WHEN THE MIST BEGINS TO CLEAR
Sam Edwards sees that recent developments in the United States have cleared the air
Many thanks to Father Broadhurst and the national executive for the invitation to come and brief you on the condition of the organized witness to classical Anglican faith in the Episcopal Church in the United States: I am privileged to bring you affectionate greetings from our President, Mr. Donald Peter Moriarty II, from our President-emeritus, Bishop Clarence Pope, and from the lay members, bishops, priests, and deacons of the Episcopal Synod of America, who now face the clear prospect of open persecution and exclusion from the life of the Episcopal Church. Institutionally, the Episcopal Church is collapsing into the vacuum of amorality that its leadership has fostered and its membership has been willing to tolerate. This leaves me and probably many of our members with a serious case of mixed feelings. My own feelings are not dissimilar to those that might be experienced by a Jew, imprisoned aboard a German destroyer, after his boat has been intercepted while he was trying to escape to Sweden, who suddenly realizes that the ship has just taken a fatal hit from British torpedoes: I have mixed emotions, but I must trust God to be God. Only ten days ago, the House of Bishops overwhelmingly passed a resolution which reads, "Resolved, it is the mind of this House that Canon III.8.1 [enabling the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate] is mandatory in all dioceses of this Church." There is no doubt whatever that this opinion will be made a part of the canon law of the Episcopal Church at the next General Convention, to become effective on 1 January 1998. After that date, no one with theological objections to the ordination of women will be eligible to serve on a parish vestry, let alone be ordained, unless he is willing to adopt a weird practical morality which dictates that it does not matter what one thinks about something so long as one does not dare to carry it into practice. The date for our execution has been set, at long last. True to Dr. Johnson's celebrated observation, it is wonderfully concentrating the mind of our movement, and not of ours only, but also of those whose grasp on the principles of catholic faith and practice, while less comprehensive than ours, is no less sincere. Secure now in their ironclad grip on the structures of power in the Episcopal Church, the radical revisionists (false apostles and high priestesses of an old darkness disguised beneath the vesture of a new age) now expose their inherent ecclesiastical fascism as they move openly to expel the first group of those who seek to remain faithful to the eternal gospel of Him who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We will not be the last to be so treated. We do not yet know precisely what shape our response will take, but there is a framework already adopted and a response there will be. Whatever shape it takes, it will certainly not please our enemies, who are only pleased with us when we do nothing. It may not please some of our friends, but that will be nothing new in the history of the people of God. Like Gideon, we may have to permit the fainthearted to return to deal with their own unquiet consciences. But, likewise, like Elisha, we know that those who are with us are more than those who are with them.
I perceive that a massive exhaustion has settled over our Church. Scandalous and evil things have happened and are happening, yet so many of us seem enervated, unable to find strength to respond even when we know we must. Indeed, for too long we have in our own strength confided, and therefore our striving has been losing. We have been brought to this pass so that we may learn yet again that we must rely solely on the strength and resolution of Christ. For much of the past year, I have been depressed and at a loss. However, as soon as the III.8.1 Committee made its recommendations to expunge our integrity from the Episcopal Church, I felt a surge of energy and relief. At last things which have been clear to many of us for years are becoming clear to the church as a whole. Indeed, the most honest of the revisionists are now admitting that classical Anglicans have been right all along in our assertion that the issues which trouble us -- liturgical revision, inclusive language, sexual permissiveness, women's ordination, and so on -- are interconnected, and that the different responses to them indicate clearly different doctrines concerning the nature of God and of redemption. The lines are more clearly and openly drawn between faith and falsehood than they have been for years, perhaps for centuries. This was evident in the way our ESA bishops, especially the Bishop of Fort Worth, Jack Iker, were treated by their nominal brethren at the recent meeting of the House of Bishops. There was much shunning and avoidance of contact by the other members of the House. The attitude is symbolized and typified by this anecdote, which I have had confirmed by someone who actually witnessed the event. One morning during the meeting, the bishops left their luxury hotel to travel into the inner city of Portland and spend a few hours showing solidarity with poor school children. (This is an activity with a long history in the Episcopal Church. It used to be called "slumming.") As the coaches were being boarded, one of the participants noticed that John Spong, alleged bishop in Newark and the House of Bishops' most prominent apostate, had a swollen middle finger. He asked, "What happened to your finger, Jack." In a voice intended to be overheard, Spong is said to have replied "Oh, I've just been showing God what I think of Jack Iker." (For those of you unfamiliar with the manual gesture to which he referred, it is equivalent in meaning to one made in this country with two fingers.) It is typical of Jack Spong not even to have reflected on the possibility that the condition of his finger might have something to do with God's opinion of his opinion! In all this there is, strangely, cause for rejoicing, for the clarification of lines and the hardening of positions is what happens just before the Lord renders judgment on an erring people.
