Friar John's Ruminations

Being the thoughts of an Episcopalian Layman. In Search of and service to "Evangelical Truth and Apostolic Order."

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Monday, April 06, 2009


The Church, as it ponders scripture, tradition, in  the light to the
best reason it can muster, is itself the judge of the  Church's
latitude in doctrine and practice.. It defines that latitude  from time
to time, seeking to welcome the broadest possible expression  of the
basics of the faith. Core doctrines are maintained most notably  by
unambiguous reference in liturgy and catechism.  Thus when  Bishop
Righter was tried for allegedly violating the Church's doctrine  in
accepting certain persons for ordination, the court was able to  say
that while the question was a theological question, it was not  a
matter of core doctrine and was not addressed in our central
documents. Unpublished documents from the right wing opine that they
subsequently think they would have more likely gotten a conviction if
they had charged Righter with violating the discipline (operating
rules) rather than the doctrine of the Church.

When Bishop Robinson  was elected, there was again a question of
doctrine, but no core  doctrine in prayer book and canon to which
appeal could made.  (Attempts to apply to documents from the UK still
cause me to wonder.)  When a multiply-divorced man was elected in
Northern California, at  least a majority in both houses believed that
the New Testament  teaches about divorce, and particularly its
prohibition of remarried  bishops did not form an absolute barrier.
Although I did not agree,  this made a kind of sense, the question of
moral modeling aside,  because the Church is in fact now more open to
remarriage. Beyond  that, both Bishops Pike and Righter had contracted
serial  marriages,  not to mention many priests.

In the case of the  bishop-elect of Northern Michigan, perhaps we can
get our ducks in the  correct rows. His Buddhist practices are
sensational but not the  point. In sermons and other writings
(including eucharistic prayers  which I fear were used outside Rite III
settings, giving us a question  of discipline as well as doctrine), the
bishop-elect makes it clear  that the doctrine of the Trinity as
confessed in the Creed and  explained in the Catechism is not what he
holds. He will use  base-three theological language, but never in
service to the  proposition that in Jesus of Nazareth God became fully
human.  Similarly, his understanding of the atonement is not
conformable with  the liturgy or catechism, but appears to be something
like gnostic  enlightenment. His writings represent a very shaky
understanding of  the Second Person of the Trinity, God incarnate,
severely weakening  his gospel.

Apart from his sense of freedom from the seeming minutiae of  rubric
and liturgical text, in which he is by no means alone, Fr.  Thew
Forrester seems to have been an exemplary priest, a saintly  pastor and
an enviably fine human being. That is not the point. The  point is that
there has been no time like the one we inhabit for  bishops to proclaim
unambiguously the gospel of Christ in all its  fullness.

In a cardinal church in the west the creed is never used, and  a
eucharistic prayer from around the world is used each week, along  with
other ritual freehand before and after the gathering. I couldn't  tell
what I had just attended or what the church actually  celebrated.

As a Church we are increasingly a laughing-stock. Not because  we
welcome lesbian and gay people, and carry on social ministries  that
enact the sacrifice of Christ on a corporate basis, and certainly  not
because of our latitude and the conversation it engenders. We are  a
laughing stock because we do not consistently proclaim a solid  core,
words as simple as "all have sinned and come short of the glory  of
God," yet "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to  himself."

Increasingly it seems that the Cross has become foolishness  _in_ the
Church, and our former hallmark teaching of the Incarnation  is seldom
heard, and less seldom heard to matter.
If our embarrassment  is going
to end, the voices of bishops as clear, traditional, and  powerful
evangelists  to be raised in the churches and in the  market place.
Many bishops find a number of techniques that come from  the social
sciences useful in their ministries, and have significant  investment
in Eastern meditation--their qualification to be bishops,  however, is
that, as the chief confessors of the creeds and presidents  at the
sacraments. The are to be unambiguously ambassadors for Christ,  God
making his appeal through the

For these reasons I believe  the present election cannot go forward and
hope that it will  not.

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