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"We Will Continue to Proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ" - by Tony Seel

"We Will Continue to Proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ"

By Tony Seel

Dear Friends,

There is a Russian parable that goes like this….

A hunter raised his rifle and took careful aim at a large bear. The hunter was about to pull the trigger when the bear spoke in a soft, soothing voice, “Isn’t it better to talk than shoot? What do you want? Let us negotiate the matter.” Lowering his rifle, the hunter replied, “I want a fur coat.” “Good,” said the bear, “that is a negotiable question. I only want a full stomach, so let us negotiate a compromise.” They sat down to negotiate, and after a time the bear walked away alone. The negotiations had been successful. The bear had a full stomach, and the hunter had his fur coat.

There are times to compromise, and there are other times when compromise will eat you alive. As much as all of us would love peace in the Episcopal Church, to declare peace when there is conflict and discord is dishonest. As much as all of us would like to go on as if nothing important happened at General Convention last summer, we have to honestly acknowledge that the actions of that body have disrupted the life of our church. There was little compromise in the controversial decisions of GC 2003, and it has proved impossible to find a compromise position in the aftermath. We are in the belly of a national church that has lost its way. What will we do?

We will continue to do what we have always done. We will proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ from the pulpit, in our classrooms, and in our daily lives. We will seek to live lives that show forth the glory of God’s redeeming power and bear testimony to His saving grace. We will stand firm on the truth of Scripture and not trim the gospel to the dimensions of this age. Our national church is in full-scale accommodation to secular culture, and we cannot follow it there and also be faithful to Jesus Christ.

The Episcopal Church has not yet been swallowed whole by the standards of an unbelieving world. While the membership of the Episcopal Church has been going down in numbers and as a percentage of the U.S. population for four decades, the largest percentage loss was during the Decade of Evangelism! A forty-year process of decline has decimated our ranks, but it hasn’t yet finished us off. There are churches in every diocese that confidently believe the gospel and boldly declare its’ power and truth, and these churches have been growing even as their dioceses have been declining. We intend to be one of those churches.

According to Canon Kevin Martin of Vital Church Ministries, in one-third of our Episcopal Churches, “inclusion has replaced evangelism, therapeutic self-acceptance has replaced conversion, and political correctness has replaced belief.” This is a way of death for churches, individuals, and the Episcopal Church, and St. Andrew’s will not follow along on this path.

We will continue to proclaim the positive message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel is about Jesus’ power to transform our lives, and this will continue to be the message that is declared at St. Andrew’s. Our mission is “Growing God’s Kingdom,” and we will be confident in pursuing what we believe God is calling us to be. Otherwise, we will be the man in the fur coat.

Yours in Christ,

The Rev. Tony Seel is rector, Saint Andrew’s, Vestal, New York

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