Thursday, January 6, 2011

Catechesis as Exit Counseling for the ACNA

Fr. Dale Matson
Even though our Diocese is out of TEC, we still have a lingering scent of TEC on us. There is still the idea that the former TEC pedigree was valid and in taking ourselves out of the Episcopal Church we have a fresh start. This is probably what the Israelites thought when they escaped from Egypt also. This pedigree was valid at one time but then there was no reason to leave was there. It ceased to be valid during the last generation. Those of us who came out need exit counseling in the form of Catechesis. We can no longer get away with identifying ourselves as “Not TEC”. I was in TEC for eleven years but came from fifteen years in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. (If you are Lutheran and don’t know which synod you belong to, you probably are not LCMS). The LCMS faced a similar crisis in the early 1970s over the place of Scripture in the life of the church.

The LCMS has maintained its conservative historical faith by strong leadership and parishioners who have been taught and understand what it is to be a Lutheran Christian. They understand well the Priesthood of all believers. Each parish has a board of education and it is a part of the Lutheran DNA to school their own children when possible at least to the eighth grade. What is different for them is that the conservatives remained and the liberals left.

Like any departure from a dysfunctional family those who leave must rediscover their identity. They must determine what part belongs to them and what part needs to be left behind. Part of the difficulty for us is that we still use the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. It is a TEC Prayer book and an uncomfortable reminder of where we came from. If Lex Orendi, Lex Credendi is a reality then our worship shapes our belief. The Anglican Church North America will need a prayer book to fashion a modern Anglican ethos connected to historical Anglicanism but distinct from the contemporary version of TEC. The Liturgy will be important and so will the Catechism. I believe that when a new catechism is developed it would be useful for all existing members to re-experience what it means to be a catechumen. Grace is free but discipleship is not cheap.

It is also important for parishioners to be familiarized with the constitution and canons of the new province of the ACNA because a change in ethos is being introduced. There is an increased emphasis on Evangelism because we believe Jesus Christ is the only way. There is a great emphasis on growth and church planting because we believe we have something to offer that the world desperately needs. There is call for an increase in the involvement and responsibility of the lay order. This is not the church you came from. We are not just removed from TEC, we are no longer Episcopalians. You can say that it is them who left Scripture and Tradition behind but we must say that we have left the name behind. Each of us has to ask ourselves, “What does that mean”?

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