Wednesday, February 20, 2008

On Following the Bishop

"See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Christ Jesus does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles. Do ye also reverence the deacons, as those that carry out through their office the appointment of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is administered either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude of the people also be; even as where Christ is, there does all the heavenly host stand by, waiting upon Him as the Chief Captain of the Lord’s might, and the Governor of every intelligent nature. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize, or to offer, or to present sacrifice, or to celebrate a love-feast. But that which seems good to him, is also well-pleasing to God, that everything ye do may be secure and valid." St. Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, chp. VIII

Almighty God, may the multitude of the people of the San Joaquin gather around our Bishop, John-David, waiting upon him as our Chief Captain, being prepared to wage a Holy Battle for the sake of your Heavenly Kingdom, that your Name may be glorified by the Holy Spirit working through us, in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.


Anonymous said...

Probably a good reason why the Epistle to the Smyrnaeans was not included in the Canon of Scripture. My faith depends on Jesus Christ, the Solid Rock, not a man in purple.

howardrodengiles said...

Anonymous, the epistles of Ignatius were not included in the canon because he was a second or third generation apostle, not an eyewitness as were the twelve and Paul, 'as one untimely born.'

The importance of bishops does not rely solely on Ignatius, but on the fathers who wrote after him and on the Holy Tradition, or practice of the church.

I cannot agree with you more, that our faith depends on God alone, but our obedience belongs to those who serve him and have been placed over us for our protection.

Thanks for your comment, and I look forward to more!

Fr Van McCalister said...

I am confident that St Ignatius would agree with you that our faith depends on Christ. Even so, Ignatius recognizes that we follow Christ as a community, not only as individuals. Therefore, just as Moses, Aaron and Joshua had the weighty responsibility to both follow God and lead others along with them, bishops, priests and deacons have a similar responsibility today. Consider this exhortation from Hebrews 3.17: "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you."

Anonymous said...

Thankyou, Frs. Giles and McCalister for your responses to my comment.
Since Bishop Schofield and I disagree on so many things, what you gentlemen are teaching puts me in a hard place. The way I see it, I have two options:
1. Admit that I am basically a Lutheran when it comes to church polity and consider switching to that denomination.
2. Take the teaching from the Book of Common Prayer to heart that states that the graces coming through the ordained ministry to the laity are not hindered by personal sins and issues of people holding those ministries.
Obviously you gentlemen hold our bishop in high esteem. You probably feel you have good reasons for doing so. I have just as many reasons why I cannot, though I once did.
Incidently, I don't particularly like ECUSA, nor the Southern Cone thing you guys belong to. They are both man-made institutions which have degenerated into a politcal war for all the world to see.
I wish the both of you well, and am happy that your faith can remain intact in spite of our leadership. Trust in that same leadership caused me to lose mine some time ago.

Anonymous said...

The bishop must show himself worthy to be followed. This has not happened. This bishop has twisted the truth about many issues and uses scripture to suit his own prejudices. Does he have any idea how many hearts of faithful Episcopalians have been broken due to his actions?

Anonymous said...

Hebrews 3:17 "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority." ? I am really confused. I looked up this passage to see the context, and do not see the passage you cite.

I would like you to consider a passage from John 21: 15-17. Jesus asks Peter 3 times if he loves him and Peter replies 3 times that he does. Each time our Lord says, "If you love me,... feed my lambs,....look after my sheep .... feed my sheep." Do you ever think about that with what has happened in our Diocese of San Joaquin, and actions taken here that have harmed the sheep? You might say you are looking afer the sheep by taking the stand you are taking, and requiring, no ..demanding thoughtless obedience. But, there are so many faithful Christians who have been wrenched out of their churches due to unfair and inconsiderate closures. You have given no thought to the scattered sheep, no pastoral care for those locked out of their church homes. You just moved on as though they were so much collateral damage. Your stand has created divisiveness among the faithful, setting parishioner against parishioner in a battle that is unnecessary. Apparently you have a new doctrine, from a citation in the book of Hebrews that I cannot find, that is about being submissive to authority. The commandments of Jesus that are the most important to me are to love our God with all heart and soul, and to love my neighbor as self. That's quite enough to deal with for a lifetime.

