Ian Chamberlin: General Convention should focus on doctrine

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I think that instead of seeking out new fads and revising liturgies to suit modern tastes, I think we ought to go back and take a good look at those old liturgical books, dogmatic theology books, and Bibles we traded in for shiny glossy hardcovers that talk about a Jesus that doesn't require you to go to church or be part of a community, or a Jesus who didn't rise from the dead, or a Gospel that behaves more like secular humanism than God's direct intervention into human history. It is in these ancient tomes that we will find the key to the way forward. Using our Anglican ingenuity and fortitude and our firm grasp on tradition and innovation, we can forge a way forward that responds to the spiritual hunger of our society and present the Gospel in a way that makes sense.

While I believe that all the outreach we do is important, valuable and are actions that help us to fulfill the Great Commandments, I think we focus too much on the second one and lose focus on the first one. The Great Commandments are: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourselves."

The second should be an outgrowth of the first. Notice that the Scriptures don't phrase it as "Love your neighbor as yourself, and love God only if you feel you have to". We need to love God first, we need to first hand over our whole existence to Him. We can never pretend nor presume that our reasoning or our thoughts on their own are ever perfect because of our innately fallen nature as children of Eve.

I think that it is time that we have a whole General Convention dedicated to doctrine and creating the foundation for our mission work in the world.

I applaud the focus on doctrine and its importance but General Convention, sadly, is not at all conducive to doing theology. Read it all--KSH.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)General Convention * Theology

Posted January 29, 2009 at 2:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. nwlayman wrote:

About the only thing that could make GC function as a church organization would be mass catechizing, but it takes educated believers to do that.  None on board.  I recall in the 70’s being pressured to “make” a Cursillo.  It was touted as a course in “Basic Christianity”.  Sounds good, but I noticed they also had them in the Diocese of Newark.  What, pray tell version of “Basic Christianity” was taught on those weepy weekends?  You could ask a Newark Episcopalian, but you better hurry as they’re getting scarce.  So with catechesis; garbage in, garbage out.

January 29, 4:29 pm | [comment link]
2. jeff marx wrote:

Interestingly I read this after putting down Mike Aquilina’s “The Fathers of the Church.”  [A quote from p. 15 “The Fathers of the church were intensely concerned with preserving the unity and integrity of the “company of those who believe.’‘’ and p. 25 “doctrine was not something incidental to the Christian faith. It was essential.”]
  I agree with Ian Chamberlin that we need to focus on our inherited faith. My fear is that if GC begins discussing doctrine then there will be little left of the ancient faith. Anglicanism is wide indeed, but from the beginning it had boundaries (not Roman nor Puritan, later not Methodist). And it was always intended to be recognizably Christian.

January 29, 4:39 pm | [comment link]
3. Ralinda wrote:

Intriguing commentary coming from the president of Integrity in Phoenix.  I’m pleased to read his call for a focus on doctrine.  But as Kendall said, General Convention is not conducive to discussing theology.
At GC2003 the HOB defeated B001 “On the Topic of Endorsing Certain Historic Anglican Doctrines and Policies”, which affirmed the authority of Scripture and reaffirmed “that the statements known as the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilaterial of 1886, 1888, as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer, 1979 continue to be true and accurate statements of the faith and policy of this Church.”

At GC2006 Resolution D058 “Salvation Through Christ Alone” did not even come to a vote. The Evangelism Committee voted to discharge the resolution claiming that 1982 Resolution A047 stated the same thing.  It does not. One Committee member commented that the debate over the resolution would likely be contentious if it reached the House of Deputies.  Attempts to bring the resolution to the floor for a current reading failed.  D058 reads as follows:

“Resolved, the House of _____ concurring, That the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church declares its unchanging commitment to Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the only name by which any person may be saved (Article XVIII); and be it further
Resolved, That we acknowledge the solemn responsibility placed upon us to share Christ with all persons when we hear His words, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6); and be it further
Resolved, That we affirm that in Christ there is both the substitutionary essence of the Cross and the manifestation of God’s
unlimited and unending love for all persons; and be it further
Resolved, That we renew our dedication to be faithful witnesses to all persons of the saving love of God perfectly and uniquely revealed in Jesus and upheld by the full testimony of Holy Scripture.”

