Please bow your heads and let us begin as we should always begin, in prayer.
Heavenly Father and Gracious God remind us of who you are and of whose we are and of the message that you have entrusted to us. We are gathered for such a time as this and we need to be recentered, we need to be refocused, we need to have our call furthered clarified, and so Lord we need a word from you. Gracious God take my lips and speak through them, take our minds and think through them, take our wills and mold them and shape them according to your purposes. And take our hearts and set them on fire with love for your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
In the stories General Eisenhower used to tell about his associates in the military and the government, he had one favorite above all the others. He indulged in it frequently at the expense of one of his chief aides, whose name was named George Allen. George Allen had the distinct misfortune, the dubious distinction of having played in the record-setting football game with the most lopsided score of all time. The score was 222 to 0. It was a game between Georgia Tech and Cumberland played in the 1916 season. And, yes you guessed it; George Allen played quarter back on the losing side. After about three quarters of the game, when the score had begun to mount into the hundreds and the team was dramatically demoralized, there came an amazing moment, in one of the few plays where Cumberland actually had the ball, when the ball was snapped back to Allen and he missed it and fumbled the ball. The opposing linemen came charging in, and suddenly the ball was trickling around the backfield and B. F. “Bird’ Paty, who later became a prominent attorney, was looking at the ball and he looked up past the ball and there was Allen, who was shouting, “Pick it up! Pick it up!” And Paty looked at the ball, and looked at Allen and then he looked at the charging linemen and he looked back at Allen and said, “You pick it up! You dropped it!”
My dear brothers and sisters I want to begin this afternoon by being so bold as to say that we have dropped the ball. I believe as passionately as I know how to state that we live in a time and a church under judgment. The book you need to center yourself on brothers and sisters is the book of Jeremiah, and the theme of judgment hardly ever mentioned in the contemporary western church when it is unfolded in the midst of God’s working with his people you see it quickly doing three things: It does cutting, it hurts and we heard abundant evidence of that today. Secondly it sets out confusion, tremendous confusion. Read and think about the book of Jeremiah sometime and think about how confusing it was for the people on the ground. Do I listen to Jeremiah or do I listen to Hananiah? Do I stay in Jerusalem or do I go to Babylon. Maybe I ought to think about going to Egypt. It becomes so confusing for Jeremiah himself at one point in Jeremiah 20 that he doesn’t even know to his own instincts and he almost internally self-destructs. But my dear brothers and sisters, a time of judgment is not only a time of cutting, though it is that, it is not only a time of confusion, though it is that, it is also a time of clarification.
And so the purpose of this talk this afternoon for just a few moments is to center us in our common faith and mission as we begin this 48-hour journey together. One of the things I delight in saying about my hero CS Lewis is that he had an instinct for the center. He knew how to distinguish between penultimate things and ultimate things and I need to say something to us as orthodox Anglicans. My dear brothers and sisters, we’ve not always done as well in making that distinction as we need to. We’ve got to learn to give those things that, even if they are precious to us, if they are not the ultimate things. We’ve got to recover an instinct for the center of whom we are, and the center of the message we are called to proclaim. Are you all with me?
So let’s think about Anglican essentials this afternoon. What is the center of who we are?
Number 1. All my points begin with the letter C, that is to help me in case I lose my place.
The first C is catholic; we are catholic, small C. What, Kendall Harmon was forced to think very deeply, what in its essence does it mean to be a catholic Christian, because that, I believe, is what we are.
It means first of all that we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. It means there is such a thing, to use Thomas Oden’s wonderful phrase, as a history of the Holy Spirit. So that when I did my doctorate at Oxford in the early 1990s and I studied the whole history of western Christian eschatology there came a moment when I confronted Augustine for the first time in earnest since college and I read the whole City of God and I sat there at Latimer House in Oxford with my pitiful little heater in the freezing cold temperatures, and I wept. Because I realized the Augustine had simply leveled every single book I had read in the last ten years, in the first three chapters. No wonder CS Lewis said he read three old books for every new one. At the end of City of God Augustine says, speaking of heaven, these wonderful words:
“There we shall rest and see, see and love, love and praise. This is what shall be in the end without end.” Did you get that? “There we shall rest and see, see and love, love and praise.” Do you know that is the finest summary in the smallest amount of words of heaven I have found anywhere? We have to drink deeply from the tradition that has been handed on to us, and unapologetically.
