Canon Larry Wilkes Chimes in on “the most serious issue facing” the Episcopal Church

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Q. The Episcopal Church is often at the forefront of hot topic issues; given that we all have opinions on these issues, which do you view as the most serious issue facing the Church and how does/will your opinion impact the diocese in its response to the issue?
People are leaving the pews, evangelization is carrying a poor connotation and theChurch seems to be conforming to society rather than conforming society. These are the
dangerous things happening in congregations and I believe the most serious issues facing the Church. We know right from wrong, but most of us make a choice to live somewhere in between in the decisions we make. Our mission of bringing Christ to the world is diminished when we are viewed by those outside our Church to be a people who frustrate the mission with our own internal arguments; our own misunderstanding of what is right and what is wrong. My hope for the future of our children is that being drawn into the family of God, the ills of the world will be dealt with in a swift manner that will put down the desires of the Evil One and give us strength to walk the way of the Via Dolorosa.

Issues focused around sexuality, social justice, and Church politics seem to be most often referred to when someone is claiming a position to extol. These are certainly issues that easily flare up and lend themselves to heated discussion. Addressing same-sex relationships, how we care for those who live in the margins of society, or bishops and dioceses moving from one association to another, and the Church’s handling of that movement, many times evoke distances in thought that seem impossible to bridge. When we begin to flare over issues that we believe to be unfair, it is the Church which is called to stand up for those who are persecuted. I believe this stems from our desire as the children of God, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

In living out our call to love our neighbor as ourselves and to respect the dignity of every human being as we vow in our baptismal covenant, we truly desire to make all things “right” with humanity. Controversies in our Church arise when we attempt to make all things right by making all things “okay.” Our Church is known for accepting people as they are, and that is a good thing. We do not do Christ’s ministry justice, however, when we leave them where they are....

Read it all. Then take a look all the finalists for Episcopal Bishop of Western Louisiana and their answers to questions as the election approaches on April 21.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC BishopsTEC Parishes* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the LaityMinistry of the Ordained* Theology

Posted April 10, 2012 at 7:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. A Senior Priest wrote:

I can’t accept that this closing line of the so-called TEC “baptismal covenant” is anything more than what it was intended to be…. merely an addendum, a sort of liturgical commentary on the implications of what becoming a Christian is about. To exalt it into the sine qua non of of Holy Baptism itself is absurd. That’s what I was thinking to myself during the Easter Vigil this year. Yes, it is a Gospel imperative, but one which flows from commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Anyone who banally parrots this rubbish should be asked if he or she accepts the first part of the “baptismal covenant” and if so, what do they actually mean by accepting JC as their Lord and Savior. And of course, what do they mean by accept, follow, and obey.

April 10, 10:57 am | [comment link]
2. Archer_of_the_Forest wrote:

My one major, major hang up about the current prayerbook is the heading on pg. 304, which is referred to as the Baptismal Covenant. These are the promises that are made at Baptism. I say that this term is a bit of a linguistic hang up for me personally-and I usually have to grit my teeth when I am doing a baptism and we come to this part-because I believe frankly, the term “Baptismal Covenant” is wrong, or perhaps it is better to say somewhat misleading.

Most people today hear the term covenant and think of something like a Marriage covenant or a covenant that runs with land, a solemn agreement between two people to do or not to do something that is formally laid out in the wording of the covenant. That is not what baptism is about.

Baptism, according the teaching in the back of the Prayerbook, is “Holy Baptism is the sacrament by which God adopts us as his children and makes us members of Christ’s Body,  the Church, and inheritors of the kingdom of God. ” And a Sacrament is defined as, “outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace.”

Grace is a free gift from God…it is not something that is earned or deserved. It is not something that we can get by our own merit. A free gift has no strings attached. That’s why it is grace and not merit.

If you look at the wording of the Baptismal Covenant, we seem to be making God’s grace in baptism contingent on things we are agreeing to do, that somehow if we fail to do these things, then the Covenant of Baptism is broken or void. In other words, Baptism is contingent upon our doing these things and therefore is not a free gift from God, as if Baptism is a quid pro quo agreement. This is why I always cringe when we come to this part of the Baptismal liturgy because I fear the message we are sending is undercutting the message of God’s Free Gift of Grace. Free is free. Why are we attaching strings and making grace conditional?

I always have to remember that the concept of Covenant in the Bible is also synonymous with Testament. We can always say Old Testament/New Testament or Old Covenant/New Covenant. I would argue the Book of Common Prayer should properly label these vows as the Baptismal Testament-that we are testifying to God’s Grace-God’s free gift by believing these things and doing these things, not that our baptism or salvation is contingent solely on what we do or believe.

April 10, 2:31 pm | [comment link]
3. cseitz wrote:

#2. Amen. Please add to this the full irony of Communion Without Baptism: having invented the whole pelagian idea of baptismal covenanting, it ends up getting in the way of inclusivism so-called and so can be dispensed with to prop up self-serving ideas like ‘we welcome everyone.’

April 10, 2:46 pm | [comment link]
4. Pb wrote:

Concur with all. My bible does not teach that we are dignified but rather sinners in need of redemption. Also, we affirm the dignity of each person by reaching out to groups. This was added to the baptism litrugy to further an agenda.

April 10, 2:58 pm | [comment link]
5. Jim the Puritan wrote:

I agree with the comments above.  I personally do not believe that baptisms under the ‘79 prayer book are valid Christian baptisms because there is no understanding of what the rite of baptism is about.  In that sense, it is no different than a Mormon baptism.  Additionally, the myth of the “Baptismal Covenant” is then used to “guilt” people into believing they must do all sorts of things that are either not part of the Gospel, or even in opposition to the Gospel, because they are told that not embracing the cause d’jour, whether it be the MDGs or transgenderism, is somehow counter to the “Baptismal Covenant.”

April 10, 3:51 pm | [comment link]
6. Cennydd13 wrote:

The most serious issue facing TEC is TEC itself.

April 10, 5:16 pm | [comment link]
7. Rob Eaton+ wrote:

I thought he started well.

April 10, 7:55 pm | [comment link]
8. MichaelA wrote:

“In love, Christ Jesus called people away from the things that interfere in their relationship with God the Father, a condition known as sin.”

And that is about as close as Canon Wilkes seems to get to the atoning work of Christ, or why it was necessary.

If a priest can’t articulate the doctrine of the atonement in such a way as shows that it is his foundational to his thinking, then he isn’t fit to be a bishop.

Truly it was said: “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

April 10, 7:59 pm | [comment link]
9. Yebonoma wrote:

See here - for the source of TEC’s problems.

April 10, 10:26 pm | [comment link]
Registered members must log in to comment.

Next entry (above): Stephen Cherry’s New Book mentioned in Rowan Williams’ Easter Sermon

Previous entry (below): Birthrate for U.S. teens is lowest in history

Return to blog homepage

Return to Mobile view (headlines)