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Anglicans Online last updated 19 November 2017

West Texas Bishops reply to Spong

We who report Anglican news must be careful not to report too much derivative news. Bishop Spong generates a lot of controversy; we try to report significant components of it. We at Anglicans Online believe that this is worth reporting.

Quoted directly from the Bishops' email
Concerning the Faith of the Church

From time to time, (and this is one of those times), certain high-profile clergy, (and John Selby Spong is surely high-profile,) say something that is widely circulated and which to many Christians is most offensive because they perceive it as a direct contradiction of their understanding of the Christian Faith as "this Church hath received the same."

Bishop Spong has done it again. In the secular and religious press he has issued "Twelve Theses", which, as they stand, call for not so much a new reformation as for an abandonment of the Christian Faith and its re- articulation in terms which are foreign to Sacred Scripture and the catholic Faith.

For now oh-so-many years John Spong has within the American Episcopal Church assumed the mantle of l'enfant terible, pressing the envelope of Faith and Morals for the sake of an enhanced relevance in an increasingly post-Christian culture.

Of itself this is a very traditional and honorable Anglican ministry. Rejoice that this is the case. There are communions on either side of us where "envelope pressing" is not an honored occupation and where there is a lot of fear and fear-based legislation that seeks to define the indefinable and legislate the "unlegislatable." Papal Infallibility and literal scriptural innerancy come to the Anglican mind as sufficient examples.

Indeed, Bishop Spong throughout his long career has frequently exercised this ministry well. But being an ardent apologist more than professional theologian he has missed the mark on occasion.

But of late he seems to have fallen out of the boat. So much of his Twelve Theses has an antique quality, a kind of early-twentieth century sophomore late-night bull session feel, more of H.L. Mencken than of Honest to God. It's a pity, really; it really is.

And it calls not so much for thundering excommunications and autos-da-fe as for sorrow and prayer. One of us, one of us whom we chose to exercise the Office of a Bishop in the Church of God now calls for abandoning the Faith of the Church of God. Its sad.

Want to know what the Faith of the Church is?

Read, pray the Creeds. Read, pray the Sacred Scriptures. Read, pray An Outline of the Faith commonly called the Catechism (Prayer Book, pp. 845 ff.) This is the Faith of the Church, not the extravagance of any bishop.

In this and every age we will seek to understand the Faith more precisely, to communicate that faith more clearly and more lovingly. We cannot do less, for we are a missionary people.

But because we are a missionary people we can never make the mistake of being seduced by the ephemeral, seductive judgments of any particular age. The Word of the Lord by Whom all things are being made, sustained in being, and brought to perfection is indeed present in creation, in history, culture, art and science. These are not autonomous realities that exist apart from God. But they are also "wounded" with that wound that would draw us away from that blessedness which is only to be found in the One from Whom all things received the origins.

To lose the Faith of Scripture and Creed is to lose that precious litmus that helps us discriminate between those elements of culture which are part of the broken and those that are part of the healing. Wholeness is not that which comes from a disordered creation. Rather it is the gracious gift of God to provide in Christ a new creation in which bondage to ego, indulgence, and self-will run riot is a joyous reality. And it is the not-so-surprising fact that it is in those areas of the Church where this has not been jettisoned that there is indeed life, vitality and growth.

Abandon the Faith? Re-invent the Faith from the categories of contemporary psychological and sociological enthusiasms? Pontius Pilate was politically correct. The High Priest understood the existential needs of the people.

Your bishops invite you to re-visit Hymn 637. These words, dating from the end of the eighteenth century, have an enduring validity that has known political, industrial, and economic revolution; that understands Darwin and is thankful for God's healing gifts that come from psychological and psycho- analytical insight; that receives with a happy heart the best insights of biblical criticism and every contemporary scholarship. These words, or words much like them, will well endure into a post-Spongian future, and communities of Christians in scenes and climes beyond our wildest ken will rejoice in the Faith always delivered to the saints.

How firm a foundation ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
What more can he say than to you he hath said,
To you that for refuge to Jesus have fled?

"Fear not, I am with thee; O be not dismayed!
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

The soul that to Jesus hath fled for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell shall endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no, never, no never forsake."

(Hymnal 1982)

The Rt. Rev. James E. Folts
Bishop

The Rt. Rev. Robert B. Hibbs
Bishop Suffragan

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