Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Sad Day

My favorite authors, save 3, are all Episcopalians: CS Lewis, Madeleine L'Engle, Marva J. Dawn, Sheldon Vanauken, Lauren Winner, George MacDonald ... even John Stott & Bishop JC Ryle. (Tolkien was Catholic, John Piper is definitely Baptist, and I don't know about Elizabeth George Speare.) I think it's the combination of a rich, thought-out, poetic liturgy with sound doctrine, free of any extra-Biblical [Catholic] trappings (aka worship of saints, veneration of Mary, icon usage, purgatory), that attracts Christian wordsmiths. And that in turn attracts me. =D I've often thought to myself that if anyone was to peg my denominational leanings based on my reading preferences, they'd think I was Anglican!

That said, this
article on Dr. Albert Mohler's blog saddened me. The article relates the statements made by Dr. Katherine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, all in her opening address to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church (which met last week in Anaheim, California). She described her views on both her "Gospel" and heresy:

"Heresy": "that great Western heresy – that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God."
"The Gospel":
"I said that this crisis has several elements related to that heretical and individualistic understanding. We’ve touched on one – how we keep this earth, meant to be a gift to all God’s creatures. The financial condition of the nations right now is another element." "We who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box."

Dr. Mohler does a great job explaining why her view of heresy is so off the mark, so I refer you to his article for that. He also does a good job explaining what exactly her address said regarding a denomination-wide focus on environmental and social concerns rather than on seeing individuals (those which make up communities!) come to an intimate, joyful, saving knowledge of Christ. Christ... The Vehicle to the Divine, indeed... and the self-proclaimed "one Name under Heaven by which men might be saved."
Here the presiding bishop of a large, erstwhile Gospel-cherishing denomination has effectively switched 'heresy' and 'Gospel.' What saddened me was remembering the theology upon which the Anglican/Episcopalian Church was founded (and which many of its churches do still espouse). The Westminister Confession, which was drawn up by the leaning clergy of the day in 1646, states regarding Jesus Christ,

"It pleased God, in his eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, his only-begotten Son, to be the Mediator between God and men, the prophet, priest, and king; the head and Savior of the Church, the heir or all things, and judge of the world; unto whom he did, from all eternity, give a people to be his seed, and to be by him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and lorified." (Chapter 8, "Of Christ the Mediator," 1)."

Not quite just a "vehicle to the divine."
On how any person can be saved, it says,
"The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts; and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word: by which also, and by the administration of the sacraments, and prayer, it is increased and strengthened.[...] the principle acts of saving faith are, accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace." (Chapter 19, "Of Saving Faith, 1 -2)
I find the section on repentance to be the most clearly opposed to what Bishop Jefferts Schori put forth:

"I. Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace, the doctrine whereof is to be preached by every minister of the gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ. (so who's the heretic if this is NOT preached?)
II. By it a sinner, out of the sight and sense, not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature and righteous law of God, and upon the apprehension of his mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, so grieves for, and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God, purposing and endeavoring to walk with him in all the ways of his commandments.
III. Although repentance be not to be rested in as any satisfaction for sin, or any cause of the pardon thereof, which is the act of God's free grace in Christ; yet is it of
such necessity to all sinners, that none may expect pardon without it.
IV. As there is no sin so small but it deserves damnation; so there is no sin so great that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent.

V. Men ought not to content themselves with a general repentance, but it is every man's duty to endeavor to repent of his particular sins, particularly.
VI. As every man is bound to make private confession of his sins to God, praying for the pardon thereof, upon which, and the forsaking of them, he shall find mercy: so he that scandalizeth his brother, or the Church of Christ, ought to be willing, by a private or public confession and sorrow for his sin, to declare his repentance to those that are offended; who are thereupon to be reconciled to him, and in love to receive him. "

I pray that there were many bishops and pastors present at that convention who were grinding their teeth and wanting to cry out in outrage and dismay, who were both frightened and grieved that such an utter deviation-- a complete 180 degrees opposite position adopted-- from the original Scriptural understanding their denomination put forth, would be so publicly proclaimed. I pray that many present there would regret electing a woman with such theology as presiding bishop, that they would confront her in love, and that God might bring this denomination back to its solid foundations!

May God not let His Word be trampled upon.


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