This is from my friend, Steve Henthorne. It should be noted that the Bishop and Steve are also friends to give context to what he wites. I also want to say that there are folks in my parish who ask me the same questions every Sunday. Frankly, I am running out of answers. In any event here is Steve’s piece:
Stephen Henthorne: On Where Bishop MacPherson Stands And The Direction of the Diocese of Western Louisiana For The FuturePublished September 29, 2008 Uncategorized 13 Comments
It is often said that those who sit in the middle of the road awaiting change get hit from trucks coming from both directions. This Diocese of Western Louisiana has been in the middle of the road for quite sometime, and has suffered numerous hits from multiple directions. During this spiritual emergency those Bishops, and Lay Leaders, that have clearly taken a stand, one way or the other, are at least doing something. Those who continually hold to the middle of the road—blindly hoping for a better day, continue to subject the man and woman in the pews to a truly false hope that all will be reconciled. More, they continue to expose the souls of their flocks, by close association, to the mortal dangers provided by an apostate church.
Granted Bishop MacPherson has, on recent occasions, openly opposed those currently occupying the offices of leadership at the Episcopal Church at 815 Second Avenue, New York, NY, 10017. However he is perceived by many as still clearly clinging to the middle of the road, and have done so since the Episcopal Church took on the mantle of open apostasy in 2003. It could well be said that Bishop MacPherson has become the rallying point for a philosophy widely espoused in his Diocese; one of “well, as long as this mess doesn’t effect my parish church it doesn’t effect me.”
One might assume, and we can only assume because Bishop MacPherson has never clearly confirmed or denied, that his vision of the role for this Diocese is that of taking the steady course, the middle of the road course, serving as the good example and guiding light to the extreme elements in the Episcopal Church; now locked in mortal combat. Bishop MacPherson’s and others’ hope possibly being that all sides will see their light shining forth, repent of their extremist ways, fully reconcile, sing “Kum By Ya,” have a group hug and re-establish the Episcopal Church as that comfortable spiritual sanctuary it once was.
All very laudable goals, no doubt; perhaps in year one, maybe in year two, encouraged by some positive sign from the extreme parties, but not in year five with no sign of change. To continue to take the “wait and see,” middle of the road approach is extremely naïve, and dangerous. The Episcopal Church, as we knew it and loved it, is gone. The train has left the station, and it is on a one way journey. Sitting quietly in our pews, in the middle of the road, with our historical memorials gathered around us, and looking through our stained glass windows, isn’t going to bring it back; and the day will come when what happens outside our Parish Church doors will effect us—profoundly; even more than it already has.
St. Paul was concerned about the enemy within, the unbelieving in the Church. His warning command echoes down through the centuries to us—“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.” – this is, do not be allied with unbelievers as to their way of life, or false worship. This is not a call to split theological hairs, seeing all who disagree with you as “unbelievers.” Church history is tragically full of this sort of thing. Neither is this a call to bar unbelievers from the fellowship of the assembled church. Church is actually the best place for unbelievers to be, because there they can hear the Word and be loved by the Body of Christ.
However, in the context here, St. Paul calls us to disassociate ourselves, and our souls, from complicity with those who would attempt to propagate a false Gospel within the church. Specifically, it means to sever the yoke with those who insinuate that reconciliation is not all of God. That we can make peace with God, that the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross, in which God “made him to be sin, who knew no sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God,” is not enough, but rather that there are rituals, experiences, and more modern beliefs, that will make our salvation secure. After all haven’t we progressed substantially in 2008 years? Surely the meaning of the Bible has changed with the times?
Today the fight isn’t really about sexual preference, the ordination of women, etc. Those are diversions. The real fight, yet to be really fought, is whether the Bible is the divinely inspired word of God or not. If it is, then all of the questions swarming around the diversions have been answered. If the Bible is not the divinely inspired word of God then we have far greater problems facing us than who wins the battle for the hearts and minds of the Episcopal Church.
As friends we may respectfully disagree, but if I were a Priest I would have to say to my Bishop and any flock assigned to me, that the Christian Faith is not all inclusive. There are two basic rules for membership: (1.) That we accept Jesus Christ as our one true Lord and Savior, and (2.) That we accept the Bible as the divinely inspired word of God. St. Paul’s command means to reject liberal, moralizing, theories of atonement. It means to reject a bootstrap sentimentality—that if we do our best we will make it, and that good people will find a way. In truth, within the Church, it means that we can never allow those who hold such doctrines to be yoked with us in ministry.
