Sunday, January 25, 2009

Open Letter to Episcopalians considering leaving the Episcopal Church

To My dear Brothers and Sisters in the Episcopal Church who are discerning departing the Episcopal Church:

I write to you as one who has trod the path that lies open before you. Many fears and doubts assail you regarding what you should do as an individual, or what you and your family should do together. I have stood in your shoes. Not knowing what lies ahead is a fearful thing, but our comfort in fear should be the resilience of Christ. If you truly trust him, and are desirous to follow him wherever he leads then you should take the great plunge into the future and walk where your heart pulls you.

If you are concerned about the direction the Episcopal Church has wandered into, or more accurately, the direction the Episcopal Church has charged in, then you share in the concerns of many countless Christians, throughout all the ages, who peer down upon the sad state of the Episcopal Church and do not see in her the characteristics and qualities that exists in the Church that these Saints lived for, and often, gave their lives joyfully to protect and uphold.

If you are discerning leaving the Episcopal Church it is because you detect error in the path of this body which claims the mantel of Church. Perhaps you can’t articulate what you feel is error, or perhaps you are well versed on all the issues. Either way, you, as the Scriptures say, recognize the voice of Jesus, and for some reason, his voice is either stifled in the Episcopal Church, or no longer heard in her walls. Yes, we know that Jesus promised that he would never leave nor forsake those who he loved and called by his name. Therefore, you consider leaving the Episcopal Church to find that place where once again, you can hear the voice of Jesus with clarity and sincerity.

I read the Episcopal blogs, though not as often now as I did before I left the Episcopal Church. Many people have indicated on these blogs that they also consider leaving and many already have. A great many have departed for other Protestant Churches. Still others have come to the Roman Catholic Church. The Episcopal Church, and the Anglican Communion in general, has historically proclaimed itself to be the “Via Media” or the middle way between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. This attempt to be both was unique among the Protestant Churches which broke from the Catholic Church at the Reformation. The English situation was highly political and this attempt to be both Catholic and Protestant was largely motivated by politics. In reality, there were two different parties in the Church and in England. One was Catholic and one Protestant. Catholics didn’t want to be Protestant and Protestants did not wish to be Catholic. The English Church settled upon a middle way, a least common denominator religion, a compromise Church, in order to avoid civil unrest as much as possible. This experiment has run its course and the Roman Catholic party in the Church was largely vanquished at the moment of compromise. The only elements of Catholicism which remain in the Episcopal Church are the historical data, the vestments, and any other element which externally resembles Roman Catholicism. The inner heart of the Episcopal Church is Protestant at best and apostate at worst, despite the fact that the pews are full of good and well meaning people on all sides of the issues. It is a most unfortunate situation and my heart goes out to all who are discerning leaving and those who desire to keep the ship afloat.

If you are considering leaving the Episcopal Church the first order of business you must conclude is are you Protestant or Catholic? How do you arrive at this? If you are at all familiar with the historical situation in England at the time of the Reformation I might suggest that you do a little role-playing. If you lived in Reformation England would you have been part of the old Catholic party or would you have been part of the “New Church” of the Protestants? Would you have wanted the Church to remain in tact as it had been in England for generations before you, or would you have been open to the innovations of the Protestant Reformers? This may help you visualize and better understand which side of the fence you gravitate toward.

If you feel you don’t have the ability to make such a judgment call, then perhaps this is another way to look at the issues. If you were to leave the Episcopal Church, for a Protestant Church down the street, and the very same novelties of religion began to creep into that denomination that are ravaging the Episcopal Church at this time, would that Church stand a better chance, than the one you are in, of surviving secularism? Does that Protestant Church have the ability, or authority springing up from within, to decisively deal with secularism of all varieties? If that Church locally or nationally or internationally can change its teaching based on democratic means, such as the Episcopal Church is able to do, then your new Protestant denomination is no better off, or no more safe, than the Episcopal Church. Even if the particular congregation is strong, can a church based on democratic vote be safe for the future? Even if you enjoy stability in the here and now, will your grandchildren?

