Thursday, June 21, 2012

That was then/This is now (Or: The more things change the more they stay the same)

As the clock ticks toward General Convention 2012, my pre-convention prepraration has included reading the Blue Book, writing some resolutions, brushing up on Episcopal polity, digging through the archives and trying to keep up with email. (All while doing my regularly-scheduled-pays-the-mortgage-parish-priest job... knowing that all the other deputies are in pretty much the same boat.)

ANYWAY ... those last two agenda items -- the archives digging and email reading ... came right up against each other today as I encountered two very similar gauntlets thrown down -- one prior to the meeting of the 65th General Convention in 1976 over the impending ordination of women and the other just this week in advance of the 77th General Convention over the impending authorization of liturgical resources for the blessing of same-sex unions.

AKA Same stuff/different day. Onward to Indianapolis!

An Open Letter to the Bishops of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America

February 23, 1976

Reverend Fathers in God:

The undersigned, meeting recently at Seabury House as associates in the Fellowship of Concerned Churchmen, have reviewed the issues which are throwing the Episcopal Church into increasing turmoil and confusion.

We feel impelled by our faith and by our loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ and to His Church to make a solemn declaration of conscience before our Bishops and the Episcopal Church. We use this means to make clear with all the gravity which lies in our power our common attitude.

We do not intend to list here, much less to debate, the many issues which divide churchmen today, the resolution of which will affect the character and validity of the Christian witness of all Episcopalians. We simply wish to state with all the emphasis at our command the nature of our attitude, both now and in the face of possible developments in General Convention which could influence such fundamental principles as: the validity of the Catholic Orders of the ordained ministry; the beauty, majesty and dignity of our common worship inherited through the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, and the maintenance of the Catholic faith embodied and protected therein; the authoritative Christian nature of the moral and ethical values held and taught by the Church.

There must be no conceivable doubt, Sirs, that in all these areas we are moved by a deep sense, a deep certainty, that the Episcopal Church is being urged to make irrevocable errors which could remove it from the Holy Catholic Church and could destroy -- whether at one move or gradually and insidiously -- its validity and credibility as an authentic voice of God to man in our age.

We beg you to understand and to believe that we and many other churchmen with us face a true crisis of conscience.

We do not classify worship as an easy matter for word changes; it affects the Church's very being. We do not classify changes in the nature of the priesthood and episcopate as a mere matter of adjusting to "enlightened modern secular views" of sociological relationships, to be accomplished by parliamentary maneuvers and voted by parliamentary majorities favoring constitutional or canonical changes; such changes can destroy the sacramental life of the Church. We do not classify the rise of a relaxed moral code and teaching as admirable evidence of growing tolerance or as a permissible way to adjust ourselves to a secular society increasingly impatient to throw off all moral restraints; we see it as treason to Christian teachings about morality, sin and repentance, to whose hard truths we must remain loyal if we make any pretense of passing on the message proclaimed by Jesus Christ.

In all of this, we perceive the most immediate threat to the Church's life to lie in the proposal to ordain women. We must proclaim in all conscience, with deep pain, that the proposed changes in the nature of the ordained ministry are unacceptable to us. In this we believe we speak for all those who, like us, are first and foremost loyal to the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of the Creeds and have always hitherto been loyal to the Episcopal Church as a cherished expression of the universal Church. If General Convention were to exceed its authority and purport to authorize the ordination of women into the priesthood or the episcopate, we would refuse to accept this action. We would not recognize the validity either of General Convention's action or of any results of such action. We would not accept or recognize as priests or bishops any women purportedly ordained under such spurious authority. We would never submit to such a development, for to do so would be to betray our most conscientious religious beliefs and loyalties.

A moment of truly profound crisis and tragedy is upon us and the Church. Those who are striving to push the Church irretrievably into that crisis and tragedy should be under no illusions as to the test to which they put us nor as to our immovable will. They should be under no illusion that, if successful, they would not shatter the unity of our branch of the Church, in the inevitable course of time.

Right Reverend Sirs, you and all others in and out of positions of authority in the Church should understand beyond the shadow of a doubt that we, the undersigned, stand together in our resolve to fight with every Christian means at our disposal to prevent an alteration in the nature of the ordained Ministry. Our confidence is strong that such a change can be prevented. We rely upon God's continued guidance and protection of His Church.

However, if God in His inscrutable purposes should permit the Episcopal Church to depart from the Catholic community, we would feel called by him to be steadfast. Moreover, we and countless Episcopalians sharing our crisis of conscience are confident that, whatever trials might come, God would in due season open an acceptable way of preserving the Christian heritage we have received. It is a heritage in which we glory, which has strengthened and uplifted us, of which we would not deprive our posterity, and which will not die.

We want you, our Bishops, to know the depth of our feeling. We want you to know our fixed resolve. We trust that, knowing these things, you may help all Episcopalians to understand what is at stake and to draw back, even at this late date, from condemning the Church to carry its Cross to Calvary. If Calvary were to become inescapable, nobody should forget that Calvary was not the end of the story.

