|Whose Church is It Anyway?
Copyright 2003 William G. Meisheid (11-19-03) Ý
Some may think of that as a strange question, but I believe it is a salient one considering the events of the last century and their culmination in the ordination this year of a practicing homosexual as a Bishop in the Episcopal Church, once an ongoing part of the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church of the Nicene Creed. I hate to have to qualify the word Christian but in this case I must, so let me say that believing Christians who hold to the historic faith and creeds of the Church and submit themselves to the authority of scripture would rightly say that it is Christ's Church. After all, he very clearly said the Church was his body and as such it is in some deep spiritual way one flesh with him. But that is not what the Episcopal Church thinks. Let me explain.
Over the course of the twentieth century, liberalism advanced on all fronts in Western Civilization, as well as in the churches that call themselves Christian. We finally began to see the fruits of the Enlightenment producing a bumper crop in every area of culture, government, and religion. Man ascended to his place as arbiter of all that is, seen and unseen. He determined what was truth and had value and with his ascendancy, the retreat of classical Christianity from the marketplace was only slowed in the United States. Europe became split between agnostic/atheists and new age pagans, who would believe anything that enhanced their hedonistic enjoyment while allowing them to retain some sense of the spiritual.
While in the U.S., there was a decade-long surge of strength in charismatic and fundamentalist circles, and evangelicals had their day and even ran candidates for the president, it was not a true awakening; rather it was an aborted renewal, signaling the last gasp of the post Christian West. World War II brought women out of the home and into the marketplace and while men fought, women worked and never fully returned home again. The line had not just been crossed, it had been obliterated. With this new found liberty feminism found a prepared field, and soon glass ceilings were being shattered across the board. With women everywhere and men having no place left to retreat, except the Church, that too came under fire.
The retreat of the church from the marketplace left it open for all types of opportunists and soon vices that had been "in the closet" saw the light of day and then slow acceptance, if not official at least cultural. Sex and drugs became the central issues of discussion during the last half of the century, with sex making the most inroads. First women, who had invaded the public sphere began demanding the Church recognize their "right" to ordination and then in short order, consecration to the Episcopos. Not just in some "we started this ourselves" type of denominations, but in those churches tracing their lineage and leadership authority to original apostles, the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Churches. Some Christians, more prophetic than others, saw the first woman bishop in the Episcopal Church and then later women bishops in some Anglican provinces such as New Zealand as the real break with what they understood Christianity to be. For others it was a biblically debatable topic. However, this change set the stage for next phase, homosexual (male and female) ascendancy.
It should be noted that the original division between people and property in the Episcopal Church occurred over women's ordination. Dozens of churches split off from the Episcopal Church over the change and took their property with them. As a result, in the General Convention of 1979, a canon was passed that gave the Episcopal Church title to all church property, holding it in trust for its congregations. When faced with a choice between people, the real Church of Jesus Christ, and property, the Episcopal Church chose property, setting the premise for my question, whose church is it anyway? In doing that, they said the parish, the property and buildings, memorial funds, and all other physical and financial aspects of a church were theirs. As to the people, what Christ defined as his Church, well they could leave and find a place more suited to their narrow-mindedness.
It didn't end with property. They have gone even farther than the mere ownership issues. They also said with their unilateral, culturally-driven interpretations, liberalizing of the liturgy, institution of secularizing canons, "democratic" voting on what were the current "truths", failure to discipline theologically bankrupt clergy and bishops, and many other actions, that the governing aspects of the Church were theirs also. This made the split complete. On one side you have real living people, submitting themselves to Christ and his Word, attempting to live out the Christian commitment to its fullest and on the other side you have rules, interpretations, liturgies, and property that claims the name of Christ, but in truth is new age paganism wearing the tattered clothes of the former Christian Church. Like a baboon dressed up in a tuxedo, they expect to waltz into the marriage supper of the Lamb without an objection.
So, I guess it depends on what you mean
by church. Do you mean Jesus' definition, or Bishop Griswold and his ilk's?
That's a no-brainer if there ever was one.