Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Bishop Jones's Address: "Yes, I am a member of Bishop Tutu’s Church"

I am sad that some of our clergy have led their congregations out of the Episcopal Church. The matter is very personal to me. I have worked with a number of these clergy and their congregations in Church Planting and appreciate their passion for evangelism. But I reject with all my might the notion that our theology has changed. I find it outrageous to suggest that we have abandoned the historic faith. We continue to worship with the Book of Common Prayer and affirm that the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God and contain all things necessary to salvation.

We share a common devotion to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. We share a common faith stated clearly in the Nicene and Apostle’s creeds and the Book of Common Prayer.

It is true that we are at a different place than some Christians in other parts of the world. It is also true that we have a wide breadth of opinion on current matters of faith and discipline. That has always been true. In fact, it would be difficult in the Episcopal Church to identify one common point of view on any contemporary social issue. How could we? We are the Church – the people of God assembled and serving in our own communities.

From my own perspective, little has changed in terms of our faith. What has changed is how rapid international communication has sharpened differences into divisions and divisions into schism.

In the departing congregations, I have witnessed a shift of emphasis from belonging to Christ through baptism to an emphasis on belonging through adherence to one exclusive point of view. That development is not Anglican!

What God establishes in baptism is indissoluble and cannot be compromised. All of us belong through baptism. We are God’s beloved children. The primary message of the Epiphany season is that the gospel is for all people, everywhere.

What is essentially Anglican is a common devotion to Jesus as Savior and Lord, the use of the Book of Common Prayer, and a common acceptance of the integrity of different cultures living out the Christian life. I celebrate that openness and rejoice in the freedom it affords all of us to grow into the full stature of Christ.

Some of our newest congregations have reported difficulty in attracting new members due to the negative publicity we are experiencing in the press. Some suggest that our “brand name” has been damaged. In some places and among some people that may be true.

But that does not change who we are and what we are called to be. We are the Church and Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church. Even in the face of adversity, we have our marching orders from the Risen Christ. We are to ‘teach all nations’ and baptize. We are to love our neighbor and strive for justice and peace. We cannot allow the attention on a few to divert our attention from our most sacred call – the call of God in Holy Baptism.
The complete address is here.

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