About the Faith—St. Peter and St. Paul Episcopal Church, El Centro, California

Posted by Kendall Harmon

We however, because of selfishness, have turned away from the Father, desiring only our own will, when we want it, no matter how much it may hurt others or the creation. This is called sin, and it is a rejection of the love of God. God in His love allows us to be as selfish as we wish, but not in His presence. When we sin, we turn our backs on God, and separate ourselves from Him. That sin also separates us from becoming part of the purpose of God for this universe, thus making our lives pointless and short. We live now in such a world --- evil in part, pleasant in part, but pointless --- it is a prison of our own making.

But God has never stopped loving us. Using His Spirit, he inspired men and women around the world to reach for Him, for Meaning, for Understanding --- and this has resulted in world religions --- every culture has produced its own religion based on its partial understanding of God. Of all these religions, the one that understood the best about God was Judaism; so He worked with their prophets, priests, and leaders to grow that understanding, until a point was reached that would allow God to reach out to us, to come to us, and to be understood. At that point in time, God entered our world, the world of humanity, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, took our flesh and was born among us --- we called Him Jesus.

Read it all.

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

18 Comments
Posted September 28, 2011 at 11:11 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Paula Loughlin wrote:

I very much enjoyed reading this solid statement of faith.  I do have a question though, is it the norm for Episcopal churches to acknowledge 7 sacraments?

September 28, 2:40 pm | [comment link]
2. Father Jonathan wrote:

Paula, it is difficult to know what qualifies as a norm for the Episcopal Church these days, but historically Anglicanism has always acknowledged two Gospel Sacraments, Holy Baptism and Holy Communion, while maintaining that those other things that are commonly called sacraments may only be thought of as sacraments in a lesser sense. That doesn’t mean that things like Confession or Matrimony are bad. Far from it! They are wonderful, and they do bring grace and further the work of God’s people. But they are not absolutely necessary for every person for salvation by the command of Our Lord. Baptism and Eucharist alone carry that kind of grace.

September 28, 3:31 pm | [comment link]
3. Father Jonathan wrote:

Er… just reread… “further the work of God’s people” does not really make any sense. What I meant to say was that they are a means by which God cares for His people. As in, we need marriage and confirmation and so forth as a people, it’s just not clear that everyone needs those things.

September 28, 3:33 pm | [comment link]
4. Mario Gonzalez wrote:

I was fascinated with this account of the faith.  I too take exception to the 7 sacraments, as well as the intimation that Judaism was simply the best among deficient human religious developments, the seeming downplay of the place of Scripture, and the notion that God “was trying” to reveal himself to humanity in Christ.
However, I think the “history of religions” approach could be very effective, and he certainly pulls no punches on the penal nature of the atonement.  Well done!

September 28, 4:22 pm | [comment link]
5. ls from oz wrote:

Hmmm . . .yes, I think that Scripture is pretty clear that God chose Israel to be his people and then revealed himself to them. They were not chosen because of any particular deeper understanding they had or indeed any merit of their own at all.

September 28, 5:31 pm | [comment link]
6. justice1 wrote:

Where to begin.  Words have meaning, do they not?

What could they mean by our faith being “based on Jesus Christ”?  Is he the exemplar, or the author, perfecter and mediator of the Christian faith? 

And what does it mean to say Jesus “ in many ways revealed to us the Father.”  Colossians 1:15 and 19 [“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,” (ESV)] seems to say more. 

What could it mean that creation is evolving, and at the same time have a loving God who has a purpose “for this universe”?  Is this the God of Hegel and 19th century Liberalism perhaps?  It doesn’t sound much like the one in the Bible.

Is sin merely a selfish rejection of the love of God, or is it a deliberate transgression of God’s law which reflects his nature, and should ours, as His image? 

Are the lives of sinful people “pointless and short”?  If they are pointless, says who? 

Is the Spirit God uses an instrument, or a person of the Godhead? 

Are we to accept that it is actually the God of the Bible who inspired the very world religions that He so strongly condemns in the very same Bible [for example in Deuteronomy 7:4: “for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the LORD would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly.” (ESV)]?

