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The Post Windsor World of 815 - by Bill Atwood

The Post Windsor World of 815

By Bill Atwood

CARROLLTON, TX. (12/24/2004)--It’s skillful, but it’s not righteous. The coordinated, strategic march of the ECUSA agenda goes on. It would be sad enough if same-sex imperialism were to proceed in ignorance, but that can’t really be claimed anymore. Before the General Convention of 2003, all the “Instruments of Unity” of the Anglican Communion said, “No.” The 1998 Lambeth Bishops Conference said, “No.”

Two Archbishops of Canterbury said, “No.” Several meetings of the Primates of the Communion said, “No.” Even the Anglican Consultative Council (often viewed as the most liberal of the instruments) said, “No.” But the General Convention overwhelmingly pressed ahead. Same-sex blessings were declared “in bounds,” and a man in an open sexual relationship with another man was confirmed as a bishop. Arrogance and presumption. Strike one.

That fall, the Archbishop of Canterbury called an emergency meeting of the Primates to deal with what the Episcopal Church had done. In their discussion it was made abundantly clear that the Anglican Communion would be “torn at its fabric” if ECUSA proceeded with the consecration of a bishop in a same-sex relationship. Even the Presiding Bishop of ECUSA signed the report, recognizing the gravity of the situation. He then went on to be the chief consecrator in New Hampshire. When denunciations began to flood in from other provinces he feigned surprise. How could it be? Callous indifference and pride. Strike two.

Now, after a year’s study, the Lambeth Commission has produced The Windsor Report. Given the hand picked group, it is startling that it is as forthright in its criticism of ECUSA as it is. Amazingly, the commission was unanimous in saying that “The overwhelming response from other Christians both inside and outside the Anglican family has been to regard these developments as departures from genuine, apostolic Christian faith.” Imagine that: The actions of ECUSA are not just rude, wrong, or simply bad manners (as they have been described by Bishop Mark Dyer who was on the commission), they are “departures from genuine, apostolic Christian faith.” Consider the magnitude of that. The Episcopal Church in its official and formal corporate action is leading people away from the redeeming love of Jesus Christ! That is the exact opposite of what the church is called to do and be. Now, there is posturing to justify their actions and to skirt responsibility for their actions other than to say, “Sorry if you were hurt by what we did.” That’s like an unfaithful husband saying to his wife, “Sorry that my affair hurts you, but I can’t give it up.” If ECUSA leadership ignores the challenge of the report to stop the excursions that depart from the faith and conform to the theology of the communion it will be a willful departure from the communion as well. Strike three.

So… what is the strategy that is emerging from 815? There are several components. The first is to delay. The Executive Council has already published a statement that the main response to the Windsor Report will not be until the General Convention of 2006. Consider this situation: The whole Anglican family is in a crisis over what the Episcopal Church has done. A commission has met for a year and has told the Episcopal Church that they need to communicate regret for what they have done and the damage it has caused. ECUSA was challenged to agree to a moratorium on further actions, for those who “did” it to consider withdrawing from the councils of the communion, and to agree to a theological covenant that conforms to the historic position of the communion (and the Scriptures). The ECUSA leadership has said, “We’ll think about it for eighteen months before we decide what we will say or do.” Outrageous. Responsible Christians would lay down their lives to effect reconciliation as quickly as possible.

The second thing that is happening is that 815 is misrepresenting what the report actually says. Bishop Dyer quotes the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus (431 AD) as a source for the impossibility of separation. In fact, that council not only demanded the excommunication of Nestorius, they insisted on anathematizing any bishop who refused to break with Nestorius. “Cyril, the bishop of Alexandria, said, “What seems good to this holy and great synod with regard to the letter just read? Does it also seem to be consonant to the faith set forth by the holy Synod assembled in the city of Nice?” [The bishops, then as before, individually express their opinion, and at last the Acts continue (col. 502):] All the bishops cried out together: “Whoever does not anathematize Nestorius let him be anathema. Such an one the right faith anathematizes; such an one the holy Synod anathematizes.”