Sunday is the 300th anniversary of the birthday of Jonathan Edwards so permit a word about the man who is called America’s theologian.
George Marsden, who is the finest church historian in my estimation writing right now, has just released a brand new book on Jonathan Edwards called Jonathan Edwards: A Life (Yale University Press).
And writing about Edwards and his theology he says this:
“It is precisely because of the 20th century’s experience of human horror that Jonathan Edwards’ thinking on hell (yes you heard me use that word) cannot be so easily dismissed. Marsden goes on, Edwards believed (listen carefully to these words) that each person is “by nature incredibly short-sighted, self-absorbed, and blinded by pride.” Only a traumatic jolt could burst the bonds of self-absorption. Therefore the verbal violence of hellfire and damnation “was a gift of God to awaken people who were blindly sleepwalking to their doom.”
Interesting themes, heaven and hell, Augustine and Jonathan Edwards, we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. That is part of what it means to be a catholic. But there is more.
Second part of being catholic, it seems to me, is to believe in order. I found myself thinking about that simple gesture that happens in so many courtrooms. Order in court.
It seems to me what catholics are constantly saying to the church is “Order in the church, order in our worship, for crying out loud.” You ought to be able to follow the service. CS Lewis has a wonderful essay were he describes how the priests are always messing with the service and there is no structure that is predictable so that the liturgy can be vehicle instead of an obstacle to worship. Order in worship is important. It is amazing to me, thinking particularly about General Convention but also the general life of the Episcopal Church that since Thomas Cranmer gave us the Book of Common Prayer we have almost gone completely full circle and we are back to the very liturgical situation that he set out to reform namely there were too many liturgies running around and there wasn’t any order so he wrote a bookof COMMON PRAYER.
And yes order in the church so there is a certain way that we go about our business: bishops, priests, deacons, vestries, canons, there is a way that God set up the church.
And most importantly in our time order in the way we make decisions. Which means that to be a catholic Christian means that the more important the decision the more widely you consult, more people need to be involved, themore important the international leadership is involved. Hello, that is what is means to be a catholic Christian.
Finally to be a catholic doesn’t just mean those seven sacraments or seven sacramental acts or however you want to delineate them. It means more than that. To be a catholic means to think sacramentally. I found myself going back to that wonderful minor classic of Harry Blamires The Christian Mind. Listen to this summary that he gives of what it means to be Christian.
“The Christian mind thinks sacramentally. The Christian Faith presents a sacramental view of life. It shows life’s positive richness as derivative from the supernatural. It teaches us that to create beauty or to experience beauty, to recognize truth or to discover truth, to receive love or to give love, is to come in contact with realities that express the Divine Nature. At a time when Christianity is so widely misrepresented as life rejecting rather than life affirming [does that sound familiar to anyone?], it is urgently necessary to right the balance. In denouncing excesses of sensuality, Christians are apt to give the impression that their religion rejects the physical and would tame the enterprising pursuit of vital experience.”
And we don’t do it. There I was watching the opening sequence of The West Wing where President of the United States, Jeb Bartlett, has his daughter gone and kidnapped. He is in massive crisis. And what does this secular program do with a country and a president in crisis but it ends the first show of this season with the President of the United States with his hands open and a priest placing a wafer in those hands. Because he needed to have a sense of contact with the supernatural.
That is part of what it means to be a catholic Christian. Ya’ll with me? Stand on the shoulders of those who came before, a sense of order in the church and to think sacramentally.
I want everybody here who defines themselves as an Anglo-Catholic to please stand up. God bless you all.
That’s right, you heard it hear first, charismatic.
I had the distinct fortune of having my roommate in college be a member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Darien Conn. And believe it or not, we used to drive from Bowdoin College five hours one way and go to two Sunday morning worship services and the Sunday night worship service and then drive all the way back to Maine. And the one thing about that parish that I remember above all others was that when you walked in people were there to worship God for whom He was in the beauty of holiness and it was astounding to see people do that. And that is my image of what the church should be.
