Welcome To “That We All Might Be One!”

Scrolling down through a few entries below will introduce you to some of my “reflections on unity.” Thought I’d add a few categories. I look forward to the conversation!

The Ecubishop

33 Responses to “Welcome To “That We All Might Be One!””

  1. Phil Snyder Says:

    Bishop Epting,

    This is a fine blog and I am interested in the unity of the Church. I believe that the schismatic wounds on the Body of Christ are the greatest triumph of the Enemy. These wounds say to the world that we don’t really love each other.

    I have a proposition and a question for you. My proposition is that we each contribute to the disunity of the Church by putting our own ideas (or our “corporate” ideas) over and above the ideas of the rest of the Church. For example, the Roman Catholic Church will not budge on their principle that the Bishop of Rome is to be the head of the Church on earth. Likewise, the Anglican Communion will not budge on their principle that the Bishop of Rome is not the head of the Church on earth – he may be the first among equals, but all primates are equals – Rome, Constantinople, Canterbury, etc.

    This is not to say who is right (not being Roman Catholic, I believe that the Anglicans have this one right) or wrong, but it is a statement that there are irreconcilable differences among the major divisions of Christ’s Church.

    What is your plan to lessen these differences? Is there anything that you see being taught or practiced by the Episcopal Church that you would “sacrifice” or do away with in the interest of organic unity in the Church. For example, if all other questions were settled and it came down to something like acknowledging that Mary was born without the taint of original sin. Would you be willing to agree to that if it was all it took to acheive organic unity with Rome and/or Constantinople? For you, what are the limits of discussion on unity? What are you unwilling to compromize on? Is that list any different for churches in union with Cantebury or not?

    Put another way, what are the teachings and practices of the Episcopal Church that are essential and cannot be changed?

    YBIC,
    Deacon Phil Snyder

  2. ecubishop Says:

    Great question, Phil. I guess we all have our “bottom lines” — principles that we are not willing to sacrifice. The Episcopal Church’s are contained in the 1886/88 Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral:

    1. The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the Word of God.
    2. The Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds as sufficient statements of the Christian faith.
    3. The two “dominical sacraments” of Baptism and the Eucharist.
    4. The “historic episcopate” locally adapted to the needs of local churches.

    As for the rest: “…all things of human ordering or human choice, relating to modes of worship and discipline, or to traditional customs, this Church is ready in the spirit of love and humility to forego all preferences of her own.” (Quadrilateral, 1886)

  3. rob k Says:

    Bishop Epting – I look forward to reading and maybe commenting on this site. Christian unity, and especially Catholic unity, is of great interest to me.

  4. ecubishop Says:

    Great, Rob. I’ll look forward to your comments!

  5. Phil Snyder Says:

    Bishop Epting,

    I am aware of the Chicago-Lameth Quadralateral and it’s four points. Does that mean, then, that you would be willing to eschew the ordination of women if it meant organic unity with Rome? How about eschewing the blessing of same sex unions if it means restoring unity with the rest of the Anglican Communion?

    YBIC,
    Phil Snyder

  6. Linda in Iowa Says:

    Bishop Epting,

    How wonderful to discover your blog! I remember well your “living out” of your commitment to welcoming ALL here in Iowa as our bishop. I am especially thankful for the way you welcomed me personally, when you received me into the Episcopal Church. All of us at New Song keep you in our prayers. (and we miss you!)

    Peace,
    Linda (and Jane)

  7. ecubishop Says:

    Phil:

    The Lambeth Quad is a floor not a ceiling. It does not, in and of itself, address the two issues you name.

    Linda:

    Great to hear from you! I miss the Diocese of Iowa and all of you as well!

  8. Phil Snyder Says:

    Bishop – I notice you still haven’t answered my question. What do you consider essential to Anglicanism and would not be willing to compromise on for the sake of unity?

    YBIC,
    Phil Snyder

  9. ecubishop Says:

    Phil:

    I don’t know how I can answer it with any more clarity — the elements of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. Do I need to list them again?

    CCE

  10. Phil Snyder Says:

    I asked about specifics – such as the ordination of women or the ordination of sexually active LGBT men or women or the local option of blessing same sex unions. I don’t like to assume what other people believe – I’ve gotten into trouble by that in the past.

    So, by your refusal to answer these specifics and to reply with the Quatrilateral, I can only infer that you regard these as non-essentials to the faith and you would be willing to forgoe them if it meant organic union with another Christian body.

