Talk, talk, talk…

There is so much talk, talk, talk that has turned into debate that has turned in accusation that has turned into screams of heresy, perversion, and The Episcopal Church being “apostate,” “anti-Christ,” “gross,” “rank,” “corrupt,” “vile,” “non-Christian,” “putrid,” “evil,” and on and on and on. The Anglican Primates meeting next week in Tanzania is set to bring all this to the forefront of our attention, even while millions of African babies starve to death. Too many people make a lot of noise before knowing the truth – too many would rather not know the truth.
Many of those who are leaving The Episcopal Church and are quoted in the media like to spasm and spit and decry the Church for ushering in a “new religion” and attempting to redefine Christianity with “new theologies” and that this Church is no longer Christian. Various people rightfully ask, “What are you talking about? What is this ‘new religion’ of The Episcopal Church?” It is so easy to default into using such vague and terrible sounding phraseology, particularly when called upon to give specific examples. Father Jake has rightly said that for the most part, it is a lot of baring false witness.
Well, despite what many angst ridding people want to claim, what The Episcopal Church officially believes is clear. We only have to look in The Book of Common Prayer. There we will find the official teachings of this Church. I well can live within these teachings. I don’t see how anyone can call these teachings contrary to orthodox Christian belief.
We, as the Episcopal Church, do have a problem with discipline within our ranks. It is one thing to call for a re-examination of the teachings and traditions of the Church and another thing to take upon our individual selves the right to make changes unilaterally. Too many people and groups want to do their own thing, and this is not the traditional ecclesial practice of Anglicanism or Episcopalianism, although it is very American and very Congregationalist.
The writings and comments and callings of people who have developed a different belief system are their own opinions and are not the official teachings of The Episcopal Church! It is too easy to point to people whose opinions are different from our own and call them names when we have too difficult a time with the Anglican tradition of comprehensiveness of theological opinions within one Church. It is even easier to point to a few who have heterodoxy opinions of the faith and generalize to the whole Church when we want to try to prove how evil are our opponents, but it is not honest. It is not honest! It is hypocritical! It is wrong. Leave if you must – liberal or conservative – but stop engaging in the sin of baring false witness!
Now, I will be the first to say that I think there are those who claim themselves Episcopalians who have developed a belief system or a theology that bares little resemblance to historic and traditional Christian belief. I will be the first to say that this Church, generally, is more liberal than I am comfortable with. I will also say that a theology that focuses too much on the outward expressions of the faith without having a primary focus on the internal transformation that enlivens and fires-up the faithful for the doing of good works is mistaken and in the end will not meet the deep and continuing longing of people. It is about Jesus, after all. (Isn’t it easy to make such statements?!) But, what I do with all that is very important as I strive to live the life Christ calls me to live.
If I look at all the Episcopalians around me who claim to be seeking God and God’s will, and if I believe their words – give them the benefit of the doubt – then I think we are in the same boat. We may disagree strongly, but unless I want to claim that my group holds all truth and understanding, then I cannot engage in what so many people love doing these days – making accusations that others are anti-Christian or want to force upon us a new religion, etc. If I make such stringent accusations then I am putting myself in the place of God; I am claiming to know the true intentions of their hearts; I am claiming to be the arbiter of all truth, when I myself am but a sinner and confused and blind and yet still seeking.
Why do we have a need to attempt to force other people to agree with us? I don’ know, but we do, and this works itself out in our trying to diminish or repudiate or call evil those who refuse to agree with us. This is where we are right now in The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. It results in all kinds talk, talk, talk and of wild accusations and generalizations and fear mongering and baring false witness as we jockey for power and the enforcement of our opinion for everyone else.
It really needs to stop. We really need to be disciplined. We really need to be more Christian and less American. We really need to get back to Anglicanism and loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves and saying what is truthful and not what is expedient as we try to get people on our side.