Monday, August 07, 2006

Matt Kennedy's List: Should We Stay or Should We Go?

Should We Stay or Should We Go?

By Matt Kennedy

The most crucial decision presently facing parish leaders is whether (or when) to disassociate from the Episcopal Church. That question has plagued my parish and my home from the moment I arrived back from Convention. There is no easy or cost free solution.
God will hold those of us he has placed in leadership accountable for the decisions we make. This truth (along with my week old infant) keeps me up at night. I know I’m not alone.

The most crucial decision presently facing parish leaders is whether (or when) to disassociate from the Episcopal Church. That question has plagued my parish and my home from the moment I arrived back from Convention. There is no easy or cost free solution.

For that reason, I spent some time this morning compiling two lists written from the perspective of a Network/orthodox parish leader in a non-Windsor diocese.

The first is a list of reasons for remaining within the Episcopal Church in the aftermath of GC2006.

The second is a list of reasons for disassociating.

The two lists are by no means exhaustive. They simply reflect some of the more basic issues I’ve been wrestling with over the last two years and some of the discussions that have been ongoing here at Stand Firm in recent days.

Please feel free to add your own reasons to either list

List 1: Reasons to Stay:

1. Since the ABC and the primates initiated the Windsor Process and since the Windsor Report and the Dromantine Communiqué locate Communion authority in the Instruments of Unity, the most proper/appropriate action on the parish level is to wait until Instruments of Unity recognize The Episcopal Church’s departure and establish a legitimate successor or alternative.

2. The Episcopal Church as currently constituted is a mission field. Orthodox parishes must stay, fight, and try to win as many to the gospel as possible. If enough parishes make this decision the orthodox may, one day, turn the tide.

3. The Episcopal Church is somewhat analogous to ancient Judah. Though she is likely doomed to ruin, the orthodox, like Jeremiah, are called to remain in the city of Jerusalem and speak the word of God to the last.

4. Bodies that have left the Episcopal Church, similar to the multiplication of protestant bodies after the reformation, tend toward fragmentation or dissolution not unity. Until there is a legitimately body sanctioned by Canterbury, leaving the Episcopal Church is to leave the Anglican Communion and leaving the Anglican Communion is leaving the Church catholic.

5. Paul in Romans 13 commands obedience to earthly authority so long as obedience does not require disobedience to the law of God. The diocesan bishop has not forced the parish to teach anything or act in any way contrary to divine law. Therefore, there is no legitimate reason to move out from under his/her authority.

6. Many parishes led by orthodox rectors are not theologically or politically unified. A decision to leave would split the parish. The rector feels a personal responsibility to stay and guard the flock under his care for fear that those who remain behind would necessarily come under the leadership of a heretic rector/vicar.

7. Many parishes led by orthodox rectors are in the process leading up to a decision to leave, but they are not there yet. They will not move until there is a wide consensus.

8. The General Convention passed a resolution that effectively complied with the Windsor Report. Given that TEC has stepped back from the brink, there is no need to even consider leaving. (+Little and some of the other orthodox members of the SCECAC hold to this position)

List 2: Reasons to Leave.

1. When a visible branch of the Church rejects, deliberately and unrepentantly, apostolic teaching it ceases to be the Church. To leave such a body is to remain within not depart from Christendom. Having departed from the apostolic faith, the Episcopal Church is no longer the Church despite apostolic succession and regardless of the decisions of the Anglican Communion. The assertion that parishes are “leaving” anything other than a dead branch is false..

2. Participation is complicity. The Episcopal Church is actively leading people away from Jesus Christ and into the bonds of sin. To be a part of such an organization is to passively participate in this process and to share in the blood-guilt. Therefore, the current status quo does not fall under Romans 13 as asserted in (list 1:5). Complicity is equivalent to disobedience.

3. The health and wellbeing of orthodox parishes cannot be long maintained in theologically hostile bodies. Leadership succession, episcopal visits, diocesan assessment canons, membership bylaws, and annual elections are all points at which revisionist dioceses have sought and will seek to subvert orthodox parishes. Leaving is the only way to completely protect the flock.

4. The Network Moderator has embraced the concept of departure from non-Windsor dioceses; promoting a peaceful model of disassociation. Seventh Convocation parishes will form the nucleus of the new “enduring” ECUSA rising from the ruins.

5. Many orthodox rectors/vicars face dwindling congregations as parishioners refuse to “wait” and vote with their feet. In some of these cases the only way to maintain parish viability is to leave.

6. Many orthodox rectors/vicars can no longer attend diocesan functions, participate in the diocesan decision making process, contribute to the diocesan coffers, take communion with or from the diocesan bishop, or welcome episcopal visits in good conscience. Anglicans believe that ecclesial authority and hierarchy is essential to maintaining the health of a local parish. Leaving the Episcopal Church is the only way to reestablish a truly Anglican authority structure and restore communion life to a parish.

7. The reputation of the Episcopal Church has been so tarnished that in some regions of the country evangelism/mission has become almost impossible. The first step toward growth and fulfilling the Great Commission is to leave the tainted institution.
8. There is somewhere to go. Whatever happens to the Anglican Communion, orthodox parishes must find a way to be united with orthodox provinces. Many Global South provinces have made such unity possible. To forsake such an open invitation/opportunity in favor of unity with 815 cuts against both the oneness and holiness of the Church.

As I mentioned above, both lists are incomplete. You are invited to add your own reasons to either list.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hi i wrote a mail to you concerning this article and the creative commons ;) . i'd love to get feedback/reaction. thx