    YBIC,
    Phil Snyder

  11. Monk-in-Training Says:

    Greetings Bp. Epting,
    I am happy to run across this blog, and will be perusing it from time to time.:)

    †With the help of God, there is nothing to fear

  12. Linda in Iowa Says:

    Phil,

    I think it would be better not to attempt to put words into the host’s mouth for him. Each of should speak only for ourselves.

    Having said that, I wonder if you would be willing to consider the opposite side of the coin about non-essentials. If such things as ordination of women and/or openly LGBT persons are non-essentials, why should they be allowed to create barriers to union with other Christian bodies? Why not allow each body to follow its own path in non-essential matters without elevating them to the level of ‘deal-breakers’?

  13. Linda in Iowa Says:

    Oops == “each of us should speak only for ourselves”

    sorry

  14. ecubishop Says:

    Phil:

    Linda’s observation is what I would say too: if the “essentials” are the elements in the Lambeth Quad, then everything else is “negotiable.” That is not to say “unimportant,” but at least open to compromise for the sake of unity.

    Since you continue to press on the two issues of the ordination of women and full inclusion of gay and lesbian persons in the life of the Church, let me say that I do not believe it likely that the Episcopal Church will ever reverse its present position on those matters.

    Just a note: pretty soon, we will be done with this topic of human sexuality. While some in the Church may be obsessed by this topic, I am not. The larger, and much more important, theme of this blog is “unity” — in the church, among people of faith, of the human family.

    It is to that topic that I wish to return.

  15. Alex Says:

    Dear Bp Epting,

    I am just reading you blog as an observer from Australia.

    I just re-read the Lambeth Quadrilateral and noted the first point again:

    “1. The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the revealed Word of God.” (1886, Chicago version); or “1. The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as “containing all things necessary to salvation,” and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith.” (1888, Lambeth version).

    What do you do if part of the church thinks another part no longer genuinely regards Scripture as “the revealed Word of God” and “the rule and ultimate standard of faith”?

    If we peel away the “presenting issues” isn’t this really in substance where the Communion is at? If so, isn’t (on your terms) genuine unity impossible without repentance?

  16. Phil Snyder Says:

    Linda & Bishop Epting.

    I believe in and support the Ordination of women to all orders in the Church and I have participated in many ordinations of women both to the diaconate ane the priesthood. I also do not think the ordination of women is an essential and I would be willing to forego that innovation if it meant maintaining or acheiving unity in the Church.

    However, on the issue of sexuality (and morality in general), I believe that morality is essential to the faith and that includes sexual morality and sexual expression. I believe that Scripture is very clear (and I have not seen any convincing arguement to the contrary) and the teaching of the Church has been very clear that sex is to be expressed inside of a marriage between one man and one woman. Since you both consider it to be non-essential, then shouldn’t TEC, for the sake of unity, refrain from blessing same sex unions or ordaining men or women whose lives do not conform to the moral teaching of the Church and are not willing to repent of their sins?

    I don’t want this to turn into a harangue on sexuality. I am addressing this only because TEC’s stand on this issue has hurt Christian Unity within families, parishes, dioceses, TEC, the Anglican Communion, and the universal Church. Bishop Epting, can you honestly say that our stand on human sexuality has not hurt our relationships with the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches? I know it has hurt our relationship with many provinces of the Anglican Communion.

    YBIC,
    Phil Snyder

  17. Linda in Iowa Says:

    Phil,

    It’s my understanding that the Episcopal Church does not officially “bless” same-gender unions.

    In my own experience, Bishop Epting — who was my bishop at the time of my union with my partner — told us specifically not to use the “b-word” in the Eucharist service at which our congregation prayed with us as we made our promises to each other. I can tell you that personally hurt — especially knowing that the “b-word” is allowed to be used for animals, fox hunts, and battleships! We obeyed our bishop, though it caused us anguish to do it. So I do know something personally about ‘giving something up’.

    Worshippers in attendance at that service represented a broad range of traditions: Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Reformed Church in America, Methodists, and more. No one seemed to find praying with us and voicing their promises to uphold us in our commitment, to be a barrier to coming to the Table together. It was an amazing experience, and a witness to the ever-surprising grace of God in bringing us together in harmony with one another. A foretaste of the feast to come!

    It is indeed a good thing, when brothers and sisters come together in unity!

  18. ecubishop Says:

    Alex and Phil:

    In a sense you both make the same point. And yes, in discussions around human sexuality issues of theological anthropology and biblical hermeneutics are absolutely essential.

