Friday, October 20, 2006

legal fiction: or, ecusa's not a church: or, some thoughts on diocesan convention

I hope the following is coherent. I'm very tired, and must be up early againt tomorrow.

Here's the deal, folks. I am so sick of people talking about the "unity of our Church" when they mean ECUSA. Who cares about the unity of ECUSA, per se? I mean, its nice, I guess. But its not an end in itself. Its like the unity of the Boy Scouts, or the unity of the NCAA.

I will let you in on a secret: this is the source of all the confusion: the word "church" is used in reference to ECUSA, when its not really apt. There are different senses of the word "church." There is the thing on the corner, made of brick. There is the "Baptist Church." There is the "Church of England." There is the "Anglican Church." And there is the "One, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church." Etc. Guess which one of these the Lord was talking about when he held up "unity" as a virtue. Here's a hint. It starts with an "O" and ends in an "ne, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church."

A guy at diocesan convention today got up and talked about how he was Confirmed "into ECUSA," and how meaningful that was. Well, that's very moving. But, sir, it is ignorant to think that you were confirmed (or baptized, or ordained) "into" ECUSA. You are baptized / confirmed / ordained "into" THE ONE (holy, etc.) Church. And ECUSA is, at best, a PART of it. I would argue its ceasing to be even that.

That's the crux of the thing. And why ECUSA unity is expendable. Because a dissunited ECUSA is necessary for a united Holy Catholic Church. What did the Lord say? He prayed for the unity of the Apostles, and "for those who believe in me through their [the Apostles'] word..." (John 17.20). That means the Lord's prayer of unity was that the Apostles would be united and that those who have a unity of faith in the apostles' teaching would likewise be united. And that is exactly what ECUSA has repudiated, and the repudiation ECUSA has ratified: the One faith through the Apostles' teaching. Other words for that teaching are "scripture" and "tradition."

ECUSA has new, supposedly better teachings. And that's fine. They're welcome to them. But I don't want to be yoked to the new stuff. I want the old-time religion.

But that's why we shouldn't give a second thought to the unity of ECUSA. And people (please!) should stop talking about being baptized (confirmed, etc) "into" ECUSA. That's nonsense.


DDX said...

Amen. Selah!

DDX said...

Yes...and again I say YES! Amen. Selah!

Anonymous said...

Agreed that one is confirmed "into" the OHCA Church, but isn't one confirmed "in" the Episcopal Church, or the Church of England, or the Roman Catholic Church, or what have you? Or would it be preferable to add precision by saying "confirmed by an Episcopal bishop"? What about being received?

t19elves said...

Preach it Fr. WB!

If you get a chance, can you let us elves know what resolutions passed and what about the constitutional amendments?

Garland said...

Of course, I suppose. But what about when ECUSA sacrificed its apostolicity and its catholicity, or did ECUSA as an historical and coherent body even make claims to that in the first place? And isn't catholicity and apostolicity more than simply the LCD of belief shared by prots and [lower-case 'c'] "catholics"? ECUSA may not, as you suggest, represent the whole of belief, but if it does not, can it even act as a gateway into the church? What am trying to say...? Not entirely sure, but, if ECUSA is expendable, at what point is it dispensed with and then where does one go from there? Rome? Constantinople? Geneva? Plymouth Rock?

I guess I'm not disagreeing with your description of the problem, but what is the practical application?

Anonymous said...

Well, now Pecusa, Ecusa, or Tec, or whatever, is just another of those 20,000 protestent denominations. And they won't get any respect from either the RCs or the Orthodox. They have left the nest, their'branch' has fallen off the tree and is now dead, the water in their well is foul.

The young fogey said...

Well put: the 'I was ordained a priest in the Church of God not the Episcopal Church' argument.

Another way of reading this headline is as far as the secular courts are concerned the diocese is the primary unit of the Episcopal Church, not the parish nor the national church. No congregationalism but no Pope either.

So either way - conservative parish wants to leave liberal diocese and go under overseas bishop, or liberal parish wants to quit conservative diocese and go under a different Episcopal Church bishop - if a parish tries to take the buildings it will lose in court. Fair ’nuff.

