Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Anglicans on the Brink

This is a fascinating piece. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams will soon visit New Orleans in a last ditch effort to placate Bishops on both sides of the isle of the divisive issue of gay marriages and ordaining homosexuals. The Episcopal Church USA has already made 1 gay Bishop in NH in 2003 and there is now consideration for a lesbian Bishop in Chicago. Albert Mohler has a nice piece on the Archbishop's trip to America and secret church meetings affirming gay people in London. Mohler believes the issue is deeper than just “sexual freedom”:

“The division over homosexuality in the Anglican Communion is, in reality, a division over far deeper issues. At stake are basic conceptions of biblical authority, church doctrine, and the Gospel. In that sense, homosexuality is understood by both sides to be a Gospel issue. The liberals believe that homosexuality must be normalized in the name of a gospel of liberation. Conservatives insist that homosexuality must be understood as inherently sinful, and that the only rescue from sin is salvation through Christ.”
--Albert Mohler

The piece: http://www.albertmohler.com/blog_read.php?id=1011

The ABCUSA is facing the same moral, biblical crisis. Some of us were chatting in a forum about “Issues of Concern”, a term used by the denomination to address troubling matters. The traditional evangelical scoff their pitiful attempts to address “issues of concern” at each denominational biennial congress. They never get to the root of the matter but choose safe “issues of concern”.
Here was my stab at one:

Tensions between Biblical Authority and Local Church Autonomy/Soul Liberty have developed. Local autonomous regions disfellowshipped congregations for affirming homosexual lifestyles. These congregations attached themselves to regions not regionally attached. Conservatives became uneasy. One of the largest regions voted their conscience to become independent from the denomination. Some other conservative regions remained but turned inward and associated in mission with like-minded regions, other denominations, and parachurch organizations. Liberal associations are more comfortable with the times. Conservative groups are frustrated feeling they have no voice in a complex form of church government.

How can the ABCUSA discourage autonomous conservative regions from exiting both physically and fiscally? How can the ABC reorganize its power structure so the voice of conservative associations is heard? How can tensions between Welcoming & Affirming and Welcoming & Transforming churches be managed? Is a denominational split inevitable?

In short: Is there a remedy to a denominational split, and if there isn’t, how can that split best be managed?

The above reflects how The PSW, now Transformation Ministries, departed from the denomination. Similarly, another large, thriving region is practically ignoring the denomination by doing its own thing. This region is growing healthy congregations (kudos), but giving little to the mother ship. Leaving physically or mentally is never easy.
My friend has expressed how difficult it is for an Episcopal church to break. Episcopals are not like the Baptist. His denomination owns everything: property, parsonage, pews, hymnals, robes. Any church breaking from its diocese faces a sea of legal trouble and financial burden. My friend and his wife are leading the cause for biblical authority and accepting consequences for speaking up. May God bless my old friend as he saves souls and tries to be a voice in the wilderness.

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