The uniqueness of Christ as the only savior and the doctrine of substitutionary atonement were apparently too narrow a path and/or too small a box for the General Convention deputies.

January 29, 4:45 pm | [comment link]
4. Milton wrote:

If Ian Chamberlain is ordained clergy then he has just abandoned the Episcopal Communion.  No doubt his deposition will be published on ENS, hard copy to follow to him in 6 weeks or so.

January 29, 5:34 pm | [comment link]
5. Irenaeus wrote:

General Convention, sadly, is not at all conducive to doing theology —-KSH

Nor would “doing theology” fit the playbook of ECUSA’s current set of reappraising rulers. Better to operate obliquely by passing resolutions about “inclusion” and “the bounds of our common life.” Let overt, wholesale theological revision wait until the radical reappraisers have fully consolidated their control, honed their disciplinary machinery, and made basic decisions about prayer book revision. Theological revision would, ideally, codify changes to which liturgical revision has already acculturated the laity. In the mean time, reappraisers can profess fidelity to scripture and the creeds.

January 29, 6:08 pm | [comment link]
6. John Wilkins wrote:

The best thing for GC to do is to discuss the rubrics and process, rather than politics, for example. 

That said, I’m not sure if the GC should “pass"doctrine.  It should discuss it, perhaps.

January 29, 6:31 pm | [comment link]
7. austin wrote:

GC passes doctrine every time it authorizes innovations such as women’s ordination or condoning homosexual acts.  Not to mention licensing liturgy.  Every doctrine of the Church, from the Incarnation down, is theoretically susceptible to being revoked by GC.  It is a deep flaw in the much-touted “polity” of TEC.  Set up as a “Congress,” it refuses to respect the “Constitution” of the deposit of faith, and there is no Supreme Court mechanism to discipline it—the House of Bishops having abdicated their role as defenders of tradition.

January 29, 6:49 pm | [comment link]
8. Phil wrote:

The author being who is, I think it’s a remarkable statement.  I consider the movement of which he is part to have a large share of responsibility for the situation he decries.

January 29, 6:55 pm | [comment link]
9. MKEnorthshore wrote:

too late.

January 29, 7:32 pm | [comment link]
10. Dilbertnomore wrote:

If good politics is bad economics and vice versa is good doctrine bad theology? It certainly will be if TEC has anything to do with it.

January 29, 9:14 pm | [comment link]
11. Sam Keyes wrote:

If “indaba” was so great, they should cut all decision-making, resolutions and legislation out of GC.

January 29, 11:36 pm | [comment link]
12. Sarah1 wrote:

The problem with this idea is that “To Set Our Hope On Christ” is their vision of “focusing on doctrine.”

So it would make no difference anyway.  Wink, Countryman, Boswell—that’s “doctrine.”

Again, two gospels, one organization.  Two mutually opposing foundational worldviews, means that their definition of “doctrine,”—along with “Jesus,” “sin,” “resurrection,” etc, etc, etc—is antithetical to ours.

January 29, 11:55 pm | [comment link]
13. nwlayman wrote:

It’s helpful to recall the convention that had to figure out what to do about Pike (didn’t matter, they did nothing).  When the uncomfortable issues came up, one bishop was famously heard to say “You mean we’re going to have to talk about…God?”  They couldn’t then, I don’t see why they should be expected to do any better now.  The line about teaching a pig to sing?

January 30, 2:18 am | [comment link]
14. Cennydd wrote:

I think it’s more likely they’ll talk about discipline; inhibitions and depositions, etc, and it may include the laity for good measure.

January 31, 9:48 pm | [comment link]
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