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A Good Episcopalian?

The San Joaquin Diocese of the Episcopal church under the leadership of Bishop John David Schofield is contemplating leaving the US Anglican church to join either the South American or African Anglican church. Read the aricle in the LA Times.

One of the primary issues is a high view of Scripture. Bishop Schofield has a high view of Scripture and a low tolerance for liberalism. Imagine that, in the Episcopal church.

It is the arrogance of recent Protestantism to view mainstream Protestantism with disdain. Non-denominational churches and recent movements often use the rational that they need to start new churches because of the rampant liberalism of the mainstream denominations. So they spring up like weeds, with no restraint or controls (both a good and bad thing) and very little connection to historic roots.

Now, I was raised in a Baptist church (Russian Baptist). I started ministry in a non-denominational church in Santa Barbara. I was first licensed in the Evangelical Free Church and now am ordained in the Missionary Church. So I probably fit more into the recent Protestant category. None of these groups have a history that is more than 100 years old.

Which brings me to a corollary reason for this post. Heard on the radio today: “I see nothing good in church history, we certainly have not lived up to the early church in Acts which “turned the world upside down.” (Not an exact quote, but close, maybe even nicer than it was said). How ignorant can we be? Christianity has changed the world, and has been the most dominant influence in history since Christ. Christianity has exploded around the world, with Christian movements in almost every part of the world. Christian history is filled with many positive and powerful events and figures and only the ignorant focus on one side of Christian history.

There was a movement in our generation that believed that we needed to get back to our roots, meaning the early church. It was (is) commonly held that the early church of the first century was the purist form of the church, and we needed to do things just as they did. Our “new” Protestantism jumped all over this new idea, since it fell in line with our rejection of mainstream Protestantism. We could criticize and justify our existence as the movement to return to pure, early Christianity.

This assumption has rarely been challenged, but it needs to be. The early church was saddled with many problems and battled many early heresies. It struggled to extricate itself from its Jewish moorings. It struggled for lack of direction, and a finalized canon. Many of the churches were not “mature”: Corinth; the churches in Galatia; the seven churches of Revelation.

Maybe, like individuals, the church has matured over time. It still has room to grow, but it could be said that we are far and away more settled than the early church. I would postulate a different view: The church needs to continue to mature and grow, and that moving backwards may not be the best strategy for world evangelization and kingdom building. Certainly, there is a purity to the Word, and we need to understand it and have it as our foundation, but that does not necessitate a movement back to the structures of the early church.

Another assumption underlying the attitude of criticism with regards to Mainstream Protestantism and church history is an underlying pessimism among newer Protestantism. It is linked closely with the popular eschatological view of our day, Premillennialism. This view sees everything as getting worse, the world, people, the church…and it has to according to fulfill this view’s desire to be the generation that sees the rapture. Since there is a built in need to have things worsen, this crowd constantly affirms this pessimism. Evidence to the contrary, this group sees a downward trend in every aspect of human life.

I know that I have rambled a bit here and don’t get me wrong. I am not running out to change my affiliation to Anglican. But I was encouraged to see that there still is a strong root in that group, even if it doesn’t exist in the USA. What makes us think that we have something over these historic Christian entities?

There are 80 million Anglicans worldwide. CS Lewis was an Anglican. Maybe our generations best pastor-theologian is an Anglican: John Stott.

Quote for the week: “Arrogance makes you stupid.”

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