Sunday, January 17, 2016

Bishop Waldo on the Episcopal Church's "Suspension" From the Anglican Communion: Turning Vinegar Into Wine, or is it Whine?

This Sunday's Gospel reading is from John 2:1-11 and contains the story of Jesus turning water into wine.

For those of you who may have missed it, this past week the Episcopal church got spanked for defying the majority of the world wide Anglican community by pushing forward with its agenda of revising the Church's teachings in regards to human sexuality. The Episcopal church, buoyed by having successfully avoided any discipline for the ordination of the first openly gay, partnered bishop, Gene Robinson (since "divorced" from his partner), and having gotten away with the use of a trial rite for same sex blessings, went ahead last summer with full approval of that rite and resolutions to develop a same-sex marriage rite as well as a gender neutral liturgy over the next few years. The Episcopal church did this in defiance of earlier resolutions of leaders of Anglicans from around the world.

Now, having been spanked, and wanting to put a positive spin on this, Episcopal bishops are sending letters to their sheep trying to assure them that "all is well." I am afraid our bishops are no miracle workers and that this looks a bit like them trying to turn vinegar into wine. Instead of words of repentance, most are pledging allegiance to the General Convention's past sins and leaving this pewsitter with a sour taste in the mouth.

This is what my Bishop Waldo had to say,

On the Events of the Primates 2016 Meeting
15 January 2016
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Many of you have by now seen the various media reports about the Anglican Primates' Meeting that have taken place this week in Canterbury, England. The most visible result of the meeting was a Communiqué from Primates 2016 temporarily suspending The Episcopal Church from representation on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, being appointed or elected to internal standing committees, or voting in any decisions on issues pertaining to doctrine or polity. 
Not that the Anglican Communion has been strong on making decisions pertaining to doctrine in the past. It remains to be seen if such decisions can be made now that the Episcopal church has lost its vote.
Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, called the Primates of the 38 Provinces of the Anglican Communion together - plus a non-voting guest from the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) - specifically to discuss tensions within the Communion around homosexual and women's ordination and same-sex marriage. 
Waldo tossed out a backhanded insult of the Archbishop of ACNA by calling him a non-voting guest and not including his title. Word on the street is that  Archbishop Foley Beach participated more than a simple guest would have been allowed to do.
The Communiqué reflects deep pain that already exists in the Communion; it also causes deep pain among those of us who have acknowledged and/or embraced LGBT persons as full participants in the sacramental life of the Church. 
Waldo repeats the lie that I have heard from many bishops of the Episcopal church that this is about full participation of LGBT persons in the Church. The Church is for all sinners. The Episcopal church has declared that one particular sin is no longer to be considered a sin.  Not only that, the Episcopal church has declared it to be a blessing. All this is contrary to scripture of course, but the way Waldo has worded it, the average pewsitter will remain clueless as to the false teaching hidden in Waldo's vesion of "full inclusion."
It is critical to note, however, that the Communiqué is a communiqué. The Primates' Meeting, while serving as what we call an "instrument of unity" within the Communion, has no authority in and of itself to say who is in or who is out of the Anglican Communion, or to discipline constituent provinces. The other instruments of unity are the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Lambeth Conference of all bishops in the Communion.
In other words, "Don't worry, about a thing, cause every little thing's gonna be alright."
The deepest desire expressed by the Meeting and its Communiqué was that we continue to "walk together in Christ." In fact, the vast majority of connections remain intact between the Episcopal Church and many of the provinces, dioceses and congregations who dissent from the General Convention 2015's decisions on marriage-through mission partnerships, companion diocese relationships, friendships and, especially, shared faith in the Lordship of Jesus Christ. 
 Waldo either misses the boat or is deliberately misleading his sheep here. This walk together in Christ is like a having a Christian brother take you aside and tell you that you are walking away from Christ when you bend and manipulate scripture in order to bless something that is clearly condemned.
Schism has not occurred. A reiteration of our common desire to stay in relationship is in fact explicit in the Communiqué.
Since no other Church was so sanctioned, and the Episcopal church is a minor Anglican sect (in numbers), it is not schism. It is a formal recognition that the Episcopal church has strayed from the fold, and the good shepherds in the rest of the Anglican Communion are seeking out the lost sheep, and in the unlikely event if the Episcopal church were to repent, I am sure relationships would, like the return of the prodigal son, be mended.
 In this Diocese, we have persisted in dialogue and relationship, maintaining respect for one another in the presence of sometimes strong disagreements among us. And we have succeeded remarkably well, opening doors for new understandings of multiple perspectives, traditional and progressive, and the recognition that it is more important that we stand together around the table of Christ, to be transformed by his Body and Blood, than it is to win this or that doctrinal battle.
I would like to see an accounting of Waldo's successes.
But that we are all welcome at that table is non-negotiable.
Actually, it is negotiable. Bishop Waldo, because of his approval of same-sex blessings in the Church would not be in communion with the majority of the world's Anglican bishops unless he were to repent of the false teaching which he is allowing to flourish in his fold. He would have to negotiate to be welcome at many a table in the Anglican Communion.

Lastly, Waldo tries to appeal to us through the words of the Presiding Bishop who, if you listened to his entire statement, is not going to back down from same-sex marriage in the Church.
Following the Primates' Meeting, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said this: 
"Our commitment to be an inclusive church is not based on a social theory or capitulation to the ways of the culture, but on our belief that the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross are a sign of the very love of God reaching out to us all. While I understand that many disagree with us, our decision regarding marriage is based on the belief that the words of the Apostle Paul to the Galatians are true for the church today: All who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, for all are one in Christ."
As I have mentioned elsewhere, for Michael Curry to ask us to believe Paul in Galatians while at the same time to disbelieve him in Romans 1 is asking a bit too much.

Waldo concludes,
 As in every age of human existence, we have much work to do together, as the very need for the Primates' Meeting confirms. And that work entails, as Archbishop Welby defines reconciliation, "learning to disagree well." That work is the work of mercy and forgiveness extended to one another, laying our burdens at the feet of Christ and rejoicing in the love, grace and mercy God has abundantly showered upon all people. 
Blessings to each and every one of you in the name of Jesus,  
The Rt. Rev. W. Andrew Waldo, 
Bishop The Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina
Actually, Waldo and his friends do have much to work on: repentance for what their votes at General Convention 2015 have done to the Church would be a good start, and that is hard work for someone who is in such denial.


  1. Anonymous6:52 PM

    Thanks for your reasonable and sound analysis. If only there were more in the TEC leadership who thought this way!

  2. "...we have much work to do together, as the very need for the Primates' Meeting confirms. And that work entails, as Archbishop Welby defines reconciliation, "learning to disagree well." Really? And that was the purpose of the primates getting together? And that was the message TEC received? Does Bishop Waldo live in a different universe?

  3. Dale, Welcome to Waldonia.