Thursday, June 05, 2008

More Preaching on Evangelism

Here is another excellent sermon on evangelism and on unity, this one from Fr Warren Shaw. I have trimmed it a bit, but not in substance.

"I tell you there shall be more joy in heaven over one sinner that repents than over 99 just persons who need no repentance."

The Anglican Catholic Church began as a haven for persons in the Episcopal Church who were in no need of repentance. They were the faithful remnant who had not bowed the knee to Baal, which is to say that they had not accepted the innovations introduced into the Episcopal Church to make it conform to the prevailing culture.

We were not really a missionary church from the outset. Evangelism is not in our DNA. And today we are paying the price for that.

We have been going along for years depending on Episcopalians coming to us for refuge from the innovations and false teachings of the church in which they were raised. That source of new members has about dried up. Those who cannot accept the innovation of a female priesthood have already left. Those who cannot accept the revised prayer book have already left. Those who remain have "received" those innovations and accepted them as normal.

There are some who are leaving now because they cannot accept same sex marriage, but they are not coming to us. They are going to the newer Anglican bodies that have a Protestant orientation and are able to accept the previous innovations. So we can’t really look to disgruntled Episcopalians for new members. We have to look elsewhere.

One place to look is among Bible believing Christians who feel a need for the ancient liturgy and structure of the catholic church but are not ready to submit to the jurisdiction of Rome and the innovations that come with it – innovations such as papal infallibility and more recent dogmas concerning the Virgin Mary. This group of people constitutes an especially good place to look for younger clergy to replace the retired Episcopalians who constitute the bulk of our aging pool of priests.

But the biggest pool, and the one we really need to fish in, is the vast number of people who have no church relationship to speak of and who really are in need of repentance, forgiveness, and conversion. These are the lost sheep, who wander through life with no compass and no anchor to counter the changing winds of popular culture that carry them along to nowhere. These are people who have no faith to turn to and no reliable community to fall back on when disaster strikes. These are people who are living off of the inherited moral capital of past generations and are rapidly exhausting it. And when one of these lost sheep is rescued, there is great joy among the angels in heaven.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that those of us who are here do not have sins to repent of and ways of living that we have to change. What I am suggesting is that one of the sins we have to repent of, and one of the ways of operating that we have to change, is the smug attitude that we are the true church and anyone who wants to join us can do so by becoming like us. What really has to happen is that we have to become more like Christ, lay aside our comfortable status, and go out looking for people who are lost and hungry and scared.

I wish I could give you a plan for doing that, but I can’t. There are people who can, however, and if we seek them out, we can learn from them together. It may not be in our DNA to do that. But DNA is not destiny unless we allow it to be.

To recognize a problem and talk about it is the first step in solving it. This passivity is a problem we cannot afford to ignore.

And it’s not the only one. There is also the problem of separation from those who should be our allies in the struggle for a true and growing Anglican presence in America. I don’t know how many Anglican bodies there are outside of The Episcopal Church in this country, but I know there are way too many. This alphabet soup is confusing, to say the least, to people who might otherwise be attracted to the Anglican way, and it is certainly sinful.

I have spoken to Bishop Campese of the Anglican Church in America about this, and I have also mentioned it to our own Bishop McClean. Both bishops tell me that they are disturbed by the situation, but none of the bishops seem to be disturbed enough to do something about it. Maybe that’s because you and I are not sufficiently disturbed.

If all of us who call ourselves Anglicans could share our resources, including our buildings and our clergy, we could develop the critical mass needed to have an impact on the kind of people we need to reach -- people who are attracted to Anglican scholarship, Anglican liturgy, Anglican fidelity to the apostolic faith-- but such people are rightly repulsed by the pettiness and infighting that they see among us.

There were differences among the apostles and the churches that they founded, but when outsiders observed how Christians lived they said, "Behold how they love one another." That’s not what outsiders say now when they look at the complex array of American Anglican churches. Now what they say is, "Call me when you get your act together."

There’s an old nursery rhyme that comes to mind when I think about the state of our church:

"Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep and doesn’t know where to find them.
"Leave them alone and they’ll come home, wagging their tails behind them."

That nursery rhyme gives very bad advice. The lost sheep will not find their way home on their own. They will not find their way here, even if we make it much easier than we do now. We have to go out and look for them. That’s what the gospel says, and if we ignore it, we will all die in our little bunkers, and no one will notice.


poetreader said...

Father Shaw,

This makes me want to revert to my Pentecostal heritage, to jump up and yell, "AMEN!", and "Preach on, brother!"

We need to hear a lot more of this, and we need to listen and do.

ed pacht

Anonymous said...

Albion and Fr. Shaw,

Excellent post! I find that your heart and mind seem to work in the same direction that mine does. I have visited this site regularly for a little while now and find it nourishing and helpful. I am a Roman Catholic and have been most welcomed here and I appreciate that.

This post strikes a particular chord for me because I believe that nothing short of full communion between "all" christians is the Lord's will here on earth and ,of course, in eternity. The separations in the visible Body of Christ-the Church are sad and not in fulfillment of the Gospel.

Now, with regard to Fr. Shaw's sermon. I find the following two points to be helpful.

"There were differences among the apostles and the churches that they founded,..."

