Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Episcopal Church of Sudan Backs Away from the Episcopal Church USA

I'm saddened and concerned by the news from the Episcopal Church of Sudan. Peter Carrell at Anglican Down Under sums it up:

The Anglican church in Sudan (i.e. the Episcopal Church of Sudan, with more members than all Episcopalians/Anglicans in the USA) has come out boldly and clearly and stated it is recognising ACNA [Anglican Church in North America] as a fully orthodox church. At the same time it is distancing itself from most of TEC, and disinviting PB Jefferts Schori from coming to visit the ECS.

Nicholas Knisely at "The Lead" on Episcopal Cafe puts it like this:

Archbishop Deng Bul, the Primate of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, has written to the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church to withdraw her invitation to visit Sudan this spring. He cites the Episcopal Church's support of gay and lesbian Christians as the cause.

Here's the letter Archbishop Bul sent to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori (h/t TitusOneNine):

The Most Rev Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church
United States of America

Thursday 15th December 2011

Dear Bishop Katharine,

Advent greetings to you in the name of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

It is with a heavy heart that I write you informing you of our decision as a House of Bishops to withdraw your invitation to the Episcopal Church of the Sudan (ECS). We acknowledge your personal efforts to spearhead prayer and support campaigns on behalf of the ECS and remain very grateful for this attention you and your church have paid to Sudan and South Sudan. However, it remains difficult for us to invite you when elements of your church continue to flagrantly disregard biblical teaching on human sexuality.

attached a statement further explaining our position as a province.


--(The Most Rev.) Dr. Daniel Deng Bul Yak, Archbishop Primate and Metropolitan of the Province of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan and Bishop of the Diocese of Juba

Part of the attached statement explains the reasons for withdrawing the invitation as follows:

We are deeply disappointed by The Episcopal Church's refusal to abide by Biblical teaching on human sexuality and their refusal to listen to fellow Anglicans. For example, TEC Diocese of Los Angles, California in 2010 elected and consecrated Mary Douglas Glasspool as their first lesbian assistant Bishop. We are not happy with their acts of continuing ordaining homosexuals and lesbians as priests and bishops as well as blessing same sex relations in the church by some dioceses in TEC; it has pushed itself away from God's Word and from Anglican Communion. TEC is not concerned for the unity of the Communion.

The Episcopal Church of Sudan is recognizing the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) fully as true faithful Orthodox Church and we will work with them to expand the Kingdom of God in the world. Also we will work with those Parishes and Dioceses in TEC who are Evangelical Orthodox Churches and faithful to God.

We will not compromise our faith on this and we will not give TEC advice anymore, because TEC ignored and has refused our advices.

We have many Sudanese members of the cathedral I currently serve. I have no idea how or if this will affect their feelings about the Episcopal Church USA. Our cathedral has also been contemplating a medical mission to South Sudan, and my diocese is involved in efforts to raise money to build a Cathedral for the Diocese of Bor. Will this decision adversely affect those initiatives or even shut them down? Or will my diocese and/or cathedral be deemed worthy of inclusion among "those Parishes and Dioceses in TEC who are Evangelical Orthodox Churches and faithful to God?"


Robert F said...

The unity of the church is a gift given by God, not a goal to be attained by the church. The most the church can do is endeavor to manifest the underlying unity that it already has as a gift. With all requisite humility, each province, diocese, parish and individual must follow, to the best of our understanding, in the path that God sets before us. If this leads to the fracturing of false, human-made unity, that is for the good, ultimately, because it will clear the space for the true underlying gift of unity that God has provided to manifest itself in God's time and by his patient and long-suffering will, however painful it may be to us in the short term.

Bryan Owen said...

You share much wisdom in your comment, Robert F, and I thank you for it.

The issue of how to discern "false, human-made unity" as opposed to true, God-given unity remains a central concern in all of this. Over the course of the past decade, I've seen quite a few pronouncements on that matter - from both the Left and the Right - that come across as quite confident in that discernment. And while I certainly have my convictions about Anglican orthodoxy, I'll readily admit to being less than enthusiastic when it comes to confidently pronouncing judgment against an entire Province of the Anglican Communion. If I've missed the mark on that matter, then may God have mercy on me, a sinner.

In the meantime, I've read characterizations of the leadership of the Episcopal Church of Sudan as (in the words of one "progressive" Anglican priest) advocates for "the primitive fundamentalism of a resurrected Victorian understanding of gender and sexuality," "Puritanical legalism," "heresy that still lurks in the bowels of a fundamentalist Church," and "a new 'Crusade.'" I've also seen another blog comment that says: "If God had the attitude the bishops of Sudan and company had, he never would have become incarnate in Christ Jesus, for it involved associating with sinners." I am horrified by such final judgments.

Even granting that "unity ... is a gift given by God, not a goal to be attained," decisions made by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church USA (among others in our leadership), as well as the decision of the Episcopal Church of Sudan's House of Bishops, have contributed to the breakdown of the Anglican Communion. For that reason, regardless of my convictions or who is right and who is wrong, I find no cause for celebration.

Robert F said...

No, Bryan, I don't mean we should celebrate the fracturing that is occurring, and the sin that has played such a large part in that fracturing: rather, we should celebrate the underlying unity of the church which nothing, not hell or the best and worst efforts of human beings, can undo; and we should undertake the work of reconciliation between church bodies with humility and honesty, honoring our convictions, and those who oppose our convictions, by modestly and gently contending for what we believe and doing our best to charitably understand what our opponents believe. We can only do these things if we truly trust that God has provided a unity which is invincible, and which will ultimately be manifest to all.

Bryan Owen said...

That's very well and generously said, Robert F. Thank you for the clarification. I agree with you!