JACK ESTES: Many paths? Teachings differ in Episcopal-Anglican schism

 

By Jack Estes

 

As an Anglican Priest and Rector of St. Luke’s Anglican Church, I have experienced first hand the unfolding of the Anglican-Episcopal schism. At the heart of the matter, there resides a theological divide, which is irreconcilable. It all boils down to two different visions for Christian faith and practice. Each have their own distinct set of core beliefs. Each have their own set of accepted practices. Each provides a definition of what it means to be a Christian, especially in our time.

Let me offer a brief comparative analysis based upon facts, which are easily verifiable. Then I will leave it to the readers to decide for themselves the answer to the question: What does it mean to be a Christian?

The Episcopal Church teaches and promotes:

* Many Ways: all major religions provide equal access to God. Jesus is only the prominent way of Western culture.

* Authority of Spiritual Experience: the subjective understanding of each person is the basis for deciding what is true and/or morally acceptable. The Bible may provide good examples, but does not have objective authority for all generations.

* A Revised Understanding of God, Jesus Christ, and Human Nature: God is a divine spirit found within the physical universe; Jesus Christ is a man that fully accessed this divine spirit in conscious human form, and thus is our prime example; Human Nature is inherently good. Since we are made in God’s image, the divine spirit resides in every person. We are all part of God.

* Human Sexuality: Affirmed in all the various expressions, according to one’s own personal self identity.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that every member of the Episcopal Church wholly ascribes to the beliefs listed above. But their church as a body has embraced this new form of revised Christianity. It is taught in their seminaries, and their Bishops are actively promoting it. Look up the following examples: Bishop Swing’s United Religions Initiative; Presiding Bishop Schori’s Prayer to Mother Jesus; Bishop Gene Robinson’s Affirmation of GLBT Lifestyle; Bishop Jon Bruno, Apology to Hindus for Christian Mission.

Anglicans join with Catholics, Orthodox, Evangelicals, and others in maintaining the original Christian beliefs taught by the Apostles.

Anglicans teach and promote:

* One Way: through Jesus alone we are restored in our relationship with God and with one another. He is the fulfillment of all religions.

* Authority of Holy Scripture: The basis of deciding what is true and morally acceptable is given to us in the objective authority of God’s word. This remains true for all generations.

* A Traditional Understanding of God, Jesus Christ, and Human Nature: God is the creator of the universe and remains distinct from it; Jesus is both human and divine, the one and only Son of God whose death and resurrection brings us new life. Human Nature is inherently sinful. God’s image remains, but it is broken by our willful rejection of His ways.

* Human Sexuality: Affirmed exclusively in marriage between one man and one woman. All other sexual expressions and practices are outside the boundaries set by God.

It is not enough to claim “We say the Nicene Creed every Sunday” as evidence of Christian belief. One must ask the deeper question, “What exactly do you mean by the words you are reciting?” Episcopalians have embraced the postmodern spirit of the age in an attempt to be relevant to the culture. In doing so they have changed the core beliefs of Christian faith at the very roots. This revision then becomes a pseudo Christianity, which is radically opposed to the original. The two cannot be reconciled by simply saying, “Let’s all be friends.” We no longer worship the same God.

As Anglicans, we are unwilling to compromise the traditional expression of Christian faith. When we separated from the Episcopal Church, Bishop Schofield freely gave deeds to the properties of all churches which wished to remain Episcopal. Four months later those same churches joined together in a lawsuit to take all the Anglican properties as well. All attempts to find an amicable settlement have been rebuffed by the Episcopal Church.

What does it mean to be a Christian?

Fr. Jack Estes of Bakersfield has served as the Rector of St. Luke’s Anglican Church in Bakersfield for the past 12 years, and as president of the Standing Committee for the Diocese of San Joaquin since 2010.

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