Two weeks ago The Church of England Newspaper titled my article “Why the Archbishop of York got it wrong.”
My purpose in writing then was twofold: to point out that York had made a statement that went against the facts; and to provide the facts on why the Episcopal Church in the US was not theologically orthodox, especially in the top levels of leadership.
The response of York, or rather the staff member Arun Arora who wrote for York, was to ignore what was actually said in my article and to assume two things, both incorrect.
First, the assumption was made that I was attacking York, and this is patently not so. I was encouraging York to look and listen harder to what the American Church was saying.
Second, the assumption was made that anyone who is retired from a major position has lost influence and fallen out of importance in the shaping of the American Church mind.
In the USA, Episcopal bishops continue after retirement to have seat, voice and vote in the House of Bishops, and often are asked to assist in other dioceses or to teach in seminaries.
The problem is that Arora, in missing the point of the article, misses it in a most embarrassing way, believing it is an attack on his boss. Thus he brings up somewhat arcane references to Hitler, Nazis and children’s games involving donkeys, and feels the need to relegate prematurely Bishop John Shelby Spong to the old peopleÂ¹s home.
Although I would find little in SpongÂ¹s writings to endorse, his latest book in hardcover was released February 27, 2007. He has a busy speaking schedule in the USA, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa going through October.
Bishop Bruno is written off by Arora, as Bishop BorschÂ¹s successor, with hardly a notice that the Diocese of Los Angeles is the second or third largest TEC diocese, and that John Bruno was instrumental in the election of Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori, and has initiated the second largest number of lawsuits against departing congregations.
It is good to see the many citations of orthodoxy by the Archbishop of York, but no claim was made to the contrary despite Arora’s excitement.
The American Anglican Council and I do assert clearly and with facts before us that the majority leadership of the Episcopal Church in the USA has significantly departed from historic Christianity and Anglicanism in belief about the person and work of Jesus Christ and the authority of Holy Scripture.
Although we have NOT made any suggestion that the Archbishop of York holds such beliefs, nor Arora himself, it would be well for York, and perhaps Arora, to become more familiar with the American theological scene.
Although the leaders of TEC greet other Anglicans with smiling faces and generous words, it is finally not the cordiality of the moment that determines orthodoxy, but the actions, deeds and spiritual pronouncements that are behind the glad hand extended. Arun Arora states, “Anderson’s objections lie not in the consideration of the mainstream of TEC, but rather by reference, by and large to its extremities.”
Oh that the statement might be so! Who does he think Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori (pictured) is, if not the mainstream? The problem did not arrive on our doorstep yesterday, but has been building, and when significant deviation from orthodoxy occurs, those in leadership in TEC and in the Anglican Communion have NOT been willing to provide discipline.
For example, a panel of TEC bishops dismissed heresy charges against Spong, and to this day his writings have never been repudiated by the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops. Are we ignoring the Episcopalians who “are faithfully reciting the creeds and liturgy?” No, we are pointing to their leaders who are putting them in spiritual peril. The current bishop of Washington, DC, John Chane was previously dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in San Diego, California and in his Easter sermon of 2002 remarked, “The Easter story … the event of the resurrection, which defines the core of our Christian theology, is at best, conjectural, based upon what we are able to read from the Gospel accounts and the Book of Acts.”
David Booth Beers, the Chancellor for TEC, speaking to a meeting of Episcopal chancellors remarked recently, “The Presiding Bishop wants the Communion to understand the peculiar genius of the Episcopal Church. If others understood ECUSA they would see us as holy … The New Hampshire consecration was not sprung on the Communion – it seems people haven’t been paying attention to what’s been coming for 30 years and thatÂ¹s naive.”
It is not just the top level of TEC’s leadership that has theologically and spiritually gone astray. The Rev James Knowles of Grace Church in Syracuse, New York, during a service in 2005 dipped an eagle feather into cedar ashes and brushed the smoke towards worshippers and asked the congregation to face the four cardinal points as he read a prayer praising the sun, the moon, the alligator and the turtle. I imagine they skipped the creed at that service. Adding things and skipping things has become very common in Episcopal Churches down on the grassroots level as well, and cumulatively these do impact the present and the future.
It is now quite common NOT to require Holy Baptism for someone to partake of Holy Communion in many liberal dioceses and parishes. We are certain that the Archbishop of York would not agree to such practices, yet it is happening constantly in many areas of TEC.
There is a published account of a University of the South (Sewanee, Tennessee) student who some years ago sought counsel from the school’s chaplain over his discomfort reciting the Nicene Creed because he had doubts about some of the statements.
The chaplain said, “…he saw no problem at all. If joining in the Creed distressed him, why not just speak only those portions of it that didn’t offend?” This counsel revealed to the student, V Gene Robinson, that “although the Anglican faith had cherished creeds, it had no absolute doctrine,” (The New Yorker, April 17, 2006).
Approximately 10 years ago when charges were brought against Bishop Walter Righter, the ecclesiastical court dismissed the charges saying TEC did not have “core doctrine.” One of the bishops making that determination was Bishop Frederick H Borsch.
Recently an Episcopal priest working in the Diocese of Olympia confessed that she is a practicing Muslim and seems to believe there is no contradiction involved. The Rev Dr Ann Holmes Redding has been functioning with the bishop of Olympia’s permission, and was until recently serving as director of faith formation at St Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle.
Another bishop, Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island where Redding is canonically resident, has suspended her from exercising her ministry for a year to give her the opportunity “to reflect upon the doctrines of the Christian faith”. The bishop of Rhode Island would seem relatively more orthodox than the bishop of Olympia. Were the Archbishop of York desirous, the American Anglican Council could provide additional quotes from TEC bishops in the USA to show the lack of orthodoxy.
At the end of the day, John Sentamu should change his mind about TEC’s orthodoxy or, if the Archbishop, or his press officer, or both, continue to regard TEC as orthodox in its doctrine, then that raises questions about their standard for Anglican orthodoxy.
–This article appears on page 7 of the August 17th, 2007, edition of the Church of England Newspaper