COLUMBUS, OH: Episcopalians refuse affirmation of Christ
By Hans Zeiger
COLUMBUS, OHIO (6/20/06)-The House of Deputies of the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church today overwhelmingly refused to even consider a resolution that affirmed Jesus Christ as the "only name by which any person may be saved."
"This type of language was used in 1920s and 1930s to alienate the type of people who were executed. It was called the Holocaust. I understand the intent, but I ask you to allow the discharge to stay," said the Rev. Eugene C. McDowell, a graduate of Yale Divinity School and Canon Theologian for the Diocese of North Carolina.
The convention's Committee on Evangelism first heard the resolution and discharged it to the chagrin of that committee's chairman, the Rev. Colenzo Hubbard, a noted evangelist and director of Emmanuel Episcopal Center in the Diocese of West Tennessee. The Rev. Hubbard motioned to lift the resolution from the discharge list, but after heated debate, more than seven tenths of the House of Deputies rejected the motion.
Drafted by the Rev. Guido Verbeck, rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Western Louisiana, Resolution D058 declared the Episcopal Church's belief in an "unchanging commitment to Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the only name by which any person may be saved," and it acknowledged evangelism as "the solemn responsibility placed upon us to share Christ with all persons when we hear His words, 'I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No-one comes to the Father except through me' (John 14:6)."
The resolution further affirmed "the substitutionary essence of the Cross and the manifestation of God's unlimited and unending love for all persons," while calling on the Episcopal Church to renew its Scripture-based witness to "all persons."
The Rev. Hubbard said that he voted for the resolution in committee because of his simple responsibility as a Christian. Hubbard quoted several verses of Scripture to demonstrate his conviction. "I do agree that Jesus Christ is both the substitutionary essence of the Cross and the manifestation of God's unlimited and unending love for all persons," said Hubbard, once a star on the University of Alabama football team.
Echoing Hubbard, Canon Dr. Kendall Harmon, a leading conservative in the denomination, argued for a "reaffirmation of what some have called 'the scandal of particularity' of the Cross."
Judy Mayo from the Diocese of Fort Worth also opposed discharge. "My friends, this is a church convention, and this is the very essence of our faith. This may be the most important thing we deal with at this entire convention...Surely we can say together that Jesus Christ is Lord. And if we can't, we have no reason to be here."
But liberals outnumbered Hubbard, Harman, and Mayo by far.
The Rev. McDowell of the Diocese of North Carolina told VirtueOnline after the floor vote, "In the Episcopal Church we don't do up and down votes on Jesus Christ as Lord, and to do so is potentially a mean-spirited approach, to ask questions that aren't meant to be questions."
McDowell explained that how one lives his life is the more important issue than whether one affirms Jesus as Lord. To place a statement of belief over actions is the essence of "self-righteousness," he said. "Actions speak louder than proclamations...What Jesus calls us to do is to live our lives."
McDowell outlined his basic theology of grace: "Salvation by grace is remembering that we are the children of a living God. Grace is already there. And salvation is realizing we now live into that salvation. And sanctification is the transforming of my life from one that's me-centered to one that's God-centered."
But to acknowledge the exclusive Lordship of Christ in a resolution would be too much for McDowell and the majority of deputies at the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church.
The Rev. Robert Certain of the Diocese of San Diego told the House of Deputies that he refused to consider the resolution because the General Convention of 1982 had endorsed salvation through Christ alone, and a resolution was unnecessary.
But the message was clear to the Rev. Donald Perschall, rector of St. John's Episcopal Church in Centralia, Illinois, as he left the convention hall Tuesday, shocked by the events of the day. "On top of leaving the Anglican Communion, we've decided to leave Jesus Christ behind as well."
It was not a surprise vote though; the liberalization of the Episcopal Church predates 1982. Episcopalians have made it clear by their rejection of traditional marriage and other recent innovations that a new set of principles now dominate the Episcopal Church. Though the trend toward liberalism in the Episcopal Church has been ongoing for decades, it was in 2003 that the consecration of a homosexual as Bishop of New Hampshire crystallized the departure of the denomination from its bearings in classical Anglicanism.
Dr. Michael Howell of the Diocese of Southwestern Florida and a member of the Special Committee that deliberated the Convention's response to the global Anglican Communion's Windsor Report, told VirtueOnline that the discharge of Resolution D058 is "very much related" to the failure of Resolution A161 moments earlier.
A161 would place a moratorium on the consecration of homosexual bishops and the blessing of homosexual unions in a minimal effort to comply with the Windsor Report. It was soundly defeated on the floor of the House of Deputies Tuesday.
"If we cannot affirm the unique salvific power of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are no longer a Christian church." Switching to a sarcastic tone, Howell declared, "We have no need for a Creed. Why do again what we did in the past?"
"This clearly shows that we are of a mind that does not affirm Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. And we should not be surprised that our church is dying spiritually," said Howell.
The final tally on the electronic vote was 70.5 percent for discharge (675 votes) and just 29.5 (242 votes) to consider the resolution affirming Jesus Christ as Lord.
FULL TEXT RESOLUTION D058 SALVATION THROUGH CHRIST ALONE Discharged in committee. Discharge upheld by House of Deputies, 75th General Convention.
Resolved, the House of _____ concurring, That the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church declares its unchanging commitment to Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the only name by which any person may be saved (Article XVIII); and be it further Resolved, That we acknowledge the solemn responsibility placed upon us to share Christ with all persons when we hear His words, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
No-one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6); and be it further Resolved, That we affirm that in Christ there is both the substitutionary essence of the Cross and the manifestation of God's unlimited and unending love for all persons; and be it further Resolved, That we renew our dedication to be faithful witnesses to all persons of the saving love of God perfectly and uniquely revealed in Jesus and upheld by the full testimony of Holy Scripture.
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