Worth-ship is what the word means. To give God the worth He is due for the glory of who He is. I find myself thinking of that interesting play “Equus.” That interesting play “Equus where Anthony Perkins played Martin Dysart the doctor in the Broadway version when it first came out. The story of a boy who has a bizarre form of mental disturbance where he is obsessed with horses and this secular psychologist named Martin Dysart who is working like crazy with the boy who does nothing but talk about and dream about horses reaches this amazing moment in his life where he actually begins to envy the boy even though he is profoundly aware that the boy is deeply disturbed. Because Martin Dysart the secular psychologist, realizes that the boy has something outside of himself that is beckoning him and that he has to bow down to and Martin Dysart the secular psychologist has nothing.
In an amazing moment he says in a soliloquy on the stage, “Without worship we shrink!”
And that is part of the message of the charismatic movement to the contemporary church. Worship, brothers and sisters, is a priority. To meet God for who He is.
More than just worship from the charismatic movement. Power.
If I learned anything from three-hundred-plus Terry Fullum tapes in the early 1980s I learned that Holy Spirit was the power of God to be unleashed on His people and in His world. So that in the early 1980’s when Mount St. Helens in the Cascade Range of Washington exploded with what is probably the most visible indication of something called natural power that many of us in the modern world has ever seen. At 8.32 a.m. the explosion ripped 1,300 feet off the mountain, with a force of ten million tons of TNT, or roughly equal to five hundred Hiroshimas. Sixty people were killed, most by a blast of 300-degree heat traveling at two hundred miles an hour. Some were killed as far as sixteen miles away from the original blast. The blast also leveled those incredible 150-foot Douglas firs, as far as seventeen miles away. A total of 3.2 billion board feet of lumber were destroyed in that explosion, enough lumber to build 200,000 three-bedroom homes. That’s natural power. And what the charismatic movement importantly reminds us that we need to center ourselves in this afternoon is that the power of God that resurrected His Son Jesus Christ which is far more potent than Mount St. Helens and far more powerful is the power that rests in each one of us and in His church. Do you believe that with me?
Just one quick story about the power of the Holy Spirit of all places at General Convention. Thank you for praying for us, thank you for praying for me. It was the case that the Spirit was working and certainly one of the low points was the night of August 5th when the vote came down and I was a complete mess in many many ways and very upset not least because the bishops went overtime and so the bishops were in session after the House of Deputies were no longer in session and I was commissioned to read a speech in the House of Deputies as Bob Duncan was going to read a speech in the House of Bishops repudiating the action but since the bishops went overtime the bishops made their statement but in deputies I didn’t make my statement and I was not pleased about this. I said, “Lord, what are you doing? We worked on the statement, this isn’t working out.” And I had to make the statement the next day. You know what Jesus says in John 3 about the Holy Spirit. He says the Holy Spirit blows where He wills.
And so we were trying to figure out when Gene Robinson on Wednesday was going to be introduced. And John Guernsey and I are standing there at the computer and Jim Simons calls and says he is going to be introduced right as the session begins. So we work like crazy on the statement. Then Jim Simons calls right back and says no he isn’t going to be introduced so we slow down our pace and then he calls back and says yes he is going to be introduced. And we start changing our pace again. And then he calls back and says no he’s not and then finally one more change and yes he is! And so Guernsey changes it for the 400 thousandth time in the computer and I literally rip the page off the printer and I run across the street to get in there and sure enough Gene Robinson is introduced, and I have to read the statement. The whole time this has been happening I have been praying the night before and that morning and I had one overriding impression that was bothering my spirit very deeply. The overriding impression, brothers and sisters, was this, when we had the debate in deputies on same-sex unions and on the confirmation of Gene Robinson, and you need to hear this, no one, not a single person who argued for the change and the innovation brought into the debate a perspective of those beyond our shores.
And so there I was with my prepared text and I thought, what the hay, the Spirit blows where He wills, and so I spoke from the heart and I inserted a section in the speech that wasn’t in the text. I could just imagine Guernsey’s response in the back. The Enforcer [nickname for John Guernsey] was not happy. But the Holy Spirit had other plans. I spoke this point into the microphone and then sat down. And one person from Texas stood up and then the next thing that happened was one of the really amazing moments in Minneapolis for me personally. We had a deputy stand up from Honduras and he stood up with a translator and very slowly, because each phrase had to be translated, with this wonderful cadence he said, “I am a servant of God, in Honduras, and I am charge of 52 missions, and because of what this convention has done my entire ministry has been [and I quote him directly] has been washed down the drain.” And it was as if he confirmed exactly the point I made, only it wasn’t in my speech. The Holy Spirit did one of those things that the Holy Spirit is so good at doing. Do you believe that the Holy Spirit blows where He wills in your lives right now? That’s what it means to be a charismatic Christian.
