An Episcopal Parable

Written by Father Bill 13 Comments

The Most Reverend Jefferts-Shori, Presiding Bishopessa of The Episcopal Church, dontcha know.The Episcopal Church of the USA (hereafter, “ECUSA”) is a poster child for religious egalitarianism.  For any who ever cared enough to look, its progress from women’s ordination to gay ordination to utter apostasy is writ large in recent history. 

The few remaining conservatives within the Episcopal Church are still saying “Huh? How’d this happen?”  And, what they’ll accept as an answer is pretty squishy – sort of correct, but not too correct.  Otherwise they’d lay themselves open to the question “Well, why didn’t you object [or resist, or fight back, or flee] sooner?”  The remaining conservatives in ECUSA are simply too few, too late, and still too compromised by modern departures from Apostolic faith for them to do much more than complain. 

For the past decade, I have been warning my evangelical brethren that every cock-eyed thing they’ve seen in the Episcopal Church was already sprouting in their own back yards, that all they needed to do to predict the future evolution of American evangelicalism was to look at the Episcopal Church for the past 25 years or so. 

Because they are my friends and because they love me, they usually receive these warnings with goodwill, happy to praise me for insight into the Episcopal debacle, but otherwise dismissive when I point to the same spiritual breaches within American evangelicalism.  After all, Episcopal Christianity is the home of all that ritualistic mumbo-jumbo, all those tinkling bells and exotic smells, all that liturgy, for crying out loud.  Who wouldn’t go off the rails? 

“We believe the Bible!  We’re evangelistic!  We [fill in this space with whatever virtue is supposedly absent from those wacky Episcopalians].

Though I am 59 and have already enjoyed one myocardial infarction, I stand by my earlier predictions, that within my lifetime flagship evangelical churches will be ordaining anyone without respect to sex, marriage or remarriage, sexual orientation, or any “expression” of any of these.  Here’s my latest evidence.

First exhibit: the newly minted female presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Reverend Katherine Jefferts-Shori.   She’s the interestingly costumed person pictured in the graphic above.  When candidates for this office were being discussed prior the June 2006 Episcopal General Convention, most thought her sex was her leading qualification.  Evidently, so did the House of Bishops who elected her.

 She brings not only her sex but her pansexual values, along with a version of “the faith” so off the reservation that an NPR correspondent’s follow-up question during an interview was “So, you’re a Unitarian, right?” 

The only difference between Shori-faith and what passed for Christian faith 40 years ago in the Episcopal church is the range of what Episcopals were willing to repudiate in the Apostolic deposit of faith.  Back then, when they said “We don’t believe any of that crap!” the crap they didn’t believe amounted to Pauline teaching on the sexes.  Today, “that crap” covers all those things plus these: (1) the Bible as God’s word, (2) the sufficiency and exclusivity of salvation by faith in Jesus, (3) the Trinity, and (4) the eternal incarnation of the Son of God as a human male.  An Episcopal priest at the Stand Firm website documents from Shori’s own statements her commitment to Pelagianism, Marcionism, Pluralism, Universalism, and Gnosticism. 

Second exhibit: Wayne Grudem’s recent book Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism?   The question mark in the title appears to be literal until you begin reading Grudem’s text.  For, when Grudem lays out his analysis of evangelical feminism – naming names and quoting their writings – there is no question at all.  In fact, Grudem’s exposition shows how ludicrous it is to say that evangelical feminism is a path to liberalism.  It is, on the contrary, identical to liberalism, and Grudem’s copious citations and quotations from evangelical feminist leaders makes the case airtight. 

The liberalism of evangelical feminists is identical to the liberalism in the Episcopal Church that has brought it to its present sordid state.  What makes evangelicals think that if they walk the path the Episcopals have walked for the past 30 years that they will NOT wind up in the same swamp? 

Twice in the past 40 years, religious liberalism has been checked and reversed in American denominational structures:  most recently in the Southern Baptist Convention during the Nineties, and before that in the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church in the mid-Seventies.  The Southern Baptists took a bit longer, but their polity made reform a slower project.  The Missouri Synod Lutherans got the job done in just two conventions. 

For those who want an fresh case study in same-song-‘nuther-verse denominational evolution, tune your monitors to the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).  What makes their present evolution so fascinating is that they were born of a separation from apostasy in the Presbyterian Church (USA).  In the history section of the PCA website, we read

[The PCA] separated from the Presbyterian Church in the United States (Southern) in opposition to the long-developing theological liberalism which denied the deity of Jesus Christ and the inerrancy and authority of Scripture.  Additionally, the PCA held to the traditional position on the role of women in church offices.