Of course the bishop should be nice and if he doesn't really need the building he can offer to sell it to the parish for a token amount (transfer of title) and be done with it.

But much of what you're seeing is spite from the liberal bishops this is happening to: essentially they're trying to force the good news of gay weddings onto Middle America... or else!

And if a diocese finally tries to leave, guess what? The national church won't have a leg to stand on in court. Just like the conservative parishes who have lost to liberal dioceses, they'll have to start over again in those places. The leaving diocese keeps its real estate. Again, fair ’nuff.

Based on reading this church's own canons the secular courts won't care about the unity of the national church and neither should we.

Taurus said...

Well said, Whitehall. The emperor wears no clothes.

shannon said...

I dunno. I think I really was confirmed into the Episcopal Church; I didn't really become a Christian until years later (and it wasn't in the Episcopal Church).

WannabeAnglican said...

WB+, I'm confused. The Dallas News reported that your parish didn't send a delegation to the convention. Plus I hear different reports about what the convention actually passed.

What happened? And where does your parish stand at this time?

(And I hope to get to meet you on Advent Sunday!)

Anonymous said...

It seems Stanton moves closer and closer to the middle with each passing day. At first I disagreed with Christ Church Plano leaving, but after the non-actions of this convention, bravo to you David Roseberry and the faithful in Plano. St. Matthias, leave quickly. I can only hope more do the same. I am so disgusted with this diocese and the "talk, talk, and more talk, then let's see what happens" attitude. Our leadership has failed us.

father wb said...


Email me for answers to your questions. The email link is at the bottom of the sidebar.

Anonymous said...

But here's the question. Didn't Roseberry and Duncan have a responsility to STAY and STAND (what with both of them being on the Standing Committee by election of the previous two conventions)even if they believed Stanton wouldn't stand? I think their decision to leave really changed the outcome of convention. It could have gone differently. It seems most likely now that the entire diocese will fall apart, much like Florida. It is just so dissappointing when those who have been instrumental in calling younger men into the priesthood in this time give up so easily...or so selfishly?

Charles Warnky said...

I agree +WB. I tend to militate against the notion that the jurisdiction of ECUSA is contiguous with The Church. Now, by this I don’t mean to strictly equate the Roman or Eastern Churches with ECUSA, but in this one sense, sure. The luminaries throughout TEC hierarchy view themselves as the captains of a cultural monolith, driving us toward the omega point…etc. I find this monolith-ism amongst some Roman and Eastern folk also. The answer is then, according to their popular wisdom, that we are members of the wrong juridical body, and that if we changed jurisdictions, we would then have the benefit of the full Gospel (and real sacraments). In our own jurisdiction (or one related to it), there is a good chance that we Anglo-Catholics get marginalized indefinitely (since as Geoffrey Kirk says, the Evangelicals will not tolerate misogynists in their company forever). I do not think that our options are about which monolith to run to – Rome, Constantinople, Geneva, etc., but maybe Etchmiadzin though.  I am not sure that if when I become an Orthodox that my beliefs, now being underwritten by an “official” theological opinion, have more “stick” or “juice”. This portends to me an ecclesiological crisis. Most of us Anglo-Catholics agonize over how to understand ourselves in the “Catholic” continuum. The days of trying to be orphaned papists are over – if you don’t think so, I encourage you to find a happy Roman Ordinary in your town to receive you. Entering into communion with B16 or B1 doesn’t solve any of the ecclesiological questions we are struggling with? I wouldn’t be changing my beliefs drastically by becoming RC or EO, I wouldn’t be receiving better sacraments…so then is all I am getting a better jurisdiction? Is that what we should be looking for? I think us Anglo-Catholics need to step up to the plate and tackle these ecclesiological questions…this can be an extraordinarily fruitful time for us, with important lessons and chastisements, and some very healthy persecution to feed us along the way!

david+ said...

Excellent article. Thanks.

Taurus: it isn't that the emperor has no clothes. I've been saying for years that the clothes have lost the (Son of) Man.