It ought now to be clear to all but those who simply refuse to see it that those of us who long have been dismissed as radical alarmists have been right all along about the true character of the religion of our opponents in the struggle for the soul of the Episcopal Church: It is fierce, implacable, amoral, heartlessly sentimental, and totalitarian -- a religion which completely accounts for our opponents' political method, which is not Liberal, but Stalinist. The recommendations of the majority of the members of the so-called Committee for Dialogue on Canon III.8.1 finally and definitively give the lie to the rhetoric of inclusiveness. Beyond that, they clearly define the direction that the Anglican Way will be thoroughly purged from the Episcopal Church. For those who have yet to see the connection between the drive to force priestesses and high priestesses on the unwilling and the rest of the revisionist agenda which they oppose along with us, there is no comfort in the fact that only ESA types will be impacted by the proposed canonical changes. They're next, and those among them with eyes to see know it. First, the adherents of the classical Prayer Book tradition were marginalised, now it is the turn of the advocates of the apostolic ministry, soon it will be those obedient to biblical morality, followed in short order by those who oppose the alteration of the God-given biblical imagery and language for God. Finally the Scriptures themselves will be relegated to the status of historical artifacts, to be used when convenient and pleasing, but never to serve as a check upon our own desires and superior wisdom. In all this, the weird conservatism of the ecclesiastical anointed is noteworthy. The only creative proposals for coexistence with integrity for all within the institutional boundaries of the Episcopal Church have come from traditionalists.
As you have probably heard already, sufficient consents have been received to proceed with the first heresy trial of a bishop in the Episcopal Church in seventy years, and only the second in its history. The former Assistant Bishop of Newark, Walter Righter, has been charged with teaching false doctrine in connection with the ordination to the priesthood of a man who was known by the Bishop at the time to be living openly with a lover of the same sex. Given the ambience of the House of Bishops, it is a major achievement to have got the necessary consents for the trial. However, given the make-up both of the original trial court and the court of appeal, a conviction appears to be, at best, unlikely. Were there to be a conviction, it is hardly imaginable that the House of Bishops would agree to uphold it and impose the sentence. As a whole, that body lacks what I believe is colloquially referred to here as "bottom," and the trouble with a body that has no bottom is that it is defenceless against the incursions of Hell. Beware the attempt to cast this trial as being over Bishop Righter's violation of canons. This is not what he has been charged with. He has been charged with teaching false doctrine. Already, the attempt to obfuscate this is under way, spearheaded by John Spong, whose recent statement on the matter in places reads curiously like a conservative critique of the judicial activism of the U. S. Supreme Court in the era of Chief Justice Earl Warren. Spong claims that the bishops who have brought charges against Bishop Righter are trying to accomplish by judicial means what they have failed to accomplish through the legislative process. The newest twist in all this is that some twenty other bishops recently have signed a statement that they, too, have done what Righter is accused of doing and that they view themselves as co-defendants in this proceeding. Were Righter to be convicted, it would be interesting to see whether they would accept whatever sentence was imposed upon him as their own. In all likelihood, they would not, for the latest trend in officeholding in the Episcopal Church -- set by the Presiding Bishop himself - is to say that one is taking responsibility for some malfeasance without doing anything beyond that to signify such acceptance.
The resignation of the Presiding Bishop, the conviction of Bishop Righter and his co-defendants, the repulse of the femino-facist canons, desirable though they may be, will not in themselves solve the problems of the Episcopal Church. A major reconstruction and resurgence from the grassroots is needed. I am practically convinced that only loud and clear demands from the lay people of this church for reform and prophetic action backed up with commitments of their time, talent and treasure are going to achieve the needed restoration of the Anglican Way in the Episcopal Church. Now, as in the past, there has been talk and more talk about such things as diocesan withdrawal from the General Convention union and the consecration by orthodox bishops of bishops, presbyters and deacons for mission work in regions ruled by the false apostles of the new religion. But until the faithful laity of this church appropriate the truth that we are in a state of all-out spiritual war with the powers of darkness and the rulers of this present age and encourage their clerical leaders to realize it as well, nothing will happen. It seems to me that no one of us has a clear idea of what we are to do in the days just before us. There is both dread and expectancy in the air. I am reminded of something that a Russian analyst once said about his country: "Nothing ever changes in Russia -- until it does." The same could be said of the mood in today's Episcopal Church. It is as if we are standing on a gloomy plain under leaden skies with little light coming through the clouds. But maybe, just maybe, the lightning of God an d the thunder of his voice is about to break out upon the plain and the rain of new life will begin to fall. Pray that this be so, that God's gracious will be fulfilled.
Samuel Edwards is Director of the Episcopal Synod of America. This is a speech which he delivered at the National Assembly of Forward in Faith.
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