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August 25, 2004

Comments

David Morrison

Hugo, I don't think that the three parishes have left precipitously or without a lot of thought. I haven't been an Angilican for over a decade and ten years ago, when I was seeking support within my communion for living chastely and was told none would be available, I could see the writing on the wall.

If anything the parishes waited far too long. Better to woship in freedom in a rented school hall than to remain linked to what I believe at best is a genuine error and at worst a pernicious attack on souls.

Hugo

Though I disagree with you on the substance of the issue, I agree wholeheartedly with your last sentence. I want conservatives to have the freedom to worship in good conscience; I don't know that in the aftermath of recent developments they can continue to do that in ECUSA. As a result, I can only wish them the best of luck, and pray for them as I know they pray for those of us whom they believe to be in "genuine error."

The key thing is to separate with grace and charity and love.

Camassia

I've been wondering what an Episcopal schism would do to the ECUSA's relationship with the ELCA. The two are in communion, and a few years ago almost merged. In fact, this week, an Episcopal priest will fill in for my pastor. Do you suppose that would make an eventual merger more or less likely?

Hugo

Well, I assume that ELCA is in much the same boat as ECUSA -- torn, perhpas to a lesser degree than we are, between conservative and progressive factions. A lot depends on the size of the schism. Only three parishes out of a couple of hundred have chosen to leave the LA diocese. No question that numerically, the progressive wing of ECUSA is stronger.

Chip

Hugo,

I have no doubts that liberal parishes can thrive. (I bet that most conservatives will agree with me there.) All Saints Pasadena is well known for being one of the bigger parishes in ECUSA.

The question is not whether such parishes can get more people per se, but whether they are truly making disciples for Christ. Having an increasing number of confirmands each year is a great sign of growth, but are they committing their lives to the Lord and Savior who died for their sins and who calls all of us to live our lives for Him (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:15)? Are they growing in Christlikeness through the power of the Holy Spirit?

By your own admission in a previous post, the vast majority of your most recent batch of confirmands are agnostic concerning the deity of Jesus Christ but on fire for social justice issues. Is that the object of peoples' conversion? If so, you're calling people to a social liberalism, but not to faith in the Lord of all creation who alone can save sinful humanity from its rebellion against its creator.

Look at the "seekers" section of the ECUSA website. A "seeker" is defined as a non-Episcopalian. Look at the thrust of the EVN Via Media evangelism project. It's largely aimed, by their own admission and judging from the testimonies of people who have been through it, to NPR types, to people who seek a denomination that doesn't demand that you accept the creeds literally, and to people who have been burned by a fundamentalist or evangelical upbringing.

Can such efforts result in a growth in membership? Certainly. But I daresay that with the number of evangelicals and other orthodox Episcopalians reduced to a negligible number, there will be very little evangelical outreach to non-Christians, and the church will grow almost nil in that sense. (I also suspect that it will continue to decline in numbers overall.)

But beyond any question of growth, the most important question is one of whether we're holding to the faith held by the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church down through the ages. Are we presenting our faith as one associated with taking a given side in the culture war, as you related Bishop Bruno saying at the confirmations you attended? Or is our faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us? Can we affirm the faith of the Nicene and Apostles' Creeds, or is a literalistic belief in such facts as Jesus' bodily resurrection optional, something we can be agnostic about?

Obviously, I'm not saying that you can't make an impact at a parish like All Saints, Hugo. I'm also not saying that nothing good comes from such parishes; God can use just about anything to bring people to faith in Him. But let's not deceive ourselves that a greater number of confirmands amounts to people turning in repentance and faith to Jesus Christ.

BTW, I don't see a lack of talk about a "personal relationship with Jesus Christ" even among theological liberals in ECUSA. What I do see is a lack of certainty regarding issues that historically have been considered non-essentials of the faith, and the attitude that such issues aren't really important anyway. That's the real divide among the different sides in ECUSA.

Peace of Christ,
Chip

Hugo

As always, Chip, your graciousness is humbling. I agree that there is more to building the church than numbers. (I was writing about numbers of confirmands largely because I have read so much recently about the anticipated death of liberal Protestantism. Rumors of its demise, for better or for worse, are exaggerated).

For me, I can affirm the Nicene and Apostles Creeds with enthusiasm. For many of the kids at All Saints, I am the first non-threatening evangelical (in the theological sense) whom they have met. To be fair, their perceptions of evangelicals and other orthodox Christians are distorted, just as youth growing up in a traditionalist parish might have some fairly false notions about more liberal folks. Still, my concern is with planting small seeds of faith through my own words and example.

One of the reasons I am glad to be back in the Episcopal fold is so that I can more fully and honestly participate in these discussions. You set a high standard for cordiality in the face of serious differences, Chip, and I want to live up to that.

Peace and cheers

H

Chip

Yeah, I know where you stand on the creeds, Hugo; you've made that clear in several posts. And I would not attempt to discourage you from making a difference at All Saints. I'm just trying to point out that behind the talk of numbers declining in liberal churches, conservatives are thinking as much in terms of the church growing from people committing their lives to Christ as the overall picture of numbers.

Personally, I'd prefer not to leave ECUSA myself, but I also feel that the denomination is increasingly taking stands contrary to orthodox beliefs, and in some cases, becoming hostile toward them. God has neither called me nor the parish I attend to leave ECUSA at this time, but we're all looking to see how things develop with the Lambeth Commission and in the days beyond.

Chip

Correction to three posts above:

"Non-essentials" should have been "essentials"! (Oops!)

Hugo

I was wondering about that, Chip, but I figured you must have made a typo.

Fred

Certain individual denominations and congregations may be growing, but Christianity as a whole is shrinking throughout the developed world. The decline has been faster in Europe than the U.S., but it's happening here too. There is also evidence that this decline is accelerating.

Phoebe

Fred,

I don't Christianity is---the RC Church seems to be growing still. It's protestantism--where people tend to have many fewer babies. A lot of the change is due to birth control not a failure of faith and evangelism imo.

Phoebe

I mean "I don't THINK Christianity as a whole is declining ....

WannabeAnglican

As a Christian from the conservative end of the spectrum, thanks for having the common sense to see that what someone else has called "a gracious separation" is much better than the current situation.

Very nice site. Will sure visit again.

Very nice site. Will sure visit again.

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