Thursday, August 23, 2007

Reading the Signs of the Times

by Bishop David Bena

Today as I was driving through the countryside near my home in upper New York State, I noticed the first trees beginning to change color. Some golds and yellows appeared where green used to be. It was a message loud and clear that although the temperature is high as a giraffe today, in just a few months, the temperature will be low as a snake. Although we are in for a beautiful and spectacular autumn, with fall foliage and delicious apples, the inevitable result will be dead leaves and crippling snow storms. So I have decided to enjoy the soon coming autumn and not think about the future numbing winter. Reading the earth and the sky?

Jesus said to the crowds, "...Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and sky. How is it that you don't know how to interpret this present time?" (Luke 12:56). Much will be happening in the Anglican Communion over the next few months. Will we be able to "interpret this present time?"

Here is what I am getting at: The Episcopal Church House of Bishops will meet in late September. All the world will be watching. Will the HOB agree to repent and turn back from condoning a very loose systematic theology and an even looser sexual behavior policy? The Primates of the Anglican Communion have given the Episcopal Church HOB until September 30 to turn back. Will they? Recent statements and actions say that they will not. Their statements and actions say that the majority of Episcopal Church bishops are firmly committed to a "multi-truth theology" when studying God and salvation history, and are firmly committed to celebrating gay relationships on a par with marriage and the ordination of those practicing sex outside heterosexual marriage. Unless a miracle happens, the HOB is not going to back down from these positions. What they will do is attempt to give the Anglican world and leadership some assurance that they "are doing the best they can" to both staying in the Anglican Communion and "telling their truth" through a listening process, explaining that their polity does not allow them to comply with the Dar Es Salaam Communiqué. We sometimes call this way of handling the Communiqué as "fudge." Fudging the truth and the facts. In fact, the HOB CAN comply with the Communiqué if it votes that it will. And in fact, the HOB CAN indeed make decisions regarding whom they will ordain and what parameters will be placed on the blessing of relationships. But they will not do this.

While the House of Bishops is meeting in New Orleans, Archbishop Williams and a number of other primates will attend and dialogue with the American bishops. The plan, I'm sure, is to put such pressure on the Archbishop that he will have to accept the "fudge" by stating that the HOB and the Episcopal Church have complied in "most" of the demands of the Primates and so they should be given a pass. He will be pressured to say that the Americans and all other bishops (with a few exceptions, let the reader understand) should be able to sit at the Lambeth Conference in 2008 for a time of listening and understanding one another. This approach has been tried many times and found wanting by those who wish to clearly speak the Scriptures and the historic teachings of Anglicanism. I somehow think the Archbishop knows this in his heart. So let us pray for the Archbishop, that he sees the fudge and its vacuousness, that he refuses to accept it, and that he speaks the Truth on behalf of the Primates of the Anglican Communion, that the HOB has NOT complied with Dar Es Salaam.

Whatever happens at New Orleans, and whatever the Archbishop may or may not say about the HOB meeting, the Primates of the Anglican Communion will probably meet soon after and thoughtfully analyze the HOB statement - Comply? Not comply? and since the Archbishop of Canterbury is but one of the thirty-something Primates, he must join them as they form an opinion. It will be interesting to see how this all goes.

Interpreting this present time? We are at a New Reformation, brothers and sisters. This age can be compared with the times of the sixteenth century. Those of us in CANA are attempting, with a spirit of humility, to stand firm in our biblical faith, the faith of Anglicanism. We are saying, "this corruption of theology and behavior has been tolerated long enough in our Communion. We can no longer abide it. We need to reform our Communion by returning to Anglican biblical formation, and by moving with the Holy Spirit into world evangelization based on the Word of Jesus and the Works of Jesus.

But Reformations are messy, aren't they? And we are in a mess. The Episcopal Church, with its huge endowments (dead people contributing to what, if they were alive, would probably not!) is using millions of dollars to sue for the properties of disaffected Episcopalians. They have set a "NO NEGOTIATIONS" policy and advised all bishops to follow that policy. The attempt is apparent - destroy those who oppose the current trends of the Episcopal Church, and intimidate any others who wish to oppose them. To this, we can only say, "Here we stand; we can do no other." Let the New Reformation proceed!

By the time we meet at the First CANA Convocation Council November 1-3 at Epiphany, Herndon, Virginia, much of this will have played out. Let's be in fervent prayer as we prepare. While you pray, select your delegates and make your airline reservations to join us in Virginia. It will be autumn. We'll know that because we can interpret the earth and sky. But will we be able to interpret this present age?

Your Brother in Christ,
Bishop David Bena

Suffragan for CANA


learnerpriest said...

"With a spirit of humility"? I mean this in all love, but you've got to be joking, right?

The Catbird said...

The ADV is blessed to have Bishop Dave as their shepherd. The import of what he has said in this letter is dire, but he's delivered it in a spirit of gentle grace.
Semper Reformata!
Pax Deus,

BabyBlue said...

"Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life." (Philippians 2:1-17 NLT)

That's humility. That is a goal. If we think we've arrived, then of course, we have not. But it is how we are to engage in what we do for the glory of God. That we fail - and often fail - illustrates how desperately we need a Savior.

On the other hand, when we speak truthfully, with passion, does not mean humility is lost, quite the contrary. Moses, one whom the Scriptures described as a man of humility, was quite fierce, forthright, passionate. Perhaps humility would not be the word that would cross our minds if we were with those dancing around the golden calf - but from God's point of view, he was a humble man.