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LAMBETH: "Interfaith Relations-WITHIN The Episcopal Church" - Bishop Beckwith

LAMBETH: "Interfaith Relations-WITHIN The Episcopal Church" - Bishop Beckwith

By Hans Zeiger in Canterbury
July 30, 2008

CANTERBURY -- A leading orthodox bishop from the American heartland admitted to the press, today, his frustrations with The Episcopal Church. Following discussions earlier in the week about inter-religious dialogue, the Rt. Rev. Peter Beckwith, Bishop of Springfield, said that he is conducting "interfaith relations within the Episcopal Church."

Beckwith, who also attended last month's Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in the Holy Land, said that he had doubts about whether to attend the Lambeth Conference. Not only was it expensive, but he asked, "Is it appropriate to sit and talk with folks who seem to be on a totally different page -- but not simply a different page, or a different book, a different library?"

Beckwith said that going to GAFCON was worth the trouble. "It's refreshing to get together with people who believe in a creedal faith, the faith once delivered to the saints," he said. As for Lambeth, "My situation is that I'm dealing with what I consider interfaith relations within The Episcopal Church. We've heard talk that there are at least two gospels being preached in the Anglican Communion." Indeed, the nasty rumors are true, Beckwith said.

Beckwith spoke much about grace, too. He said that he was born again in 1940, that he has devoted his career to The Episcopal Church and his life to the cause of Jesus Christ. "I'm to give up everything for Christ," he said.

Having called an unofficial press conference on the lawn in front of Darwin College at the University of Kent , Beckwith attracted one of the largest gatherings of press yet this week, much to the disappointment of the two liberal Episcopal bishops then scheduled to hold forth on the same lawn. As the conference progressed, the liberal bishops and their press agent could be seen lingering on the periphery of the Beckwith press gathering.

Perhaps what kept the press spellbound by former Navy Rear Admiral Beckwith was that here, for once, was a bishop who spoke not the language of relativism, but the language of truth. The Bishop of Springfield asked some questions that demark the division between the two gospels that are preached in The Episcopal Church. "Is Jesus Lord and Savior, or is He friend and prophet? I think that He can be friend and prophet, but if He's Lord and Savior, that's only incidental. Is Jesus a way, or The Way? Is truth what you think it is, or is it God's Truth?"

Appropriate for the Lambeth theme of the day, "The Bishop and the Bible in Mission," Beckwith asked, "Is the Bible a resource for me to feel good about myself, or is it a challenging document?"

Beckwith also formulated the question that has become central to this Lambeth Conference: "Is non-celibate homosexual activity a wholesome witness within the church and to the world?" He said that the Windsor Continuation Group can point the Communion "in one of two directions -- toward becoming an inclusive church, or toward the orthodox teachings and principles that we've had for 2,000 years."

Beckwith finds little that is encouraging within The Episcopal Church. "I go into those House of Bishops meetings, and I come out confused." Beckwith said that the Episcopal bishops were told at their second Lambeth meeting that the Sudanese statement on homosexual ordination "was a misunderstanding." Well, said Beckwith, "If there was a misunderstanding, it was our misunderstanding. These people [the Sudanese] believe that what we do costs them lives -- as in martyrdom."

Pressed by a reporter for a gay and lesbian publication to explain his opposition to homosexuality, Beckwith posed another question: "Is there any chance that homosexuals -- and heterosexuals -- use sex for a purpose instead of God's?" The problem with homosexuality is "that it divides people," he said. "It divides people from God and one another."

So why does Beckwith remain in The Episcopal Church? "I don't want people to think that I can be chased off," he said. But if matters get worse, Beckwith said, "I don't know what I'm going to do.... If we can't focus on Christ, I'm going to have to do something else."

And speaking of doing something else, The Episcopal Church's press conference was still waiting to begin across the yard. About a third of Beckwith's press audience wandered over to listen in. As they did, Beckwith bid them farewell. "As I look over there," he warned, "it's going to be a much different position." Indeed, it was.


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