Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Living with Tares - Christianity Today Magazine

An Episcpal "stay-inner" expounds on his reasons for staying in the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America, while many of his fellow bishops, priests, and "deacons" have thrown down their robes and walked out.

(N.B.: in Anglican, Episcopal, and Roman Catholic parlance, a "deacon" is a clergyman ranking below a priest. In Baptist parlance, a deacon is a layman who assists his pastor with various church activities that would come under the heading of "waiting on tables."--from the ancient Greek word diakonos, which means a table waiter. The Anglican and Episcopal equivalent of a deacon is given the title vestryman, and the leaders of the vestry are called the senior and junior wardens.)

To return to the subject: This stay-inner, the Right Reverend Edward S. Little II, Bishop of Northern Indiana, cites chapter 17 of the Gospel According to John as his primary justification. He also quotes several other supporters of his position as saying that "breaking communion"--that is, breaking fellowship--is worse than the divisive ideas that impel a person to break fellowship.

Now then: I am not a clergyman, nor even a deacon in the Baptist sense (see above). But I am one who walked out of a church when I determined that it was not diligently upholding the Gospel, and was neglecting doctrine in several key areas that go to how a Christian ought to live. No, the issue was not homosexuality in the clergy or even in the laity. The issue was, rather, letting the culture dictate the fashion statement a woman made, or the direction of a man's gaze. When that church's interim pastor asked me to develop and teach a course in Christian discipleship, I wrote one--hitting hard on this issue of the frankly pornographic influence of the culture and how every Christian ought to resist it and re-examine certain attitudes and behaviors that he or she might have passed off as "normal." This didn't go over very well. Accordingly, I left. I was blessed to find a church that did things right in this area--but I would urge anyone facing similar opposition to go out and plant a new church.

Now according to Bishop Little, I acted wrongly. According to Bishop Little, I broke fellowship and thus created a worse problem than the risque fashion statements and the roving-eye problems were creating. According to Bishop Little, I am trying to represent myself as somehow more holy than someone else.

Wrong, Mr. Little. Dead wrong.

St. Paul, in his Second Letter to the Corinthians, clearly ordered any Christian in such a situation to get out. "Be ye not unequally yoked with unbelievers," he said. He further commanded his readers to be separate--separate from the culture, and separate from the stay-inners.

Indeed, Mr. Little, I remind you sharply, and wonder why you didn't hear of this in seminary: Lot, nephew of Abraham, was the first stay-inner in Bible history. Lot didn't want to get out of Egypt, so he sought to re-create the Egypt experience. Lot's herdsmen got into fights with Abraham's herdsmen, so Abraham gave him a choice of where to go. Lot chose the Valley of Siddim--since filled in by the Dead Sea--where lay the twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. And indeed the two angels sent to evacuate Lot from Sodom found him "sitting in the town gate"--that is to say, a city councillor. And yet when the crunch came, the people of Sodom received his "moderate" stands very violently and threatened to kill him themselves.

And that's what I see happening to you, Mr. Little. Maybe not literally--mostly because modern, or rather postmodern, people don't seem willing to fight for anything. But one of these days, push will come to shove. On that day, you will have to choose Whom you shall serve.

And in the meantime, I'll thank you not to advise me to "stay in." I'll thank you not to accuse me, or anyone acting as I do, of doing the church more damage than the original heretical ideas.

Do you honestly believe that "in the midst of this painful discontinuity, [the Lord] may do a work that none of us can foresee"? No, Mr. Little. That's not the way God does things, as you of all people should know. Instead, He saves out a remnant of believers and leaves the rest of the society to stew in its own juice. We saw this in the Division of the two Israeli Kingdoms Northern and Southern, we saw it again with the Reformation, and we will continue to see it until the Tribulation.

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