Friday, September 18, 2009

Diverse and Inclusive, or Catholic and Evangelical?

Recently I received this comment as a response to my blogpost of July 27, “Blessed Sacrament Decides”:

The strength of the Anglican Communion is its diversity and inclusivity, as well as the freedom to dissent from the powers that be. Schism, even if based on conscience, is inconsistent with that. In reaching the accomdation that you did, you failed in your duty as a leader and rector. You can - and should - vociferously express your disagreement with TEC policies. You also can - and should - encourage your parishioners to express dissenting views from yours. Your job as Rector is create an atmosphere of unity through enforcing respect for the differing opinions that will always be present in a truly Anglican communion. It is that diversity, that tolerance of disent, that makes us Anglo, and not Roman, Catholics.

The writer was a parishioner of Blessed Sacrament for several years, and moved away roughly twenty years ago. Although he stated that he was responding to the blogpost, the assertions and accusations he put into his comments show that he’s not familiar with what we have published or what we are doing—and not even aware of what the blogpost said. As I read what he wrote, I scratched my head wondering if he had even read what he claimed he’s responding to.

His comments tell me what I can and should be doing; these statements puzzle me since I have been doing these very things in the parish for over thirty years. He should know this first-hand from his time as a member of this parish; I DO encourage parishioners to share their convictions when they differ from mine and from each other. This individual was certainly allowed a place in our parish life without being muzzled in any way, and stayed with us for many years—comfortably, I believe, and hope.

Read my print: This parish is NOT going into schism, and we have consistently rejected that course of action, and repeatedly explained why. Further—along with most of the Anglican Communion—this parish has vociferously and publicly rejected the escalating and continuing apostasies of the Episcopal Church. We will not accept them and we will continue to protest them, though it is evident that the leadership of the Episcopal Church is swelled up with monstrous arrogance and determined to keep the pedal to the metal as the institutional juggernaut (not the same thing as the Church) hurtles along the downward slope toward unrecognizablity. A report on the state of the Church prepared for the General Convention provides a number of telling points: 1) The Episcopal Church is rapidly losing members; 2) The Episcopal Church has to cut back its budget severely because of diminished income; 3) the biggest reason for this is conflict in The Episcopal Church over its revisionist policies and practices; 4) full speed ahead!

The writer mentioned “freedom to dissent” and “tolerance of dissent” as a strength of Anglicanism. “Tolerance of dissent” can mean a number of things. When it means living charitably with anomaly as things settle out, it is a vital Christian virtue well described in theory and practice in the New Testament. If it means letting people hold beliefs and maintain practices inconsistent with the faith of the Body, then it is abdication of leadership, which is powerfully condemned in both Old and New Testaments. Genuine leadership must show both clarity and mercy. This is notably different from espousing “inclusivity”.

Further, the often-touted “inclusivity” of the Anglican Communion in general and the Episcopal Church in particular has rarely existed in real life. From the days of the English Reformation, Anglican authorities have consistently and strongly persecuted every renewal movement that arose from its ranks. (For details see the article I wrote for “The Living Church” years ago called “The Myth of Anglican Tolerance”.) Unless I am wrong, the term “inclusivity” has not been claimed by or applied to the Anglican Communion; it is a term only recently devised in the Episcopal Church to apply to itself. Watching recent history unroll leads me to conclude that this term, dubious from the beginning, was used to hoodwink the trusting faithful and manipulate them into thinking of themselves as “open minded” by tolerating the “revisionists” who sought positions of influence in the Episcopal Church. Once the “revisionists” had enough votes, one didn’t hear about “inclusivity” much any more—instead one heard about “conformity”, with serious consequences for not adhering to the “doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church”, which obviously meant whatever those who had the votes could install without regard to any recognizable elements of generally accepted and authoritative Christian doctrine, discipline, or worship.

For a decade or two or more, many Episcopal bishops and other authorities have persecuted bishops, priests, parishes, missions, and lay leaders who disagreed with their revisionist ideology, and violated canon law and even basic principles of fairness and ethics to do so—none more openly, egregiously, and arrogantly than the current leadership. A genuinely liberal and charitable bishop, such as Bishop Jon Bruno, is the rare exception.