The conclusion I draw is that Protestantism is incapable of holding together and incapable of standing up to the onslaught of secular ideology. Look at the history of Protestantism since the beginning. The original Protestants agreed that the Church needed Reformation. They began with ideals of reform and ended up in revolt. They could not agree among themselves and unite their followers and congregations into one church. Denominations sprung up around personalities, and these even split. Here in America, with the construction of every new community worship center, a new cult of personality is born. While Protestantism may well have began with noble goals in view, the end result is that chaos has been born. The Catholic Church was able to reform itself, and clean up its house in light of the Reformation. We know this as the Counter Reformation and the Council of Trent. Why was Catholicism able to survive the Protestant Reformation, recover the loss of many of the faithful, and today remain the single largest body of Christians in the world, not to mention largest body of adherents of any religion? The singular most reasonable conclusion is that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church” and “I will be with you always, until the end of the age.” The Catholic Church is the historically founded Church which Christ founded in and by his Apostles. The Catholic Church is the Mother Church from which each Protestant Denomination has its ultimate genesis. The Catholic Church is able to stand against the assaults of secularism and the proof is in the pudding. It has proven that it can stand against these assaults for two thousand years.

When you are considering leaving the Episcopal Church, if you choose to go to another Protestant Church, I feel that you are simply allowing for history to repeat itself in another generation. If you want to end the cycle of chaos and revolt, and be in a place where you are free to worship Jesus in the Spirit and in truth, then the Catholic Church is the only natural conclusion. It is the Church of your fore-fathers in the faith. It is the Church in which your denomination finds its roots. It is the Church that is able to withstand the assaults of the Evil One. It is the Church that the heroes of the faith lived and died for. The Catholic Church calls you home.

I tell you the truth, as dogmatically as I have stated my position here tonight, the plunge for me was not without hesitation. I had doctrinal concerns and practical concerns as well. I intentionally mapped out a course of study for myself and began to deal with my heart and mind and work toward a resolution to my concerns. If you are bothered enough by the situation in the Episcopal Church that you are considering leaving, then please turn your worry and concern into something constructive and delve into whatever it is that would keep you from coming home to the Catholic Church.

When we first come to faith in Jesus we can’t explain everything about the faith. We may not even be able to do that now. Yet we still believe and know in our heart, with our conscience, that Jesus is truly Lord. If you feel in your heart that Jesus truly wants you to come to the Catholic Church then run to it. Jesus stands at the door and knocks. You may not have an answer for all of your questions but don’t hesitate any longer just as you did not hesitate to run into the arms of Jesus at the hour you first believed.


In limbo said...

I did try to (run home to Rome) but found there is a major problem with being a divorced and remarried person. Would accept even a "noncommunicant" conversion, but such is not available.

They have made provision for married clergy to take RC holy orders, maybe an exception for those like me could be taken under consideration.

Bobby J. Kennedy said...

I am not sure about all of the details of how one, in your situation, is able to convert. I'd go a local priest and inquire about this. Each circumstance is different. There are rules which will guide the church into making a decision. By all means, speak to a priest. God bless.

Bobby J. Kennedy said...

Celibacy of the priesthood is for the good of the Church, and part of the order of the Church. Celibacy, is not by nature, required of the priesthood, but the Church makes it a requirement for the good of the Church. In other words, celibacy and the priesthood are not inseparable. Celibacy is a requirement, given by the Church, and it could, if the Church were to decide this, not be required at a future time. This is why the Church is able to dispense with the normal order of things when accepting married clergy from other ecclesial communities.

Marriage has certain standards handed down in scripture, and these can not be dispensed with. Circumstances may indicate that a relationship was or was not a valid, sacramental, marriage, and this is why it is necessary to allow for the Church to review the case so your matter can be resolved so you can come to the Catholic Church.

I believe my understanding of this is correct. I hope it is.

Vershal said...

Dude — what happened to all the other posts?