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Recognizing the disease and looking for the cure - by Peter Toon

Recognizing the disease and looking for the cure

By Peter Toon

A call to self-examination by all Episcopalians It is generally agreed that of all Anglican Provinces the Episcopal Church USA has advanced the most in the incorporation of innovations into its constitution, canons, formularies, worship, doctrine, discipline, practice and common life. And it is generally agreed that many of these innovations represent a major change of what was the case and situation previously.

From the perspective of the historic, classical and biblical Anglican Way, the ECUSA as an institution, along with many of its dioceses and parishes, is apostate, in that it has knowingly and deliberately departed from the Faith and Morality, the Worship and Order, that it was committed to, previous to the late 1960s. Within its membership are those, regrettably but a minority, who protest at this apostasy and who desire this Church to engage in a spiritual and moral U-turn.

When a whole Church is in apostasy, it is infected with a particular contagious disease that has moral and spiritual dimensions. And all the members, clergy and laity, have this disease whether they approve or disapprove of the latest innovations in apostasy. Now the signs of the disease may be prominent or hidden but the disease is there affecting all, for all belong to the One Body and have much in common (not least being the health schemes and the pension plans). And like the diseases of original and actual sin, all those who have this disease of apostasy are guilty before God. In fact no member of the ECUSA is without this disease and so all partake of the guilt it brings.

There is much about apostasy in the Old Testament, especially in the prophetic descriptions and denunciations, as the covenant people are called to forsake their evil ways and to engage in repentance and faith. And there is not a little in the New Testament in the teaching of Jesus and his apostles about apostasy (which was relatively common even in the apostolic age!), calling the people of the new covenant to return to their first love and then mature in this pure faith.

Apostasy includes such terrible sins as rebellion against God, his revelation and his laws, pride instead of humility, untruths instead of truth, immorality instead of morality, affirmation of sinful man instead of the magnifying of the Lord our God, the love of this world and its ways instead of the love of Christ and his kingdom of glory, and so on.

The ECUSA has systematically, democratically and knowingly set aside much of its holy inheritance in terms of dogma, doctrine, teaching, worship, pastoral care, and godly discipline, as it has sought to be relevant to the modern world and to reflect the concerns, priorities and values of the secularized society in which it exists. It has attempted to be in this world and for this world by being of this world, looking for peace and justice, understood in modern terms.

Every time people in the pew or the priest in the chancel pick up the primary prayer book of this church they set forth and share in this apostasy. As a starter, they participate in the act of piracy of the General Convention in stealing a title for this book, and they participate in its adoption of a lie in calling the prayer book they use, "The Book of Common Prayer," for it is not truly such at all. It is in the style and form of "A Book of Alternative Services" and is not a genuine continuation of the American editions of the authentic Book of Common Prayer. Further, and alarmingly, they participate in the rejection of the receive doctrinal and worship standards of the Anglican Way (the Articles, the classic BCP and Ordinal) as they adopt the innovatory doctrine of the 1979 formulary.

Then, within the pages of the 1979 book, and more so in its companion, Enriching our Worship (1991) they use forms of words that are deliberate changes in the way in which God is known and addressed, and all in order to make radical feminists happy with the type of language used of and for Deity. In using the Psalter they effectively remove Jesus from their prayers for he is "the Man" of Psalm 1 who has been made into the androgynous "they" for Episcopalians. In using Acclamations to begin the Eucharist, they dumb down the proclamation of the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity, and in using virtually any of the options for the Eucharistic Prayer, they negate the doctrine of justification by faith through grace as well as other prominent doctrines of the Work of Christ set forth in The Articles of Religion (1801) of the ECUSA. And when they use the Outline of Faith in the Prayer Book with its "liberal catholic theology" they proclaim a rejection of the doctrine set forth in the historic, classical and received Formularies of the Anglican Way.

Then, almost each time there is a wedding in the parish and where one or both of the parties is a divorcee they accept that there has been a major departure from the rules for marriage of both the Scriptures and the Anglican Way. Each time they call a Minister who is divorced and remarried or married to a divorcee they share in the apostasy. Further, each time they attend an ordination or sit under the ministry of a female bishop, or even female presbyter, they accept that the Episcopal Church has created a new Ordinal and new Ministry which is a major departure from the norm of the Anglican Way as set forth in The Ordinal of 1792.

Thus it is not only the rejection of the received holy tradition of worship, doctrine and discipline, it is also the adoption of new doctrine, forms of worship and morality. Further, there is a pernicious but seemingly attractive ethos and a style that marks the apostasy. This is exhibited, for example, in the often-heard remark to those with problems of conscience: "Concentrate only on the sexual aberrations of 2004 and do not raise other matters going back to the 1960s. They can be dealt with later. One thing at a time" Here a supposedly political strategy for success is being offered as a way of not facing the depth and length of the apostasy, which is being effectively reduced to the adoption of homosexual innovations! So those who oppose the sexual innovations continue to live within the very apostasy of which the sexual innovations are but the latest manifestation and fruit. And they justify themselves in the same way that secular politicians do so!

Another strategy to avoid dealing with the depth of the apostasy is to reduce the Anglican Way to a kind of generic, basic Christian profession - e.g., to the Lordship of Christ and the authority of the Holy Scriptures (and avoid reference to the larger compass of the Formularies). This generalized kind of statement, which has no specific reference to worship, Ministry or dogma, allows people in practice to avoid facing the question as to whether the Prayer Book they use and the ceremonial, ritual practices they allow and follow do actually stand up to the test of the Lordship of Christ In fact they tend to assume that everything is really OK with the ECUSA apart from its sexual innovations and a few other odd things here and there. Further, a version of the Bible is often used by them (based on the theory of dynamic equivalency) which actually serves the purpose of dulling and minimizing the actual authority of the sacred Text!

And, regrettably, we need to be clear that leaving the ECUSA and setting up a new congregation is not in itself a cure of the disease. The disease has to be diagnosed and treated until it is under control and finally healed. Perhaps too many who are only partly healed on exiting the ECUSA are setting up churches and unconsciously building into their new life aspects of the apostasy of the ECUSA! So this disease is not cured and will grow again.

Whether we are inside or outside of the ECUSA we need HEALING of our diseases, both individually and corporate, by the God of our Salvation and the Healer of our souls and bodies. This is a most painful and demanding task and experience.

LORD, have mercy upon us all.

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