This last-mentioned distinctive is enshrined in the PCA’s Book of Church Order, in Part I, Chapter 7, Paragraph 2:

7-2.      The ordinary and perpetual classes of office in the Church are elders and deacons.  Within the class of elder are the two orders of teaching elders and ruling elders.  The elders jointly have the government and spiritual oversight of the Church, including teaching.  Only those elders who are specially gifted, called and trained by God to preach may serve as teaching elders.  The office of deacon is not one of rule, but rather of service both to the physical and spiritual needs of the people.  In accord with Scripture, these offices are open to men only.

Now, consider this page from the website of Loch Raven PCA Church.  It identifies eleven deacons, and the names of seven of them appear to be the names of females.

Further, consider the work of Tim and David Bayly, both credentialed in the PCA, whose blogging has documented the granting of a platform in official PCA settings for Carolyn Custis James’ pro-egalitarian agenda.  Their efforts provide evidence for the same two errors that eventually lead to the utter demise of the Episcopal Church:  (1) a toleration for heterodoxy which grew into a toleration of heresy, and (2) an unwillingness to discipline individual leaders or congregations that departed from supposedly “official” standards of church order and doctrine.  The Bayly brothers point to both sorts of departures, but beyond their lonely voices in the wilderness, I detect no movement from the PCA’s slumbering shepherds.

At this point, there is considerable room for hope.  But for the present, room is about all that is hopeful. The more time that passes with no action to reverse these trends within the PCA, the more likely it will go the way of the Episcopal Church, rather than emulating the reforms of the Southern Baptists and the Missouri Synod Lutherans.


13 Comments

  1. Dave Klataske   |  Wednesday, 27 December 2006 at 7:07 pm

    Dear Bishop Katherine Jefferts -Shori,
    I welcome you and I congratulate you. What a BIG step for the Episcopal Church.
    I grew up Roman Catholic, but after
    high school, I converted to the Episcopal Church with a Great love for the church.
    I have been in the church now for the last
    fifteen years, and I still love the church.
    I grew up in San Diego California and now I live in Mesa, Arizona with the love of my life, six cats and one dog.
    I am Gay and I do have a dream of becoming a priest some day.

    I hope that you will come to Arizona and to the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in
    Phoenix, Arizona where I am a proud member.
    Bishop Kirk Smith is Bishop of Arizona,
    and The Very Rev. Nicholas Knisely is our
    new Dean of the Cathedral.

    I would love to hear from you.
    Please E-Mail at :
    removedbymoderator@yahoo.com

    God’s Love & Peace,,,,,
    ~DAVE KLATASKE~

  2. Michael   |  Wednesday, 27 December 2006 at 8:46 pm

    Their [Loch Raven’s] masthead says: To Glorify God and make known his eternal and *unchanging* purpose…” [emphasais mine] Yet, they are changing things that I thought God had purposed, changing sound doctrine.

    The “Our Beliefs” tab says nothing presbyterian-sounding.

    They seem to only have a “Pastor of Visitation,” who stands behind the women –the Choir Director and the Secretary– in the photo.

    Baltimore, MD: Yankees — that explains it. ;o)

    What does their presbytery say about the seven female and four male deacons? The female deacons even outnumber the elders! It is easy to have a renegade church, but is the presbytery turning a blind eye to this?

    Well, I had to email the elders and ask them why they are doing this and why they are in the PCA.

    –Michael

  3. Fr. Bill   |  Wednesday, 27 December 2006 at 10:42 pm

    If you get an answer, Michael, I’d be interested to learn what it is. You may enlighten us here, or if you’d rather keep it private (with the hope that their Presbytery will do something corrective), you can let me know privately via email.

  4. Robert Bonds   |  Thursday, 28 December 2006 at 4:09 pm

    If fully agree with your post. I do however believe that the hope of a true liturgical church, true to the word of God as handed down through the ages is with the Eastern Church. Orthodox Christianity especially in the South is steadily growing. In my opinion those fleeing the TEC/ECUSA have no idea where they are going. The Anglican Communion is a pathetic joke and those looking to the Global South are in some cases jumping into TEC/ECUSA Lite. That is why I strongly recommend that those fleeing who are looking for anything close to American Anglican Orthodoxy look to the Anglican off shoots formed under the Affirmation of St. Louis. The only other alternative in my opinion is the Eastern Church. Rome in my opinion is not an option.

  5. Will   |  Thursday, 28 December 2006 at 8:02 pm

    Fr. Bill,

    This is a very good essay and I hope any PCA people reading it will heed your warnings. I know some people make light of the “slippery slope” argument, but history proves its truth time and time again.

    Incidentally I have added your blog to my blogroll on “Prydain.”

