Nonetheless, if the charge of single issue theology is to made, I for one plead guilty, and glad of it. Let me explain.
It has been argued by some that Continuing Anglicans care only about Women's "ordination," and by others that Continuing Anglicans care only about the Prayer Book. But, the Affirmation of St. Louis was written in 1977, before the 1979 book was finished, which book did not hit the pews until 1980. And, although the Affirmation was written because the "ordination" of women had produced an emergency by nullifying Holy Orders (and therefore nullifying the sacraments of Holy Communion, Absolution and Confirmation), the substance of the Affirmation was a long time in the making. The movement that produced it began its work in the 1960s, during which decade the Bishop of San Fransisco became the lasting symbol of heresy.
Bishop James Pike was more than a symbol of heresy. The failure of the House of Bishops to hold a heresy trial, or take any action, paved the way for all that would follow, including the nod and wink given to the rebellious bishops who defied Canon law in 1975 and "ordained" women. Instead of the Episcopal Church taking a stand for any sort of order, the General Convention of 1976 rubber-stamped an illegal and defiant act, inserting its approval into Canon Law by nothing more authoritative than a majority vote (no theology).
After being lenient with Pike, however, how could they take a strong stand anymore on anything? Pike's life of immorality and alcoholism also went by without church discipline of any kind. By the time of his son's suicide in 1966, Bishop Pike had already perverted evidence in the death of his secretary mistress, and had his first divorce. When I was in Berkeley California in 2005, retired Archbishop Robert Morse of the APCK told me about the days when he was Fr. Morse, a priest who was ministering to the distraught first wife of Bishop Pike, while Pike himself was on wife number three, and was influenced by a medium who supposedly helped him communicate with his dead son.
Pike finally resigned his position. But, he had already denied the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and every other miracle during his time as bishop, a credo of unbelief that he summarized in his final sermon. In 1969 he went to the desert in the holy land, because the medium told him he would find the tomb where Jesus was buried. His car broke down, and though wife number three made it out of the desert alive, he died there of dehydration, and his body was found days later.
Pike's life and death were a tragedy, partly because he had been quite orthodox and none too shallow a scholar in his early years. Also, partly, because it seems that he was not suited, due to personal weaknesses and apparent psychological instability, to the position he attained. But, more tragic was the Episcopal Church. The House of Bishops failed to take action, and never again seemed able to regain its lost authority on matters theological or moral. They exert a lot of authority on matters canonical, but on nothing to do with God.
Toleration of orthodoxy
Yes, the issue is one of rebellion against the authority of Almighty God, and the denial of his word. But, that rebellion did not begin when Gene Robinson's consecration was approved in 2003. It began when orthodoxy went from being taught authoritatively to being merely tolerated as one option among many. In fact, that is how Robinson was done a disservice by the priest who led him into the Episcopal Church. When Robinson objected that he did not actually believe the Nicene Creed, he was told that he did not have to believe anything at all (justified by his mentor priest with a completely ridiculous version of the Elizabethan Settlement and "Anglican Comprehensiveness"). Robinson joined the Episcopal Church because he was led to think that no beliefs would be required of him. And, it turned out that he was right.
At a meeting in September 2003 (that I have written about before), I found myself surrounded by distraught Episcopalians who were in a state of shock from the approval of Robinson's consecration during their General Convention in August. Exactly why they invited me to speak, a priest who was not a part of their denomination, has remained a mystery to me. A speaker from an organization then called the American Anglican Council, took the floor as if he was the main attraction (when he was merely one of three speakers, an Episcopal priest, this AAC fellow, and me. The Episcopal priest urged everyone to stay in the Episcopal Church because, he said "we have a church worth fighting for!"). The AAC spokesman stated the goal of his organization. That goal was, in his words, to take the Episcopal Church back to "where it was the day before the vote on Robinson's consecration."
I could not sit through this quietly, as I watched heads nodding all around the room. I stood up and asked what the gain would be in going back in time, instead of being the "church" that had done the deed, to being the "church" about to do the deed. I tried to make them understand that their "church" had not suddenly gone off the rails, and that this was but the latest symptom of a fatal disease that had been diagnosed by my kind of Anglican long ago. 2
Just before leaving Arizona last year, I sat with a group of clergymen from various alternative Anglican bodies who wanted to give each other the support of prayer, and to have a level of communication. At the time I was with the APCK, and the group included clergy from the ACA, the CEC, the REC and the AMiA. One of the AMiA clergy made a remarkable statement, in the form of a hypothetical question. "Who would have thought, just five years ago, that the Episcopal Church would be in the state it is in today?" I was seated next to an elderly ACA priest, and we just looked at each other in a state of amazement. Turning my attention to the AMiA clergyman, I said, "those of us in the Affirmation of St. Louis churches are not surprised. Our people were aware of the problem thirty years ago."
It is all the same problem. What the Reasserters seem blissfully unaware of, with their unenlightened chatter about "salvation issues," is that the authority of God's word has been denied repeatedly for a long time. If the articles of faith in the Creed were not worth fighting for, everything to do with the Incarnation and the Trinity, the revelation of which doctrines provides our Gospel and the mission of the Church, why should they be shocked, shocked, that it gets around to same sex blessings and openly "gay" bishops? How could that not happen?
And, yes, that includes women's "ordination." Can they not see that the confusion of sexual identity comes from the world, not from the Holy Spirit? Can they not see that if a person's sex is irrelevant to the sacrament of Holy Orders, they cannot then make it relevant to the sacrament of Matrimony? If Connie can be a priest and father to God's people, why can Adam not marry Steve? If the entire Tradition of receiving God's word as taught from the beginning, when the earliest Fathers interpreted scripture, can be overthrown for the first, how can it hold its authority for the second? In fact, for anything?
I believe in the word of God, as revealed by the Holy Spirit and received and understood by the Church Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est- "What has been believed everywhere, always and by all."
I believe in single issue theology.
1. It would be higher and better to speak of Divine Authorship of scripture, which automatically carries the idea of authority, but so much more.
2. The AAC speaker had also mentioned that Archbishop Peter Akinola, Primate of Nigeria, cared deeply about the Episcopal Church, and that his organization was grateful. This too I challenged. "Archbishop Akinoal does not care about the Episcopal Church as an organization at all. He cares about the salvation of souls."