First, catholic. Second, charismatic. Third, canonical.
All right, I should have said evangelical but it had to start with a “c”. You knew it was going to come to the Bible eventually.
I do need to say a few things about the Bible although I know that John Yates is going to say a whole lot more. My dear brothers and sisters, I am so proud this afternoon to say to you that we are people who be lieve in theauthority of the Bible.
I can do no better this afternoon than to quote to you the 1958 Lambeth Conference statement which I believe every Anglican needs to memorize, that’s how important I think it is. Listen to what the 1958 Lambeth Conference said about the Holy Scriptures:
“The Church [they wrote] is not ”˜over’ the Holy Scriptures, but ”˜under’ them, in the sense that the process of canonization was not one whereby the Church conferred authority on the books but one whereby the Church acknowledged them to possess authority. And why? The books were recognized as giving the witness of the Apostles to the life, teaching, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and the interpretation by the Apostles of these events.” [Listen to this last phrase.] “To that apostolic authority the Church must ever bow.”
Now I need to say to you that the authority of the Bible needs to be understood by us a Christians as personal authority. It is a certain kind of authority. It is an authority that is personal, and I can’t do better than one of my heroes, Austin Farrer, who was the warden of Keble College in Oxford where I had a chance to study. He’s given the perfect illustration of what it means for every Christian every day to pick up the Bible. What’s supposed to be in my mind when I hear a sermon from this document, when I hear an adult education class on this document or when I read this document? What am I supposed to think that I’m doing? Listen to what Austin Farrer says:
“What is the bible like? Like a letter which a soldier wrote to his wife about the disposition of his affairs and the care of his children in case he should chance to be killed. And the next day he was shot, and died, and the letter was torn and stained with his blood. Her friends said to the woman: the letter is of no binding force; it is not a legal will, and it is so injured by the facts of the writers own death that you cannot ever prove what it means. But the lady said: I know the man, and I am satisfied I can see what he means. And I shall do it because it is what he wanted me to do, and because he died the next day.”
That’s what it means to read the Bible. It means to read a personal letter from God stained with his own blood. Is that your perspective, when you preach from it?
Something else about the Bible, not just the Bibles authority and not just that its personal authority, but that we as Anglican Christians actually believe not only in the authority of the Bible, but the importance of loving the Bible. I like this first psalm; it says something really amazing about the godly person. It says that the man of God and the woman of God is blessed who not only meditates on God’s law but delights in it. And the word that is used in Hebrew haphats means to have emotional delight in. It’s the word of a wife delighting in her husband, or a husband delighting in his wife. We’re to have a delight of scripture. We’re to love it, not simply to read it although we should and not simply to be under its authority although we should, we need to love it, to care about it, and to steward it.
My own hero Charles Simeon (1759-1836) preached his way through the Bible and taught his congregation of Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Cambridge, England not only that the Bible was authoritative but it was something to be loved. He once said this: “I love the simplicity of the Scriptures, I wish to receive and inculcate every truth precisely in the way and to the extent that it is set forth in the inspired Volume. Were this the habit of alldivines, there would soon be an end of most of the controversies that have agitated and divided the Church of Christ.”
Do we love the Bible, brothers and sisters? Love the Bible.
So what have I said so far? I said we’re catholics, I said we’re
charismatics, and I said we’re canonical. And I said we are under judgment. And I find myself gravitating to that fascinating verse, in Jeremiah: “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, [in Jeremiah 29] plans for welfare and not for evil to give you a future and a hope.” With these bases what is to be our focus as Anglicans as we go forward into the unknown future that God has for us. What is to keep the main thing the main thing mean for us in this time.
It means three more C’s.