Anonymous said...

Hello Anonymous! I am the OTHER "Anonymous" poster who started the comments on this thread.
It sounds like you and I are definitely on the same page. I started out over 20 years ago as a dyed-in-the-wool Anglican, all hung up on Apostolic succession.
I now believe what J.Vernon McGee said about church government, that it didn't matter what form it took :Congregational, Presbyterian or Episcopal. If you didn't have Godly leaders to follow there, none of it would work.
Without coming out and saying something judgmental about our current diocesan bishop, let me just say that I have recently returned to my former parish, one that just voted to join the Southern Cone. I am only there because the pastor is preaching Jesus, and the people are showing the love of Christ. I couldn't care less about the politics, and am there really, in spite of Schofield, not because of him. At this stage in life, I REALLY don't care what the purple shirts are up to any more.
Thank You for your thoughtul observations.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous,
Always remember that there are faith communities all over the diocese who would welcome you with open arms. You do not have to put up with exclusiveness. I love your use of "couldn't care less." Most people say "could care less and that is a mistake."
Peace to you...

Anonymous said...

Thank You, Anonymous for your kind words and welcome!
I am wondering if the two reverends who commented earlier are just busy, or are they reticent to touch this subject they started with the proverbial ten-foot-pole? I wouldn't want to work for their boss for all the tea in China.
Peace to you too!

Anonymous said...

This is certainly an interesting viewpoint from a Diocese that has just rejected the authority of the church under which is was formed, and who has a bishop who is under inhibition, but who ignores that inhibition on a daily basis. It may be that "our obedience belongs to those who serve him and have been placed over us for our protection," but that includes in this instance Presiding Bishop Jefferts-Schori. Fr. McAlister said, "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account." Does that only apply if they are "men"? Does that apply to the good people whose Bishop is Robinson? It seems that you take a very selective reading of this "exhortation". Oh well, this nightmare in the Diocese of San Joaquin will soon be over when Schofield is formally deposed in early March.

HowardRGiles+ said...

Both Anonymous commenters clearly have personal issues and history with our Bishop. Your unwillingness to leave a name has also left you unable to be specific about your complaints.
You have made no direct reference to the topic presented here and have shown no respect for St. Ignatius and the Holy Tradition that he represents.
Of course the exhortation to submit to authority does not apply to Katherine Schori, because she does not submit to the authority of Jesus Christ or Holy Scripture. She continually rejects Christ as the only way to the Father and the Holy Scriptures as inspired by God.
The authority of Bishops as promoted by St. Ignatius comes directly from the authority of Christ Himself. To reject Christ is to reject all authority that flows from Him.
To follow my argument, you will have to be generous to the failings of men, such as the Bishop, Fr. Van and myself. For instance, in his quotation from Hebrews, Fr. Van mistyped chapter 3 instead of chapter 13. With some generosity and time you would have found the passage, but I will alert Fr. Van to the mistake and have it corrected. Now that you know the passage, will you follow it? Will you treat the Bishop with respect, not for his sake but for the sake of Jesus Christ, whom he proclaims? Give Katherine Schori the respect due to the United Nations and the Millenium Development Goals and to John-David the respect of God, Risen from the Dead, whom he proclaims, even in closing churches.

Anonymous said...

Father Giles, you have just proven EVERY point the other poster and I spoke of, especially on being selective about who we obey.
I choose to remain anonymous on this blog, because I know how retaliatory your bishop can be against perceived enemies.
I did not see any personal attacks against you or Father Van at all in this thread. I also believe that pointing out the history your bishop has is not an attack against him either. If he had any humility, he would consider some basic changes in the way HE relates to others, especially the leaders of ECUSA.
I am closing this with a hypothetical question, and then an explanation why I am posing it: Is naming the name of Jesus Christ and saying the Bible is the Word of God the ONLY prerequsite a leader must have for us to follow him?
I have seen too many who did just that, then cheated on their wife, were dishonest in their dealings, and mistreated laity under their charge. Do you think Christ is well please with someone like that? I don't think so!

