Schism and schismatic are names Christians throw out at each other when they are really mad. It doesn't matter on which side of the canyon you stand, it is always the other side that caused the rift. One never looks down at the river that has been eating away at the bedrock. Nor do you look into the waters to see the dirt and grit contributing to the erosion. The process is usually so slow that it takes years to you discover the fact that you are no longer connected to the other side. At that point you shout out, "Schismatic" across the divide, and no doubt you will hear the word echo back upon yourself.
What is going on with the 2009 General Convention of the Episcopal church that is raising the cry, "Schism!"? The BBC reports,
"Bishops of the Anglican Church in the United States have voted to overturn a three-year moratorium on the election of gay bishops.(Read: Schism)
The decision seems likely to lead to the Episcopal Church's eventual exit from the worldwide Anglican Communion."
The UK's Times OnLine had this headline from July 15, 2009:
The Americans know this will end in schism
Support by US Episcopalians for homosexual clergy is contrary to Anglican faith and tradition. They are leaving the family
How did the Episcopal Church get to this point, the point where our Bishops have "come out" and said, "Let us increase the gulf between us and the rest of the Anglican Communion."? What waters have done this, and from whence does the river flow? Many think the entire issue is over homosexuality. I like to think that those people are just looking at the rapids, and not the whole river. There is a current of liberal theology that is harder for people to recognize as it is what slowly erodes away the foundations of the church. This theology weakens the foundational authority of the same scripture that we believe contains all things necessary to salvation (Article VI). Allowed to run its course, a church standing beside the river of liberal theology finds itself divided. Tracing our river backwards, we spot one of the architechs of this divide was the nefarious Bishop John Spong, whose "Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism," along with his other teachings and actions, acted like abrasives poured into the already running waters. There are other individuals dotting the shorelines, but since he is intimately involved in the process, and homosexuality is the rocky shoal over which we are currently watching the church float, I will focus more on this part of the river than is usual for these pages.
There are more detailed time lines out there, but for the neophyte, this shorter version from the pages of Get Religion is a good starting place.
Terry Mattingly asserts that in order to write about the subject of homosexuality and the Episcopal church, you have to cherchez les Bishops when he wrote,
"When you are talking about the history of the Anglican wars, you really have to remember that it’s really about the bishops.(emphasis added)
The Episcopal Church has been struggling with homosexuality — in its national meetings — since the 1970s. But the big signposts have been about the men and women in the purple shirts. Here’s a few.
1989 — Bishop John Spong, Diocese of Newark, publicly ordains first non-celibate, openly-partnered, homosexual.
1991 — Bishop Walter Righter, Diocese of Washington, D.C., ordains a non-celibate homosexual.
1994 — Bishop Spong drafted the Koinonia Statement defining homosexuality as morally neutral and affirming support for the ordination of homosexuals in faithful sexual relationships (signed by 90 bishops and 144 deputies). Spong publishes his 12 Theses, laying out an approach to faith without a transcendent, personal deity.
1996 — Both counts of heresy against Bishop Righter dismissed in an ecclesiastical court, which decides that there is “no clear doctrine” in the Episcopal Church relevant to the ordination of those sexually active outside of marriage.
1998 — The bishops at the global Lambeth Conference uphold traditional teachings on marriage and human sexuality. Then, 65 ECUSA bishops sign a pastoral statement addressed to lesbian and gay Anglicans.
2000 — Archbishops Emmanuel Kolini ( Province of Rwanda) and Moses Tay ( Province of South East Asia) consecrate Father Chuck Murphy and Father John Rodgers as missionary bishops to the U.S.
You get the idea, if you are looking at the revolution of the theological left or the counter-revolt by the right, you have to watch the bishops — starting in the 1970, but with the open warfare picking up in the 1980s and ’90s. That’s the timeline."
And I might update the time line:
June 2009 The Anglican Church in North America is formed with Robert Duncan as Archbishop and Primate.