  6. From the “Faith and Gender” blog: An Episcopal Parable « Prydain   |  Thursday, 28 December 2006 at 8:19 pm

    […] I came across a blog that is new to me, titled Faith and Gender.  The author of this blog, “Fr. Bill”, has written a post on An Episcopal Parable that I wish my friends and acquaintances in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) would read.  I like this blog enough that I have just added it to the blogroll–see what you think. […]

  7. Fr. Bill   |  Friday, 29 December 2006 at 9:45 am

    Hi, Will,

    Thanks for visiting, for the pingback, and entry on the blogroll. I’m adding yours to a new list of Anglican blogs that I’ll put up in the next few days.

    This blog isn’t an “Anglican” blog in the sense that it treats issues peculiar to or of sole interest to Anglicans. Faith and gender cuts across all communions within Christendom, and when any of them succumb to the siren songs of the age, we all suffer for it.

    Anglicanism’s contribution to this area of controversy is, many time, an exercise in what not to do and why not to do it. Hence, ECSUA’s (or TEC’s) status as poster child for apostacy via egalitarianism.

    An Anglicanism impervious to the modern blandishments of egalitarians is something that passed from anyone’s living memory back in the 19th Century. But, it can be (and, I think, should be) resurrected, if the Lord is gracious to the sons of the English Reformation.

    But, because a resurrection of Biblical, catholic (note the small “c”) Anglican faith is dependent on God’s grace, it might not happen, for God is not obliged to be gracious in precisely the ways we would hope. So, we pray, and we work, and we wait on the Lord.

    For those who come across this blog and are curious about current developments within Anglicanism, I’m developing a bloglist on this topic, and will put your blog on it as soon as it’s formulated (after the holidays).

    Thanks again for dropping by.

  8. Ralph   |  Friday, 29 December 2006 at 11:24 am

    Very well written Bill… I often relate to our Lord in prayer why we have all of this confusion with what He states in His word so clearly. Was just reading Grudem’s book again this morning and found an article that relates to what you’re saying and how things get snuck into the decision making process of the Church. The article was from June 20, 2006.

    BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The divine Trinity–“Father, Son and Holy Spirit”–could also be known as “Mother, Child and Womb” or “Rock, Redeemer and Friend” at some Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) services under an action Monday by the church’s national assembly.

    Delegates to the meeting voted to “receive” a policy paper on gender-inclusive language for the Trinity, a step short of approving it. That means church officials can propose experimental liturgies with alternative phrasings for the Trinity, but congregations won’t be required to use them.

    “This does not alter the church’s theological position, but provides an educational resource to enhance the spiritual life of our membership,” legislative committee chairwoman Nancy Olthoff, an Iowa laywoman, said during Monday’s debate on the Trinity. http://www.theologywebsite.com/archives/theology_news/presbyterians_r.shtml

    It appears to me that “culture” is today the trump card that in the minds of many beats any hand that is dealt. And as you say, it’s not more susceptible to a particular denomination, but in the midst of them all… with of course some making more broad moves from what has been in the past orthodox Christianity, to today’s Liberal humanist doctrines.

    The latest Christianity Today Magazine under “Passages” had a picture of the Most Reverend Katherine Jefferts-Shori… but hey, as long as her appointment is surrounded by such noble goals as “the U.N. Millennium Development goals for combating hunger, disease, gender inequality, and poverty”, we should all buy into this and just be happy.

    Ralph

  9. Michael   |  Thursday, 04 January 2007 at 11:11 am

    > If you get an answer, Michael, I’d be interested to learn what it is.

    Fr. Bill — no response from them in a week and a half. –Michael

  10. Fr. Bill   |  Thursday, 04 January 2007 at 11:28 am

    Thanks, Michael.

    In the past week, I had occasion to discuss this issue with a couple of folks who attend a PCA church in the area around Covenant College. They told me that their church also has deaconesses. When I inquired about the Book of Church Order’s express repudiation of such a thing, they said, “Oh, we don’t ordain them. We just call them deaconesses.”

    Huh?

  11. Sarah   |  Tuesday, 16 January 2007 at 3:33 pm

    Fr. Bill,

    Interesting post! I was curious to learn more about the Episcopalian ordination of women because one of my closest friends is an Episcopalian priest, but I was shocked to learn that my own PCA denomination has even a toe stepped down that slippery slope. This was big, distressing news to me.

  12. Fr. Bill   |  Tuesday, 16 January 2007 at 3:44 pm

    Thanks for stopping by, Sarah.

    If you will read the Bayly Brothers blog, you’ll see that more than a toe has slipped within the PCA.

    Fr. B

  13. Linda   |  Wednesday, 04 April 2007 at 12:58 pm

    That place where love abideth

    will find her no stranger there.

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