First of all Christ. I’ve got to say that, I’m sorry! But it is about
Jesus. It is about the unsearchable riches of Christ and since we are in year B can I just remind you in passing of the sheer power for a moment of Mark’ Gospel. He is trying to portray a Jesus Christ who comes into people’s lives in power and who makes an authoritative claim. You remember the way that Mark unfolds the story at the end of chapter 4. That amazing scene where he stills the storm. They say who is this that at peace be still he says. And they say who is this of ye of little faith and so Mark wants to convey to his readers that the Jesus whom he is portraying has authority over the natural world. And then chapter 5 begins and you have that amazing scene with the Gerasene demoniac who is out there gashing himself among the tombs. And he suddenly because of the power of Christ is placed in his right mind. Jesus who has power not only over the natural world but over evil. And then the story goes on and Mark has that wonderful scene where Jairus has this sick daughter and Jesus is supposed to go and on his way, you remember what happens, the woman with the issue of blood comes up and touches the hem of Jesus’ garment and she is healed. Mark gives us a Jesus who has power over sickness. And now we have Jesus who has power over the natural world, and over the demonic world and over the evil world and over sickness. What is the last story in Mark Chapter 5? He goes to Jairus’ daughter’s house and she is dead, forget it, it’s over. He says it is not over that she is just sleeping and he gets everyone out of the room except the family and he says to the little girl, “Talitha cumi, “I say to you little girl arise,” and it’s the Jesus who has power over death.
This is the Jesus, brothers and sisters, that we need to unapologetically proclaim. The Jesus who makes a powerful claim, power over nature, power over the demonic, power over sickness and power the last great enemy of all, death itself.
We will be people who unapologetically will be about the Christ, proclaiming the unsearchable riches of Christ. We will also be people, next C, of the cross.
I’m not giving up on the Rite I language of the prayer book. “By His one oblation of Himself once offered, the full perfect and sufficient sacrifice oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. By the merits and death of Thy Son, Jesus Christ and through faith in His blood.” What is it that Paul says in Galatians 6? “Far be in from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ by which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.” It’s got to be centered on the cross, brothers and sisters; the cross is the center of it all.
To be a Christian means not to think from the world or from one’s self to the cross but to place one’s self as Luther did every single morning at the foot of the Cross and to think and to pray out from there to one’s self and the world.
Two quick comments by way of reminder about the cross. The cross is the final statement of God about the depth of the problem. To think from the cross out is to be reminded of the horror of sin. In his wonderful book Compassion Henri Nouwen tells the moving story of a family whose name are Joel and Nida Theartiga that he knew in Paraguay. And this family in the course of their life and ministry the father who was a physician becomes increasingly critical of the government in Paraguay. The military is becoming increasingly abusive and the father can’t take it anymore and he speaks out more and more boldly. Finally the government acts and they take their revenge on this physician and his wife by arresting his teenage son and torturing him to death. The enraged townsfolk wanted to turn the boy’s funeral into a huge protest march, but as Nouwen tells the story, as they said their prayers and thought about it, they chose another protest, a more cross-like, biblical lament. And as Nouwen describes the funeral, what they chose to do was to take their son and to take his body exactly the way they had found it in the jail: naked, scarred by electric shocks and cigarette burns and beatings. All the villagers filed past the corpse, which lay not in a coffin but on the blood-soaked mattress that it was on in prison when they found it. It was the strongest protest imaginable, because it put the injustice of human sin on total display.
My dear brothers and sisters, that’s what happened on Good Friday. The Cross in all it’s ugliness, exposed the world and exposed our hearts for what they are breeding grounds for violence and injustice; for arrogance and pride; yes, for sexual sin and immorality; for moral cowardice, personal greed, and self-interest, and all else. The cross of Christ is offensive because it exposes and condemns our rebellion and rebelliousness.
But the other thing about the cross, the great thing about the cross if we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before, is that in the mystery of God’s working on the cross, God at that moment in history, the judge of history, comes into history and absorbs the judgment upon himself. PT Forsyth put it this way: “The cross of Christ is God’s only self-justification in a world such as ours.” Karl Barth put it this way: “God, by the decree He made in the beginning of all his works and ways, has taken upon himself the rejection merited by the man isolated in relation to him.” Total exposure of human sin, total absorption of human rebellion, he himself has born our sins. God made him who knew no sin to be sin, brothers and sisters, so that in him we may be the righteousness of God. Do you believe that?
My last C. Not only the Christ, and not only the cross, but finally, and here I think I get to my most heartfelt cri de coeur about the situation in which we find ourselves. It’s about conversion for crying out loud. A funny thing happened on the way to the 21st century in the Episcopal Church: The 1979 prayer book! The full theological measure of its ethos has yet to be completely felt but we are now at a place of enough distance from it to begin to reflect with each other about its real impact on our common life and if we do that, and very few people are doing it, the results are deeply disconcerting.
