Sunday, August 10, 2003
ECUSA and Denominationalism
Is it just me, or does it seem odd, historically speaking, that the delegates to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church (ECUSA) had the final say in the election of Gene Robinson? I don't know enough about the history of episcopal elections, but I tend to think it would be better if it were A) solely a diocesan or presbyterial or local regional matter, B) a matter for the archbishops of the worldwide Anglican Communion, or even C) ultimately a matter of state, as with the Church of England. As it is, ECUSA's procedure looks more like American denominationism than historic episcopacy to me.
Of course, by option A, New Hampshire would still have a bishop who's just as gay - and that would be too bad - but I seriously doubt I'll ever live in New Hampshire. Option A might, however, mitigate against the tendency of many fellow conservative evangelicals to scorn all ECUSA churches across the board - even the orthodox parishes in ECUSA, some of which are farther from New Hampshire than Greece is from China.
As for option B, ECUSA couldn't care less about the other archbishops, or so it seems.
And we all know that option C just isn't an option in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. And that's cool with me because I don't think national churches fit with the biblical ideal (the Westminster Assembly notwithstanding). However, at least in theory, national churches don't bother me as much as national denominations that pretend to be churches. To explain why, I'll copy a comment I recently wrote on Shawn Roberson's blog:
I find it interesting that the Bible does not use the word "church" singular to refer to regional or national bodies. (Of course, there is the bride of Christ, the church throughout the world and throughout history that will be spotless at the last day, but she transcends regions and nations.) Throughout the NT, the usage is consistent: there is one church per city (e.g. the church at Corinth, at Ephesus, etc), which is made up of smaller churches, "from house to house." Any geographical unit larger than a city is spoken of in terms of "churches" plural (e.g. the churches in Galatia, in Asia Minor, etc).John Frame, in his book, Evangelical Reunion (Baker, 1991), makes the same point in the last paragraphs of chapter three.
So, when denominations or church bodies refer to themselves with the word "church" singular, they miss the biblical pattern. Based on this, I maintain that the ECUSA, despite its name, is not a church, but an association of churches - i.e. a sort of club. And for that reason I would judge churches/dioceses in the ECUSA, even now, on a case by case basis.
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