Moreover, the sloganistic words “diversity” and “inclusivity” have little or nothing to do with the Christian faith of the New Testament, which is the foundation of our life. Diversity and inclusivity are valuable principles only when they are expressive of the much richer and deeper Christian virtues of firm adherence without compromise to revealed truth, lived out in powerful charity. When these convictions are held, then “diversity” and “inclusivity” do not need to be mentioned, for they are already being done. I don’t think you can even find these words in the New Testament—you find much more powerful and richer words than “diversity” and “inclusivity”. How can one be more inclusive than to “preach the Gospel to every creature”? When one is committed to preaching to every creature, one doesn’t have to repeat how “inclusive” one is being. The very appellation “Evangelical” requires “inclusivity”. And how can one be more diverse than “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female—you are all one in Christ Jesus”? Being incorporated into Christ does not obliterate or ignore these real differences, but rather affirms the uniqueness and value of each believer and revels in the differences that make up the one Body. The very appellation “Catholic” requires “diversity”.

If “diversity” and “inclusivity” are not part of the evangelical and Catholic Gospel, then they are little different from masks for allowing people to believe whatever they want without standards of discernment or authenticity. Recently the principles of “diversity” and “inclusivity” have been the catchwords of narrow and tyrannical ideological rigidity: “The Episcopal Church is inclusive, and the authorities will tell you what that means; if you don’t agree, you will be put out.”

If holding to these principles implies “failing in my duties as leader and rector”, then I am unrepentantly guilty. However, I call it “keeping the faith”, and the good fruits of that faithfulness are abundant at Blessed Sacrament—a parish that welcomes and accepts all people, and holds up a standard of the fullness of faith and the call to holiness without compromise.

6 comments:

Reformation said...

Rev. Bauman:

Not an SSC-Churchman at all, but a Catholic, Reformed, Confessional and Calvinistic Anglican--poles apart from you by conviction, training, reading and prayer. 1662 BCP man.

Creedally, we are united.

I read the problematic post by the previous parishioner; I wouldn't be bothered by it much.

Sorry the old boy couldn't be more diverse and tolerant of your viewpoints. The liberals generally haven't been tolerant, charitable, or even, frankly, well-read.

Regards,
Philip

Steve Sterry said...

Fr. David:

I read the comment about inclusivity. I placed a response in my own blog (http://stevesterry.blogspot.com/):

Today's Verse: Joshua 1:7 (NIV)

Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.

God commanded Joshua these words. As long as he stayed in the path that God had marked for him, he would be protected and the land that God gave the Israelites would remain theirs..

Today's Comments: We all know how well the Israelites listened to God. A very short time after they settled into the land, they allowed apostasy to set in. The result was that they eventually lost that great land that God had given to them.

My Pastor, David Baumann, writes a wonderful Blog. It can be read at johnonefive.blogspot.com. The verse above directly relates to the entry that he made on Friday, September 18th. When God gave the Promised Land to the Israelites, inclusivity was not an option. To the contrary: God specifically picked out one group of people from hundreds of nations, kingdoms, and principalities. And it was when his own chosen people failed to honor Him that we were adopted as His heirs.

It seems to me that there is no such thing as total inclusivity in Christianity. To the contrary: we have been set aside from the rest of the world by God: we are members of the body of Jesus Christ.--- the Church. We may be diverse; but like Joshua, we must be careful to follow the path that God has set for us, lest we lose our way. If we keep our hearts and minds fixed upon Jesus, we will not stumble. If we allow ourselves to let the world dictate to us its pluralistic and secularistic meaning of inclusivity, then we will surely lose our way.

And maybe The Episcopal Church already has. But even in apostasy, God has never abandoned his people; nor do I believe that He will abandon His church, or a part of it. He may discipline or execute corrective action. But He has always been faithful to His people; even when they have abandoned Him in apostasy, He has brought them back. I pray that our parish, Blessed Sacrament, and other parishes like her will be used by God to bring the Episcopal Church back to the path that He wants us to take.

Nanner the Office Girl said...

Seems to me you made the best decision you could in the interests of the parish while remaining true to the Gospel.

Fr. Allen said...

Stay true to your faith brother. We all need time to stop and think and pray. The devil loves it when we are too busy to take time for the Lord or our families. When we are BUSY we are "Being Under Satan's Yoke" even if what we are doing seems for the Lord or our Church family.
Don't worry about what others say you should do if it is contrary to God's plan for you. Go where the Spirit leads and you can't go wrong. God be with you.

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