Wednesday, June 28, 2006

a letter from bishop henry louttit of georgia

A letter from Bishop Louttit of Georgia follows. Bp. Louttit ordained me. I love him and have a deep and abiding respect for him personally, as well (of course) as for his office. He is wise, intelligent and humble. In many ways I think his is a paragon of godly episcopacy. But I believe his thinking, as expressed in this letter, is fundamentally flawed. While stating that he himself holds the catholic (or orthodox or whatever you want to call it) position on human sexuality, he says that he nevertheless recognizes that he is in the minority within the American Anglican collegium of bishops, and he concludes thus:

"Different from some friends, that I respect, I believe what Jesus said
about not dividing His Body the Church outweighs my personal
interpretation of the text on sexual morality."

But Bishop Louttit's teaching on sexual morality is the same as the teaching of the Church Catholic. He
is in the catholic / universal majority. ECUSA / TEC IS NOT THE CHURCH. It is but an insignificant and heretical backwater of the Universal Church which runs throughout the world and throughout time, and which transcends not only ECUSA, but Anglicanism as well. The teaching of this Church, the only One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, is what matters. And ECUSA is deviating from the teaching concerning human sexuality of the Universal Church. It is ECUSA that is in rebellion, and ECUSA that is schismatic. It is ECUSA that is dividing the Body of the Lord Jesus, and it is those within ECUSA who have pushed this novel teaching on sexuality who will have to answer for the divisions in the Body that have resulted.

St. Paul said "I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that
all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment" (1 Cor. 1.10). What mind and what judgment, if not the mind and judgment of Christ himself? Bp. Louttit is implying that the mind and judgment of Christ himself are expressed by the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, that Christ uses the judgments of ECUSA to admonish and correct (and contradict) the clear and consistent teaching of the saints in the Church Catholic, throughout the world, and throughout time, since the days of the Apostles themselves. I'm sorry, but that is a ridiculous notion. Our allegiance to ECUSA (and to Anglicanism) MUST ALWAYS BE subordinate to our alleigiance to the Bride of Christ, to the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

As Archbishop Williams pointed out just yesterday, "Unless you think that social and legal considerations should be allowed to resolve religious disputes... there has to be a recognition that religious bodies have to deal with the question in their own terms. Arguments have to be drawn up on the common basis of Bible and historic teaching." ECUSA has not done that. ECUSA has abandoned any pretense of being a part of the Catholic Church. This can be clearly seen in ECUSA's having failed, to date, to present a coherent theological apologia for its actions, demonstrated from Scripture and from Tradition. ECUSA hasn't done so because it can't.

One is tempted to ask, following Paul in 1 Cor. 1.13: Was ECUSA crucified for you? Or were you baptized into ECUSA? No. You were baptized into the one Lord's death and resurrection, and thereby incorporated into his one mystical Body. And that Body is not coterminous, thanks be to God, with ECUSA.

Here is Bishop Louttit's letter:


The Reverend Clergy and Laity
The Diocese of Georgia

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

I copy two Bishop's letters to their congregations. I love and trust both Bishops.

The two letters see the actions of the General Convention very differently. I do not see how both can be correct. However, I believe Bishop John Howard of Florida is recording better than I could what I believe General Convention did.

I served on the Special Committee on the "Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion." I have read all of The Windsor Report a number of times! I have heard hours and hours of arguments and discussion of it's meaning on disputed points. I believe the General Convention answered the way Windsor asked us to if we wish to walk together. Except we strengthened the scope of what we asked Standing Committees and Bishops to honor as Bishop Howard, a lawyer, states.

I have worked with Bishop Katherine Jefferts-Schori. I look forward to her ministry as Presiding Bishop. She is very thoughtful, highly educated, and listens carefully to the person speaking to her. She is a pastor! She has excellent leadership qualities.

Her daughter, an Air Force Pilot, when stationed at Mood A.F.B. attended Christ the King. Bishop Jefferts-Schori has visited Christ the King in our diocese.

She is liberal in the sense she believes women can be ordained and that monogamous homosexuals should be eligible for ordination if they meet the other qualifications. I think the majority of deputies elected by our dioceses favor the ordination of monogamous homosexuals as do a majority of living and voting Bishops (retired and active). I think I am in the minority.

Different from some friends, that I respect, I believe what Jesus said about not dividing His Body the Church outweighs my personal interpretation of the text on sexual morality.

Sincerely,

Henry I. Louttit
Bishop of Georgia

4 comments:

Alan said...

I also attended his church in Valdosta when I was stationed at Moody AFB in the early 1970s. +Loutitt was a fine, orthodox minister and teacher then, as he probably still is. I am certain that the new PB and her family are as fine as he says, but respectfully those do not constitute qualifications for being a senior bishop. Sadly he is following the "lead" of +Lee and many other corporatists in putting unity above truth.

Seppuku Kid said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Seppuku Kid said...

