Episcopal House of Bishops "Fireside Chat" Documents Reveal Desperate Need to Halt a Church in Decline
By David W. Virtue, DD
March 15, 2017
"Fireside Chat" documents from the HOB meeting sent to VIRTUEONLINE, reveal a desperate Church looking for a cure to its decline, but offering up little more than palliatives in a Jesus Movement that offers no repentance or mention of sin, just more of the same politically correct social service to get TEC "back on track" with no gospel proclamation.
As one bishop wrote to VOL, "No Gospel, no life! Just band-aids with a lip service to 'the Faith once for all delivered to the saints'."
One document headed, "Guiding Principles for HOB Meetings" revealed a management approach to the Church's problems under the heading of "rhythms or arcs reflecting both a developmental learning arc and the natural rhythms of our bodies and spirits." Question: What the blazes does that mean? Among suggestions were "experiential orientation" and "try it on for size"...hardly in the vein of St. Paul.
The most disorienting one was, "Reach conclusion or re-orient for more experience." One wonders if Satan's High Table might not be ringing with laughter over a few pints of the latest bishops' blood.
The PB then invited the bishops "to gather up the pieces and begin to share some preliminary thoughts about how our experiences will inform our next steps as bishops."
The "pieces" have long since coagulated into clots of heretical husbandry fit only to be given to pigs.
Under "CORE VALUES AND BEHAVIORS" there was considerable arm twisting. Full participation was demanded in all meetings and worship. Full and intentional incorporation in the House, as demonstrated by engagement with the work of the College for Bishops and rotation of leadership in core and working groups during meetings of the House and collegiality, demonstrating mutual respect for each other.
Under MUTUAL RESPECT was the notion of respectful listening and talking, and increased attention to avoid mean-spiritedness, with appropriate confidentiality. Presumably this means that the handful of holdout orthodox bishops like Daniel Martins (Springfield), Bill Love (Albany), George Sumner (Dallas) and Greg Brewer (Central Florida) the latter has pretty well rolled over, will either shut up about the faith or hold their noses.
Under COLLECTIVE WISDOM the HOB were urged into "retaining materials that need further attention from one meeting to the next, and in learning from each other." Presumably this means "retaining" all general convention resolutions passed about sodomy, promoting homogenital marriage and promoting William Countryman or is it John Shelby Spong's version of the faith!
"A bishop in God's holy Church is called to be one with the apostles.... You are called to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church... With your fellow bishops you will share in the leadership of the Church" (BCP 517). Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit? I believe in ... the communion of saints" (BCP 304).
TEC's HOB bishops have not been "one with the apostles" for decades and any pretense at otherwise is down-right fictional.
Under ACCOUNTABILITY, the bishops were told to "involve conversation and prayer before moving toward controversial actions.
"Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord? (BCP 304). Will you be faithful in prayer, and in the study of Holy Scripture, that you may have the mind of Christ? (BCP 518). Are you persuaded that God has called you to the office of bishop?" (BCP 517)."
If TEC's bishops had followed this advice 40 years ago, they would not be in the mess they are in today...and they might be $60 million richer sans property lawsuits.
The bishops developed a new word, it is "Wordle" and will involve worship -- focusing on prayer for revival, reconciliation and renewal for creative evangelism in our world today. On this point words fail me.
On theological education, the Presiding Bishop called for a church-wide conversation about the future of theological education. Don't bother. Most of the seminaries are barely functioning or hardly solvent with EDS recently merging with an ultra-liberal Protestant seminary in NYC while ignoring an Episcopal seminary six miles down the road, because it was not liberal enough for EDS. Mergers (but no acquisitions) are in TEC's future. Within a decade, the only survivors will be TSM, VTS and Nashotah House.
Then of course there is the standard "inter-religious relations" made up largely of aging and dying denominations propping each other up.
Global Partnerships: The bishops were called to bridge developing and nurturing relationships between the Episcopal Church and their partners around the Anglican Communion. Of course, that will never include GAFCON archbishops, who will have nothing to do with TEC and won't be in the same room with Michael Curry. The options for global (Anglican) partnerships is in fact withering.
