Wednesday, October 25, 2006

No Safe Place: Disaster in Dallas

As I’ve said , if there’s a safe place in the Episcopal Church it would have seemed to be the Diocese of Dallas – until this past weekend.

This morning with the release of documents from the weekend’s Dallas diocean convention and with the news coming out that Dallas is no longer asking for APO, it is now clear that the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas is a disaster in progress due to poor leadership of Bishop James Stanton.

Instead of leading his diocese out of TEC as many thought he was doing, he has committed Dallas to staying in, even withdrawing the request for Alternative Primatial Oversight. And he has so alienated committed orthodox faithful in his diocese that if he comes to his senses and tries to lead his diocese out in the future, he will likely be unable to do so because so many orthodox will have already left that the revisionists and institutionalists will have the votes to stop him. At the very least, he’s lost and is losing a lot of good people because of his cold feet.

Some lowlights:

There was a resolution passed that endorsed Camp Allen, but nothing passed that endorsed the much stronger Kigali Communiqué.

From his address, +Stanton rules out leaving indefinitely. Now I could understand (and would probably even approve) if he asked people to stick it out for one year so upcoming actions of the Network and the February Primates meeting can be considered. And I honestly expected him to do something like that. But that’s not what he did.

Let me be blunt. Separation is not a strategy. Where would we go? And what would be the result of a departure? I believe that separation would only increase the tensions within the Anglican Communion and make a vital, robust Covenant process that much more difficult!

So the diocese should stick out the Covenant process? The Covenant process will take years. The diocese simply will not survive as a strongly orthodox entity for that long if it remains in TEC. You read it here.

And how would the world outside look at yet more division in the Body of Christ? This is precisely what they have come to expect of Christians – groups fighting with each other. Our Lord prayed that we might be one in order that the world might see our unity as a sign of God’s blessing and work. (John 17)

The Bible also says to not be bound together with unbelievers, especially of the apostate variety. As for what the world thinks about staying in the Episcopal Church, a lot of the world so wants nothing to do with that organization that even having “Episcopal” on your church sign means a lot of people won’t even consider joining you. And the Global South has made clear what they think of communion with the Episcopal Church.

If, as our Thirty-nine Articles say, the Church is where the "pure Word of God is preached and the Sacraments be duly administered," or as we might say, where Christ is honored and the Apostles' teaching forms the core, where the Sacraments indeed bring strength for ministry and comfort for those in need, then why should anyone depart?

*Ahem* Because that’s not the vast majority of the Episcopal Church?

I’m tempted to wonder out loud what planet the good bishop is on.

Judge for yourselves in the place you worship and serve and grow in your faith. If together in your parish or mission you are worshipping and serving the living God, what compels you to go? If together with other such congregations in this Diocesan family you serve the Risen Christ, and believe with them in his power to transform not only your own life, but the world, why must you leave?
If, finally, our vision for the future has been inspired by the challenge and hope of being an Anglican, a part of a vibrant and robust and orthodox community of dioceses and men and women around the world, what is the value of separation?

This is just downright Pollyanna. To imply that isolated orthodox congregations and dioceses will do so fine in the Episcopal Church that there is no reason to leave is just irresponsible. And this mindset that my congregation is fine and orthodox, so the rest of the denomination doesn’t affect me is one reason the Episcopal (and Presbyterian) Church is going down the tubes.

By the way, I’ve heard somewhere that a little leaven affects the whole loaf. I suspect a ton of leaven crushes it.


Someone has remarked that +Stanton has given excellent leadership for years, and for the most part he has. But good leadership for three quarters doesn’t do much good if you drop the ball and blow the game in the fourth. And that’s exactly what the good bishop has done. And I say this as someone who has thought highly of him for years.

The fruit of +Stanton dropping the ball is already becoming evident. Christ Church Plano has left. St. Matthias Dallas is leaving. (And again, those are two excellent parishes that have played important roles in my walk as an Anglican.) There are reports that other orthodox parishes will follow. And that’s not to mention individuals in other parishes. The diocese is literally disintegrating. (Check out comments on relevant Stand Firm posts to get an idea of the turmoil.)

Staying in apostate denominations is just not a viable course for committed orthodox. And if leaders don’t see that, many of the orthodox will and get out, leaving the remaining orthodox greatly weakened.

The lesson from this Dallas mess? Relying on an orthodox bishop (or presbytery or the like) in a liberal denomination is a thin reed to lean on. That bishop won’t be bishop forever. And even while he is bishop, there’s usually no guarantee he won’t blink when the time comes to lead . . . not even if he’s led well in the past, not even in the Diocese of Dallas.

And this should also serve as a lesson to the leaders of the Network. For them to effectively lead, they must lead the orthodox OUT of the Episcopal Church.

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