"I have spoken to Bishop Campese of the Anglican Church in America about this, and I have also mentioned it to our own Bishop McClean. Both bishops tell me that they are disturbed by the situation, but none of the bishops seem to be disturbed enough to do something about it."

Acts 15:7 begins thus: "And when there had been much disputing..." It seems to me that Anglicans in their "disputing" need to figure out just how they will complete this verse. IOW, who, in Anglicanism, can, "stand up" and be a single voice to bring the communion together to move beyond the "much disputing." It seems that historically in Anglicanism that when there are disputes the answer is to separate and re-form somehow. From an Ecclesiological standpoint this very idea is troubling because it represents a privation of sorts which is clearly not of God. IOW, God is obviously not divisible. There is no privation in God. So, separation in the Body of Christ- The Church can only mean that we as people have messed up.

With regard to the Bishops in the Anglican Communion that Fr, Shaw mentioned; it seems clear that their leadership (Episcopal) is vital and necessary. They must lead the sheep. However, by all accounts of things I have gathered from my interactions here there is not a single voice to "stand up" and further no one here even believes that such a position exists in the Body of Christ here on earth. In short, there is no "living voice' or principal that preserves the unity of the sheep. There is in Anglicanism an Episcopacy, of course, however, it does not seem capable of uniting the sheep. The Anglican Episcopacy- as a body- is made up of multiple 'heads.' Therefore, by definition this Episcopacy is divided amongst many leaders with no single leader having the final say if needed. This situation, of course, means that the potential for division within this Episcopacy is not only great but of perpetual concern. The Anglican laity know by faith and instinct to gather around their Bishop. But, and I say this with respect, the Bishops themselves do not have someone to gather around that is seen in their Episcopacy as the leader of the Episcopacy. It's as if the Bishops themselves are somewhat like the lost sheep who are searching for a way to the Unity of Christ's Church.


Fr. Robert Hart said...


You invoke Acts 15, the Proto-Council. The chapter teaches that the disputes took place in a conciliar context. The disputes are not recorded, and we have no evidence that they were heated, or whether the apostles and presbyters at the council even considered the doctrine of the Judaizers itself. The evidence indicates that they gathered because they all agreed that this new teaching was wrong. The disputes appear, therefore, to have been about fine details, not about yea or nay on the teaching of the Judaizers.

Conciliar authority is what the chapter clearly teaches. Some Roman Catholics make a very major point about the possible indication of Peter's teaching authority in the Council. This is evident, and refers us back to chapters 10 and 11. Nonetheless, we have only indications about where that may lead, and nothing that is clear enough to justify the view of those Roman Catholics who make much ado about it.

What is clearly established in Acts 15 is a scriptural basis for Conciliar Authority. We see the Universal Church represented by Presbyters, and represented chiefly by the apostles (who alone speak at the Council with authority, since it names Peter, Paul and James).

What we have is the scriptural basis for the Ecumenical Councils, where the successors of the apostles gathered together to discuss the problems caused by later heresies.

poetreader said...


Your presence here is appreciated. Gentle disagreement such as yours is important if we are all to be kept thinking, even if that disagreement is the somewhat annoying constant ringing of the changes upon the one issue of papal supremacy, as applied to every other issue.

However, I fail to understand why a single human voice, standing as the final authority, from whom there is no appeal, might be a desirable thing. Perhaps it would be tidier, but when did God's workings appear tidy to mere men? The Scriptures are not tidy, nor are the writings of the Fathers.

I find a basic and somewhat frightening problem in the developed position of the Bishop of Rome, in that it attempts to put headship of the Church here on earth rather than in heaven. There is no multitude of heads, but one head and one only, Christ Jesus, and to refer to one man as 'head', even in passing, even if everything said of the papal office were true, is to arrogate to a man the position that is Christ's alone. Christ is not an absent overlord, but a constant presence in the midst of His people, with each and every one of whom he is in direct and intimate contact.

Unity comes not from a humanly perceptible apparatus, however well-constructed, but from the unity of each of the parts to Him. In fact, the appearance given by a centralized organization with a single 'head' often serves to mask a pervading disunity under a false appearance, a statement that may be made of the contemporary Roman Catholic Church, whose inner disunity is one of the reasons I cannot feel powerfully drawn to its bosom. On the contray, I see greater unity among the squabbling jurisdictions of the Continuing Anglicans or among the almost as disorderly Eastern Orthodox than I perceive in the monolithic umbrella of the RCC.

If one were to see the need of a single central authority-figure, I do believe that Benedict is a better choice than there has been in centuries, but still ...

The whole idea of a single head on earth offends my understanding of the Gospel and of the historic Catholic faith. Benedict is a mere man, possessed of the free will that is arguably a part of the imago dei. I see no indication that God promised to remove that free will from anyone. Therfore Benedict can fail and needs to be subject to the authority of the college of bishops, not their absolute overlord.

And all that seems a bit tangential to the matter at hand. How do we get beyond all this infighting to show a sinful and doomed world that there is an Answer?


Canon Tallis said...

I am thankful for Father Shaw's sermon and that Albion posted it, but even more so for Father Hart and Ed's responses to Patrick. I think Patrick and Benedict XVI need to read the New Testament more deeply and with more understanding, something which I believe the Roman Church has not done since the fateful and tragic election of Hildebrand as bishop of Rome.