Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What is the New Episcopal Church? A Church Willing to Sacrifice the Book of Common Prayer.

A report from the Anglican Communion Institute details the changes to the structure and polity of the Episcopal church which may come out of the upcoming General Convention of TEc. The proposed resolutions, if passed, will complete the transformation from a church made up of people who share a common Prayer Book and liturgy into one where all manner of prayer and practice may be carried out with accountability handed over by its bishops to the whims of successive General Conventions and to a newly empowered Presiding Bishop. 

The report is long, but the following excerpt may give you an idea of what this New Episcopal church will look like and some of the problems it will create. I have added bullet points.

"...we are witnessing the emergence of a New Episcopal Church, which conforms neither to the historical TEC nor even the confused one set forth in the Primer.
  • The New Episcopal Church (henceforth NEC) retains a Constitution, Bishops, a General Convention, and even Holy Scripture, but these take on an altogether different character than in the erstwhile TEC. 
  • NEC has allowed to emerge a Presiding Bishop with disciplinary authority over fellow Bishops – something the Constitution does not permit. 
  • NEC no longer sees Bishops as obedient to Holy Scripture by solemn oath, as set forth in the BCP, but rather as agents of General Convention actions. This is made clear in respect of proposed same-sex blessing and marriage rites, where the role given to them (“under the direction and subject to the permission of the Bishop with ecclesiastical authority”) is now obviated. 
  • The Constitution remains but is no longer the governor of General Convention actions, but is somehow identical with whatever General Convention may decide to do.
The problem may be seen in its more acute form in the manner in which the Book of Common Prayer, itself a constitutional document which is not to be altered except by affirmative votes by orders of “a majority of the Dioceses entitled to representation” at two successive GCs, has now become a vague placeholder of yesterday’s temporary and transitory convictions. Even the Primer stays away from this obvious problem area in the quote above, though we may see a hint of it in the language which concludes the quote, “…of our various liturgies.” What began as an assertion of the unique and catholic status of the Book of Common Prayers (and its Ordinal) which embodies “the essential understanding of Christian faith as prayed by faithful Episcopalians” (lex credendi, lex orandi) appears to slide into a very different context: various liturgies emerging to give expression to what we now believe and hold to be so, apart from subjection to the Constitution and the letter of the Book of Common Prayer. This produces not catholicity but each new generation’s assertion of its freedom to confess and pray and pronounce and hear scripture’s word on its own terms."
The New Episcopal church has no choice but to change its constitution and canons (C+C's) to match moves by the last General Convention to bless same sex unions or else be faced with the disciplinary problem of having priests and bishops knowingly in violation of the C+C's as well as the BCP by participating in these "marriage" liturgies. Of course, it just codifies a historic abandonment of the Apostolic faith.

While bishops, priests, deacons, and pewsitters in the New Episcopal church may still recite the Nicene Creed every Sunday, many will be doing it with their fingers crossed if these resolutions pass when they get to the part in which they say,

"We believe in one holy, catholic and apostolic Church."   

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