Saturday, 14 July 2012
America today, us tomorrow?
The American branch of the Church of England is struggling. It is being deserted in droves by an angry or ambivalent membership. Six prominent bishops are ready to take their large dioceses out of the American church and align with conservative Anglican groups in Africa and South America.
According to recent figures (quoted in a BeliefNet article see below)" U.S. Catholics out-number the Episcopal Church 33-to-1. There are more Jews than Episcopalians. Twice as many Mormons. Even the little African Methodist Episcopal denomination has passed the Episcopalians. Among the old mainstream denominations reporting to the National Council of Churches, the Episcopal Church suffered the worst loss of membership from 1992-2002 — plunging from 3.4 million members to 2.3 million for a 32 percent loss. In the NCC’s 2012 yearbook, the Episcopal Church admitted another 2.71 percent annual membership loss."
The above article continues: “The accelerating fragmentation of the strife-torn Episcopal Church USA,” writes Christian author Charlotte Allen. “ in which large parishes and entire dioceses are opting out of the church, isn't simply about gay bishops, the blessing of same-sex unions or the election of a woman as presiding bishop. It is about the meltdown of liberal Christianity.
“Liberal Christianity has been hailed by its boosters for 40 years as the future of the Christian church. Instead, as all but a few die-hards now admit, the mainline churches that have blurred doctrine and softened moral precepts are declining and, in the case of the Episcopal Church, disintegrating.”
Among the chief protagonists is presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. She, according to Dr Sarah Frances Ives who was present for an address given by the Bishop (July 8, 2012) "mocked most of the crucial doctrines of the Christian faith, including the God of creation, the Incarnation, and the Trinity. She accomplishes this through her demeaning use of rhetoric. She taunts the Lord by the use of the name ‘Big Man’ and then points her finger at everyone listening and tells them that they have ‘missed the boat.’
She continues: “Jefferts Schori leaves a wide wake of destruction behind with this sermon: the eternal triune God has been torn down, human beings are to boldly claim our place as God, and the sacraments of the Eucharist and Baptism have been turned into things our hands make. In other words, Jefferts Schori accepts that now humanity, animals and God are one undifferentiated blob. This is essentially a form of solipsism, the belief that self is all that is known to exist. Anyone can see that this is both pure heresy and utter nonsense.
“Episcopalians need to loudly affirm that we are created in the image of God and redeemed by the sacrifice of the Son of God, but no, we are not God ourselves and we are not erasing the boundary between God and humanity. That Jefferts Schori is encouraging humans to cross the frontier into becoming God should be immediately repudiated by all believing Christians.”
Another attendee Angela O'Brien also reported: “the House of Bishops of the Episcopalian Church approved a new provisional blessing for gay unions, while the full General Convention voted in favour of general acceptance for transgender clergy.
“Some Episcopalian bishops spoke out against the resolution on same-sex blessings. Bishop Bauerschmidt, of the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee, urged the bishops to defeat the resolution.
“The Reverend David Thurlow advocated rejecting the resolution. ‘For two thousand years the Church has had clear teaching regarding Christian marriage and Biblical norms of sexual behaviour,’ he said, pointing out that ‘through previous statements and resolutions the Church has pledged itself not to make any change to this traditional teaching.’
Bishop Edward Little of Northern Indiana also stood against the resolution. “The Christian world is going to understand us as having changed the nature of the sacrament of holy matrimony,” Bishop Little said. “The Christian world will look at that liturgy world and see vows, and exchange of rings, a pronouncement and a blessing and they will understand that to mean the Episcopal Church has endorsed same-sex marriage and changed a basic Christian doctrine. I do not believe that we are free to do that.”
These transgender and same-sex resolutions are not surprising given that a few years ago, the annual national Episcopal convention overwhelmingly refused even to consider a resolution affirming that Jesus Christ is Lord! No wonder that upon returning home from that meeting, Bishop Peter H. Beckwith, leader of the Springfield, Illinois, diocese, wrote in a pastoral letter that the Episcopal church was “in meltdown.” He was
joined by bishops in the dioceses of Central Florida, Dallas, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, California, and South Carolina in asking their church’s top official, the Archbishop of Canterbury in England, for permission to pull out.
Beckwith says the failure of the resolution introduced by conservatives to declare the church’s “unchanging commitment to Jesus Christ as the son of God, the only name by which any person may be saved” was extremely disturbing.
You can read the article from BeliefNet here. The decline of the Anglican Church in America sends a warning shot across the bow of the Anglican Church in Britain with growing pressure to go down the same path. Let's hope one does not follow the other, although the signs are not good.