Think with me just for a second. A prayer book that has an underemphasis on God’s transcendence and holiness and judgment, combined with a very weak sense of sin, combined with a liturgical practice that actually makes confession of sin optional, combined with a strong emphasis on baptism, combined with a baptismal covenant which is decoupled from its trinitarian and scriptural mooring so that apparently the nearly everything I read in the Episcopal church what it actually means to be baptized ONLY is revealed the last two questions in the baptismal covenant: namely, loving your neighbor as yourself, and to striving for justice and peace among all people, and respecting the dignity of every human being, combined with the predominant ethos of the American Episcopal Church which is liberal catholicism combined with the predominant ethos of America which is this weird post modern miasma of malnourished pluralism masking as real community, it leads to this, and I need to say this as clearly as I can: we have a theology in practice which moves straight from creation to redemption! A nearly universalistic or in fact completely universalistic worldview in which the fall and sin have in essence disappeared!! To be created in the Episcopal Church is apparently to be redeemed (at the most you need to be baptized) and so, think about this for just a second – what are the two most recent trends worthy of mention since Convention? Some people are arguing Gene Robinson was baptized, therefore he should be consecrated a bishop. It apparently trumps everything else. If you are baptized everything else follows, and then the even more important one which really flew under almost everybody’s radar screen, the huge growing practice in the Episcopal Church of open communion. So that at All Saints Pasadena the Rector gets up and says “who ever you are, where ever you are in your spiritual journey, I invite you to come forward for grace and consolation along the way.” Any reference to God the Father? Uh-uh. Any reference to God the Son? Gone. Any reference to the Holy Spirit? Nada. Now think about this for just a second.
Over against this barely Christian ethos, if you actually place what it means to have a biblical world view, you find yourself shocked, shocked because when you read the scriptures, Luke 19:10, the reason that the son of man came was to seek and to save the lost. God comes to Abraham and says, “Go to a lost world so that through you they will be blessed because they are not blessed now.” Jesus tells in Luke chapter 15 not one, not two, but three parables. The lost coin, and the lost sheep, and then”“just incase we missed it”“the lost son. And Paul can cry out in 2 Corinthians 5 “I beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” The overwhelming conviction of historic Christianity is: If you don’t have Christ you’re lost! Which is why number one on your sheet is to declare the great commission the first priority of our life and work. I don’t want to know when you come to see me whether you’re a good Episopalian, I want to know how many people in your parish have met Jesus Christ and are being transformed by His love.
One more Simeon story just about the lostness of the lost. I need to say this so strongly because it just is so rare in the Episcopal Church to see people that believe the way Simeon believed. I love this story. This is a first hand description of one of his sermons and the text on this particular day when Charles Simeon, a vicar at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Cambridge England, who lived from 1759-1836. Simeon is preaching and his text is “All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people,” that is his text. Listen to this eyewitness description. “And after having urged all his hearer to accept God’s offer of mercy, he reminded them that there were those present to whom he had preached Christ for more than thirty years, but they continued indifferent to a Savior’s love; and pursuing this train of expostulation for some time, he at length became quite overpowered by his feelings, and sank down in the pulpit and burst into a flood of tears, and few who were present could refrain from weeping with him” When was the last time anyone of us really cried for the lostness of the lost who are all over our parishes and our lives. God cries. The gospel calls. Do we?
So what have I said? What I have said is that what it means to be an Anglican is to be a catholic, to be a charismatic, to canonical. What it means to be centered in the Anglican essentials is that we are about Christ and his cross and yes the call to conversion. And now I draw my remarks to a close. Because this word this afternoon brothers and sisters has to touch us where we really live and breathe.
You remember I started by talking about the fact that I believe that we are a church that is under judgment. Did you catch the word that I used? I didn’t say they are under judgment, I said we. It’s a real downer to hear what happened as our panel well described to us about what happened in Minneapolis. And there is a danger that we face as we begin our journey together and the danger is this.
Any sense that it is the re-appraisers, that’s the way that I like to
describe them, who are responsible primarily or even nearly exclusively for the pathetic state of affairs in which we find ourselves and our church has to be abandoned. All of Israel I remind you all this afternoon was under judgment in Jeremiah’s day and the whole Episcopal Church is under judgment including us.
