Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Question of Loyalty

And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king. - 1 Samuel 15:22-23
 The Hackney Hub writes with some dismay about the current state of affairs in the American Church, by which I mean in the Episcopal Church particularly and in other Protestant bodies generally.  This is a matter of which the present author feels strongly, largely out of a great deal of personal reflection on the lives of the saints in former times and upon meditation upon Holy Scripture.  These two sources have led the author to the conclusions presented in this article.  

The witness of Scripture seems abundantly clear, at least to the author, that Christians are bound to obey those in authority over them.  "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well" (1 Peter 2:13-14), "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you" (Hebrews 13:17), "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God" (Romans 13:1), and "Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work" (Titus 3:1), for a start.  

The author sees a noticeable lack of obedience and loyalty in American religion, particularly among Anglicans, the alleged "loyalists" of Protestantism.  The problem being that, especially among Anglicans, the notion of maintaining the apostolic ministry of bishop, priest, and deacon, without actually obeying those in authority is ludicrous, "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers" (Ephesians 4:11), however, what good is it if the people of God don't follow those appointed leaders?  The argument follows that if these leaders become heretical or apostate, they no longer are God's chosen leaders.  I don't see a particular way of arriving at this interpretation from the words of Scripture (more about apostasy and heresy later).  The leaders of the Episcopal Church are anything but a biblical representation of leadership or of Christian orthodoxy, however, they are still our leaders and we are bound to follow them (save only if they mandate us to do something contrary to Scripture).  The logic that is used to justify schism is understandable but not ultimately satisfying, of course, in my opinion.  That logic being the notion that heretical leadership abdicates a God-given office of leadership.  The problem with initial schism is that it breeds further schism and discord in the Body of Christ (see the Anglican Mission [and now South Carolina] for evidence).  The duty of believers, in this instance, is not to leave, but to stand up against false teaching and preach the Gospel from where we are, that being for us the Episcopal Church, leaving solves no problems, but, rather, creates a host of new, unanswered questions.  

"As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:9), "Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.  For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ" (Jude 3-4).  In fact, what is happening is something believers should be expecting, "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils" (1 Timothy 4:1, c.f. Matthew 24:12, 2 Timothy 3:1-9).  The answer, however, is not to break away, but, rather, to rest in Christ, "Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life" (Jude 24).  

For those who may think that their leaving the Church will somehow change things for the better, remember, that the judgement of others is in the hands of God.  I would not want to be Katharine Jefferts Schori on the day of judgement, for, as the Lord has said, "To me belongeth vengeance and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste" (Deuteronomy 32:35), I think all we, as faithful Christians, need do is remain faithful to the everlasting Gospel of Jesus Christ, God Himself will take care of those who have openly betrayed Him and His Word.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Granted it was Rome who excommunicated us, therefore they schismed from us, but per your logic we should rejoin the Orthodox through the Western Rite. Frankly, something I would agree with. It appears illogical to bemoan the ACNA for leaving ECUSA when our forefathers went along with the Pope in schisming from our Eastern Orthodox brethren.

Confusing Times