The report clearly recognizes that learning to “walk separately” may be necessary if ECUSA and New Westminster will not conform to the teaching and order of Anglican (and Biblical) norms. Despite Bishop Dyer’s protestations to the contrary, the report and history make it clear that separation is a real possibility. When the Episcopal Church has turned away from the faith and the cross, the leadership cannot demand that we follow them off into oblivion. To say, “Schism is worse than heresy,” misses the point that heresy is behavior or belief that (if maintained) will result in the loss of salvation. To insist as Bishop Dyer does, that we must walk together no matter where ECUSA chooses to go, is to suggest that we could be stuck with “swell fellowship” on the road to Hell.

More pernicious is the attempt to use money (of which they have far too much) to control the church around the world. Feigning righteousness, ECUSA has said that poor nations did not have to agree with ECUSA’s actions and agenda in order to receive money, but then turned around after the fact and said of anyone who took money, “The situation could not be all that bad because they still take our money.” That manipulation caused the Anglican Provinces of Africa to make a statement rejecting funding from ECUSA. Of course, that precipitated cries of “Hypocrisy!” from American liberals who trolled around to highlight any funds that were still flowing to Africa. Now, most of Africa has stood firm against receiving money from ECUSA because they cannot in conscience condone the same-sex agenda that they understand is leading people into hell.

In order to convince the world that there is not a problem, ECUSA is attempting to show that the expressions of outrage from Africa are not genuine. As a result, they invite people from Africa to New York. All but urging them to express disagreement with the actions of ECUSA, circumstances are manipulated to elicit solicitous comments recognizing diversity in the Anglican Communion and giving thanks for “partnership.” In recent weeks there have been representatives from Burundi, Tanzania, and Liberia invited to 815.

Here are some things to consider. When the ninety day genocide of Rwanda occurred ten years ago killing over 800,000 in that country, most people don’t realize that it spilled over into Burundi and claimed 200,000 lives during the same time. In my view, Burundi is the most beautiful country in Africa. Her people manifest magnificent crystalline nobility and the overwhelming majority seek to live ordered lives of grace. Unlike Rwanda, however, when the rampage of the genocide stopped, killing and rebel raids have continued in Burundi for ten years. Hundreds of thousands of refugees still live on the brink of death. Insurgents ravage villages and have even dropped mortar fire into the capital city of Bujumbura. The material needs are desperately great, and the fatigue of even godly leaders is palpable. Add to that the fact that the orthodox Christians in the West have been less than generous in channeling resources to the great needs of the tiny nation. Some days, and in some circumstances the work, witness, and ministry in Burundi is magnificent and inspirational. Other days, when the circumstances of life overwhelm expecting leaders of people with desperate needs to refuse resources from the spiritually compromised liberal church in America is like asking a young girl with broken ankles to toe-dance Swan Lake.

There is no way that the Primate of Burundi, Archbishop Samuel Ndayisenga or Pascal Bigirimana, his Provincial Secretary could ever agree with ECUSA’s same-sex agenda. They are both godly men. But they are also tender-hearted and compassionate men who would do anything they could for their people who live in desperate conditions. Were the resources available from sources that are more in agreement with their Biblical world view, there is no doubt that they would rather have ministry partnerships with orthodox believers. The facts are, however, that American conservatives have been slower to offer resources out of their financial abundance than they have been to ask for spiritual help from people who live on the brink of economic collapse.

The Liberian Church gets almost all of its cash from ECUSA. Tanzania is the fourth or fifth poorest nation in the world. They have not only some of the same kinds of struggles that Burundi has, they even have a huge number of Burundian refugees living in their country. Aid that comes with strings attached, either before or after it is given, is an ethical violation of a great order. The manipulations of ECUSA are no less serious, however, than the failure of conservatives to share out of their abundance.

–The Rev. Canon Bill Atwood is General Secretary of The Ekklesia Society

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