Friday, January 12, 2007

Growing Episcopal Schism

Last week, our Church held an "All Hands" meeting on the topic of the Anglican/Episcopal schism and the issues of gays in the Church. This meeting did nothing more than to stir up a lot of emotion and set people into camps (thus deepening the schismatic tendencies!). Frankly, I would think the Church would be healthier still if such meetings were never arranged, and people instead focused their energy on their worship.

Our Church is not alone in dealing with this issue. A prominent Falls Church congregation, led by Rev. John Yates, has made national news by leaving the Episcopal Church and seeking allegiance with a conservative African diocese.

Three excellent letters to the Washington Post editor recently addressed this topic, and I will share them here:

The dubious reasoning and out-right rationalization by the Rev. John Yates and Os Guinness in their Jan. 8 op-ed, "Why We Left the Episcopal Church," is as disappointing as it is ironic.

If the collective issue for those who split is with the lack of faithfulness to Scripture, the Episcopal Church as a whole is in trouble, because without such "evolution" in thought the Church of England wouldn't even exist. Further, the call to Old Testament and New Testament adherence is left incomplete, as the Rev. Yates and Mr. Guinness didn't tell us to which sections we should be subscribing with such faith.

The Rev. Yates, Mr. Guinness and their congregation are free to move on as they see fit, but they should not try to justify the split with calls to fundamental fealty to only some sections of Scripture. They should be honest with the public and with themselves and acknowledge that they do not wish to associate with homosexuals.


If the Rev. John Yates would spend less time defending the authority of Scripture and more time actually reading it, he might be surprised to find that the op-ed he co-wrote with Os Guinness betrayed several fundamental scriptural virtues.

First, patience. The Rev. Yates completely ignored the fact that there are mechanisms within the Anglican Communion to address the "outrages" he is so concerned about. Granted, world-wide Anglican machinery turns slowly. But in leading the majority of his congregation to leave The Falls Church and the the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, the Rev. Yates acted unilaterally and impatiently.

Second, humility. Characterizing extreme views from a handful of people as mainstream thinking within the church while casting oneself as the guardian of orthodox faith is not only misleading, it is arrogant. Scripture calls leaders to cast a common vision, not to cast stones.

Which brings us to service to the poor. Scriptural sayings on wealth, and our use of it, outnumber sayings on sexuality something like 1,000 to 1. So, instead of being preoccupied with the finer points of "fidelity," "authority," "continuity," "credibility," and "identity," why not use the Episcopal Church's latest two minutes of fame to invite others--liberal and conservative, Episcopalian or not--to fix up homes in New Orleans?

So help us God, we should do no other.
St. James' Episcopal Church


I have no connection with the Episcopalians or their church, so, as a complete outsider, I note that the Virginia congregations leaving the Episcopal Church are not giving up the physical plant. The holier-than-thou sermonizing of the Rev. John Yates and parishioner Os Guinness would be more convincing if they took the moral and ethical high ground and simply packed their bags and physically left the church.

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