Just where do they come up with the notion that Judaism was the best religion of all the world religions, and then God worked with that one?  Is there some other authorized source of information that I have not heard of?  I am pretty sure that according to the Bible, “Judaism” was a revealed religion practiced by a people chosen by God out of the nations of the world.

I also question the notion that “In Jesus, the Father was trying to reveal Himself to us. We could for the first time, see what God was like”.  Does this mean that Judaism did not know what God was like?  And further, I take issue that in Jesus God is revealed, “not physically of course”, since Jesus was indeed God incarnate, physical, and remains the God Man, albeit glorified, at this very moment, as far as I understand orthodox Christian theology.  Why would the Son of God need a body at all?

And, this is the first time I have ever heard anyone speak of the crucifixion of Jesus as suicide.  Maybe I am not well read, but I am pretty sure that he was betrayed and murdered at the hands of the Roman authorities.  The fact that he goes willingly with foreknowledge of the incident, or even that he came knowing this would be his fate, and what his death would mean, should not be confused with suicide.

Since I have a celebration of new ministry to attend, I will stop there.  But, in my heart, I wish hackers would perform an eternal denial of service on this website.  I truly disagree with the first commenter.  This may be a solid statement of belief, but it is deceptively not Christian.

September 28, 5:41 pm | [comment link]
7. BMR+ wrote:

In Jesus, the Father was trying to reveal Himself to us.

Really rather remarkable, if only for its bold self-assertion.  “The Faith.”  I hear a verbal echo here and there of Eucharistic Prayer #C, I guess, with perhaps a patina of Huston Smith, but it’s such a jumble that it’s hard to know just what to make of it.  Reminded of “Sheila-ism” in Bob Bellah’s “Habits of the Heart.”  Something from Column A, two from Column B, etc. 

Bruce Robison

September 28, 6:05 pm | [comment link]
8. Dr Henry wrote:

Justice1 hit the nail on the head:

“I am pretty sure that according to the Bible, “Judaism” was a revealed religion practiced by a people chosen by God out of the nations of the world.”

Pelagius was long ago condemned as a heretic.

But wait… there’s more at the ST. P/P website:

“To assist in our understanding of God, the Church gathered a number of writings into one book, which we call the Bible. The Bible is not infallible, because it was written by imperfect people at a particular time in history, but now interpreted by the Church empowered by the Holy Spirit, it is the best tool we have to understand God, and His Will and His Love.”

At least we all know WHY they fall into error….

It’s essential to frame the Gospel in terms the uninitiated can understand. But in doing so, it is grievous error to change the terms so that they assert what is false. Is this a missional exercise gone wrong on the part of ST.P/P or is it heresy stated softly?  If we give TEC the benefit of the doubt that they are not just dull-witted, what’s the conclusion to be drawn from this website?

September 28, 6:05 pm | [comment link]
9. Terry Tee wrote:

I thought it well done and moving.  The initial emphasis on penal atonement made me think it was an evangelical church, but the seven sacraments, as others point out, speak to a catholicity that is there.  Impressive that this parish is run by a ‘retired’ priest of 50 years service who clearly still has a lot of enthusiasm for the faith and for the Saviour.
My main reservation:  the reference to suicide.  Suicides die by their own hand.  Jesus was put to death.

September 28, 6:12 pm | [comment link]
10. Paula Loughlin wrote:

Justice 1,  I took the suicide comment to be an example of what others have claimed about the crucifixion not what the author believes.  He was making a statement of belief and contrasting it with how others have explained the sacrifice. 

Yes sin is selfish and puts our own desires before what God wills for us.  Yes if we are not living in the full presence of God, our life is indeed pointless and short.  It is pointless because without God our lives are a vanity.  It is pointless because what truly matters is our salvation.  If we turn away from the love of God and His great acts of Salvific love we also turn away from our salvation.

I do believe God was revealed to us fully in Jesus Christ.  I understood the author to be commenting on the failure of so many to grasp that not on the revelation itself. 

