A few posts back I asked for prayer for the Diocese of South Carolina as it makes its response to GC 2009. Bishop Mark Lawrence has delivered a strong and substantial address to his clergy in which he charts the way forward for his Diocese to be truly Anglican, Trinitarian, obedient to Scripture, etc, within a framework of TEC in which it plays a prophetic role while reaching out in fellowship to other orthodox Anglicans in the States. Here are several paragraphs in which Bishop Mark reaffirms the doctrines of the church while ruthlessly highlighting the dissonance not only between the majority of TEC and these doctrines but in some cases between TEC and its own canons:
"We face a multitude of false teachings, which like an intrusive vine, is threatening The Episcopal Church as we have inherited and received it from our ancestors. I have called this the false Gospel of Indiscriminate Inclusivity because I see a common pattern in how the core doctrines of our faith are being systematically deconstructed. I must by necessity be brief and cannot give any of these concerns the attention they deserve.
• The Trinity. One of the doctrines under barrage in our Church is an orthodox understanding of the Trinity. At the last three General Conventions I have been concerned about the lack of Eucharists according to the rites in the Book of Common Prayer. Even this I might be able to overlook if the rites that were employed were not so devoid of references to God the Father. In more than a few of these worship services the only reference to God the Father actually in the liturgy was the Lord’s Prayer. In the name of inclusion there’s the perception by some (a variant of radical feminism I suppose) that the references to the Father, and the pronoun “he” is some lingering patriarchal holdover. Yet it has always intrigued me that in all of the Hebrew Scriptures there are only a handful of references to God as Father. If one wants to locate the authority of the Church to worship God as Father one need look no further than Jesus himself. It was he who called God “Abba” and taught the disciples to prayer “Our Father.” Frankly, if Jesus got that one so wrong, why should we turn to him for anything? As many of you know there is more here than I have time to explore this morning.
• Uniqueness of Christ. In my opinion the current Presiding Bishop has repeatedly been irresponsible with her comments regarding the doctrine of the Uniqueness and Universality of Christ. This will not surprise you, for I said as much to her when she visited us shortly after my consecration. In answering questions about the Uniqueness and Universality of Christ she has repeatedly suggested that it is not up to her to decide what the mechanism is God uses to save people. But, quite to the contrary, it is her responsibility as a bishop of the Church to proclaim the saving work of Jesus Christ and to teach what it is the Scriptures and the Church teach. Anything less from us who are bishops is an abdication of our teaching office. Otherwise how will the world know to whom to come? How will the unschooled within the Church know what they should believe? I do not cite this to be controversial but to reference the pervasiveness of this inclusive gospel that would, in its attempt to include all people and all religions, fail to rightly delight in, celebrate and worship him before whom every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord. It does not honor another religion to not be forthright about one’s own. As the English Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali observed , “Fudging important issues and attempting a superficial harmonization gives a sense of unity that is untrue and … prevents real differences from being acknowledged and discussed.” And we haven’t time to discuss brief swipes toward confessional approaches to the faith except to ask—wasn’t the Lordship of Christ the first confession of the faithful—even in the face of Caesar’s claim to Lordship? Did not St. Paul teach that if we confess with our lips and believe in our hearts that Jesus Christ is Lord we shall be saved? Does not the baptismal rite require such a formulaic statement of the individual before the assembled body who witness it? Such statements, unfortunately, make it necessary for us to correct rather than to support leadership.
• Scriptural Authority. This is such a comprehensive dimension of our present crisis in the church that one hardly knows where to begin. But one can hardly do better than St. Ambrose’s statement that “the whole of Holy Scripture be a feast for the soul.” How seldom one hears upon us who are bishops in Tec such glowing statements about the Bible. In my experience all too many of our bishops and priests seem to mine the scriptures for minerals to use in vain idolatries. There is too little confidence expressed in its trustworthiness; the authority and uniqueness of revelation. Indeed, as J.V. Langmead-Casserly once put it, “We have developed a method of studying the Word of God from which a Word of God never comes.” Too often supposed conundrums or difficulties are brought up, seemingly in order to detract from traditional understandings, never considering the damage to the faithful’s trust in God and his Word. Ridiculous arguments such as shellfish and mixed fabrics are dragged out (long reconciled by the Fathers of the Church, as well as the Anglican Reformers) in order to confuse the ill-taught or the untutored in theology. And those who are intellectually sophisticated, schooled in many academic disciplines, but dreadfully untaught in the Bible and theology, are, through little fault of their own, except for naively trusting generations of slothful priests and bishops, are led astray. We must be willing to speak out against this.
