Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Great Western Heresy?

Yesterday in the dark cavern of one of the large halls at the Anaheim Convention Center, Robert Lundy of the AAC reports that the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church said this:
And then in a cold, calm, defiant and defining voice she said, "The overarching connection in all of these crises has to do with the great Western heresy - that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God. It's caricatured in some quarters by insisting that salvation depends on reciting a specific verbal formula about Jesus. That individualist focus is a form of idolatry, for it puts me and my words in the place that only God can occupy, at the center of existence, as the ground of all being. That heresy is one reason for the theme of this Convention."
Robert then goes on, in his astonishment, to comment:
Did I really hear what I think I heard? Did I just hear the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church dismiss as heresy the confession of millions upon millions of Christ followers, from the Apostles to St. Augustine to the Wesleys to the GAFCON gathering of Anglicans last year to the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in the Church of England meeting in the UK right now to the multitudes throughout our own Anglican Communion who are invited to make a personal confession of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior — and who do so daily, often at great personal cost, as their churches and provinces explode with growth in numbers and mission?
What struck me yesterday was how little energy there was in the great dark cavern the size of an airline hanger. The applause was polite, even reserved. It could be there were hundreds of jet-lagged Episcopalians, or perhaps it could be that the rank and file are far more worried than we thought.


Matthew said...

I'd guess it's a combination of factors. Jet lag, plus the age of the attendees as well as the lack of red meat in the speech. The words certainly do not seem calculated to stir the listeners. It appears like the delivery of the speech was nothing to write home about as well.

The Underground Pewster said...


In the words of Tom Lehrer:

"We will all go together when we go..."

Andy said...

Could it have been due to a collective "WTH?" that was firing off in the brains of the attendees?

SF has a link to AAC Phil+'s coverage of this amazing dismissal of the previous two millenia of Christian Canon.

Anam Cara said...

Um, I cannot believe that I am saying this, but she does have a point. We are saved together, we are lost alone!

We are saved together as the Body of Christ - we are saved in community with one another. We are lost alone - by not obeying the commandment to love others. One could focus on the fact that he "said a prayer" and rest in that alone. And yet that person would be sadly mistaken. The prayer by itself, the "I'm right with God" shows no real love for God or mankind which is what God demands. If the idea "I'm okay" is all there is, then it is a form of idolatry! The Holy Immortal God has to be the beginning, the end, the center of all things - not my personal profession or beliefs.

And yet, what she ignores is that the personal confession she derides is the first step to the community, to joining the Body of Christ and therefore is vital to the salvation offered.

She better consider what she has said and how it applies to herself. her own beliefs, her own personal belief that she is right goes contrary to everything the historic Church has taught since her beginning! Stick to what the Church has always taught in all times in all places and you will be saved together. But stand alone on your own beliefs, not those of the Body of Christ, and you will perish alone.

Fr. Daniel Weir said...

What is interesting in this report and the comments is its reading into the PB's statement something which she didn't say, i.e., that our personal confession of faith is not important. What she said is, actually, an echo of something which Christians have been saying for centuries, i.e., outside the Church there is no salvation. While I don't like that expression, I agree with the PB that we find our salvation in the community of the Church.

I once heard a young Englishman say that now that he had accepted Jesus as his Savior he did not need to go to church anymore. It is that "just me and Jesus" attitude that the PB sees as mistaken.

The Great Atlantic and Pacific Heretical Priest said...

As a priest ordained in an independent Old Catholic community, I am about celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at my dining room table...

entirely alone except for the presence of the entire court of heaven...

and through the small, loosey-goosey network of exceptional and remarkable Christians with whom I actually communicate, I am in direct touch with the larger Body of Christ.

I do not need Mrs. Schori, whose priesthood I do not recognize, to "waken by a solemn warning" that the "great western heresy" is the individual soul meeting Christ.

This is self-loathing, America-loathing, Christ-loathing, and Gospel-loathing twaddle.

I will pray for the salvation of her soul in the next life, and her utter and complete unmasking and disempowerment in this one.

The harlot drinks, wipes her mouth, and says "I have done no wrong."

Wilf said...

Fr. Daniel, I admire your effort at adding an extra gloss here. Indeed, we are called into the body of Christ; but the PB is clearly denying that "we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God." She uses the word "any" - and she does not nuance her statement, as you do yours.

It is true that an excessively "individualistic focus" is an idolatry, but likewise, an excessively communal focus is also an idolatry.

The problem is, churches that still want to believe in the creeds need clergymembers like yourself to gloss over her words - like when she essentially denied the resurrection - to give them a different meaning.

There are, though, Episcopal churches that admit that she is saying what she is, and are nonetheless successful. What you should probably do is go into a period of discernment, look over her words, and then decide what to do. You might come out on the side believing she rejects these things you find essential. Consider preparing some materials for your church, showing that she rejects these things, but also charting a way forward, standing behind resolutions that ask her to clarify, asking your diocese to limit giving to the mother church, etc. etc.. I believe Vero Beach does something like this. You can remain Episcopal, but still oppose the top leadership. Schori says she "allows & encourages dissent," so there you go.

Wilf said...

Methinks the Peeb likes moonwalking.

Phil said...

Rev. Weir,

Nice try, but I'm confident she meant no such thing, inasmuch as she has expended much energy teaching that there is plenty of salvation outside of the church.

Fr. Daniel Weir said...

"It is true that an excessively "individualistic focus" is an idolatry, but likewise, an excessively communal focus is also an idolatry."

Wilf, how do we deteremine that a communal focus is excessive? Was St. Paul's communal focus excessive when he wrote, 'The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”'? Hardly, but what the PB said seems in line with Paul's statement.

I think that the assertion that the PB was dismissing the Wesley brothers is absurd. Look at the heavy emphasis that the early Methodists put on community life with their meetings of various groups. The early Methodists understand that salvation involves not only justfication but also sanctification. While I can be justified as I accept Jesus as Savior, my sanctification happens over time within the community of the Church.

BabyBlue said...

Evangelicals are the ones that shout the Nicene Creed from the housetops. Is she attacking the Baptists? I don't know if the Baptists recite the Nicene Creed or not.


KC said...

quick correction: Phil Ashey is the author of this piece.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the PB was thinking of this, when she spoke of 'God's dream':

We Would Be Building
Hymn lyric by Purd E. Deitz
Tune: Finlandia
We would be building; temples still undone
O'er crumbling walls their crosses scarcely lift,
Waiting till love can raise the broken stone,
And hearts creative bridge the human rift.
We would be building; Master, let thy plan
Reveal the life that God would give to man.
Teach us to build; upon the solid rock
We set the dream that hardens into deed,
Ribbed with the steel that time and change doth mock,
The unfailing purpose of our noblest creed.
Teach us to build; O Master, lend us sight
To see the towers gleaming in the light.
O keep us building, Master; may our hands
Ne'er falter when the dream is in our hearts,
When to our ears there come divine commands
And all the pride of sinful will departs.
We build with thee, O grant enduring worth
Until the heavenly kingdom comes on earth.

FW Ken said...

Baptists do not recite creeds in their worship. Those Baptists of my youth occasionally decried creeds as a form of legalism and an affront to "soul competency", which is the responsibility of each individual soul to determine truth an establish a relationship with God.

I agree this can become a matter of pride and independence. Like Fr. Weir, I am well-acquainted with those who claim to have a personal relationship with the Lord, but no need of corporate worship and fellowship. However, it's also true that one finds a great deal of well-expressed love among the evangelical brethren. Perhaps what they do tells an important tale.