Canon Kendall Harmon posted links to two of the papers presented at the recent Mere Anglicanism Conference held in Charleston, SC. The subject was "The Way, The Truth and The Life: Engaging Secularism and Islam with the Light of Incarnational, Trinitarian Christianity," but speakers managed to work in a timeline of Episcopal Church's walk away from the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Papers such as the "Decline and Fall and Rising Again of the Anglican Communion" by Stephen Noll bear witness to the havoc wrought by the undisciplined liberalism of T.E.C. In this comprehensive two part presentation which you can access by clicking on his name above, Dr. Noll lays out the facts of how we got from the era "B.G." to the era "A.G.". This is a must read for those unfamiliar with the situation, but it is lengthy, so I will give one pewsitter's short impression of it.
My personal take on this is that one of the most important problems besetting the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion is a lack of accountability and discipline due to the loose structure of this communion. Bishops are permitted to lead their flocks into fields of loco weed and muddy waters, and no one living can do a thing about it.
Dr. Noll does not talk about the mind of the average American Episcopalian. Why should they care?
The answer should be obvious to students of the Church, but to the uninformed masses, it might seem like much ado about nothing. As a student, I have been watching the Church walk away from its foundation into a new, revised theology of the "god of the month" and into "universalism," and "pluralism" by ignoring and denying Biblical truths. I am coming to the conclusion that the Episcopal Church would very much like to retain its independence, and claim an Anglican tradition, while continuing to ignore its dependence on the other Anglicans of the world, the majority of whom are calling for T.E.C. to repent. Remember that Episcopalians make up about only 3% of Anglicans (PewForum)
Has the Episcopal Church abandoned the communion it once shared with the rest of the world and decided to go its separate way? The evidence is clear, and the answer is "Yes." Getting the Archbishop of Canterbury to put that in writing is another matter. Ineffectual leadership will probably be the downfall of both Canterbury and 815. The resulting vacuum will be filled by something. After all, Americans still believe in God. A successful something will look to the errors of T.E.C. and perhaps be governed by a conciliar structure which will involve Anglicans worldwide. Such a structure would first govern and provide a new disciplinary structure for a new North American province, separate from the Episcopal Church. Will people leave their historic Episcopal Churches for this new province? Many already have.
Bishop Jack Iker of Fort Worth delivered an address outlining the development of a new Anglican Province in North America. This certainly is where we are headed, but will it be a province where he asserts "there will be no women bishops?" I wonder what the female priests in attendance are thinking about that. Of course, Bishop Iker is on solid Biblical ground in his view of the ideal qualities of Bishops. This is documented in Paul's letter to Timothy,
1 Timothy 3:1-13.
This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
"A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;
Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.
And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.
Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.
Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.
For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus."
Of course, the Episcopal Church rejected this teaching, first because of the divorce issue, then because of the masculine issue, and then because they found that the blameless, people of pure conscience, grave, sober, and spousal clauses would require a lot of the Church leaders to resign.
There is nothing stopping from resigning, and setting aside their miters and crosiers other than the lure of lucre (their pensions) and the dollars church buildings and properties represent. Having a lot of money and property is a plus when starting a new Church, which is their intent. If the lot of them were to resign, walk away from these sacred buildings, and set up the Universalist Church of their dreams, then the Episcopal Revival could begin. I don't think the proudest of our Bishops will ever submit to an outside authority, nor are they likely to resign their posts for the good of the people.
A post-revival Episcopal Church is the topic for another post, but I believe that repentance and revival would likely lead to re-admittance into the Anglican Communion.
How many Episcopalians don't want anything to do with worldwide Anglicanism? In my opinion, they should start working on creating their own Church, answerable to no one, and doomed to stray into self indulgence and heresy. It is quite possible that the upcoming 2009 General Convention of the Episcopal Church will continue on this path towards separation, and we in the pew will be expected to follow.