Tuesday, July 01, 2008

My reaction to the Jerusalem Declaration and GAFCON

Others (Stand Firm, TitusOneNine, Fr. Dan Martins, Christopher Johnson, Ruth Gledhill, etc.) can parse over the details of the Jerusalem Declaration and the ins and outs of GAFCON – they offer tremendously valuable insight, questions, and understanding of what happened, what was agree to, and how that might play out. And Kevin’s coverage for AnglicanTV made all of us front-row participants at the event, for which we should offer [tangible] thanks [cough* donate now for his Lambeth trip *cough].

My admittedly superficial sense of the event, gathered from a great distance, is one of joy and fellowship.

Knowing some of the clergy from San Diego that went and having met some of the archbishops and bishops that were there, I can only say that any result, while maybe not perfect, would definitely have been made in intense and searching prayer with the wish to follow God’s direction and Christ’s commands under the discernment of the Holy Spirit.

Bishops at GAFCON
There also seems to be a great sense of relief, and rightly so. GAFCON participants correctly realized that it would do no good, and was pointless, to discuss on and on, again and again, anything about the American church. Been there, done that (and been undercut by the Archbishop of Canterbury).

It is time to move on.

ECUSA is no longer an issue because ECUSA is no longer important. The Episcopal Church has removed itself from the greater part of the Anglican Communion in everything but name. The GAFCON bishops know ECUSA cannot be trusted, will try unendingly to bend others to her way, and will try to buy those that she can. So the only way to move forward is not to move ECUSA out of the way, but to just go over her and continue on. The Jerusalem Declaration gives a framework for doing just that. All of the energy that has been expended over the past five years or so to try to call the Episcopal Church to repentance can now be directed outward, to the Great Commission, and there are many ready to do that.

I am very happy for those churches in San Diego that have already moved under Anglican Primates and out from under the Presiding Bishop. I think that GAFCON and the Declaration will contribute greatly to their cohesion, unity, and fellowship. They are now in the forefront of the ongoing (and quickly gathering steam) Anglican renewal movement. They took the risks over the past several years and stepped out in faith: most left their buildings and all trappings of “normal” church, the ones that stayed are now under litigation from Bishop Mathes with the backing of 815, and all are relearning what it is to be a Christ-centered community. There is an energy, an excitement, and sense of freedom there that I pray continues on since there is also a lot of hard work to be done.

For the Episcopal churches still in the Diocese of San Diego that are at all traditional (and there are only a few left), I’m afraid it’s just a matter of time. Given Bishop Mathes’ most recent ordinations and the diocese’s ideas about “holy relationships,” he is moving further and further away from the Gospel. Once traditional rectors leave or retire, I cannot see +Mathes letting any orthodox, traditional, or Anglo-Catholic priest into the diocese. There would be no reason to – most of those upset with the direction of the Episcopal Church have already left in San Diego, not quite all, but most.

And I think +Mathes is not interested in keeping the orthodox, he is not interested much in the pew sitters in those churches, and he is definitely not interested being a “bridge builder” (his claim to fame at his election several years ago). He is interested in property. And given that the diocese is financially helping, in some form or another, over 50 percent of the churches in the diocese, money matters. Even with the real estate decline in southern California, there is some prime real estate that churches are sitting on that could keep the diocese going for quite a while (if only those darn reasserters would just leave already).

But for all of that, I feel strangely removed from it all, a little set apart – from whatever machinations Bishop Mathes may think up, from the activity at GAFCON, from the revisionists’ reactions (and I think they are protesting much too much – GAFCON has them shaken and a little scared).

Perhaps it is because we have left the Episcopal Church and have not yet landed anywhere. I also think it is because I feel some guilt that I should have, could have, done more at my church to help people realize what was going on. But Bishop Mathes was very clever – in his 2006 “pastoral” letter he implied very strongly that anything done to organize against the diocese’s actions or 815 (say, join the Network or make too many waves) would bring wrath down, not on me as a parishioner, but on my rector. Being a political newbie at this several years ago, that affected me. How could I rally and organize to do something that might get my rector fired? If I had known then what I know now, I would have approached it differently but then I was still trying to get my mind around lying bishops and heretical Executive Council actions.

And now, my family has left. Should we have stayed? No, not only were our reasons for leaving valid, but both my husband and I felt God was calling us out. But sometimes I feel like I abandoned something and in a few years if I happen to wander in, it will be unrecognizable to me.

I also think it is because I am still working through what it means to be a member of the “one holy catholic and apostolic Church” because, which church is that? How does one tell? Does it really matter which particular flavor of Christianity? Or does the Nicene Creed mean all of the followers of Christ together, only then becoming the Church as the Body of Christ?

So GAFCON has come in the middle of my ongoing, muddled discernment and gets short shrift in the process, I’m afraid.

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