July 9, 2009 Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams addresses the Episcopal church and prays they do not, through their actions, leave the Anglican Communion;
"Of course I am coming here with hopes and anxieties – you know that and I shan't deny it. Along with many in the Communion, I hope and pray that there won't be decisions in the coming days that will push us further apart. But if people elsewhere in the Communion are concerned about this, it's because of a profound sense of what the Episcopal Church has given and can give to our fellowship worldwide. If we - if I – had felt that we could do perfectly well with out you, there wouldn't be a problem. But the bonds of relationship are deep, for me personally as for many others."
Sorry Rowan, but TEC bishops went ahead and gave you the holy kiss off with the latest addition to the time line:
July 13, 2009 Episcopal House of Bishops passes resolution (D025)
CURRENT VARIANT Resolution: D025
Title: Commitment and Witness to Anglican Communion
Topic: Anglican Communion
Committee: 08 - World Mission
House of Initial Action: Deputies
Proposer: Ms. D. Rebecca Snow
Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 76th General Convention reaffirm the continued participation of The Episcopal Church as a constituent member of the Anglican Communion; give thanks for the work of the bishops at the Lambeth Conference of 2008; reaffirm the abiding commitment of The Episcopal Church to the fellowship of churches that constitute the Anglican Communion and seek to live into the highest degree of communion possible; and be it further
Resolved, That the 76th General Convention encourage dioceses, congregations, and members of The Episcopal Church to participate to the fullest extent possible in the many instruments, networks and relationships of the Anglican Communion; and be it further
Resolved, That the 76th General Convention reaffirm its financial commitment to the Anglican Communion and pledge to participate fully in the Inter-Anglican Budget; and be it further
Resolved, That the 76th General Convention affirm the value of "listening to the experience of homosexual persons," as called for by the Lambeth Conferences of 1978, 1988, and 1998, and acknowledge that through our own listening the General Convention has come to recognize that the baptized membership of The Episcopal Church includes same-sex couples living in lifelong committed relationships "characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God" (2000-D039); and be it further
Resolved, That the 76th General Convention recognize that gay and lesbian persons who are part of such relationships have responded to God's call and have exercised various ministries in and on behalf of God's One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and are currently doing so in our midst; and be it further
Resolved, That the 76th General Convention affirm that God has called and may call such individuals, to any ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church,; and that God's call to the ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church is a mystery which the Church attempts to discern for all people through our discernment processes acting in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church; and be it further
Resolved, That the 76th General Convention acknowledge that members of The Episcopal Church as of the Anglican Communion, based on careful study of the Holy Scriptures, and in light of tradition and reason, are not of one mind, and Christians of good conscience disagree about some of these matters.
As I look at the Bishops' resolution, it show a resolve to part ways with the Anglican Communion. That, my dear friends, creates schism.
Our Bishop Henderson voted in favor of this resolution. His explanation is found here and concludes with:
"It may come as a surprise to some that I voted “yes” on the final version of the resolution in the House of Bishops. I did so with powerful, mixed feelings, and my sleep during the night was not sound. My thinking is this: it is critically important that (1) we leave B033 in place, and (2) that we reaffirm our commitment to, involvement in, and support of the entire Anglican Communion, its life, mission and ministry. I do realize that some intend to use the language of the sixth resolve to advance an agenda for which I believe neither we nor the other churches of the Anglican Communion is ready to endorse separately or corporately. However, the content of the resolution, taken as a whole, is more helpful than not."
Even though he says he wants to remain committed to the Anglican Communion, his actions will result in the advance of the liberal agenda, eroding the foundations of the church and widening the gap between us. I therefore count him as a schismatic, albeit a moderate one, or at least a schismatics' accomplice. One has to wonder if he has been groomed as a schismatic's apprentice for this very moment.
Click here to see how other the Bishops voted.
You will be hearing various interpretations of this resolution, but the long and the short of it is that you will never again hear the following verses at your Sunday services in our Episcopal church (insert sound of scissors here):
1 Timothy 3:1-13
1 This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
8 Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;
9 Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.
10 And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.
11 Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.
12 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.
13 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.
Snip, snip, snip, and that is the sound of schism.
(Gigli was a forgettable Ben Affleck movie from 2003)