    Many of us in the Episcopal Church have been engaged with those issues, with respect to homosexuality, for over thirty years, but it is very important that the discussion be extended and held ecumenically as well as around the Communion (that’s what the “listening process” is supposed to be all about.

    If the Communion was as serious about that as about “blaming” Canada and the US, we might be farther along in coming to some common ground.

    And yes, Phil, homosexuality has, sadly, become a church dividing issue:
    like papal infallibility; Pope Leo XIII’s declaration of the invalidity of Anglican orders; the Marian dogmas; birth control; the historic episcopate; how we understand the eucharist; eschatology — even, in some cases, how we baptize. We have lots of work to do!

  19. Alex Says:

    Dear Bp Epting,

    Thanks for your response.

    It seems that one of the assumptions you are working on is that by further discussion, debate and listening that some sort of common ground will be reached. Now this can work at times, but with respect, isn’t the current state of the Episcopal church an example of the exact opposite effect?

    From overseas (and admittedly perhaps bad news travels farther!) the ECUSA appears to be a complete divisive mess – with parishes and dioceses suing each other, dioceses contemplating departing, priests being charged, charges against bishops etc. Even if this isn’t the whole picture, the fact that it is happening anywhere is indicative that something is terribly wrong. (As an aside, I remember showing my diocesan chancellor one of the reports about ECUSA and got a response “Only in America!”, which kind of sums up how I feel sometimes too).

    If I was to sum up what the ECUSA ‘picture’ looks like (from afar):

    – the ECUSA now comprises a least two distinct groups which at an essential level cannot agree on the place, authority and use of Scripture (ie adopting your paradigm, there is no meeting of minds as to the meaning of point 1 of the Lambeth Quad); and

    – the various different groups within ECUSA are in a number of places in serious and open conflict (eg Virginia, Connecticutt, Los Angeles amongst others).

    I’d be interested if you believe this picture is incorrect (no doubt it’s a simplification!).

    It seems to me that discussions about trying to find common ground or “unity” are unlikely to be successful whilst there is open conflict between the various ECUSA groups. Perhaps the first step needs to be a ceasefire, which may necessitate separating the parties in conflict.

    Perhaps the irony is that, if the aim is to achieve “unity” (or reconciliation) in the long term then a short term separation is often necessary.

    Kind regards
    Alex

  20. ecubishop Says:

    Alex:

    I don’t know where you are “overseas” but it would be a mistake to rely on the press to give you an accurate picture of the Episcopal Church. The parishes in Virginia and Carolina about which you read comprise one-half of one percent of our 7,200 congregations.

    The Church of England is also deeply divided about the issues you describe as are many other Provinces of the Communion and ecumenical partners. Perhaps “only in America” is the debate carried on so openly and in the sight of all.

    By the way, our dioceses in Latin America, Europe, and Asia have asked us to cease using the acronym ECUSA — since they are full members of the Episcopal Church but not in the USA. So, it’s either the Episcopal Church or TEC!

    Thanks.

  21. Alex Says:

    Thanks for your reply.

    No, I doubt the press gives the whole picture!

    But are you claiming that the the “one-half of one percent” comment (quoting, presumably, the PB Jefferts Schori) gives a correct picture either?

    For example, Jefferts Schori only claimed the “one-half of one percent” applied from the time since June 2006. But, again from what I read, haven’t there been parishes leaving since 2003 (and earlier if you count the AMiA). And not just in Carolina or Virginia – but in a number of other States. And doesn’t the “one-half of one percent” leave out those whole dioceses which have sought APO (or equiv) from Canterbury? And finally, the one-half of one percent” pertains to parishes and doesn’t reflect that the parishes concerned are often quite large (eg Truro, Plano etc).

    But maybe we can agree that statistics don’t give the whole picture either!

    I come from Australia, and until recently was involved as a lay representative on the local bishop’s council in the diocese.

    With respect, I think you make some assumptions about the way that the debate has been carried on in other countries. In Australia, we have had (and continue to have) quite a vigorous and public debate – but what is missing, generally, is the open conflict and abuses of power (which, unfortunately, makes good press coverage!)

    In Australia, if groups within the church disagree they are less likely to support one another (although this still happens) but there doesn’t appear to be the willingness (or perhaps opportunity) to use power to crush opponents – which is what looks like is happening within parts of the Episcopal Church in the US (and parts of Canada – eg New Westminster).

    If what was going on in the Episcopal Church was simply debate “carried on so openly and in the sight of all” I don’t think the Communion would have the same problems. However, with respect, by contrast it appears that the “debate” has gotten a little out of hand(!) with:

    – parties acting unilaterally and without regard for the unity of the church (esp as regards orthodox minorities); and

    – open and serious conflict between dioceses, bishops, priests and parishes.

