Monday, August 11, 2003
At the beginning of the worship service at Trinity Reformed Church, Dr Peter Leithart gives an exhortation. Here is yesterday's:
This week, the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (ECUSA) confirmed Gene Robinson, an openly homosexual priest, as New Hampshire's bishop. In a separate measure, the bishops also affirmed that ceremonies blessing homosexual and lesbian unions were "an acceptable practice within the church."
The magnitude of these events for the Anglican churches is incalculable. From all over the world, Anglican archbishops, bishops, priests, and theologians condemned the action as unbiblical, contrary to the historic teaching of the church, and even contrary to recent decisions of the Anglican churches. Even within the US, many of the bishops refused to return to the meeting of the house of bishops after the vote was taken. Though some are diplomatically talking about "realignment," the reality is that schism threatens the Anglican churches.
It is easy for us to dismiss these events from our concerns. It's not our problem, we think. We are not Episcopalians, and we are in a church and in a denomination that would never countenance sodomy. Some of us left liberal denominations, and think that in doing so we left these problems behind. That is not a Christian response, that is a sectarian response. It is our problem. Many congregations of ECUSA may be synagogues of Satan, and many may be rapidly becoming so. But the churches of the Anglican communions are churches of Jesus Christ, the members wear the same baptism as you do, they are brothers and sisters, members of the same visible body of Christ. We can't pretend to have nothing to do with them, for when one member of the body suffers, we all suffer.
The Bishops' decision, and similar events in other churches, show us just how desperate the church's situation is in our day. Large segments of the church in America and in other parts of the world are ruled by men who lack the most elementary moral discernment, who refuse to submit to the clear teaching of Scripture, and who have deliberately placed themselves at odds with the catholic witness of the church throughout the centuries. A large segment of the church is ruled by people who hearing cannot hear, who seeing cannot see.
What can we do? One obvious thing is to join in prayer with faithful brothers and sisters in the Anglican churches - and there are millions around the world. And Mary's song in Luke 1 gives us some hints about what to pray for. Mary lived in a time when Israel was ruled by Romans, and, even worse, by the Idumean King Herod and wicked priests. When she heard that the Lord was giving her a son who would take David's throne, she rejoiced not only for her good fortune, but for the good fortune of Israel. She rejoiced because the Lord was beginning to scatter the proud, to put down the mighty from their thrones, to send the rich empty away. We can make that our prayer for the whole church, that the Lord would throw down the proud from their high places and exalt the humble poor. We should pray for God to act, and to judge.
On the other hand, the fact that such men rule a portion of Christ's church is itself a judgment of God. God often judges His people by giving them wicked rulers. And it is a judgment on the whole body of Christ, not merely on ECUSA. So, our prayers should not only be prayers that God would act and judge, but prayers of confession and penitence. When we model our prayers on Mary's song, we must do so in sackcloth and ashes.
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