Our faith is threatened but we trust in the God who parted the waters of the Red Sea. We are beset but we are serene. We are in arms and we are confident.

Faithfully yours in Christ,

This letter has been signed by the following individuals, representing the organizations and publications stated, and the original signatures are on file with the Chairman of The Fellowship of Concerned Churchmen.

(The Hon.) W.R. Baker, Vice President, The American Church Union
Frederick Cooper, Vice President, Episcopal Renaissance of Pennsylvania
Ellen Crowell (Mrs. Albert W.), Chairman, The Certain Trumpet
(The Rev. Canon) Albert J. duBois, President, The American Church Union
(The Rev. Canon) Albert J. duBois, Coordinator, Episcopalians United
(Mrs.) Dorothy A. Faber, Editor of The Christian Challenge
(The Rev.) J. Raymond Fisher, Board of Directors, The Foundation for Christian Theology
(The Rev.) Stanwood E. Graves, Board of Directors, The Foundation for Christian Theology
W. Clark Hanna, Past President, Episcopal Renaissance of Pennsylvania
(The Rev.) Robert C. Harvey, The Canterbury Guild
Perry Laukhuff, Editor of The Certain Trumpet and Chairman, The Fellowship of Concerned Churchmen
(The Rev.) Carroll E. Simcox, Editor of The Living Church
(The Rev.) Harry J. Sutcliffe, Director, The Episcopal Guild for the Blind
Walter R. Swindells, Managing Editor of The Anglican Digest


Declaration of the Standing Committee

The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina

June 15, 2012

1. As the Standing Committee of the sovereign Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, we view with dismay and great sadness what appears to be the inevitable outcome of the 2012 General Convention of the Episcopal Church, that is, the official approval of a rite for the blessing of same-gender unions. This is a defining moment in the life of the Episcopal Church, being the first formal adoption of doctrine, discipline and worship which are contrary to the unequivocal mandate of Holy Scripture, the historic Christian faith, Anglican doctrine, and the pronouncements of the four instruments of Anglican unity. Furthermore, the adoption of such a rite at General Convention contravenes the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, and the Book of Common Prayer, and in so doing reveals the bankruptcy of our own polity and institutional integrity.

2. Of greatest concern is not that a blessing of same-gender unions contravenes specific verses of Scripture, though that is unacceptable – of greatest concern is the theology which underlies this rite, set forth in the 82 page I Will Bless You document, which patently redefines the Christian faith, subverting the doctrines of creation and baptism, the nature of sin and salvation, and the grace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

3. We have compassion for those who struggle with and act upon same-gender attraction, and we urge equal treatment for all men and women in the church. Our Lord calls us all, equally, to repent of sin that we might receive forgiveness and cleansing through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, restoration to the Body of Christ, and transformation through the power of the Holy Spirit.

4. We hereby repudiate, denounce and reject any action of the Episcopal Church which purports to bless what our Lord clearly does not bless. Specifically, we declare any rite which purports to bless same-gender unions to be beyond the authority and jurisdiction of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church and without force or effect.

5. In view of the persistent movement of the General Convention of this church away from orthodox Christianity, including its expected embrace of such a rite of same-sex blessings, we further affirm and assert our calling in this diocese to seek to “make Biblical Anglicans for a global age,” and we declare that we will not walk with General Convention down the road they are choosing. We will instead continue to partner with Anglican dioceses, provinces and other Anglican entities here and abroad to further the spread of the Good News of salvation for sinners through faith in Jesus Christ.


Small Farmer in The City said...

Susan, you missed a bit...the SC resolution strikes me as a lineal descendant of SC secession document which helped set off the American Civil War...

That the diocese of a state which is still under Federal review for minority civil rights abuses has the chutzpah to lecture the GC about matters which have not even been debated strikes me as bad faith.

It is particularly irritating inasmuch as the Diocesan has it in his power (naturally it's a he) to opt not to use same gender blessings in his bailiwick: I expect him to announce his wholehearted condemnation of other acts God finds abominable (KJV Prov 6:16-19) and prohibit offenders (or potential offenders) from church weddings...inasmuch as he believes in equality within the Church....

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

It's like, when you know you're a bigot but you can't admit it and certainly don't want anyone else to know, you have to attempt to wax poetic and nose-bleed high in the language you use. Funny thing is, it's such a thinly veiled disguise it's transparent enough for even a child to see - and for history to reveal.

Jeff Allison said...

Apparently we do not have any female bishops.


@jeff ... There weren't in 1976

Matthew said...

Perhaps I just disagree with Episcopal polity, but I often wish there was a way that our general convention resolutions could be binding on all dioceses and all bishops -- so that glbt priests could serve in SC and that the bishop could not prevent it.

uffda51 said...

With regard to the 1976 letter, a few fun facts:

1155 words, written by 13 men, about women, in which the word "women" does not appear until the 7th paragraph, and then only twice more. Well, I'm sure they know (knew) best . . .

Thankfully, things have changed since 1976. I would that say that the wonderful female priests and bishops that I have known personally have, rather than "destroy" the church, have improved it immensely.