The so-called orthodox, that’s us, have an enormous amount to answer for in this time. Our sins of compromise, timidity, denial, ignorance, careerism, self-interest, party spirit, the list is very long. So hear this afternoon, my brothers and sisters, the gospel for all of us. Hear it well, B. F. “Bird’ Paty in that football game, in a losing game, looked at the football dribbling around on the ground and he didn’t want to pick it up. And God’s message to us in recentering us is: We have dropped the ball!! We have lost our center as gospel people, as catholic, charismatic, canonical Anglican people. Not only have we lost our center, but hear this well; we do not even have the power to pick the ball back up left to ourselves. But dear sisters and brothers hear the good news of the Gospel this afternoon. The God who gave us the ball, who has watched us drop the ball, through the cross forgives us for dropping the ball and by the power of the Holy Spirit gives us back the ball.
Will you take the ball back up with me?
And finally you’ve heard that word used by David Roseberry, realignment. You are going to hear a lot about it. It is in our preliminary draft of the statement. And I need to say a clearly as I know how this afternoon why a realignment within Anglicanism is indispensably necessary. There has to be a new realignment, there has to be a new and different future.
At Minneapolis the Episcopal church decided to risk the whole future of the Anglican communion on this one vote, all four instruments of Anglican unity said don’t do it, many prominent Anglicans leaders worldwide pleaded for us not to do it, and we not only did it but we did it without consulting them. This is not catholic it will not stand.
At Minneapolis the Holy Spirit was grieved and a way of life which is in contradiction to holiness was celebrated and blessed, this is not charismatic it will not stand.
At Minneapolis, the Scriptures were either quickly dismissed or incredible and deliberately twisted, this decision is not canonical it will not stand.
Most importantly and finally, at Minneapolis, the will of the Father to draw all people to himself through the cross of his Son, get this now, was replaced with a new and different gospel where a therapeutic Jesus embraces people where they are. It is a gospel of affirmation rather than the gospel of salvation. We have moved from sinners in the hands of an angry God to clients in the palm of a satisfied therapist.
So the Episcopal Church is now a church where people are officially led away from Christ. And this is why we need a realignment. You’ve got to understand this. Because with the new gospel you and I who believe the traditional gospel are the embodiment of a call to holiness and believers in a gospel which those who believe the new teaching see as unjust and unchristian. We are enemies of the new gospel. Beware underneath the call to participate in the Episcopal Church from now on there is lurking a passionate desire among some to persecute many of those who disagree with this new teaching.
I was on the committee that put out C-051. I remember it well there were 45 of us. Guess what the vote was? 44 to 1. I remember it because I was the one. And there was an incredible moment at the end of Minneapolis which is the future in the Episcopal Church if we don’t have intervention. And to my utter amazement, having written a one-person minority report, which is my prerogative as a member of the committee, I watched person after person after person come to the microphone and insist that my one-person minority report be expunged from the record of the Episcopal Church. It was astounding. It was like being in a family that has an Uncle Steve and they are pretending that he doesn’t exist and they go through all the family albums and pull out his picture and go through all the family history and erase those sections where Steve is mentioned. That’s our future brothers and sisters if we don’t have help. We’ve got to have outside intervention. We haven’t moved anywhere. The church has moved from us.
Our hope is in asking for a realignment in a church were are increasing under attack with a total sense of our own powerlessness to shape the nature of our coming intervention, and that’s really good news because Jesus said “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”
Are you re-centered with me brothers and sisters? Catholic, Charismatic, Canonical. We are going to be about Christ, and the cross, and conversion.
As we are seated, let us pray.
Lord, you are a great God and you have given us a great and astounding message. Re-center us, and enable us to be people who preach the unsearchable riches of Christ, and his cross, and who call others to conversion in His name by the power of the Holy Spirit. Forgive us Lord, for the ways that we have dropped the ball. We confess that we have dropped the ball Lord; we confess that we don’t have the power to pick the ball back up. Lord in your mercy, you, the God who gave us the ball in the first place and who watched us drop the ball. Give us back the ball Lord, by the power of your Holy Spirit, and bring us into the new and exciting and hopeful future that only you can give us. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.