The New Christians

The New Christians

Episcopal Divorce

On the eve of our Great Emergence National Event in Memphis comes news of a new denomination of breakaway Episcopal dioceses.  While this is no surprise, it is unfortunate, methinks.  It’s also a sign of the death of denominations, which I’ve been advocating for for a few years.

I remember sitting in an Irish pub in Rome about 15 years ago, debating a Catholic priest about Protestantism vs. Catholicism.  His closing argument: “All you Protestants,” he said, “are children of divorce, and, as such, you’ll just keep divorcing.”

I’ll spend this week around Episcopalians of the more liberal stripe.  It’ll be interesting to hear their reactions to this news.

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Your Name

posted December 4, 2008 at 8:53 am

I’m sure Tony will get feedback from the liberal side of this group at the little conference. I hope you can get a balance of input from those on the conservative side but not sure how you will…..

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St. Paul

posted December 4, 2008 at 9:14 am

The “protestant” experiment has reached its end. The fragmentation that marked the movement was unavoidable from the beginning. As the Protestant Reformer Theodore Beza (1500s) lamented:
“Our people are carried away by every wind of doctrine. If you know what their religion is today, you cannot tell what it may be tomorrow. In what single point are those churches, which declared war against the Pope, united among themselves? There is not one point which is not held by some of them as an article of the faith and by others is rejected as an impiety.” — Theodore Beza
And Luther, too, saw the writing on the wall concerning his new church:
“There are almost as many sects and beliefs as there are heads; this one will not admit Baptism; that one rejects the Sacrament of the altar; another places another world between the present one and the day of judgment; some teach that Jesus Christ is not God. There is not an individual, however clownish he may be, who does not claim to be inspired by the Holy Ghost, and who does not put forth as prophecies his ravings and dreams” — Martin Luther

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adam mclane

posted December 4, 2008 at 9:35 am

As a casual observer of the episcopal downfall, I share the disappointment of many. I hope it doesn’t end up in a decades long court battle… instead I hope that they just get it over with so both sides can focus on the task at hand.

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Paul Martin

posted December 4, 2008 at 10:01 am

I’m not sure I understand all of the happenings and I don’t even pretend to understand the implications, but for the local body, this probably won’t have much of an impact. Most churches will probably keep doing what they have been doing.
It is interesting though about the balance of power. The EC is 2.6 million or so and seems to have held large sway over Canterbury for a time when Rwanda is over 7 million and has been all but ignored. I think Nigeria and many other provinces are probably the same. The African and Asian provinces, which typically are more conservative, are the majority of the Anglican Communion, yet they are inked to one of the most liberal protestant groups.
The bishop where I am at made a statement that the “strong majority held firm” which is just a farce (insert the sound of a single fiddle and something burning). The strong majority (African and Asian provinces) has declared the EC apostate and is starting its own province.
I think Tony is right, children of divorce will divorce more easily. At the same time, at what point would we as believers say that someone has such differing views as to make them apostate or heretical? In the church, actual divorce has become common, so why not divorce from bodies of worship. What we are left with seems to be orphans of the faith.
And here I was reading Ephesians 4 this morning with hope.

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posted December 4, 2008 at 10:09 am

“Episcopal downfall”?
We’re talking about 4 dioceses out of hundreds and there is question if it’s even possible for most of them to “leave”.
If people want a different province…then so be it…but the way people speak of this is a little bit overblown for my tastes.

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Your Name

posted December 4, 2008 at 11:01 am

American denominations will conitinue to see their membership fall and their marginalization from the global church. I applaud those that have stood for Scripture and against the redefinition of age long moral teaching of orthodox Christianity. It is unfortunate that the Episcopal and Pres. USA churches have emphasized voting on moral teachings and have marginalized themselves in a breaking away of the teachings of Scripture. This will continue for them and “liberal” CHrisitianity, which eventual looses its draw an potence, will continue to die out as folks become less concerned about denomination and more concerned to follow God’s leading through Scripture, whether that is at a non-denominational church or a church that is in line with the Anglican Communions teachings. Shame on the ECUSA for attempting to emphasize “unity” (which is a mandate to Christians globally) under a denomination while promoting immorality and spiritual oppression.

