A Protest for the Orthodox Faith
The following editorial by Bishop Jack Leo Iker appeared
in the Sunday, Oct. 12, edition of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Last week's remarkable gathering of Episcopalians in Dallas was unlike anything I have seen in more than 10 years as a bishop.
More than 2,600 faithful clergy and laity from every state in the union, representing all but two of the 108 dioceses in the Episcopal Church, came together at their own expense to consider how to respond to the controversies created by the church's August national convention.
So much has been reported in the media that I can hardly imagine that anyone has missed what the dissension is all about.
The 74th General Convention precipitated a serious crisis, not only in our own U.S. denomination but in the worldwide Anglican Communion to which we belong.
The convention approved of the election as bishop in the Diocese of New Hampshire of a noncelibate homosexual man -- a clergyman who is divorced, the father of two children -- who is openly living with his male lover in a "committed relationship."
The convention's second alarming action was to give tacit approval and permission for same-sex blessings to be performed in the church.
Both decisions depart from the historic teaching and practice not only of the Anglican Communion but also of the Christian church as a whole for 2,000 years.
More importantly, both of these actions are contrary to the clear teaching of the Bible, our primary source of authority in matters of faith and morals, as the Word of God.
The Episcopal Church is one of 38 Anglican provinces around the world. Each province represents a regional or national church, which is united in a common faith and spiritual heritage with all the other provinces that make up a fellowship of some 77 million Christians.
The Episcopal Church, with a membership of about 2.2 million (less than 3 percent of the Anglican Communion) is the only province in the world to approve of a practicing homosexual to serve as a bishop, and it is the only province to legitimize the blessing of same-sex relationships.
These actions were taken, I am sad to say, without regard for what the rest of the Anglican world was saying to us in advance and with little regard for the damage they would do to the unity of the church.
Last week's Dallas gathering repudiated both decisions as departures from the clear teaching of Scripture and the church. Furthermore, the assembly petitioned the primates of the Anglican Communion (those bishops who head up each of the 38 provinces) to intervene in the pastoral and theological emergency that has been created by these divisive acts.
These clergymen will meet in London later this week to consider the appeal. Leading the meeting will be the Archbishop of Canterbury, the symbolic head of the Anglican Communion.
The unbroken and constant teaching of the Bible and of the historic church is this: Sexual intercourse, physical sexual intimacy, is appropriate only in the union of a man and a woman in marriage. This entails absolute faithfulness in marriage and sexual abstinence apart from marriage.
The church does not condone premarital sexual relationships, adultery or serial marriages. The church cannot condone fornication or sexual relationships between members of the same sex.
For this reason, it is wrong for the church to ordain a practicing homosexual or any person engaged in sexual relations outside of marriage.
Ordained clergy are under the obligation to model the received teaching of the church that all members are to abstain from sexual relations outside of holy matrimony.
The Dallas gathering reaffirmed these clear standards and biblical norms of sexual behavior for Christians, which we cannot change. We have taken a stand for the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ at a time of moral confusion and relativism in both our church and in secular society.
Yes, all people are invited and welcome in our church. God loves us all. But the Bible also teaches that all of us are sinners and are called to repentance, conversion and amendment of life through the grace of Jesus Christ our Savior, who died for us.
All of this controversy causes many of our people to be concerned about the possibility of a split in the Episcopal Church. We must pray for the unity of Christ's body and seek to avoid further fractures in the church.
But, in a very real sense, there is already a serious division among Episcopalians, particularly on these matters. Many would go so far as to say that there are even two different religions or two different churches within the Episcopal Church.
How all of this turns out will be determined in the months ahead. It is a developing process. The decision of the primates in London this week will be immensely important in this regard.
However, if there is to be a schism within Anglicanism, then surely those who voted for the election of a practicing homosexual to be a bishop and in favor of same-sex blessings are the schismatics.
That remarkable gathering of Episcopalians in Dallas last week has taken a brave stance for biblical truth and the apostolic teaching of the ancient church. We will see what becomes of it.