GC2009: General Convention Dumps Evangelism Resolution
By David W. Virtue
At GC2000 in Denver, The Episcopal Church passed a resolution urging the church to double its baptized membership by 2020.
The doomed "'Decade of Evangelism"' only got wider with the consecration of Gene Robinson to the episcopacy in 2003. The church has been steadily going downhill since then, losing more than 50,000 active Episcopalians in 2007.
Objections were raised to a numerical goal at that time, but other deputies have argued that the lack of such a goal is what "doomed" the Decade. It began with great fanfare in 1990, but actually saw a decline in the number of Episcopalians for most of its ten-year span.
Now at GC2009, General Convention was called upon once again to Affirm Christ in a Multi-Faith and Non-Faith (C069). The Rev. Dr. Peter Cook, clergy delegate for Western Louisiana, brought the resolution to the floor. Without so much as a by your leave, the House of Deputies voted to accept the Evangelism Committee's recommendation to discharge the resolution submitted by the deputies from Western Louisiana.
It was a bitter blow for Cook, a British-born evangelical and a priest for nearly 25 years in TEC. He told VOL that if the Church of England House of Bishops could pass a similar resolution in February 2009 affirming the uniqueness of Jesus Christ in a multi-faith world, then why couldn't the Episcopal Church do the same?
"The Evangelism Committee objected strongly to the resolution and said they thought it was the language of proselytism and exclusivism and they objected to any talk of Christianity superseding Judaism. I was blown away," Cook told VOL.
Cook said his bishop, Bruce McPherson was "very comfortable" with the resolution. McPherson is one of a handful of remaining orthodox bishops in The Episcopal Church.
When he rose to speak in the House of Deputies, Cook said he wanted to put TEC on the same page as the Church of England, who in February's 2009 General Synod asked their House of Bishops to report back on "their understanding of the uniqueness of Christ in Britain's multi-faith society, and offer examples and commendations of good practice in sharing the gospel of salvation through Christ alone with people of other faiths and of none."
Cook went on: "The U.S. is fast becoming what Britain admittedly now is, a society of many failed faiths and of none. We need resolution C069. We need to get US bishops on the same page as their English counterparts.
"We live in a spiritually hungry and needy world. I, and many here, ought to feel most embarrassed if we cannot address this resolution and were to accept the Evangelism Committee's recommendation to discharge it out-of-hand. Many former Episcopalians and Anglicans around the world are fast coming to the conclusion that the future of Anglicanism in the US lies not with TEC but the newly formed province of the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA). The 20/20 vision of doubling the membership of TEC by 2020 is already an abysmal failure.
"If the Episcopal Church is not to continue to be a declining member of the Body of Christ, it needs to take seriously resolutions on evangelism such as C069. It needs to start thinking "outside of its own box." It needs to ask the hard questions of truthfulness the Archbishop of Canterbury put to us last week. Why do we keep on coming every three years to General Convention? Speaking personally, it is so that I might better understand how, as an Episcopalian, I can preach more gracefully and more intelligently the good news of Christ crucified.
"If the English House of Bishops can seek to address how better to 'Affirm Christ in a multi-faith society', why do we think that the House of Bishops of TEC is incapable of doing the same? I urge you to reject the recommendation that we discharge resolution C069."
Debate was then cut off and the HOD voted overwhelmingly to reject any discussion on C069. In view of all that has happened, and continues to happen at this General Convention even more Episcopalians, and even more Anglicans throughout the Wider Communion, will indeed conclude that the future of Anglicanism in North America lies with the newly formed Anglican Church of North America.
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