St. Paul’s call to us is not to give those who would presume to lead and teach the church a pass because they are nice, theologically educated or gifted, related to us, or have grown up in the church. Countless churches have fallen from within because Godly leaderships have yoked themselves, and their congregations, with apostate beliefs and practices. A lot of damage has been done, and a lot of good people have suffered pain, over the centuries as the result of “ecclesiastical craftsmanship.” Both St. Timothy’s and St. James have felt that pain—-as have we all-individually.
So today, as we sing our majestic hymns, and affirm the Apostle’s Creed, we mustn’t imagine that we are immune. We and our churches, in this very Diocese, can decline very quickly if we yoke ourselves to unbelieving people who would aspire to lead us; the pious, disarming, smiling, and through the day to day-quite unbelieving.
Let me be very clear here. I’m am not listing Bishop MacPherson as one of those leaders. However, because of his consistent middle of the road stance, it could be perceived by both extremes within the Episcopal Church that he is giving tacit approval and support to one side or the other; or even possibly both at the same time.
Finally, a major consideration might well be, will you be here to see the end state of Bishop MacPherson’s approach, whatever that is, reached? What happens when he leaves? Is the Diocese being prepared to be more solidly positioned for the apostasies yet to come? As well to quote R. Scott Purdy, “Someone needs to proclaim the Gospel to the flock they were supposed to be shepherding.,” who will feed the faithful in the future–when they aren’t being all that well fed now?
From my heart I can tell you that I miss my church as it was. I long for the litergy, the beauty, the history of what use to be. My soul cries out for someone to step up to the plate and restore my church. I believe that if Bishop MacPherson really asked every single member of every congregation in the Diocese that the majority would feel the same way. So, if I were a Priest, after five years of “wait and see.” I would be forced to tell Bishop MacPherson that I feel responsible for the safety of the souls of those in my charge, and if he wasn’t going to lead us out from under this oppression then I would have to give my flock the opportunity to unilaterally remove themselves. As a friend, that is a pain that I would not want for Bishop MacPherson.
I can say that my wife, my flock, has come to me as the spiritual head of the household, and told me that as long as the Episcopal Church remains apostate that she can not return to it. Please note here that as much as I miss the Episcopal Church, she loves it and misses it more. She was brutalized and crushed at St. Tim’s, and she prays daily for the souls there that are in mortal danger, because of their close association with the Episcopal Church Apostate. We both pray for Bishop MacPherson daily as well. We both deeply regret that we can’t continue to follow Bishop MacPherson down the middle of the road. We pray that he will understand, and forgive us, for that decision.
“Religion today is not transforming people; rather it is being transformed by the people. It is not raising the moral level of society; it is descending to society’s own level, and congratulating itself that it has scored a victory because society is smilingly accepting its surrender.” –A. W. Tozer (1897-1963).
BLD commentary on this piece: I have to say that I agree with what Steve is saying. It is year 5 with no end in sight other than the continued pace of litigation and the outright repudiation of the Anglican convenant by GC2009. I think Bishop MacPherson’s largest obstacle to leading the Diocese of safety (aka. out of the Episcopal Church) is his own loyalty to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church. Mind you, this is a Constitution and a set of Canons that the church doesn’t even follow when it comes to deposing bishops. While I once shared (and probably still do, to some extent) Bishop MacPherson’s placement of importance on the C & C, I don’t think they still deserve his loyalty anymore in light of the process used to depose bishops of late. The other problem is that if action is not taken quickly, GC2009 will be doing what it can to throw up further legal obstacles to leaving.
I can also state that I am personally beginning to question the continued wisdom of being part of some sort of conservative resurgency in the Episcopal Church. However, I feel called to continue for the time being. Heck, this raucus conservative was elected again to the court of review of Province VII, and I wasn’t at the synod because I was at the Kairos ad hoc committee on structure meeting in Orlando, FL. I will probably always feel I can plow the field behind my Bishop. But, what happens when he is gone? What happens when the HOB just decides to depose him for some petty disloyalty like making the PB look bad in Tanzania, as that is the direction in which they are moving.