The Solution to Episcopalian Church Problems
by Steve Klein
via The Bulletin of the Church of Christ at New Georgia, October 7, 2007
For those unfamiliar with it, the Episcopalian Church in America is a denomination that has its roots in the Church of England. These churches, along with Episcopalian denominations in other nations, are collectively referred to as Anglican churches. They trace their common beginning to the 16th century rift over the issue of divorce between King Henry VIII of England and the Pope of Rome.
American Episcopalian's have been in the news a lot lately because of controversy within the denomination over the ordination of a homosexual bishop and the blessing of homosexual marriages. While many Anglicans in America approve of these practices, some do not, and most Anglican Church leaders outside of the U.S. firmly disapprove.
The division among Episcopalians has become so sharp that some American Episcopalians are leaving the denomination. In September 2007, "the members of St. Clement's church in Central El Paso decided to leave Episcopal Church USA and the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande. 'We feel that we have been released from an institution that is not really excited about the gospel of Jesus Christ,' said Rev. Bill Cobb of St. Clement's Church" (Reported by KFOX-TV).
On October 2, 2007, the Fort Worth Star Telegram carried the following quote from a local church official identified as the "Rev. Ryan Reed" president of the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. He said, "To submit to and comply with the current direction of the General Convention would mean for us to embrace a distortion of the Christian faith that our forebears would not recognize as a continuation of the Apostles' teaching and fellowship."
On September 18, 2007 the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that David Wardell and more than 100 other former members of Saint Andrew's Episcopal Church had left the Episcopalian church "and aligned themselves with a Nigerian bishop. Their new congregation is called All Saints Anglican Church." The report goes on to state the following: Three other metro Atlanta congregations operate under the authority of a Bolivian bishop. Episcopalians across the U.S. are joining more conservative foreign church provinces and forming their own organizations because they believe American church leaders are sliding into irrelevance and sin. "They are just changing scripture to, like, anything goes," Wardell said.
About now, you may be asking yourself, "Why should I care about the problems of this denomination?" Well, because their problems are mirrored in the problems of many religious groups, and can even be seen to some degree within churches of Christ. By seeing the solution to Episcopalian Church problems, maybe we can see the solution to ours as well.
What's the solution? Follow the Bible! Follow it completely. Don't add to it. Don't take from it. Just follow the Bible. Accept the Scriptures as the complete and perfect guide that they claim to be (II Timothy 3:16-17). Don't just give lip service to following the Scriptures. Don't complain about how a given practice like homosexuality is not approved by the Scriptures and then turn around and accept seventeen other things that are not approved either. Jesus said, "These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:8-9).
If you'll notice in the news reports cited above, the very Episcopalians who were complaining about the unscriptural practices of their denomination are still doing the following:
- Participating in a form of church government that is NOT what the Bible describes. One of the dissenters quoted above is a "president" of a "standing committee" of a "diocese." Where is the Scripture for any of that? Individual churches in the Bible had bishops (or elders), deacons and saints (or members) (Philippians 1:1). There was no over-arching earthly regional organization such as a "diocese." Such is unscriptural and contrary to the Scriptural plan.
- Naming their churches after "saints." No church in the Bible was ever named after a disciple, let alone after a person who had been canonized by the Catholic denomination. No church in the Bible ever named itself after Clement or Andrew. Not only was such not practiced, it was expressly forbidden. The great apostle Paul forbade Christians from calling themselves after him, or Peter or Apollos. "Now I say this, that each of you says, 'I am of Paul,' or 'I am of Apollos,'or 'I am of Cephas,' or 'I am of Christ.' Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?" (I Corinthians 1:12-13).
- Calling their leaders "Reverend" even though the Bible says that this is God's name (Psalm 111:9).
Now, the purpose of this article is not to expose every unscriptural belief and practice of the Episcopal Church. Our purpose here is to challenge all men to go to the Bible for every belief and practice, not just for the ones that make us comfortable with what we are already believing and doing. From our perspective, it is clear to some that well-meaning Episcopalians have a large blind spot here. It makes me wonder if the Lord sees something similar when He looks at us.