Thursday, July 28, 2005

No Way APA?

I and a number of other Reformed Episcopalians got some e-mails yesterday from a No Way APA guy. The No Way APA people much oppose the merger of the REC and the Anglican Province of America (APA) basically because the APA has more Anglo-Catholic tendencies than the REC.

One of the e-mails had links to a message board that a number of Anglo-Catholics of various stripes frequent. I guess I was supposed to be horrified by what I read there. Instead, I joined and said “Hi there!”

As you perhaps noticed from my posts at the Orlando REC-APA convention, I think the merger is wonderful. But I can understand how some Low Church people can be leery. They don’t want Anglo-Catholic or high church thought and practices imposed on them. Some of them experienced their prayer books being taken away in ECUSA or having women clergy imposed on them. Those that didn’t experience that know others who did. And they don’t want to go through anything like that again. They want to continue their Low Church practices in peace.

Now my understanding of REC polity is that there’s hardly any way they can have higher church practices imposed on them. I think most or all parishes own their own property, for example. So if the REC pressures a parish too much, they can just walk.

Any such pressure is exceedingly unlikely, however. I think the REC leadership has made clear, as has the APA, that they have no problem with churches continuing in a Low Church path. In fact, in the past couple years the very Low Church Chapel of the Cross in Dallas (which I’ve visited) was welcomed into the REC. There are any number of REC parishes that continue to be Low Church, and I think even the APA has its Low Church parishes.

But if further assurances, put in writing and made binding even, would calm Low Church concerns, then I think making those assurances would be a good idea.

The problem is the vibes I get from the No Way APA crowd is they have such a phobia of Anglo-Catholics and their practices that they don’t even want to be in sacramental fellowship with them at all.

And that’s where I put my foot down.

I’m from a fundamentalist background, so I fully understand those who want to be sure there won’t be any missals or statues or extra candles or such in their parish. That’s not where I’m personally at now, but I’m fine with that.

But to refuse to acknowledge that the faithful church is just a bit bigger than that, and to resist the REC’s efforts to be bigger than that by pursuing fellowship with orthodox Anglicans of varying churchmanship is flat wrong and, yes, *unbiblical*.

Christ prayed that we would be one, not monochrome. Something wonderful about the Orlando convention was seeing people of widely different church styles worshipping together without casting aside those styles. Even among the leaders, you had APA Archbishop Grundorf in full tat and mitre. He shined! Yet beside him, you had Primate Greg Venables and Bill Atwood in very simple garb with no mitre. (There’s photos over at the APA site.) And there were any number of styles of dress and of giving the sacrament and more among the clergy. And there was even Afro-American gospel singing during the distribution of the elements. But it all fit together, and it was beautiful.

That’s what the church should be like. And we Reformed Episcopalians need to insist we will be like that. And that biblically “broad” church certainly includes our Low Church brothers and sisters.

But when a few insist that we exclude people because they are not Low Church, that’s where we must say, “No, the church is bigger than that . . . and we will be, too.”

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