Friday, August 1, 2008

What is the religion of TEC?

Could be Christianity (classic, orthodox) - might even be Anglican Christianity (Cranmer, Hooker, BCP, 39A, C.S. Lewis, Archbishops Temple, Ramsey, and Williams, N.T. Wright). Or something different? A 21st century gnosticism? An 'episcopalian' something 'cause it does have bishops? Now a mere mortal such as myself, not American, not a member of TEC should not make judgements from afar. So let's meet a real American, someone who is actually a bishop of TEC, someone whom I have had the privilege of meeting, and count as a level-headed, moderate sort of a bloke. Peter Beckwith, this is your cue ... and here is Peter Toon, another notable TEC insider to assist with the story:

By Dr Peter Toon

Well done Bishop Beckwith!

Before the Episcopal News Service began its planned press conference on July 30, Bishop Peter Beckwith, Bishop of Springfield, became involved in dialogue with the waiting journalists- and much to their pleasure!.

Here is one thing that he said, probably to the atonishment of some loyal, modern Episcopalians who were present to support the USA cause:

‘It’s not just that we’re not on the same page; We are not in the same book; We are in different libraries. I am dealing with inter-faith relations within The Episcopal Church.’

Recall that this is a diocesan bishop of TEC speaking about the Bishops of the TEC (the ‘we’ includes them all and he is one of them–and in the room are others waiting to take part in the press briefing).. Using rhe picture of reading from a book, Beckwith not only uses this illustration in a clear and common form ( to make the point that ‘we are not reading from the same page’); but he much strengthens the point or distinction between reading from different texts by saying that ‘we are actually reading from different pages in different books.’ And he crowns it all by saying that the reading of very different texts is occuring in two different locations/libraries.

In other words, there are two basic sources of authority in The Episcopal Church — (a) the received Holy Scriptures received and interpreted as the Word of God given to the Church for the salvation of the world; and (b) the Book of Experience, the receiving of the message that God is giving to the Church from the variety of Experience known in all forms of human endeavor, personal, scientific, economic, political, social, psychological etc.. Beckwith tells them that he looks to the first and finds himself very much in a minority in TEC, for the majority look to Experience as the source of revelation, and even see the Bible as itself the record of primitive Experience from centuries ago. and thus not as authoritative as what Gos is revealing Now!

So it is not surprising that Beckwith sees his position in TEC and in the College of Bishops of TEC as being involved not in Christian fellowship but rather in inter-religious dialogue or inter-religious/inter-faith activities. Between the historic, received Religion of TEC (that is received from the PECUSA and the Anglican Family) and the innovatory, present Religion of TEC (based on the Baptismal Covenant as a commitment to the God known via Experience of the world around us) there is a great divide! Different answers arise when such basic questions are asked as: Who is God? Who is Jesus? and What is salvation? Different forms of morality arise when such basic questions as: What is the right relation of a man and woman in creation? and Who may be married in church?


BUT WHY IS IT that so many bishops, clergy and laity outside the USA - e.g. many at Lambeth 08– do not see that what is fuelling the new sexual ethics and agenda of TEC is a new Religion, a wholly revised form of Christian Worship, Doctrine, Polity, Discipline and Ethics?.

Why is it that those who espouse and propagate this new Religion are welcomed at Lambeth as if they were Bishops holding to the ‘faith once delivered to the saints’?

Though this new ‘Faith’ may use traditional terms, symbols and ceremonial, it has in reality only the most minimal connection with the classical Anglican Faith known in the USA from the seventeenth century onwards, the Reformed Catholic Religion found in the Formularies and best writings of the divines of The Protestant Episcopal Church USA from the 1780s through to the 1960s.

July 31 2008 Trinity X The Revd Dr Peter Toon
(Hat-tip to Anglican Mainstream for this post: incidentally, for a conservative site, Anglican Mainstream is very inclusive in its postings!!)

If you want a little bit of background to why Bishop Peter might be talking about the need to conduct inter-faith relationships within TEC cross-over to the Ugley Vicar (just added to My Bloglist).

The for additional comment, follow up on this excerpt from Terry Wong of Global South:

"In the earlier part of this year, I had the privilege of spending time in conversation with a clergy who was Vicar of one of the largest Episcopalian parishes on the West Coast. He had just left his Church recently, and the parting of ways amicably handled with his Bishop. I could sense he was a humble but honest man. He told me that he came to a point where ‘enough was enough.’ TEC has become a different religion and he recount those various Synod occasions where these signs were clearly exhibited and unashamedly. It came to a point where he needed to walked away and move on. There is only so much one can do (or take) in coping with things which are beyond one’s control. Of what use the presidential address will be for him? How long can one keep listening and empathizing?"


Anonymous said...

"BUT WHY IS IT that so many bishops, clergy and laity outside the USA - e.g. many at Lambeth 08– do not see that what is fuelling the new sexual ethics and agenda of TEC is a new Religion, a wholly revised form of Christian Worship, Doctrine, Polity, Discipline and Ethics?"

We have been saying this for years, and Gafcon made exactly this point - for which it was angrily called out by Tom Wright. It just underlines the need for a real historical theology if a church is to avoid becoming a neo-protestant sect - like the Socinians and crazier Anabaptists of the 16th century (the one embracing a form of rationalism, the other invoking 'Geist' - for which read 'experience'); or the gnostics of the 2nd. Frank Griswold plowed the latter path in mostly undigested maunderings about Syriac Christianity, and in a denomination given to 'arty' souls (big on music and drama, no time for sermons and Bible study), you can imagine how things will shake out. Tec's following in Central and South America is actually tiny numerically compared to the evangelical churches and sects (I am sure almost nobody in Brazil has heard of the Igreja Episcopal do Brasil) but the generous subventions from Tec keep these bodies afloat and provide an alternative Potemkin communion for the day the split comes. Remember also that Tec 'gifted' a 'free seminar' on church planting(!) to NZ (who says Americans don't do irony?), which was evidently a piece of networking.
The Church of England is broke, Lambeth '08 is running a huge deficit, and 815 still has enormous reserves from canny investment of Dead White Episcopalians' money in Wall Street. As they say, 'Do the math.'

Peter Carrell said...

Hello Anonymous
For the life of me I cannot work out who you are. You know heaps about TEC, appear to be walking the streets of Canterbury at this time, and yet know almost obscure details about our church down under such as the TEC gifted church planting seminar a year or so back (which was very good I am told)!
But you do not write like David Virtue, who is a NZer, domiciled in the States, and with a similar encyclopaedic knowledge of the Communion!
Agreed: we need good historical theology.

Peter Carrell said...

Hello Anonymous
Its okay. I think I have worked it out!
Pleae keep posting - you keep me up to the mark and up to the minute!