Monday, May 07, 2007

The God of the Liar, the Larcenist, and Laughter (Woodward)

Reflections on the Visit of Archbishop Peter Akinola to Enthrone Martyn Minns in Virginia
(by the Rev. Thomas B. Woodward)


(Editor's note: The Reverend Woodward submitted this essay on May 3.)

In his book, The Prostitute in the Family Tree, Doug Adams notes that part of the historical reality behind the constant phrase throughout the Psalms of "the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" is that
  • Abraham was always ready to lie when it was to his advantage,

  • Jacob’s life of crime began while still in the birth canal as he stole his brother’s birthright, and

  • Isaac’s name, in Hebrew, means "laughter," for the laughter of his parents at the news of Isaac’s birth during his parents’ old age.
Thus the characterization of the three great patriarchs of our faith as "The Liar, the Larcenist, and Laughter."

That was then; this is now. Now we are confronted in the church with the God of the Larcenist and the Liar, though it is no laughing matter.

The Larcenist

Just weeks ago, and just after his stint as advisor or consultant to a gathering of "orthodox" bishops of the Episcopal Church, Father Don Armstrong was charged in a formal presentment by his bishop and the Standing Committee in the Diocese of Colorado with diverting close to a million dollars in parish funds to his own use. The presentment, available now to the public, is a lengthy, detailed series of charges against Fr. Armstrong, based on the work of a top notch forensic auditing company. The very day Fr. Armstrong was notified that his church was prepared to hold him accountable for massive theft, he announced that he would transfer into Peter Akinola’s beachhead in the United States, CANA (the Convocation of Anglicans in North America).

Martyn Minns, the ultra-conservative priest Peter Akinola chose to lead the incursion into the Episcopal Church, has set a new low in standards for ordination in any denomination by receiving Don Armstrong within hours of his being charged. The Biblical equivalent would have been Jesus proclaiming, "Thou art Judas and upon this betrayal I will build my church." This is not, as they say, a good beginning.

The Liar

This weekend marks the visit by Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola to this country to enthrone Martyn Minns as head of Akinola’s scheme to replace the Episcopal Church with what some have described as a fundamentalist, neo-Puritan church. That visit raises two big questions. The first, as noted above, is the kind of inverted moral leadership we find so blatant in this new denomination, as with its newest cleric – and with the vitriolic attacks on gay and lesbian people by the Archbishop and several who serve him.

The second is a thinly disguised attempt to replace the Episcopal Church by another denomination, formed for the specific purpose of replacing us. The rhetoric of CANA and Archbishop Akinola is that of ministering to Episcopalians who no longer trust their own denomination; however, the paper trail of their organizations being built specifically to undermine and to replace TEC by those who call themselves "orthodox" has been verified over and over again – including this report by Jim Naughton.

Secret documents with detailed plans for the takeover surfaced early. The burgeoning movement was then financed with the bottomless pockets of the Institute for Religion and Democracy, including trips by "orthodox" bishops to various provinces in Africa to consult with Akinola and others about this new denomination – which would be described not as something new, but as "The Real Thing" as opposed to the church of our Book of Common Prayer, the Holy Bible, the Nicene Creed, and the General Convention. For proof of the superiority of this new denomination, its proponents quote Leviticus, Romans 1, and John 14:6 (leaving alone the witness of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and the bulk of John).

The new denomination was then buttressed by the formation of the Network of Anglican Confessing Dioceses and Parishes, later renamed the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, and finally wishing to be known as the Anglican Communion Network or merely "the Network." This is an organization of supposedly “orthodox” laypeople, clergy, and bishops representing somewhere between 5 and 15% of the Episcopal Church. Though many in the Network are among our finest clergy and laypeople in the church, that organization’s aims and morality were exposed in their creation of the organization’s organizing DVD, "Choose This Day." (The video is available online here and is sold by the Anglican Communion Network.) In that video, clergy and laypeople take turns lambasting the Episcopal Church as "heretical," "a new religion," "a forgery," as a "hijacking" of the Church, "a foreign and alien and pagan religion," and a "non-Christian religion." Members of the Network were told to take this video into the homes of loyal Episcopalians in an attempt to wean them away from the church they loved.

Again, while there are many fine church people in the CANA movement, the driving force behind the movement has been based on misrepresentations and lies, such as the rhetoric of the Network video.

No Laughing Matter

One of the central issues for any church is the moral leadership it provides – in particular the kind of moral leadership we have learned from Jesus, the Christ. While we have argued about various interpretations of Scripture and whether or not we are bound by a literalist interpretation of a small collection of Scripture dealing with homosexuality, we have ignored the issue of moral leadership.

Is there a place for people disaffected with the Episcopal Church and wanting something more strict and tending towards Biblical literalness? Of course there is – both inside and outside the Episcopal Church. Progressives and moderates in the church are pushing no one out. We retain the Book of Common Prayer, the Nicene Creed, our Constitution and Canons, our dioceses and parishes and missions, and the authority of the General Convention. All are welcome under that umbrella. For those who do not find that sufficient, we wish them well and want to support them in any ways we can – but free from larceny, and free from lies and misrepresentations, and free from claiming to be what they are not: a replacement or cozy branch of the Episcopal Church. And that is no laughing matter.

3 Comments:

Blogger mjprevatt said...

Thank you for putting these thoughts into words. You are obviously a very generous person. For myself, I can't help wondering how "fine people" can approve of this video "Choose this day".
Also, I wonder, since, as it alleges, the Episcopal Church has adopted pagan practices, does that mean the "orthodox" will stop observing such traditions as placing fir trees in their homes and churches at Christmas? Does that mean they will stop placing national flags in places of prominence in their churches? And if the "orthodox" are going to take the Bible at its word, will they return to the ancient practice of making divorce and remarriage grounds for excommunication? After all Jesus was very clear on this subject.
So, thank you for this essay and for providing a way to view this devious and misleading video about the Episcopal Church which I believe a majority of us are proud to belong to.
Jim Prevatt+

5/07/2007 9:01 AM  
Anonymous muthah+ said...

Tom,
Excellent article. I am just wondering though, will it really be possible for those who interpret Scripture from a literal perspective to find Christian solace with in the Episcopal Church? Even though we want to be welcoming and we bend over backwards to do so, those who cannot accept modern biblical scholarship will continually be isolated in TEC. The sad thing is that we priests find it difficult to teach modern biblical scholarship in our parishes because there is often resistance by the laity to learn it. This is a major issue for the next generation of priests in parishes to take on.

5/07/2007 9:34 AM  
Blogger Ann said...

Of course there is some evidence from the early church that Judas was chosen by Jesus to provoke the end result. So who knows how it will all play out?

5/08/2007 8:43 AM  

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