Of course, the Episcopal Church has plenty of investments they were told - some $400 million in assets for the DFMS and many parishes and dioceses to keep afloat a dying denomination...and the return on investment is good. In fact money might be the only thing left on the table when the last Episcopalian has been (spiritually) strangled with the guts of the last bishop.
Michael Curry's great hope for the future of TEC is the Jesus Movement and he is pinning all his hopes on reviving the Church by focusing (endlessly) on racism as a way to jump start his Church. 2017 and 2018 are supposed to years of revival in TEC. The first revival was held in February in Pittsburgh, but there is no indication that anything of substance occurred. Where are the converts to Christ filling up parishes in the rump Diocese of Pittsburgh?
Franklin Graham held an evangelistic campaign in Vancouver recently under the banner, Greater Vancouver Festival of Hope. Some 2,000 plus came forward to receive Christ. As an antidote to Franklin Graham's blatantly promoting Christianity, Anglicans sponsored a multi-faith event to celebrate diversity.
So, we must ask, where are the thousands of new converts from Curry's Jesus Movement? As one blogger observed, "Considering the fact that the Episcopal organization is trying to pass off a false gospel on any unbelievers who might stumble into one of their revivals, no news might be good news."
The blogger further noted that these revivals sound more like social activism recruitment drives. Consider the following: "The six Episcopal Revivals will vary in design, but most will be multi-day events that feature dynamic worship and preaching, offerings from local artists and musicians, personal testimony and storytelling, topical speakers, invitation to local social action, engagement with young leaders, and intentional outreach with people who aren't active in a faith community."
Where is the life giving proclamation of new life in Christ? There isn't any of course, except for the endless rant about racism in the Church.
The Presiding Bishop's "Jesus Movement" is fraught with ambiguity. He wants Episcopalians to get on board with priorities like evangelism which he defines as "listening for [the] Jesus' movement in our lives and in the world. Give thanks. Proclaim and celebrate it! Invite the Spirit to do the rest." What exactly is the Spirit (presumably the Holy Spirit) going to do with that unless it is about changed lives through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ which Curry carefully avoids talking about?
And then he lists a whole bunch of issues that the Jesus Movement embraces in which he invites Episcopalians to "tell the truth about church and race; develop creation care resources, rewrite the narrative" (TEC has done a lot of that under the rubric of revisionism) with little effect except to empty churches even further.
Do "Developing creation care resources", "Growing eco-ministries", and "pursuing eco-justice"? count as revivals. The secular culture is more than capable of developing such ministries, but these issues will not make TEC grow.
Is that the evangelism Episcopalians will learn to embrace at these revivals?
Even to "Tell the truth about church and race" is a fiction bearing in mind that the Episcopal Church is 95% white with only a handful of blacks and other races. Behind Curry's constant rant about race is the guilt producing "white privilege" mantra which he hammers home at every opportunity.
It is laughable when TEC talks about, "Repairing and restoring institutions and society", when what the Episcopal Church has done and continues to do, is promote abortion weakening the institution of marriage of one man and one woman by promoting pansexuality which is still anathema to most Christians.
Even climate change which TEC promotes is controversial in many quarters and vigorous discussions won't bring people to Episcopal churches or to Christ.
None of these issues will bring unbelievers into faith and belief in Jesus as Lord and savior or in spreading the Good News of Jesus who was crucified for our sins, and raised for our justification.
TEC is going about it all wrong and their revivals will fall flat as have other efforts to jump start the church like the 20/20 effort to double the church or TREC to reimagine the church. TEC's decline will continue unchanged and unabated.
Fortunately, the Good News about Jesus will still go on being proclaimed in thought, word and deed by the newly formed ACNA which has a firm grip on what the gospel is and how it should be proclaimed. They are moving in the right direction (and the numbers prove it) even as TEC continues to go down the wrong pathways and slides towards the abyss.
As one blogger observed, they should probably call it "The Episcopal Movement" and flush it down the nearest gender neutral toilet where it belongs.
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