The Episcopal Church has a long history of ecumenical engagement. The Chicago - Lambeth Quadrilateral has been a major guide post in seeking reunion with other churches. The four guiding ideas in the Quadrilateral are: The Scriptures, the Creeds, The Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, and the Episcopate.
The actual working out of closer union has of course involved many other issues, some of them deeply grounded in history, particularly the history of stings and arrows. Quite often the way forward to greater unity has been by ecumenical cooperation on issues and concerns unrelated to the basic disagreements existing between churches, and from there new friendships grow.
Now that The Anglican Church in North America is part of the ecumenical landscape - as a denomination in these United States - there is the beginning of ecumenical connection based on common concerns.
Several items this week point to this:
(i) The Institute for Religion and Democracy (not a church but a forceful advocate for particular church agendas), the Anglican Church in North America and The Episcopal Church, along with a number of other churches and religious organizations, through their leaders, signed on to a document related to concern for Christian minorities in the Middle East. The Hudson Institute wrote this up noting that
"Over 200 Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox leaders have signed
on—from Catholic Cardinal Wuerl, to National Association of
Evangelicals’ chair Leith Anderson, to Presiding Bishop Katharine
Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church, to Secretary General Rev. Dr.
Susan Henry-Crowe of the United Methodists, to Armenian Orthodox
Archbishop Oshagan Cholayan.
They include many lay civic society leaders, including Robert George
of Princeton University, Jim Wallis of Sojourners, George Weigel of the
Ethics and Public Policy Center, journalist Kirsten Powers, George
Marlin, chair of Aid to the Church in Need-USA, and Lynne Hybels of Global Engagement of the Willow Creek Church."
The Living Church however picked out particularly the sign up of IRD, ACNA and TEC leaders, interested in the fact that IRD and ACNA which have been in total opposition to TEC are signing a document along with the Presiding Bishop. This is indeed interesting to note.
(ii) The Bishop of Los Angeles, Bishop Bruno, has issued a statement about the way forward for the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Los Angeles. Among other things he states that All Saints, Long Beach, a congregation that had attempted to take diocesan assets (the church buildings) with them will continue on in those buildings under an agreement with the Diocese. The clarity of ownership has not meant a break in concern for those who had been part of The Episcopal Church and are now separate. Bishop Bruno writes, " "It is important that we remain in community, not in isolation, and that
in charity we create space for people whose views may differ from our
own. We are not here to judge one another but rather to be in joy with
each other in the name of Jesus."
All of this is to the good. There will be a wide variety of ways in which, although separated, members of The Episcopal Church and of the Anglican Church in North America will find common ground.
At the same time there seems to be no let up in the attacks by ACNA related organizations (in particular the American Anglican Council) on The Episcopal Church. While there is considerable snarling about the moneys spent on litigation the consistent theme is the failure of TEC to continue what ACNA considers to be the fundamental truths of the faith. There is a lot of PB bashing.
The Episcopal Church, while holding to the principal that properties in TEC are held in trust for the Episcopal Church, has been pretty careful not to slam ACNA as a church for its beliefs. It has insisted that clergy who leave the Episcopal Church are no longer in orders, as far as TEC is concerned. The signals for this are that clergy are deposed. Being deposed essentially means that the person so deposed looses any rights as a clergy person in TEC. That does not seem to matter much to those so deposed, since the point is they have left TEC. But it sounds pretty awful.
So there are rough edges, rough edges that make cooperative action difficult, for the stings and arrows are remembered.
Here in the little town on the Bay by the Big Water there are also signs of this common ground. In several local efforts TEC and ACNA people find themselves working for the good of the local community.
But here too there are rough edges.
We experienced one of those this last week. Some parishioners came out from Church on Sunday morning to find a stapled set of pages tucked under their windshield wipers. The pages were essentially hate mail. It begins, "MY DEAR BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN CHRIST THE Episcopal Church you grew up in is not the same now. Un godly and unholy men and women who ar in charge have taken the Holy Bible and thrown it in the trash can. They say that only the homosexual clergy can understand the meaning, the bible is not the inspired word of GOD... " and goes on from there. (The quote is exactly as written, with odd phrasing and spelling.)
At the end of the first page it says, "Come out of the Episcopal church, Alternative King of King Dover."
King of Kings, Dover, is a congregation a Diocese of the Anglican Church in North America, by way of Forward in Faith. The bishops of this diocese, The Missionary Diocese of All Saints, are William H. Ilgenfritz and Richard W. Lipka.
The person delivering this hate mail may or may not have been doing this under parish direction or encouragement. I would be saddened to discover that this had anything to do with the leadership of the diocese or supported by the local ACNA mission in Lewes.
Bishops Ilgenfritz and Lipka need to look into this. These materials do not say the writer is from King of Kings, Dover, but reference it. The writer gives the number for the church - 335-3414. The voicemail on this number invited people to leave a message to the person or for King of Kings Anglican Church.
If this is an effort by that church, the bishops should put a stop to it. If not then the writer, who seems a bit off anyway is just another hate monger on the loose. And the writer will have the reward due one who writes hate.
There are great possibilities for finding common ground ecumenically, but hate is not one of them.