Friday, July 13, 2012

A Letter from the Rector of Truro on #GC77 and next steps

The Rev'd Dr. Tory Baucum
Letter from the Rector of Truro:

I am writing this with a few days remaining of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. Like many of you, I have followed with grave concern and grief the news and blog accounts of the events taking place there. Of particular concern were the "Bishopsgate" charges filed on the eve of General Convention against eight respected, conservative Bishops (including Truro's former rector, John Howe). Our hearts and prayers go out to these brothers who have tried to remain loyal to the institution of the Episcopal Church while maintaining a faithful witness.

The resolutions related to human sexuality, though heart rending, were predictable and yet another sign that TEC has stepped further away from us and the historic Apostolic Faith. The Episcopal Church is making decisions where decisions cannot be made -- an assault on reality. The journey that Truro is taking in our study of the Theology of the Body leads to profoundly different conclusions, ones that allow us to offer compassion and hope for all relationships. I will be writing about some of these different conclusions in a forth coming TFN article.

While I grieve for those who were and will be harmed by the decisions made at General Convention, my strongest emotion is one of gratitude for our new ecclesiastical home in the Anglican Church of North America and for all the faithful leaders, both lay and ordained, who risked much to create it. We now have a home in which we can engage our society redemptively. Though we share the same Anglican heritage with the Episcopal Church we obviously read and bear witness to it with increasing difference. The painful point of this convention for the rest of the Communion is that we are even further apart -- which is hard to imagine.

As you know, I reached out to Bishop Shannon Johnston of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia during the final stages of the litigation. He and I have attempted to build a constructive relationship that could survive the antagonisms and wounds inflicted during the course of the lawsuit. We have prayed for him and he has prayed for us. At some professional risk, he traveled with me to London to experience the home of Alpha (the greatest Anglican evangelization movement since the eighteenth century) and to meet many of my closest friends in ministry. His reception was characterized by grace and truth. I am grateful that Bishop Shannon continues to desire to build a relationship post-litigation. I hold out hope we can do so and I still consider him a friend.

What this General Convention underscores, yet again, is that the work of rebuilding trust with individuals, parishes and dioceses in the Episcopal Church, if it is ever successful, will take decades. It is worth doing, but it must be seen within the wider mission that God has given us. We are called to continue to speak and bear witness to the truth of God's revelation in all things but at this moment particularly as it pertains to human relationships. Why here? Because this is where the faith is under attack. In faithfulness to Jesus Christ, we must reflect in our relationships and in our words (even to theological opponents) the beauty of God's creation of the human person as male and female and the mystery of marriage as the only sanctioned context for sexual intimacy. In his teaching ministry on marriage and sexuality, Jesus located the norm in Eden -- "have you not read that He who created them in the beginning made them male and female" -- and so must we (see Matthew 19:3-9). It appears our witness to TEC will be much like it is to society at large: a matter of display rather than mere argument.

As a sign of our emerging missionary focus, and especially the Mission Conference on Marriage we are hosting in January, I have made some changes in the weekly prayers that you will certainly notice. Most important, instead of praying for Bishop Shannon and the Episcopal Church in the Prayers of the People on a weekly basis they will be placed on our Rota of prayers with other prayers for churches. In our personal prayers I hope all of us will continue to pray for them daily. We must remember that our enemy is not the Episcopal Church, but the ideological "strong man" that has ensnared them. In its place, on a weekly basis, we will pray two special collects. The first one is for land, which I composed around the great theme of Abraham's radical response to God's call to be a blessing to the nations. The second is for marriages, which I composed around the theme of God's nuptial love climactically revealed in Jesus' mission. I conclude with these prayers, which I encourage you to use during your daily devotions:

Collect for Land

Gracious Heavenly Father who called Abraham into a land that you had prepared for him to make him into a great people who would be a blessing to the nations: we ask that you lead us to the land you have prepared for us and that you would make us ever more fully into a people who will be a blessing to others. We ask this in the name of him who left his home to seek us when we were without a home, Jesus Christ our LORD. Amen.

Collect for Marriage

Gracious Father in Heaven, who officiated the first marriage in Eden and proclaimed the union of man and woman as "very good": we ask that our marriages will more perfectly manifest the mystery of Christ's love for the Church, His Bride, and be a sign of hope in a sexually broken age. We ask this in the name of him who wooed us at the well of our alienation and gave us the dignity of his spousal love, Jesus Christ our LORD.

Your brother in Christ,



RalphM said...

"the work of rebuilding trust with individuals, parishes and dioceses in the Episcopal Church, if it is ever successful, will take decades"

I find this to be a very curious statement. Trust is different from compassion and caring. To what end should we seek to rebuild trust? The value of trust is realized in a relationship. What relationship should be sought with individuals, congregations and dioceses who rejoice in the actions of GC77?

