Sunday, July 23, 2006

David Roseberry: $10 million spent on GC-2006; New Presiding Bishop disagrees with Jesus; ECUSA clearly moving in another direction ...

From "A Matter of Mission," by The Rev'd David Roseberry, rector, Christ Church Plano.

I have assessed the mission of the Episcopal Church and it is clear that they are going in another direction. Sometime in 2006, the 300 millionth citizen of the U.S. will be born. Our country has seen enormous population increases over the last few decades. Yet, during that time, the Episcopal Church has lost members and is losing its foothold in the American culture. ECUSA now has fewer than 800,000 attendees each week in their 7,200 churches. There are (on average) 37 pupils in an Episcopal Sunday School.

And I might add that in the middle of this unprecedented decline – and quite likely the cause of the decline – is that the church has been engaged in endless debates and conflicts about sex: sexual identities, sexual expressions, sexual lifestyles and sexual freedoms. And with this comes a whole package of teaching, theology and core convictions that have moved ECUSA outside the Christian mainstream.

It has been monotonous. And now as I look back on it, it has also been self-centered and very expensive. The 2006 General Convention cost around 10 million dollars! I have come to believe that the country does not need one more agency or institution demanding or defending sexual freedom. It needs a missionary church with a clear message about Jesus Christ and the Cross.

But it is not just the mission emphasis that is different. It is also the message. The message of the church is the energy that propels its people into the world to make disciples and teach them to obey the commands of Christ. Christ is the message. It is all about Christ: His work on the Cross, His life and teaching, the impact of His life upon the lives of all who follow Him, and His death and resurrection, ascension and coming Kingdom. The message of the Gospel is a message simply about what God has done in Christ. The church has no other point to make until that message is clearly understood and clearly proclaimed.

There were lots of opinions about Jesus in His own time. His work and wonders were well known. He could draw a crowd for a sermon and for lunch! People had interest and fascination with this teacher/healer from Nazareth. But Jesus never cared about being famous and well known, like a celebrity. He wanted to be known for who He truly was: the Son of God. Only after the disciples understood the true identity of Jesus Christ would they comprehend the purpose of His life. And, when Peter gets it right at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus then reveals the final outcome of His life: death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. (Matthew 16)

The point is very simple. Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus gave His life for the sins of the whole world. No one comes to the Father except through the Son. (John 15) Or, put another way, “This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life, He who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (I John 5:11)

In an interview with Time magazine, the Presiding Bishop-elect was asked a question about the necessity of belief in Jesus for eternal life. Read and mark her answer to this question: “We who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box.” This is a different message than Jesus’ message concerning Himself. (John 15) The Presiding Bishop-elect disagrees with Jesus. Her answer is incorrect at almost every level, but it is very revealing. She sees that Christianity is about a practice and not a person. Her metaphor of a “vehicle to the divine” actually reduces the Trinity down to a limited partnership between “the divine” who receives and Jesus who brings. It is a denial of the co-equal and co-eternal nature of the Trinity. (This “vehicle” language is totally foreign to Judeo-Christian teaching.) It is a different message.

These then are two key differences between where Christ Church is going and where the direction and agenda of the Episcopal Church is going. They are different … stunningly different. And these differences are just the beginning of the divergence. When I think about the dichotomy of these two issues alone I realize that we have no other choice but the one we have chosen.

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