WB,
Perhaps I misunderstand what it is to be a Catholic church, but your approach seems to be more Evangelical than Catholic to me (not that those two are always mutually exclusive, as JA often reminds us). It seems to me that Louttit is correct, in that in the name of unity, he should subjugate his opinion (without abandoning that opinion) to the body of bishops of which he is one for the sake of unity.
In the case of GC2006, likewise, I believe that the ECUSA bishops should have subjugated their opinions (without abandoning those opinions) for the sake of global unity. I don't believe, however, that GC2006's woeful failure to act for the sake of global unity entitles individual bishops (and especially individual priests, e.g. the infamous Connecticut Six) to instigate local schism for the sake of global unity. The body designed for establishing global unity is GC, not the local priest.
Of course if ECUSA ever loses its place as the recognized Anglican Church in America, then the Catholic Anglican should align himself with whatever organization it is that takes its place as this new representative. Until that time comes, however, the Catholic option seems to me to be one in which one prayerfully submits to those currently given authority.
The place where I find your view to be somewhat Evangelical is that, if I understand your view properly, the individual believer/priest/bishop has the right (if not obligation) to declare that the structures that currently bind him (i.e. ECUSA) are invalid, rather than waiting upon the global Church to deem this so. Perhaps a bit more patience, like that of Louttit, is in order, at least if one wants to bear the title "Catholic."
SK

father thorpus said...

WB,

I think the Communion's thinking and the ÅBC's (as evidenced in the excerpts of his letter posted below) are moving in the right direction, namely, toward defining what it means to be 'catholic', not defining what it means to be 'anglican'. I believe this question has been at the root of all our crises, going back to Pike's trial and the ordination of women. My definition: being Catholic means preserving the apostle's doctrine and being an organic part of the recognized apostolic order of leadership -- the historic episcopate. I'm convinced this is all the Fathers ever meant by the term. Catholicism expresses itself in an urge toward the center of the Church -- not center in terms of the conservative-liberal spectrum, but center meaning the essential nature and ground of the church. Being Catholic means you seek to remain catholic, means you work to obtain and once obtained, to hold fast a static concept of doctrine and leadership, but you're allowed local option in everything else. Catholic Christians and churches strive walk the path Jesus and the Apostles laid out for us.

TEC, since the 60's, has simply had no interest in being catholic. We'd rather define our own path (this is called 'straying') than obey anybody (this is called 'rebellion'). I blame the baby boomers, to a large extent.

SK, you question whether the responsibility to remain catholic reaches down to the level of individuals, or whether only a collective body is capable of entering into that relationship. The typical Roman Catholic answer, which I think is correct here, has been that there is no salvation outside the church. The individual's eternal soul is at stake, and therefore each one has the responsibility to join himself to a Catholic church. If this is what you meant by 'evangelical', I suppose the lable is not far off. Because of this, and the fact that each parish is itself 'The Church' as much as the larger structures are, the 'body designed for establishing global unity' is not the province/national church, but the local parish. The sacraments of the parish are not the sacraments of TEC, but the sacraments of the whole church, militant and triumphant, accross time and space. Our souls depend upon valid sacraments, which are only available in the Catholic church, and only at the parish level from our diocesan bishop. Technically, there are no other 'levels' of the church's existence. Theology recognizes no archbishopricks, archdeacons, metropolitains, etc. These are practical, logistical terms. The essence of the Catholic church's structure is bishops, assisted by presbyters and deacons, who provide sacraments in local parishes to individual believers. This means the most important levels at which our unity with the Anglican Communion can be tested are, in order of priority 1. diocesan; 2. individual. If your bishop is not Catholic, then your parish, however orthodox in doctrine, is not catholic. The status of the priest there doesn't matter -- even if he were properly Catholic, there are no independent parishes in the Church catholic, so he can't act without a bishop. If your bishop and church are not Catholic, you've got to get yourself to a Catholic church. that's why things like Alternative Episcopal Oversight are so important -- no matter how orthodox you are, you can't do church on Sunday without a Catholic bishop.

sorry to go on so long, but one more point:

SK, God never demands of us obedience to an earthly authority when that requires disobedience to Him. 'I was just following orders' is no defense before God's throne. No Christian, including bishops, is asked to submit himself to any authority that would compromise his Catholicity. To do so would, as I described above, endanger his soul, and the scriptures and church have always been clear that the soul is our first priority, despite what men may do to us. For what is a bishop advantaged if he gain TEC and lose himelf or be cast away? Or what shall a bishop give in exchange for his soul? Should we not fear rather Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell? If these bishops believe they are obeying God and being 'prophetic' in their stand for full inclusion, they have the responsibility to stand clearly for that and not, as it is said, sell their souls for a tea party at Lambeth. If a bishop like Loutitt believes the apostolic doctrine, he should not allow himself to be coerced into obeying another gospel for the sake of obtaining the apostolic order, because he already has that, and as long as he maintains communion with the ABC he will keep it.