The sometime Rector of Truro, now a bishop in the Church of Nigeria, has said that Truro parish has undertaken a study and prayer time called “40 Days of Discernment,” after which the church will decide what to do about its affiliation with the Episcopal Church. This “40 Days of Discernment” turns out to be a program with an extensive study guide produced by The Falls Church and Truro Church of the Diocese of Virginia. It was made available on the web in the past few days.
It claims to be “dedicated to helping Episcopal congregations and their clergy answer an important question: Can orthodox, biblically committed congregations continue to remain affiliated with The Episcopal Church in the U.S.; or has the time come to seek alternative affiliation with some other branch of Anglicanism?”
From the outset the answer for this “discernment” program is clear. “The Anglican Communion is straining to uphold its understanding of Scripture and doctrine and to hold the Communion together in unity. If TEC has walked apart and the two visions of our church are irreconcilable—the questions that motivate us to set aside these 40 days of discernment—then, like Joshua several millennia ago, we must choose now whom we will serve.”
We are back to the “choose now whom we will serve” gambit of the Anglican Communion Network.
At the end of the study, there are three scenarios offered : “(1) conformity, (2) staying to resist, and (3) affiliate with another branch of Anglicanism. We encourage participants in the discernment process to carefully and prayerfully consider for themselves what they think the effect of each alternative would be.” The study guide is clear that each option has its strengths and weaknesses and it tries to give an honest assessment of the costs of any one of them. The tenor of the whole, however, is that affiliation with another branch of Anglicanism is the preferred option.
The Guide for “40 Days of Discernment” is well written, so well written in fact that it almost fools the reader into believing that it is a dispassionate argument concerning options available to a congregation. But its purpose is to help congregations already considering leaving the Episcopal Church to do so. It is not to help congregations stay.
Perhaps it is unnecessary to suggest that it is self serving for the future ministry of Bishop Minns, since one of the places to go is to CANA, the Convocation of Anglicans in North America. (By the way, I could not help noticing that The Living Church in its September 24th issue decided that Bishop Minns was bishop to “The Church of Anglican Nigerians in America.” This is an entirely new name for CANA.. it is not the name on the web pages for CANA, nor is it the name given by the Church of Nigeria, Convocation of Anglican Nigerians in Americas when it was first announced. I presume it is simply an error on the part of TLC.)
This “discernment” process is targeted to bring people to believe that the only real choice of conscience is to move on from membership in the Episcopal Church. Perhaps this assessment sounds harsh. It is not. This is not a discernment process, it is an argumentative, apologetic process, the purpose of which is to confirm the worst fears about the Episcopal Church (that we are heresy ridden, pagan, sexual perverts and biblical unbelievers – see the “understanding the crisis” section.
There is no discernment here. Here there is the yell of “fire” accompanied by directions to the exit. No one suggests any possibility that the yell at the beginning was perhaps exaggerated, and that the smell was only that of a lit cigar.
As is attributed to Freud, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”