Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Stranger in His Own Land

One would hardly believe that a Protestant Episcopalian would find himself unwelcome in an institution by the same name, much as if a Democrat felt isolated at the Democratic National Convention, yet, strangely, this is the case in the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America.  It's rather more of a puzzle to the average Episcopalian or member of another Anglican church (lest the realignment crowd think that they have solved any problems in this arena) to try and decipher what exactly a "Protestant Episcopalian" is.  "Conservative" and "orthodox" are liberal code words for Anglo-Catholicism among progressive Episcopalians and breakaway Anglicans.  Really, it's not rather all that surprising that Protestant Episcopalianism has all but died off in its native land, save for a few wells that have not dried up due to the scorching heat of liberalism and Tractarianism.  Following the secession of Bishop Cummins and the Reformed Episcopal Church in 1873, traditional churchmanship, of all varieties, was stamped out in PECUSA in a hostile takeover, that of the Tractarians and Ritualists, both of which imposed their agenda upon this Protestant Church and took it away from its roots.  Little by little, traditional High Churchmanship was engulfed by Tractarianism, which was initially perceived of as a friend by traditional High Churchmen, but later opposed, due to its doctrinal innovations.  The Evangelicals in PECUSA were scared off with Cummins or slowly withered away to become the neuter "Low Church Party" of the early 20th century, the vestige of Evangelical piety in PECUSA.  The 20th century fared little better for traditional churchmen, of all stripes.  Tractarianism continued full blast in its hostile takeover of the Protestant Episcopal Church, introducing strange and delusional heresies, such as the "non-communicating Mass" and other wishful fables.  Likewise, gone was the simple dress of the Anglican minister and introduced was the garments of the Roman priests, in their colors, to the Church.  Little by little the doctrinal standards of our Church were withered away to nothing.  First, it seemed harmless, removing the Homilies, then the Articles of Religion, then the Creeds, then the Bible, and now in 2012, we have the blessing of same-sex unions.  The trajectory in PECUSA all flows the same stream.

For this reason the Protestant Episcopalian is a stranger in his own land, a vagabond without home, a wandering island.

What sort of churchman is this Protestant Episcopalian?  He is one who acknowledges the absolute and infallible authority of the Holy Scriptures over the Church.  He is one who believes that justification comes by faith alone by the imputation of Christ's righteousness and our accounting thereby as righteous by God Almighty by Christ's, "one oblation of himself once offered," and thereby made for us a "full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world" (BCP).  He is one who says in confidence that we are saved only by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, for the glory of God, and there is no other name under heaven or earth by which man can be saved. 

He sees no more than two sacraments in Holy Scripture, Baptism and Holy Communion, which are not magic emblems but effectual signs and instruments of the grace of Almighty God to faithful recipients.  He sees no reason to ascribe to these sacraments powers that they do not have.  By Baptism, he understands that the recipient enters into a new state of relation or covenant with Almighty God, yet the waters of Baptism do not morally change a man.  The moral change in a man's soul results from the trust in Christ's one sacrifice for the sins of mankind.  The effects of baptism are only received in faith.  Likewise in the Supper of the Lord, whereby our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, feeds his people with his own body and blood, not by some carnal absurdity but through the operation of the Holy Ghost and through the holy mean of faith.  The wicked do not receive Christ but receive condemnation for their wickedness in receiving the holy food of the people of God.

He knows the Church to be a divine society of all those baptized and believing members, united to their Lord, Jesus Christ.  He knows that the Scripture is the only infallible rule of faith for this body called the Church and that the only infallible leader is our Divine Head, Jesus Christ, no man or body of men can possess such authority in and of itself, besides declaring the plain teaching of the Scripture.  The Protestant Episcopalian looks to Scripture and the early Church and sees a solid foundation in the three-fold ministry of bishop, priest, and deacon, and even sees this historical succession as a link to us and the earliest community of believers, yet, sees no direct command from Scripture to mandate this form of government on all temporal organizations of the divine society of the Church.  He eschews all Popish superstition with no scriptural warrant.  He directs his prayers to our blessed Lord alone and to no human being, living or passed into glory.  He looks to the glorious return of Jesus to reign in glory forevermore.    

Such doctrines all lost popularity some time ago in the Protestant Episcopal Church and among those who left her, either due to women in the ministry and the 1979 Prayer Book or due to the election of homosexual bishop of New Hampshire.  Those of us who have stumbled upon this sound system of doctrine are forced to live in obscurity and under the suspicion of our fellow Anglican friends as those strange fellows who accept all the Thirty-Nine Articles without question, those who take seriously the Reformation heritage of the Church, which we would subsequently identify as the Catholic heritage of this Church.  Yet, the Protestant Episcopalian continues on, resting in this firm foundation, perhaps quietly or in obscurity, but never in vain.     

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