The Future of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion:
or, The Boogeyman Cometh.

There has been a bit of a very minor uproar (upsqueak?) of late concerning the Archbishop of Canterbury and his forward written for the new paraphrased translation of the New Testament called "The One Translation".

Without getting into details of the errors and problems of this new book, I want to go immediately deeper, and look at this as being symptomatic of a disease that seems to be affecting 1st world Anglicanism, and indeed, 1st world Christianity in general. But this disease seems to be manifesting itself most alarmingly in the Episcopal Church, USA, and in the Anglican Church in Canada.

This disease, bluntly put, is none other than a rejection of the intrinsic authority of Holy Scripture. You name it; pick a problem affecting the integrity of the church, and it seems that this is the underlying issue: does Holy Scripture, that is, the Bible, speak with the authority of God, and are we bound as Christians to obey it?

I have heard a dozen ways to weasel around this question of late; from priests, bishops, and lay persons alike. It seems a whole lot of people want to either say, "No, not really", or "Yes, sort of, in a limited sort of way."

The furor now pervading the Communion worldwide concerning the doings in the diocese of New Westminster, and the election, confirmation, and consecration of V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire, can be ultimately traced back to this very issue. When you get past the smoke and mirrors thrown up by people like Bishop Charles Bennison, it is really a fairly simple question.

There are those who, at the end of the argument, reject the intrinsic authority of Holy Scripture, but staunchly maintain that they are still Christian, pointing excitedly to a new revelation of God through experience that enables, even demands such a rejection of "old understandings".

Look closer. I think the church first dealt with much of this between 1700 and 1900 years ago, in rejecting many of the writings and teachings of Basilides, Valentinus, Marcion, Docetae, and Demiurge. In fact, many of us first learned of this "Experiential Revelation" theory by another name: The heresy of Gnosticism.

SO, what happens now for "The Church of What's Happening Now", a.k.a. the Episcopal Church USA? After reading seemingly endless writings and prognostications from just about every viewpoint, I think I have a general idea of what the future holds for my much loved Episcopal Church.

Allow me to use a metaphor. The Episcopal Church is like the Titanic. We have struck the iceberg called "Gnostic Zeitgeist", and there is no saving this ship. Worse, we are sinking the mother-ship many of us had hoped would rescue us: the Anglican Communion.

I think that in the next six to thirty months, we will see the breaking of the Anglican Communion. The Lambeth Commission will either recommend harsh discipline of the Episcopal Church for its actions of the past year, or it will recommend virtually no discipline at all.

If the Lambeth Commission recommends a stiff discipline and requirement of repentance, it is extremely unlikely that Archbishop Rowan Williams will apply it. (And even if the ABC were to apply such a discipline, it is even less likely that the apostate Griswold & Co. would do anything but laugh at it.) If the Lambeth Commission does not hold the Episcopal Church USA to a requirement of repentance and rescinding of its apostate actions, then obviously nothing will be done by Archbishop Williams.

Either of these will prove completely unacceptable to the orthodox bishops of the Global South, who, representing approximately seventy-five percent of the Anglican Communion, will then break formal communion with the Episcopal Church, and with the Archbishop of Canterbury for failing to discipline it.

At this point, we can expect the leaders of the Global South to form a new worldwide Anglican Communion, led by a new, orthodox Archbishop. The call will then be made for orthodox clergy and lay Episcopalians in the USA, and Anglicans in Canada, to leave their respective "denominations", and come under the umbrella of the new, orthodox Communion.

As a colleague of mine, the Rev. John Liebler has pointed out, with this departure of orthodox clergy and laity from the Episcopal Church, the next General Convention will have no real organized orthodox or conservative presence, such as the American Anglican Council. Without conservative resistance either within ECUSA or from the wider Anglican Church still in Communion with Canterbury, now composed of liberal first-world provinces, General Convention 2006 will make the necessary canonical changes to provide for full same-sex marriage.  Those dioceses that have existing canons forbidding such blessings will discover their canons to be nullified by the National Canons.  Coupled with the canon against discrimination, it will then be a violation of the Canon law for a priest to refuse to perform a same-sex marriage. Within a decade it will be impossible to find clergy who won't do same-sex marriages.  And in two or three Conventions, the BCP will be changed to exclusively use inclusive language about God.  Your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be in danger of not knowing the Trinity.

You know what? I don't think that this is a "slippery-slope" fallacy. How sad is that?

SO, what to do? Believe it or not, I'm an orthodox priest, and I am not leaving the Episcopal Church. Remember the metaphor I mentioned earlier? About the Episcopal Church being a sinking ship? It seems to me that there are a whole lot of people on this sinking ship who have yet to put on a life-preserver.

Many of us have heard the statistics about how small a percentage of the people in most mainline churches can articulate a faith in Jesus Christ, or even give a cogent reason why they should be saved. Depending on whose research you prefer, the figure lies somewhere between 15 -25%. Most mainline "Christians", including Episcopalians, will mention their membership in the church and their good works as reasons for their salvation. That works out to at least three-fourths of the people in the Episcopal Church in real danger of going down with the ship.

You know what? The only true life-preserver is a faith in and relationship with Jesus Christ. And I'm already 'wearing' this life-preserver. So even while my ship is sinking around me, I intend to stay and hand as many as I can this life-preserver. I plan to teach others how to share this life-preserver, too. When God says to jump ship, I will. In the meanwhile, you can find me on-deck in Shepherd of the Hills Episcopal Church, preaching the Gospel, handing out Jesus my life-preserver, as found in the Holy Scriptures. Amen & amen.

The Rev. Frank D. Gough II is Vicar of Shepherd of the Hills Episcopal Church in Lecanto, Florida.

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