A belly flop into Apostasy at ECUSA's General Convention
A Priest's Lament

The Rev. Jeffrey Black
September 12, 2003

This article was originally released on Virtuosity and can be seen in the archives at: story link.

The media, both ecclesiastical and secular, were understandably fascinated with the elevation of V. Gene Robinson to the Episcopacy. They missed what I believe is spiritually a more significant story from the Convention in Minneapolis. Here is the story of a relatively little noticed resolution, B001, and the decision of the Bishops of our denomination to defeat it.

I have two purposes in telling this story - 1. To help the people of the church to understand more deeply the nature of our current generation of Episcopal leadership, so the people can make a more informed decision about whether this is the church in which they wish to remain, and 2. To confront the Bishops who may be reading this with my own anger at their scandalous action.

"B001" is the name of the first of the resolutions that came before the House of Bishops. Authored by Bishop Keith Ackerman of Quincy, the resolution asked the House of Bishops to affirm their continued belief in two things. The first was the statement found in the Articles of Religion, our church's constitution, and in the Ordination Services that we believe "The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to contain all things necessary for Salvation."

This is the defining statement of Anglican theology in terms of the authority of the Scriptures.

It is carefully worded, so that it does not say that all things in scriptures are necessary for salvation, just that all you need to know to be saved can be found there, and that you do not need other acts of piety or self-improvement to inherit eternal life. Every person being ordained is required by the Bishop to swear he or she believes that. The second thing that resolution B001 asked the House of Bishops to affirm was the four parts of the Chicago Lambeth Quadrilateral.

To refresh your memory, that is the document that is held by all the churches within the worldwide Anglican Communion, and which sets forth the minimum beliefs that define Anglicanism in terms of Scriptural Authority, our Worship, Christian Theology, and church order.

It states that we hold the Bible to be the revealed Word of God, that we must include Baptism and Communion in our worship, that the Nicene Creed contains the essentials of the content of Christian Theology, and that church order must include some form of the historic episcopate, adapted to local needs.

B001 was offered by Bishop Ackerman for the following reason - he knew that if the General Convention approved the election of a partnered homosexual man, and if the convention approved the practice of blessing same-sex unions, many in the church would feel that the convention had challenged and rejected the authority of Scripture as they understand it in this profound area of human life.

That action would logically raise for such brothers and sisters in the faith the issue of what the leaders of the denomination would continue to regard as authoritative. To reassure such people - a majority of those in his own diocese and a substantial part of the rest of the church, including myself -- Bishop Ackerman identified the core elements of Anglican authority and asked his brother and sister Bishops to affirm them.

The resolution came before the Bishops at the end of the first day, when they were both tired and strained by some hours of what were reported to be fairly contentious discussion.

They voted the resolution down.

Stunned, Bishop Ackerman asked for something very rare. He asked for a roll call vote. One by one the Bishops rose and were counted. Eighty four of them refused to affirm that scripture contains what is needed for salvation. Eighty four of them refused to affirm the Chicago Lambeth Quadrilateral. Only sixty six voted for these core truths.

What we are talking about, just to be clear, are: Baptism; Eucharist; The Nicene Creed; The Bible containing what is necessary for Salvation.

Eighty four of our Bishops would not affirm these as true. Only Sixty six would say yes.

One, Wayne Smith of Missouri, opined that he actually might agree with some of these things but he resented being asked to vote. "It's just not the Anglican Way to sign off on things," he observed. I'm glad nobody told that to Cranmer, or to the martyrs of Uganda, or to Jonathan Daniels.

Others agreed with the Committee on Resolution's deep insight that, since these things were in the constitution already, they needn't vote on them again.

Thirty six years ago I married my wife. If today we were involved in some quarrel that was serious - serious enough that both of us knew it might threaten the continuation of the marriage -- she might, to seek reassurance, ask me, "Do you still love me?" If my reply were, "I told you at the altar in 1967 that I love you and that ought to be enough for you," what would you make of me? Pretty damned cold, I'd say. That is what the Bishops did, to their brother who leads one of the smallest and poorest dioceses in the country, who came to them seeking reassurance.

Beyond the coldness, something deeper was revealed - a serious breach of personal integrity. These Bishops require whoever wishes to be ordained by them to swear something. In fact each ordinand must say, "I solemnly declare that I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament contain all things necessary for salvation." If you don't swear that, you don't get the job. Think of the hypocrisy of refusing personally to affirm what you require your subordinates to swear!

To the Bishops who voted against this resolution: I am a priest of no especial repute, having served for 28 years, so I have no position from which to command your attention or to compel your agreement. But as a brother in Christ, I tell you that you have deeply insulted your office, that I believe you owe repentance to God and an apology to the entire church. You have, by your action, forfeited any authority over me.

In 1997, The Rev. Jeff Black planted St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Austin. In June 2004, St. Barnabas voted 192-2, to leave the Episcopal Church and temporarily (at the time) associate with Evangelical Covenant Church. Fr. Black renounced his orders in the Episcopal Church as of July 2. The Rev. Jeff Black and St. Barnabas continue to do the Lord's work in Austin. See their web site.

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