I agree that even in the Incarnation we do not see what the Father looks like.  That I believe is what the author was trying to convey.

Of course our faith is based on Jesus Christ.  Does anything the author wrote claim that He was not the “the author, perfecter and mediator of the Christian faith” 

God is the author of all Truth.  Other religions may contain truth.  The purpose of this is so that the followers will have a means of recognizing the full and perfect Truth of Jesus Christ when the Word is brought to them.  That the Truth is often rejected is not a surprise.  But it is not because God did not lay out the groundwork for enabling us to know Christ.

The world was created to receive Christ and even the movement of the planets is a dance to the joy of this great mystery.

September 28, 7:51 pm | [comment link]
11. Paula Loughlin wrote:

Thank you Father Jonathan for your patient explanation.

September 28, 7:51 pm | [comment link]
12. rwkachur wrote:

FWIW - When I was a kid at church camp Bishop Sheridan (Northern Indiana) used to come to camp and quiz us on the seven sacraments.  It was only later I learned the Sacraments versus Rites distinction.  Not surprisingly, Northern Indiana was pretty Anglo-catholic - probably a side effect of having the cathedral in South Bend, so close to Notre Dame.

September 28, 8:43 pm | [comment link]
13. Br. Michael wrote:

Given the heretical nature of TEC I would not even start to quibble over 2 v 7 sacraments.  I understand the 2 and the 7.  I give the nod to our RC, and Orthodox brothers and sisters.

September 28, 9:25 pm | [comment link]
14. Statmann wrote:

This comment is for those that recall in their math courses the coverage of various math functions and shapes which were difficult to master and had terms that often defied pronunciation. One would question whether a real life example actually existed. Volla ! The TEC Chart for this church has a graph of Plate & Pledge data that is (sadly) an almost perfect example of a function that is aymptotically approaching the limit of Zero (dollars).  Statmann

September 28, 9:51 pm | [comment link]
15. Rob Eaton+ wrote:

So, that’s where Ron Barnes+ landed.

Also noted from the parish website and its historical statement this interesting and transparently frank but obviously incomplete description about why the decline o fthe church, and others around them, including those which have closed in the vicinity in their San Diego diocese (except for an hispanic startup):

The parish stabilized in the 1980s and 1990s, and average Sunday attendance remained in the 50s and 60s with only very gradual decline.  In more recent years, however the parish has been unable to secure the services of a long-term priest, and participation in the life of the community has diminished over time.  As a result parishioners themselves have become more self-reliant and resourceful.

The Episcopal Church has not thrived over the decades in Imperial County.  The churches in Holtville and Calexico, for instance, closed many years ago, and All Saints Church in Brawley is considerably smaller than our parish in El Centro.  Some might suggest that the dispersion of population in the Valley has worked against growth.  The relative distance from diocesan centers may also have played a part.  Perhaps parishioners and clergy leaders themselves over the decades have not been sufficiently dynamic in conveying to others the worth of our particular Episcopal gifts and ethos.  On the bright side, the Diocese of San Diego has recently established a Hispanic mission (Santa Rosa) in Desert Shores along the Salton Sea, and it appears to be thriving.

September 29, 4:34 am | [comment link]
16. BMR+ wrote:

I’ve re-read this and want to step back from my comment #7.  On the whole I think it’s actually very good.  I think there were just a couple of triggers that sent me in the wrong direction initially, and I wasn’t careful enough to catch myself.  I do think the account of Holy Scripture in the penultimate paragraph is inadequate—though even in this state it is probably an improvement on what you’d find in many Episcopal and other mainline Protestant congregations these days . . . .

Bruce Robison

September 29, 8:39 am | [comment link]
17. Don R wrote:

Statmann, are you sure it’s asymptotic? wink

September 29, 9:14 am | [comment link]
18. Statmann wrote:

Don R :  No.  Most things that I am “sure” about are trivial. And in this case I am going by shape alone. Sort of: if it looks like a duck, then I call it a duck, etc.  Statmann

September 30, 1:52 pm | [comment link]
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