HowardRGiles+ said...

You are arguing from silence. This post and my responses have narrowly focussed on the role of the Bishop and his source of authority. It is not about style of life or morality. Although those are important topics, you have used their absence to form a fallacious critique from silence.
There are many important aspects of the episcopate that this post has not mentioned for which you could chide. Please stay on topic.

Anonymous said...

Father Giles wrote:
"The authority of Bishops as promoted by St. Ignatius comes directly from the authority of Christ Himself. To reject Christ is to reject all authority that flows from Him. "

With all due respect, sir, the argument you are making is fallacious because it is nothing more than an appeal to authority.

If you wish to limit the topic on this thread to suggestions that we should all follow the bishop in spite of his manner of life, that is your option. This is your blog.

I have not seen you nor Father Van quote the Pauline admonition to "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.(I Cor. 11:1) " in any of your comments.

What if the Bishop decides tomorrow that we must all handle snakes and drink poison during mass. So what? I thought part of being Anglican meant that we don't have to check our brains at the door.

Alluding to your quote posted above, may I say that I am very concerned for you and anyone else who holds your opinion. To say that to follow Christ means "kadaver gehorsam" must be shown to flesh and blood is gross and untrue. It sounds like the stuff cults are made of.

Fr Van McCalister said...

Dear Anonymous 1 & 2

I was not ignoring the discussion, but was not aware that it was going on. I regret that I mis-typed the passage from Hebrews and I appreciate Fr Howard for correcting it.

My purpose for quoting Hebrews 13:17 was not to establish a case for blind obedience to church leadership. I would never propose such a thing. I don't think the author of Hebrews is proposing that either. If we step back to Hebrews 13.7-9a, we read:

"[7]Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. [8] Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. [9] Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings . . ."

The leaders that we were directed "to obey" in verse 17, are the same leaders who are speaking "the word of God" in verse 7. This is emphasized in verse 17 where the writer states, "They keep watch over you as men who must give an account." If you focus on their gender, you miss the point. The point is, God raises up leaders in the Church who have an overwhelming responsibility to lead and teach in a manner that is faithful to Christ and to Holy Scripture AND God is going to hold us accountable for how well we do that. But leaders do not lead in isolation, they need the prayers and help of those for whom they are responsible. And so the writer goes on to plead in verse 18, "Pray for us."

I am not without fault. Bishop Schofield is not without fault but I follow his leadership because I know that he has been appointed and anointed by God and because he
has been unwaveringly faithful in his proclamation of the Good News according to Christ.

Apparently Bp Schofield has disappointed you in some way and I do not presume to have an answer for that - other than he is a human being like the rest of us. But because I work so closely with him, I have frequently observed that people do not have the full story. The bishop often times must act on confidential information that he is not at liberty to share and so observers fill in the blanks in a way that makes sense to them but often times is not accurate. The same is true for priests of local churches. The situation is not always as it appears.

I conclude with a petition similar to the one from Hebrews [13.18], here from the BCP [p 448], "Go in peace, and pray for me, a sinner."

HowardRGiles+ said...

An argument from authority would be if I followed the Bishop because of his office. I follow the Bishop because he proclaims Christ and the faith of the Apostles.

Again, manner of life is very important, but it is not the topic of this post. This is not the forum for accusations against the Bishop or anyone else.

Finally, 'checking one's brains at the door' is not a hallmark of Anglicanism, it is an ad campaign by Grace Cathedral and the Diocese of California. The assumption here is that stupid people go to other churches, which is an insult to our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. Also, it flatters the proud for attending TEC. This is bald advertising at its worst and has no relationship to historic Anglicanism.