Monday, June 30, 2008

The Jerusalem Declaration...

What does this mean for those of us with boots on the ground? There's a link to the statement here at the GAFCON website. In case you don't know what GAFCON is, a quick summary would say something like this: a group of orthodox (little "o") Anglicans who got together to stand up against the apostacy and heresy emanating from so many traditional Anglican groups around the world (like the Episcopal Church in the US and the Anglican Church of Canada). Basically the GAFCON statement said (as a commenter at Stand Firm rendered so eloquently) "Dear Archbishop of Canterbury, we don't think you're a victim - you're a part of the problem. And by the way, you don't have on any clothes!" Anyway, now on to what I was actually going to say.... what was it? Oh, yes.

I live in an area of the country where Baptists rule. You'll find one or two Epsicopal churches, maybe one Catholic church, in any given large-ish city. Baptist churches are on every street corner. But alas, I am not a Baptist. I am an Anglican - or as my little mission church proudly proclaims on its bumper stickers: "Biblical Christianity, Anglican Worship". We drive over 30 minutes one way to get to our little Episcopal Missionary Church parish, and that's the closest orthodox Anglican church we could find. We also drive past four Episcopal Churches, but those are not really options for us. You know, it's that whole "Biblical Christianity" thing again. Before we moved back to the deep South, we lived in northern Virginia, which is also in the news much these days, and which also has a much higher concentration of liturgical churches. But I digress. Again.


Now that GAFCON has released its statements and the Jerusalem Declaration, what does this mean for my church, as a part of the Episcopal Missionary Church (our bishop was in Jerusalem) and what does this mean for those orthodox, conservative parishes (and individuals) still a part of TEC? For the EMC it's easy. We don't have to fight an apostate leadership. We can loudly and joyfully proclaim God's greatness and participate in the GAFCON movement with no recriminations. Praise God!

For those still in TEC - parishes and individuals alike - I wonder. It won't be easy, that's for sure. GAFCON isn't going to come in guns a'blazin' and rescue all the orthodox and their buildings. That's the grump I heard when I got to work this morning... "they had this big meeting and now they're not going to do anything to help us??!?" Well, to put it bluntly, no. Not in those terms, anyway. They will help plant churches for individuals to join (remember, America is a mission field now!) but I imagine those individuals will need to take some initiative in terms of organization and building those missions. GAFCON will offer help - a Bishop, a confessional statement, any number of other things - to congregations who make the decision to leave. But those congregations will have to decide, and go through the difficult steps of separation from TEC. And they may or may not be able to keep their property. But they will have to step forward in faith, trusting in God and the Gospel to lead them out of the desert. Passivity will not cut it - if you want to be a part of the GAFCON movement you will be welcomed with open arms. But the initiative is yours, and your parish's. As Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12, "if anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat."

When we moved here a year ago, we made the hard decision to commute to an orthodox, liturgical church. We decided it was critical to be part of an orthodox, liturgical parish. We're not Baptists, or Methodists, or even Lutherans. We are ANGLICANS. And because we are Anglicans, we needed to be part of an Anglican community. Our sacrifice of a long drive (with $4+ gas!) might be slight compared to someone leaving a liberal TEC parish that their great-grandparents helped build. But, ultimately, it's about your spiritual health and the spiritual health of your family. Buildings and property and even chalices and prayer books can be replaced. Compared to the pure joy of living as part of the body of Christ, how can they even compare?

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