Anonymous said...

I would think the relationship with individuals, congregations and dioceses of the Episcopal Church would be the same kind of relationship that any Christian outside the Church hopes to cultivate with fellow Christians in other denominations.


Always hobbits said...

Scout and company--

Following the not-surprising story of the General Convention this week, I wondered what you (all) would think. Would there be any second thoughts? Would there be any remorse? Would there be any repentance? Would there be any sorrow?

I guess not, which itself is not surprising, though very sad. God alone knows what will happen to Truro in the future. We already know what has happened to The Falls Church. You and your ilk may have gained the building, but TFC has remained the church. Not much of a contest, when all is weighed in light of things that matter most.

"Christians in other denominations"? As the weeks pass, and the General Conventions come and go, it is increasingly clear to the watching world (see the Wall Street Journal and the NY Times this weekend) that TEC has given up a claim to being seriously Christian. Anyone with any knowledge of the competing religious visions of the world knows that TEC in its official claims has become Hindu. (And if that is beyond you, walk the marketplaces of Mumbai and look around. Jesus is honored, just as the elephant god is honored-- which is as Katherine Schiori has ordered for TEC.)

"Ichabod" was the name for this a long time ago, and it still is.

Anonymous said...

What a perplexing comment, AH.

All GCs have elements that leave me a bit bemused and, in some circumstances, even a bit unsettled. I've never personally felt any need to repent of a GC or personal remorse as a result of one. I do not live a sin-free life (surprise confession, there) but noGC has ever affected that condition plus or minus.

I accept, as a more or less traditional, conservative Christian, that there always seems to be a fringe element of wackiness (as I perceive it) in large Episcopal gatherings (a lot of American protestant denominations have similar elements), but, from my viewpoint, I am just kind of CofE in the blood going back generations, and, give me an old BCP and some good hymns, and I just focus on God.

Now, then, what's this about my "ilk"? What do you mean by that? I don't think there's enough homogeneity among Episcopalians at The Falls Church or even nationally that we can carve an "ilk" out of it. It seems a bit counter-factual and disparaging for you to talk that way. What exactly do you think is the ilk-unifying characteristic of The Falls Church?

I've not observed any evidence of Hinduism intruding into the liturgy or worship of my parish or other Episcopal parishes. I spent some time in Mumbai several decades ago (they then called it Bombay, but Mumbai rings truer to me), so I'm not totally flummoxed by the reference, but I think it doesn't do either Hinduism or Christianity a fair turn to equate the two. No one has ever talked about worshipping elephant gods at The Falls Church in the twenty years I've worshipped there.


PS: Perhaps someone else can explain the "Ichabod" reference to me.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why Tory Baucum or anyone else in CANA cares. You left the Episcopal Church - why do you care what we do? You remind me of the husband who walks out and then is outraged by everything done by his ex-wife, even six years later.

Move on, for goodness sake.

RalphM said...

Anon at 5:55:
Perhaps it's because those who left had to decide whether to pull up stakes and depart their home of many years.

Watching the actions of GCs gives comfort that they made the right decision, in spite of the cost.

Anonymous said...

A decision to "pull up stakes and depart their homes" would have been a tough one, indeed. Unfortunately, in several parishes, the issue was not presented that way. The issue was presented as whether we depart and keep the physical and financial assets while barring those who stay from continuing to worship as Episcopalians in the surroundings that had, in many cases, been their spiritual home for many years, sometimes many generations. Human nature being what it is, that was a much easier decision. Ultimately, the predictable happened, but this course made the initial decision to leave far less difficult than it would have been if it had truly been presented as having to make the sacrifice of starting over.


Anonymous said...

I don't see Mr. Baucum's message as one of comfort, but of worry and concern. You still haven't answered - why not simply move on and let go?

Also, they didn't pull up stakes and depart their home. They created a seriously complex litigation strategy and tried to snake the property on their way out.

Reprehensible, really.

RalphM said...

"depart their home" was actually referring to the decision to leave the Episcopal church, not their physical church home.

Given TEC's focus on property and indifference to the concerns of those who eventually left, I'm not surprised at the interpretation.

Anonymous said...

RalphM -

You cannot deny that the departing congregations were equally, if not moreso, "focused on property" and indifferent to the concerns of those they left behind.

That sword cuts two ways. Both sides have much to regret, much about which to repent, and much healing to do.

Whether it will happen, given the anger in the rank and file - on both sides - and in some leadership - on the CANA side - remains to be seen. Tory is trying, God bless him.

RalphM said...

Anon at 4:03,

I don't feel the need to respond to a statement that starts out with "you cannot deny". If that is your assertion, say so.