Friday, July 17, 2009

The Episcopalian Church's Slide Into Collectivism

I freely admit I am an individualist. In fact, passionately so. Although I enjoy times of fellowship with friends and families, I get pretty cranky if I don't have my "alone time." I was single until I was 39 years old and happily found a man who respects my need to be alone at times.

Artists will understand this need for solace. Indeed, it is necessary as air if we are to create. There must be time spent in solitude so as to hear the muse's call, or at the very least, mull over observations and thoughts that will lead to producing something of value. The United States of America was built by individuals who followed their hearts and created something unique and lasting. They learned to hone their vision into something that would benefit both their immediate families and the surrounding community. To experience success in executing that vision and finding profit was one of the greatest joys known to man.

How does this relate to who we are in Christ? And what does it have to do with the Episcopal church? Quite a bit, actually. Recently, the Episcopal church had their 76th General Conference, presided over by Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. During her opening speech, she said this:

The overarching connection in all of these crises has to do with the great Western heresy – that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God. It’s caricatured in some quarters by insisting that salvation depends on reciting a specific verbal formula about Jesus. That individualist focus is a form of idolatry, for it puts me and my words in the place that only God can occupy, at the center of existence, as the ground of all being. That heresy is one reason for the theme of this Convention.

I understand what she is trying to say but her choice of words were unfortunate. She is giving the impression that I alone cannot be saved by admitting that I am a sinner and surrendering to God for His grace and mercy. Somehow I need "more." How she can justify this Biblically is beyond me.

Scripture says that faith without works is dead. As Christians, we know that coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ is only the beginning of a life lived in obedience to God. But only God knows a person's heart. It is not up to Jefferts Schori to say whether a person is truly saved or not. Obviously, within her definition - a person can only be "saved" if they join identity politics and agree to a worldly system of collectivism; where the claims of a group supersede the claims of individuals.

From all the years of studying Scripture, I do not see such a view supported. Nor do I see a success of this approach in the history of our country. It is one thing to say I may need my neighbor. It is quite another to say I must need my neighbor. The former assumes a choice in the matter while the latter removes it. Remove my choice and you've removed my freedom.

Americans have long been accustomed to all sorts of wild opinion, but the common response has been, "It's a free country. She can say what she wants." or "He can believe whatever he wishes." But we have a bit of a dichotomy within the Gospel. We have been freed from the bondage of sin but yet we are required to obey the truth. The truth is that we must love one another, forgive one another, serve one another. In loving God, we are to be generous with the poor, caring for the widows and orphans. We are to reach out to a dying and hurting world with the Good News. In each of those circumstances, Christians are joyfully responding to God's call upon their life.

But within any group or organization's insistence that we must do something; is when collectivism sneaks in and oftentimes leads a nation down a very destructive path. That path only leads to bondage and slavery - not freedom. And for anyone, let alone a Bishop of a main denomination, to boldly proclaim that Christians cannot look at themselves as being "saved" unless they are involved in some type of pseudo-cultural-political-backscratching session - is heresy.

We are called to be the salt and light to this world. Many times, it means enduring criticism and hatred in order to fulfill the Great Commission. But it does not mean capitulating to a culture that demands allegiance only to man's capability to earn his own salvation by placing a group's needs above his own. It is ludicrous to claim the Gospel is only a social justice mandate, effectively neutralizing its power to transform an individual into the likeness of Jesus Christ.

Jesus taught groups but discipled individuals. He continuously asked individuals what they wanted and then met their needs. He challenged individuals to step out in faith, to believe and trust in their heavenly Father. He certainly did not say to His disciples, "Only by working together will you all be saved." As I said, it is a dichotomy. We are the "Body of Christ," working together to be His witnesses upon earth. But yet there is something not right about using it to justify catering to groups who hate God.

A slippery slope has occurred with the ordination of Gene Robinson, a practicing gay. Now the door is being pushed wide open by the Episcopalian church to embrace any type of sexuality. Radical groups that promote the gay agenda are the types of groups Jefferts Schori has in mind when she talks against individualism.

I know that living my life as a Christian requires me to be in fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I will always struggle with the balance for my individual (almost hermit-like) nature and being available to serve within the Body of Christ. But sin is sin. Darkness has no fellowship with the light. What the Episcopal church is attempting, is to embrace sin and heresy in order to please the world.

Extremely dangerous. God help the faithful in this church and may He give grace to His servants to know when it's time to leave.

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