At a recent gathering of diocesan clergy and General Convention deputies, Bishop Gray led us through a brief study of the Draft Anglican Covenant using, among other resources, the study guide prepared by the Executive Council. I must admit to hearing many of the same conversations I’ve been hearing since I was on the diocesan sexuality study committee mandated by the 1991 General Convention.
In my work as a conflict resolution consultant and consultant with vestries and other governing boards, I find that differences, misunderstandings and misconceptions about process, procedures, mission and the core governing principles of any organization are at the root of many conflicts. Often clarity around these basics will help to reduce tension and anxiety. But, try as I may, I’ve not been able to see how clarity about polity, ethics, or even basic Anglicanism has served to reduce the anxiety and tension I experience in the Church today. Something about essentials seems to be missing in our conversations. (See paragraphs 38 – 39 of Section A and paragraphs 87 – 96 Section B of The Windsor Report.)
Is it possible that we are divided by one of the (if not the) core beliefs of Christianity? After conversations with several of my most theologically educated and articulate colleagues, I am convinced that the time has come to ask a question I haven’t heard asked and that we seem unable to discuss in polite circles. My hope in asking the question is not to divide us further but to see if we have a hope for restoration to unity. Here it is: What is necessary for salvation?
Also, what is the meaning of the second sentence on p. 298 of the BCP: “The bond which God establishes in Baptism is indissoluble?”
My hope is that answers will include a discussion of how the norms and principles of behavior (or departures from those norms) impact salvation. In other words, what difference does it make to individual salvation and/or the “soul of the Church” that The Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion (or any Christian tradition) would ‘license’ behaviors that seem to be departures from what sound like clear teachings of Holy Scripture?
Another way of asking the question may be, “What is at stake?” When I was a Southern Baptist I was clear, as one who sat in the pew at least 4 times weekly up until my 18th birthday, that my condemnation to Hell was assured if I unrepentantly committed certain well-defined, scripturally prohibited sins. Is the same true of The Episcopal Church? Anglicanism? If so, what are those sins?
Based upon my colleague’s reflections, there are three questions I’d like to put on the table:
- What is necessary for salvation?
- What is the meaning of this sentence at the top of page 298 in The Book of Common Prayer: “The bond which God establishes in Baptism is indissoluble”?
- Are there certain behaviors or sins which, if committed without repentance, can condemn a baptized Christian to hell? If so, what are those behaviors/sins?
I am especially interested in responses that reflect the theology of Anglicanism in general, and the Episcopal Church in particular.