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posted December 4, 2008 at 11:33 am

The “new” Episcopal denom is somewhere around #27 in “new” Pisky denom’s. Google “Episcopal Church” or “Anglican Church”, and count how many claim to be the “true” or “orthodox” one. Ditto for Baptist, Pentecostals, Roman Catholic, etc. They all run in the dozens. i.e., nothing new under the sun here.
The fact of the matter is that less than 1% of EC-USA is breaking away from EC-USA. It is not a major split, but a minor one which is making an awful lot of noise in the press…mostly made by the people splitting, and over something that all Christendom is struggling with: gayness, and the interpretation of Scripture. That is why so many are interested: they are all struggling with it, too, or will be soon.
Regarding the wider Communion: the “Global South” has made it abundantly clear that they want to control the Communion, and make it into their own image: fundamentalist and authroitarian, two concepts which are anathema to Anglicanism and the Via Media. Of the African churchs that want to either effect a coup d’etat or a breakaway communion, they themselves are in the minority of African churches.
Their “Lambeth”, called GAFCON, was a failure, and the true Lambeth, which was to be the implosion of the Communion, turned out to be a success. The neocons are furious, and are now splitting…finally. This has been the longest goodbye since Cher’s Latest Fairwell Tour.
What we are seeing is not the beginning of a Great Schism, but the last gasp of The Lost Cause.

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posted December 4, 2008 at 11:34 am

Bishops playing politics and suing each other again. Time for them to read their bibles, they seem to have forgotten what the purpose of the church is.
Rule 1: You should evict congregations from their buildings and sell the assets. Even if those congregations were the ones that paid for those buildings.
Rule 2: Always file lawsuits, never negotiate or mediate a dispute. It is much cheaper to pay lawyers millions of dollars of donated funds.
Rule 3: The goal of the church is to decrease attendance. When 100000 people less people are attending than 5 years ago, keep responding ‘all is well’. Say only a few churches have left, and there are only a few upset members.
Rule 4: When 54% of your churches have lost 10% of their attendance in 5 short years, don’t revise your policies. Just increase your rhetoric and double down on your efforts to crush your opponents.
At the present rate the Episcopal church will not survive this generation.

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posted December 4, 2008 at 1:31 pm

BTW: a note from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s office…
[Episcopal News Service] A spokesperson for Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has responded to the Common Cause Partnership’s December 3 release of a provisional constitution and canons that outline the formation of what they are calling a new Anglican province in North America.
“There are clear guidelines set out in the Anglican Consultative Council Reports, notably ACC 10 in 1996 (resolution 12), detailing the steps necessary for the amendments of existing provincial constitutions and the creation of new provinces,” the spokesperson said. “Once begun, any of these processes will take years to complete. In relation to the recent announcement from the meeting of the Common Cause Partnership in Chicago, the process has not yet begun.”

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posted December 4, 2008 at 10:53 pm

So…are you becoming Catholic, then? Wouldn’t that be the best way to eradicate denominations?

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posted December 5, 2008 at 6:12 pm

Isn’t there another obvious alternative that your post omits? Instead of many denominations or one denomination, how about none? I’m not arguing for any of these options at this moment, but just wanted to point out how odd it was that you’d immediately associate a desire to eradicate denominations with a desire for one (ie, “becoming Catholic”).

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Carl Thomas Gladstone

posted December 8, 2008 at 9:53 am

Tony, for a proponent of generative friendship I would assume that you’d have a high regard for “connectional” churches, if that connection compliments the mission of the church. As a United Methodist I have seen the excesses of denominationalism, even witnessed moments of UMs calling for divorce from one another (General Conferece 2000). But, I have also seen how relationship between United Methodist churches enables a robust mission in the world – fast growing churches in Zimbabwe, Liberia, Sierra Leon; a United Methodist Committee on Relief that arrives in natural disaster or war zones to distribute aid before many government organizations do.
So, is there a post we should be reading about the specifics of your call for denominational death? Do you call for a strict congregationalism? Are you calling for an open-ecclesiology, something more universal than Roman Catholicism?
Very interested to hear more,

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