Thursday, November 12, 2009

Here's a selection from a Sermon preached at General Convention. No...not a recent one. Rather, one held shortly after the founding of the Protestant Episcopal Church (as opposed to the Church of England), in 1786. by William White, DD (soon to be elected Bishop of Pennsylvania, then later to serve as the Presiding Bishop). In it, he wished to show that the Protestant Episcopal Church was still in union with the catholic church - even as she established some judicatory independence from the Church of England - because she continued in the faith & practices delivered from the apostles.

BY the christian doctrine, I mean that which hath been held by the whole church, notwithstanding all the superstition and enthusiasm which have in different times and places in part obscured its lustre.

YES; however various the opinions of professing christians, there are in the holy scriptures the outlines of a system which nothing could obliterate: Conspicuous truths, which have been always seen and confessed by the great body of professing christians.

THAT there is one infinitely perfect God the Father; and one Lord Jesus Christ, God begotten of God, and thus possessed of all divine attributes, who having been "in the beginning and before all worlds," took in time man's nature upon him, to make in it an oblation for sin; and one Holy Spirit, who, being sent by the Father and the Son assists mankind by his inspirations; that these three divine agents are essentially united, as well in themselves, as in accomplishing the work of redemption; that the end of the gospel dispensation is to rescue man from the darkness and corruption of fallen nature, making him through faith acceptable to God, and enabling him to live in good works; and that the result of all is the bringing of those who shall believe in Christ with a faith evidencing itself in holiness to the everlasting happiness of heaven, which can be claimed only through his merits; are truths which have been never lost sight of by the visible church: They were indited by that blessed Spirit, who was to "lead her into all truth," and the upholding of them is essential to the accomplishment of the promise, "that the same divine Comforter should continue with her for ever."

THERE is therefore a doctrine which hath been at all times acknowledged; and it is "the inward glory of the King's daughter," the intrinsic worth of our holy religion.

AND here we have the true ground of church unity: Of the only unity fought for in the early ages; when the different churches of Christendom, knowing no other common head than Christ, lived in an happy agreement in the same faith under their respective Bishops, and in a delightful communion founded on that agreement.

HOW important then is the preservation of a faith thus maintained by the Catholic Christian world! And how great should be our caution, lest, by loosening ourselves from the common tie of the communion of saints, we cease to be a member of that body of which Christ vouchsafeth to call himself the head: A part of that church, in which he hath promised to be present "even unto the end of the world!"

Notice that he cautioned us to be careful lest - as an institution - we fall away from the core of the Faith and cease to be part of the Church. Dr. White, himself an old-style evangelical, didn't say that the faith is to be found solely in that expression of the Church. But rather that in all places where these truths are taught unblemished and unapologetically, there you have the communion of saints.

Some persons in power of other religious jurisdictions have recently claimed that they represent the historic Anglican witness to Jesus on American soil - and that the real heretics (parters-of-way with the church catholic) are those who insist that God has a plan of saving individuals. This person may believe what she likes, but needs to know that she is out of step the institution she claims to represent, and has long-since parted ways with the church catholic.

As for the rest of us, with the release of the Vatican documents paving the way to Rome, I urge us all to consider the price. We are already part of the catholic church. We simply don't recognize the universal & immediate jurisdictional authority of the bishop of Rome over all other dioceses, synods, and provinces of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. We are seeking greater visible unity with other members of that church (as recent talks with the SCOBA affirm). But it must be unity - not supremacy; it must be welcome - not walking-mat.

I encourage us all to reclaim our catholicity and hold tenaciously to the root faith that makes us all one in Jesus Christ.

No comments:

Post a Comment