Pat Kashtock said...

Thank you so much for putting the issue clearly. I have been trying to come up with a short enough version of what you said to answer someone one titusonenine who sounded so woe-be-gone over Christ Our Lord Church leaving ECUSA. He felt that it was dividing the body of Christ, but of course it is not. Perhaps, for those of us that had thrown our lot with individual churches that just happened to be Episcopalian, this is easier to see. Or maybe it is just easier to accept. I became a believer at the age of 18, out of the Mormon "church" -- which is not Christian in the least. Because I had the background of dead religion to contrast genuine Christianity, I was able to see the commonality between denominations more easily than the differences, which are more superficial. One church or another – it did not matter as long as they adhered to those beliefs necessary for salvation. The Nicene Creed states them well.

From what I have observed these past years, it appears ECUSA is rapidly leaving The Church, behind.

It is interesting to read what Jesus, Paul, John, and Peter had to say about false teachers and false prophets, and how we are to behave. It would not appear that they preach tolerance and getting along with such…

If it is okay, I would like to refer this other poster to your page.

father wb said...


Thank you for the compliment. Refer away!

But (everyone) nota bene: I don't mean for my words to be understood as counseling a blanket dissociation of every parish and every soul from ECUSA. I should point out that I remain in ECUSA, and will likely remain there (here) for the foreseeable future. Not that I am happy about it, but because my bishop remains within ECUSA, and I exercise my priesthood under his authority and by his leave. Another post is in the works elaborating precisely this point.

Pat Kashtock said...

Thank you, WB, for letting me use your article as a reference!

My heart goes out to you. I could not stay. It probably is easier for those of us who have come to Christ outside of denominational affiliation, particularly in -gasp- the Pentecostal branch of the church, to move if needed. I do understand where you are coming from, but it seems to me that in the end, your authority comes from Christ...even if He used a human agent.

BTW -- I honestly did not get the impression from your article that you were saying it necessary to leave ECUSA. You write clearly. What you were addressing was the true nature of The Church proper, the Bride of Christ that He is so dearly in love with, and what the unity He addresses actually means. You statement brought necessary clarity to an issue that has been far too nebulous.

DDX said...

Shannon (and others),
I had a friend (now deceased) who, growing up in England was confirmed in the Anglican church. He said, before I was confirmed I knew I was a sinner...and afterwards a "confirmed" sinner. Every Sunday morning he found himself getting no answers to life's questions, believing nothing and repeating with everyone else "...pardon us miserable sinners." So, he decided, "if that's all the church can do for me I'm leaving. I'll remain a sinner, but less miserable." Like you, he later encountered the Lord but not in the Anglican, or any church for that matter.

He spent the next 60 years teaching the bible all over the world and today there are thousands of churches and hundreds of thousands of christians who can trace there spiritual birth to his ministry.

A few thoughts from scripture for conventioneers:

1. "There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against the Lord." (Ps 21:30)

2. "There are many devices in man's heart; nevertheless, the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand. (Pr 19:21)

3. "...the Lord of Hosts hath proposed. Who shall annul? His hand is stretched out and who shall turn it back? (Is 14:27)

Nothing is out of control. We shouldn't be "agonizing" over anything, in my opinion. When we are facing persons and powers that seem to us "against" God we should be examining ourselves.

David wrote in Ps 139:21-22, "Do I not hate them that hate thee, O Lord? And do I not loathe them that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred. I count them my enemies.

But when he begins to look for God's enemies look where he begins the search! (v. 23-24) "Search ME, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!"

If we follow David's formula for dealing with the enemies of God, (and I count ECUSA as such) we will win...individually first and then collectively. But we must start first with God's enemies closest to us...perhaps in us.

Did Roseberry and Duncan take this step? Is Stanton doing so now. (?)
I hope the answer is "yes" to both questions. But if they're like me...I doubt it.

(Forgive me +WB for my blog clogging but it's one of my ways of staying in touch with you!)

father wb said...


Amen. Selah! Amen, YES, Amen, selah, etc.!