    I can’t see how either of the above assists with unity in the church.

  22. ecubishop Says:

    No question: the debate here (and elsewhere) has gotten out of hand. The Episcopal Church has taken some decisions which are stressing the unity of Communion. However, we are not the ones crossing diocesan boundaries and setting up potentially rival jurisdictions in other Provinces. None of these law suits would be happening without such incursions from “outside” (invited, of course, by dissidents “inside”).

  23. Phil Snyder Says:

    Bishop,

    The boundry crossings would not have happened had TEC not first torn “the fabric of the communion at its deepest level.” (from the Primates letter that was sent between GC2003 and the ordination of +Robinson and signed by +Griswold).

    The AMiA (or “Anglicans Missing in Action) was formed before 2003, true, but they didn’t take congregations that I am aware of. Their MO was to entice members and clergy from existing ECUSA parishes, but not take the property. Note that while AMiA started before Lambeth 1998, none of the AMiA bishops were invited to Lambeth 98.

    Had TEC been more faithful to maintaining the “bonds of affection” rather than “doing a new thing” the incursions into existing dioceses probably would never have happened.

    YBIC,
    Phil Snyder

  24. Alex Says:

    Dear Bishop Epting,

    Again from an overseas perspective, the “boundary crossings” look like an hoc (and, admittedly, imperfect) response to a pre-existant crisis within the Episcopal Church. I think the chronology of events bears this out.

    I suspect it is incorrect to truly call the departing parishes “dissidents” – I suspect “refugees” might be a better word to capture what is happening (ie they are faithful anglicans who no longer have a home in the Episcopal Church, and who want to remain anglican and have a connection with the Communion).

    Dear Phil, thanks for the info about the AMiA (I stand corrected!).

    Kind regards
    Alex

  25. ecubishop Says:

    Phil and Alex:

    Obviously, our perspectives are different on the crossing of diocesan lines (as well as other things!). It is interesting to me, however, that although the Windsor Report roundly condemns such actions, no one sees fit to evaluate how well overseas bishops have responded to that request — as we will be evaluated on how well we responded to other measures in the Windsor Report.

  26. rwk Says:

    But had TEC responded as the Windsor Report requested no boundary crossing on the part of foreign Primates would have been necessary….

  27. Alex Says:

    Dear Bishop Epting,

    I am not sure you are comparing like with like!

    The Windsor Report actually went out of its way to state: “We want to make quite clear that we fully understand the principled concerns that have led to those actions [ie border crossings] even though we believe that they should have been handled differently.”(#149)

    I think it quite sensible to address the core issue – the crisis in the Episcopal Church – before addressing issues which will themselves be resolved if the core crisis can be resolved.

  28. ecubishop Says:

    Dear friends:

    “Boundary crossings” were happening long before 2003…and I thnk you are all aware of that.

  29. Alex Says:

    Dear Bishop Epting,

    Yes, they were happening way back… in the 4th century in fact as a response to the Arian heresy.

    At the time several bishops (including Athanasius) “crossed boundaries” and ordained replacement clergy in dioceses where the bishop was pro-Arian. It was one of the ways that the church dealt with heresy and ensured that church survived for faithful christians in places where the faith was no longer upheld.

    Now I know that Bishop Wright has a particular (contrary) view about “boundary crossing” but even he is now (reportedly) saying: “There are many in America who are trying to have their cake and eat it, who are doing the schismatic thing and then accusing those who object of being schismatic.” I think it’s a good summary.

    With respect, I would have more time for the “boundaries” argument if it were true that the rights and consciences of orthodox anglican minorities within Episcopal Church dioceses were respected and protected. Instead the opposite appears to be happening. To my mind, diocesan boundaries are first and foremost intended to identify areas of care and responsibility -they are not mini-kingdoms with no external accountability for what goes on within its boundaries.

  30. ecubishop Says:

    I simply refer to a rather selective reading the Windsor Report by some.

  31. Alex Says:

    Dear Bishop Epting, thank you for this opportunity to correspond.

    I suspect you may be about to jump on a plane somewhere, so please have a safe trip and please be assured that there are Anglicans everywhere praying for a Godly, just and gracious outcome from the meeting.

    Kind regards
    Alex

  32. ecubishop Says:

    Alex:

    Thank you so much. That is the deepest prayer of my heart.

    CCE

  33. campioni Says:

    um… buoni, realmente buoni luogo e molto utile;)

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