In January 2007 I called for the formation of a Discernment Committee at Blessed Sacrament parish to consider our place in the Episcopal Church during this time of the Anglican crisis and realignment. After sixteen months, that Committee made a preliminary recommendation to the Vestry.
As I am sure most of you know, the Episcopal Church has been in crisis for three or four decades, and the intensity of the crisis has been rapidly escalating over the past few years and now affects the entire worldwide Anglican Communion. As former Senior Warden Robert Bell said over a year ago at the Annual Meeting, "There is a storm coming, and we cannot ignore it." At that time I called for the formation of a Discernment Committee to help us see what the best course for our parish might be in this time of the Anglican crisis.
WHAT THE REPORT SAYS
The Discernment Committee has been working for a year and four months, doing very careful and considered work in an extremely complex situation in order to make a recommendation to the Vestry. The Vestry has now received two documents: my personal report on the background of the current situation after more than 35 years of contending for the Faith, and the Discernment Committee's Preliminary Report and Recommendation. Together these two documents comprise twenty-nine pages. The two documents provide observations on our current crisis in the worldwide Anglican Communion and how that crisis affects us.
Here is the recommendation. The report and recommendation were accepted last Sunday by consensus but are now under prayerful consideration before anticipated final acceptance in June. Yet the Vestry is of one mind sufficiently now to begin to act on the recommendation.
The recommendation has four points: The first point asks the Vestry to recommit the parish to Catholicity, Education, and Prayer-to make an unqualified and strong public commitment to the Catholic Faith, as received by and practiced within Anglicanism and consistent with the faith and practice of the undivided Church, without compromise of revealed truth or dilution of godly charity regardless of any pressure to conform to the precepts of the Episcopal Church wherever the Church violates that faith.
The Committee further asks the Vestry, on behalf of the people of the parish, publicly and emphatically to disavow the stances and practices the Episcopal Church has taken that violate Anglican consensus and orthodox Christianity, and affirm our commitment to the Anglican way and membership in the Anglican Communion wherever it is faithful to Scriptural and creedal Christianity.
The second point asks the Vestry to request Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO)-that is, a relationship with another bishop whose convictions we recognize as in line with creedal Christian belief and worldwide Anglicanism. We would call upon this bishop in times when we have candidates for confirmation and ordination, for the purpose of conducting teaching missions, and when the time comes that we need to select a new rector. Having a DEPO bishop would strengthen our effort to evangelize to Christ in the Anglican tradition and would help to overcome the reluctance of many parishioners and potential members to be identified with the Episcopal Church.
The third point recommends full support for our vocationers to ordination.
It has become clear that it is very difficult for our vocationers to get through the ordination process in the Diocese of Los Angeles for reasons that do not satisfy me or the Discernment Committee. There are other options, however, such as going through a DEPO bishop. The Committee therefore recommends that the Vestry support each vocationer regardless of whichever path that vocationer may choose-that is, if we are convinced that an individual has a call to ordination, the Vestry will do everything it can to ensure that the vocationer will be ordained.
The fourth point calls for restricting or redirecting our Mission Share Fund.
The Discernment Committee recommends that the Vestry redirect the bulk of our Mission Share Fund, the money we give to the diocese, toward missionary and outreach programs that can be gladly supported by all of our membership. Recognizing that the diocese does provide us with many benefits, blessings, and support, the Vestry will give a percentage or a fixed amount of our Mission Share Fund to the Diocese.
Please be aware that the recommendations for DEPO and the redirection of our Mission Share Fund are options that Bishop Bruno has already offered to us at a meeting the Vestry had with him in August 2006; he took the initiative in these matters.
Finally, this is a preliminary report because the Discernment Committee will remain in place to monitor emerging developments within the Anglican Communion and keep the Vestry informed.
WHAT THE RECOMMENDATION MEANS
Who are we? That is, what is this parish? What do we stand for? To what are we committed? Our Statement of Vision says that we were founded as an Anglo-Catholic parish and that we intend to stay that way.
The Anglican Communion is our home-to be defended, protected, and preserved. The very term "God wins" that I have used many times over the years implies that we are engaged in a battle. More than that, we are engaged in a battle that has already been won. . .
Read it all, and check out Fr. Baumann's blog, John One Five. Fr. Baumann also graciously let me take some of Bishop Keith Ackerman's time when he was visiting Blessed Sacrament last year to interview him for AnglicanTV.