• Baptismal Theology detached from Biblical and Catholic doctrine. The phrase heard frequently at General Convention 2009 was “All the sacraments for all the Baptized”. One suspects that great Catholic teacher of the 4th Century, St. Cyril of Jerusalem would have been unconvinced for he wrote tellingly of Simon Magus, “he was baptized, but not enlightened. His body was dipped in water, but admitted not the Spirit to illuminate his heart. His body went down and came up; but his soul was not buried together with Christ nor with him raised.” (see Acts 8:9-24) Nevertheless, this inadequate baptismal theology was used to argue for the full inclusion of partnered GLBT persons to all the orders of the Church—deacons, priests and bishops. What it singularly misses is the straightforward teaching of the catechism, not to mention of the New Testament’s “teaching that baptism is a dying to self and sin and a rising to new life in Christ.” (N.T. Wright) Even if one would turn to the simplicity of the catechism one would encounter this question and answer: Q. What is required of us at Baptism? A. It is required that we renounce Satan, repent of our sins, and accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Since when has baptism been the ticket to ordination in the Church? The Archbishop’s perceptive comment in section 8 of “Communion, Covenant and our Anglican Future” is pertinent here.
• Human Sexuality. While it has been a clever device of some in recent years to refer to the varied approach to marriage in the different epochs of biblical history, often done in ways that are intended to bring more confusion rather than clarity, (ignoring that well honored hermeneutic of interpreting the less clear passages of Holy Scripture by the clearer, or not interpreting one text in such a way that it is repugnant to another) we are back with that tendency of ordained leaders of the Church and professors of religion to confound the faithful rather than to instruct—it has been used repeatedly in this current debate regarding Human Sexuality and the establishment of an inclusive moral equivalency of GLBT sexual unions with the Christian understanding of marriage between a man and a woman.
• Constitution & Canons—Common Life. These, and other examples that could be cited, are illustrative of this “new gospel” of Indiscriminate Inclusivity that began with a denigration of the Holy Scriptures, then, step by step has brought the very core teachings of the Christian faith under its distorting and destructive sway. Thus, if the Scriptures should teach something contrary to this “gospel’s” most recent incarnation, (take for instance the full inclusion of GLBT) then the Scripture’s broad themes or individual passages, which plainly oppose current understanding of same-sex genital behavior, must be deconstructed. And if the bonds of affection within the Worldwide Anglican Communion are a hindrance to this gospel of inclusivity then the moral authority and role of the Instruments of Unity are downplayed. Most recently at GC’09 when the BCP’s marriage service, rubrics, and catechism, as well as the Constitution & Canons speak of marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman, therein conflicting with this inclusive “gospel”, resolution CO56 was passed contrary to our own order of governance and common life—thus one by one, the Holy Scriptures, the teachings of the Church, the Anglican Communion, the Ecumenical relationships with the other bodies of the Church Catholic, and now even our own Book of Common Prayer and Constitutions & Canons are subjugated to this “new” gospel. It is a foreign vine like kudzu draping the old growth forest of Episcopalianism with decorative destruction.
As I wrote in my post-Convention Letter to the Clergy ”There is an increasingly aggressive displacement within this Church of the gospel of Jesus Christ’s transforming power by the “new” gospel of indiscriminate inclusivity which seeks to subsume all in its wake. It is marked by an increased evangelistic zeal and mission that hints at imperialistic plans to spread throughout the Communion. This calls for a bold response.” It is not in my opinion the right action for this diocese to retreat from a thorough engagement with this destructive “new” gospel. As the prophet Ezekiel was called by the Lord to be a Watchman, to sound the alarm of judgment—to warn Israel to turn from her wickedness and live. We are called to speak forthrightly to The Episcopal Church and others, but even more specifically to the thousands of everyday Episcopalians who do not yet know the fullness of this present cultural captivity of the Church. Clearly this is not about the virtue of being “excluding”; it is about being rightly discerning about what is morally and spiritually appropriate. As the Archbishop of Canterbury suggests the Church’s life cannot be “wholly determined by what society at large considers usual or acceptable or determines to be legal”."
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