. The ancient Church, and Jesus himself, would have us walk apart from those who teach evil about God and Salvation. We have noted with joy the steadfast leadership of the Province of Nigeria, the Diocese of Sydney, and the Anglican Mission in America, in upholding as biblical the discipline of East and West on ordination, as well as the related biblical discipline of gender relationships in marriage and morality.

There is now a great company of those who walk apart but who continue to cherish their identity as Anglican Christians. In the impoverished townships of Africa, in the persecuted Anglican communities of India and Pakistan, in the prophetic fragments of Christianity in Asia, in Australia and the Pacific nations, and throughout the American continent, there are now thousands of Anglican communities that have heard the Gospel imperative to "walk apart". That they do not walk together surprises none of us – people do not walk together after they have suffered devastation. They must be gathered by shepherds who know and love their sheep. That is our next challenge. May God give us strength, especially to those just joining the walking. May He make the rough places smooth for them, and every mountain and hill in their pathway be made low.

+John Hepworth, Primate, Traditional Anglican Communion

From The Messenger

6 comments:

Ohio Anglican said...

The AMiA just held its Winter Conference in Jacksonville, Florida, with over 1,600 people present, including 8 Anglican bishops from around the world. Since their beginning in 2000, they have grown from a handful of churches to over 100, with 60 missions in the implementation stage as of Dec. 31, 2006. Over 50% of these 160 ministries are "new church plants"!!! This is more congregations than the ACC has in the US, more than the APCK has in the US, etc. Why are they growing so much? They have a PLAN and they are implementing it!! It's a shame that such a missionary-minded group is building on the shaky foundation of "grandfathering in" former TEC priestesses, and planning to "ordain" women to the diaconate. But, we can certainl learn a lot from their zealous missionary attitude! This is what some of the "departing Episcopalians" are up to!!

Ken said...

Well part of it is that the AMiA still has an official connection to the Anglican Communion and the ABC. I think that counts for alot with departing Episcopalians, and its probably why more people haven't left in the past.

Isn't AMiA more of a low church organization? People of that persuasion probably never gave the Anglocatholic groups a thought.

That's not to say that the continuing groups couldn't be more evangelistic or develop some sort of growth plan.

Ohio Anglican said...

T'm not sure it would be fair to say AMiA is a low church organization. Many are high church. Evangelical as a word has two meanings--one is a misuse. It has come to mean "fundamentalist" or "radical"---is. Jerry Falwell, Dr. D. James Kennedy. That is the wrong use of the word! The word really means "to be one who spreads the Gospel". The Rev. Fr. John Wesley was a very High Church Anglican, who believed in celebrating the Holy Days, believed in weekly communion at a time when few Anglicanpriests did, and in many ways was an early leader of the Anglo-Catholic Revival. But, he was very evangelical. His love for the unchurched to hium to the slums of London where he preached on the street corners, to the mine shafts in Wales to preach to the miners, etc., etc. All true catholics should be evangelical in the true, good sense of the word. If we claim to be Anglo-Catholic and fail to be evangelical, then we have simply failed. Many of those in the AMiA did consider the Continuum, but back away from it NOT because of it not being in communion with Lambeth, but rather because of in the insane infighting between the "divided Continuum."

Ken said...

There is an AMiA group startup last year in town that meets at the Presbyterian church building, maybe I'll go one Sunday to see what they are like.

I've attended the local continuing church (1928 bcp) which has only about 10 members, but they say they've been in existence since the whole continuing movement started. I think they just want to be left alone, IOW, not evangelistic, and they are tired of all the inter-jurisdiction "politics".

Ohio Anglican said...

Ken: From what I can see you'll find a broad range of churchmanship among AMiA (this is from simply looking at lots of their websites----I'm attending our services at the ACC on Sunday. Also its about a three hour drive to the nearest AMiA mission.) Some use the 1979 "BCP", some the Book of Alternative Services (proposed in Britain to replace the 1662 BCP, but rejected by her majesty who kept the 1662 BCP in place); some have traditional music, some have "praise bands"(something that sneds chills up my spine)! I believe there is a wide diversity there. About the only thing I haven't seen any of the say they use is the 1928 BCP. A press release yesterday said the AMiA has published a new worship book called "the Green Book". One reviewer said it wasn't as bad as the 1879 book, but he wasn't thrilled with it. It is supposedly a modern language update of the 1662 BCP.

Michael said...

Yes, the AMiA seems to know a thing or two about planting churches, and although I have theological concerns (some serious), I certainly believe that they are sincerely seeking the will of God, and that God is using them. They've made themselves available. Many Eastern Orthodox jurisdictions are also experiencing steady growth with new parishes and an active outreach to non-Orthodox. With both of these examples in mind, I'd have to say that there is certainly potential for continuing churches to grow and prosper. It takes a firm sense of identity, mission, and commitment to evangelism.

The continuing church does not exist to provide a safe place for disgruntled Anglicans; it exists to be "the church" - that is, to make disciples and baptize them, to teach them to obey everything that Christ has commanded, to rejoice in his presence until the end of the age, and to continue in the Apostles' teaching, in the breaking of the Bread, and in the prayers.

Focusing on the latest sins of the Episcopal Church is no better an alternative to the Great Commission than is the social gospel.