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Move on from TEC: An Exhortation for Those in the Anglican Church in North America

by Carson T. Clark on December 10, 2012

Preface: This is an in-house post among Anglican brethren.

Last month Bishop Mark Lawrence of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina offered a timely and sage observation. He declared,

Rarely have the spiritually hungry, the seeker, the unconverted, or the unchurched been won for Jesus Christ through church conflicts, denominational discord, or ecclesiastical excesses. If we are to have the aroma of Christ, we must live in his grace with faith, hope, and charity. The apostle has described it well the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness (long-suffering) and self control.

Amen and amen! Such ecclesiastical drama does little but distract us from our true purpose and place a stumbling block before the Gospel to a lost and dying world. This is why I’m truly disturbed by websites like Virtue Online and Stand Firm as well as Facebook groups like the “Anglican Church in North” where folks continually obsess on The Episcopal Church and the latest evidence of its progressive drift. It’s time to move on.

Look, I’m typically a pretty compassionate guy. But there comes a point in which they’re obviously choosing to wallow in the pain rather than choosing to heal. Not all but the vast majority of those in the Anglican Church who’ve come out of an Episcopalian background have now had more than enough time to go through the emotional healing progress of re-experiencing the pain (emotional), re-interpreting the events (cognitive), and choosing to forgive (volitional). Again, it’s time to put on your big boy pants and move on.

In much the same way that it has been healthy for me not to dwell on–or even talk and write about–the Anglican Mission, it seems clear it’d be psychologically and spiritually healthy for those in the Anglican Church to do the same with The Episcopal Church. Not only those websites but the larger backward-looking, contentious spirit bogs us down in the mire and prevents us from moving on. Christ has called us to forgive and pray for our persecutors, has he not?

It’s like the remarried husband who keeps talking about his former wife who cheated on him. Not only doesn’t that doesn’t promote restoration and renewal, but keep it up and it’s bound to destroy his new marriage, too. From my heart I’m pleading with you. Please don’t make the Anglican Church like the Exodus from Egypt. I really don’t want to have to wait for an entire generation to die off before we can collectively move forward.

To be clear, I’m not saying to forgive and forget. Forgive? Yes. Forget? No. For many people individually, and for the Anglican Church corporately, this is part of our history. We shouldn’t pretend it didn’t happen. That’s no good, either. What I’m saying is that in much the same way that I was molested as a child but refuse to let that tragedy define me, so Anglicans shouldn’t continue to let The Episcopal Church define its existence. Re-experience, re-interpret, forgive. Heal.

Lastly, I want to offer a tangentially related suggestion. I’m begging you. Please stop referring to the Anglican Church as the A-C-N-A or ACNA. That’s precisely the sort of Episcopalian cultural baggage we need to shed. Archbishop Duncan’s wisdom on this point is profound. No one is drawn to an acronym. In fact, it actively repels people. It sounds like bureaucratic hell. Please seriously consider calling it the Anglican Church in North America or just plain Anglican Church.

  • Stephen

    Also, given the Episcopal church structure, assuming that a certain parish is “liberal” or whatever because the countrywide conference voted in a “liberal” direction. Additionally, what one hears from the pulpit and the views of the demographic subset that constitutes the congregation may vary wildly. For instance, in the Episcopal church I attend, the homilies heard from the pulpit promote orthodoxy and orthpraxy in quite a nice blend. The views of the congregation, on the other hand are probably slightly more liberal than not – but that’s also probably a function of the weird mix of “liberal” and “conservative” that is the Austin area. So I agree with you, in more ways than one, I guess. Kind of boring to give no pushback whatsoever, I guess… ;)

    • http://twitter.com/carsontclark Carson T. Clark

      “Also, given the Episcopal church structure, assuming that a certain parish is ‘liberal’ or whatever because the countrywide conference voted in a ‘liberal’ direction [is off-base].”

      Agreed. For about a year and a half I attended a Communion Partners parish that was unquestionably orthodox in doctrine and practice. Was blessed by that community.

      “Additionally, what one hears from the pulpit and the views of the demographic subset that constitutes the congregation may vary wildly.”

      Yeah. No where is this more so than in The Episcopal Church!

      “For instance, in the Episcopal church I attend, the homilies heard from the pulpit promote orthodoxy and orthpraxy in quite a nice blend. The views of the congregation, on the other hand are probably slightly more liberal than not – but that’s also probably a function of the weird mix of ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ that is the Austin area.”

      Keep Austin weird.

      “So I agree with you, in more ways than one, I guess. Kind of boring to give no pushback whatsoever, I guess… ;)”

      Wholeheartedly agree.

  • Gill

    For me, Rowan Williams said it best after the Women Bishops Measure did not go through here : that this was a time to care for and love each other, whatever our differences.

  • SamHamilton

    What disturbs be about blogs like Stand Firm is that at least some of the leaders* there don’t seem to have moved on from moving on from the Episcopal Church. It’s a perpetual grievance factory. Certainly, I understand why the bitterness exists, but it’s not healthy.

    The ones I’m talking about remind me a bit of Frank Schaeffer. Schaeffer, as he continuously lets us know, has moved on from the religious right, the ways of his parents, etc. And he can’t stop telling us that he’s moved on. It’s his schtick. It’s why people listen to him, because they like the fact his criticism is aimed where it is. But he needs to move on from moving on. As do certain people at Stand Firm. Those that have separated from the Episcopal Church need to get on with the business of being the light of Christ in their new church communities. That’s where they should direct their energy.

    I write this as a member of a congregation that lost its legal battle with TEC and will have to find a new building in which to worship in the future.

    *In the defense of some of the people who write there, their churches are still a part of the Episcopal Church, so I assume their writings at Stand Firm are, in part, a way of “fighting back.”

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