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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Monday, February 07, 2011

The Legacy of Bishop John Howe, by Charlie J. Ray



The Legacy of Bishop John Howe: Retiring from the Central Florida Diocese of the Episcopal Church

by Charlie J. Ray


Depending on who you ask, the retiring bishop of the Central Florida Diocese of the Episcopal Church, John Howe, is either greatly loved or he is seen as a compromiser of the Gospel and a collaborator with anti-christian forces at work in The Episcopal Church. While Mr. Howe had a great opportunity to turn at least one diocese of TEC in a more Evangelical and Reformed direction during his tenure as bishop, he failed to deliver. It has been widely proclaimed by even some Evangelical ministers in the Central Florida Diocese that the bishop is a “Christian man” and “means well”. But given the track record of his leadership and the theological positions he has advocated one has to question that assessment.

The announcement of Mr. Howe's retirement came at the annual convention of the Diocese on January 29, 2011. The bishop will retire in April of next year. The publishing organ of the diocese posted a grandiloquent picture of his “conservative” and “orthodox” stance against gay marriage and abortion in the church:

He was founding member of S.O.M.A. (Sharing of Ministries Abroad), an Anglican ministry seeking to bring renewal to indigenous churches, as well as one of of the founders of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, in Ambridge, Pa.

A strong leader in pro-life and church renewal movements, he has also sought to build bridges between diverse groups in the church

His ministry in the diocese and wider church has been one of building bridges between renewal-oriented Episcopalians and traditionalists, moderates and liberals.

He is author of Our Anglican Heritage (1977), which has become a classic guidebook and inspiration for a generation of Episcopal clergy and lay leaders. He and the Rev. Sam Pascoe updated and expanded the book for publication in 2010.

Under Bishop Howe, the Diocese of Central Florida has been known for embracing a diverse clergy and lay membership, while remaining true to biblical teaching and a commitment to principles agreed to by members of the Anglican Communion at their worldwide, decennial Lambeth Conference in 1998.

That conference, “in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage.” (Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1.10)

Bishop Howe co-authored the 1988 Resolution on Abortion and the Sanctity of Human Life adopted by the 69th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Detroit. He is former President and Chairman of the Board of the National Organization of Episcopalians for Life (NOEL) and he is a former president of the Fellowship of Witness. He also has served as national chaplain to the Order of the Daughters of the King.

All of this at first glance seems to say that Howe was indeed an Evangelical and that he stood for the theological center of Evangelicalism and for a Protestant view of the authority of Scripture and other conservative views including the pro-life position on the abortion issue and upholding marriage between a man and a woman as the only legitimate form of marriage in the church and society. But following Howe's track record that is far from the truth.

Like most revisionists and liberals, John Howe found ways to exploit loopholes and ways of revising apparently solid doctrinal statements in relativistic ways so as to bring the anti-christian forces of liberalism, the middle way moderates, and the more conservative Anglo-Catholics and Charismatics together into one church and one diocese. One can only liken such an approach as dualistic. It is rather like trying to build bridges of reconciliation between God and satan, good and evil, and all the while refusing to condemn either side. In other words, for Howe there really is no such thing as dogmatic theology. For him theology is simply exegeting what humans think from below and from an anthropocentric point of view. Therefore, no one can openly denounce or dogmatically say that any other self-professing Christian is anathema on any basis except an institutional and ecclesiastical one. This is consistent with his Anglo-Catholic theology from below. Since The Episcopal Church itself values the principle of via media, Howe's approach, along with that of TEC at large, has been to take the position of “why can't we all just get along?” For all practical purposes the only time church discipline could meaningfully be exercised would be in keeping truly Evangelical clergy from being ordained, silencing those calling for purifying and reforming The Episcopal Church and those who dare violate any politically correct social justice policies in the broader culture and the world at large.

Numerous instances of this can be observed. For example, when push came to shove, rather than joining the exodus of other “orthodox” Anglo-Catholic bishops like Robert Duncan in Pittsburgh, Howe chose to stay in TEC and to continue with the facade of one unified province. Howe could have chosen to take his diocese into the Anglican Church in North America, which I would argue is still unacceptable to Evangelical and Reformed Anglicans. If Howe had done that it would have given proof that he was indeed a man of integrity and convictions.

Instead his only convictions were to deprive those congregations which decided to leave the apostate denomination of their church properties. A good many of those congregations had raised their funds for the purchase of their properties and the building of new facilities. One example of that is New Covenant Church in Winter Springs, Florida, whose rector is Carl Buffington. Although New Covenant is not Anglo-Catholic per se, it is a Charismatic congregation which emphasizes the ecstatic practice of “spiritual gifts” and a non-cessationist view of miracles, signs and wonders and is now affiliated with The Anglican Mission in the Americas. New Covenant was able to work out a deal where they were allowed to lease their property for continued use until a final legal resolution could be reached. Due to Florida law leaving the TEC denomination meant that New Covenant had to buy back their own property again. In other words, the congregation paid double for what their grounds and building are worth. This makes John Howe look like he was more concerned about losing the financial viability of his liberal base than about the souls of congregants or the continued ministry of those serving the churches exiting the diocese and the denomination. The diocesan article downplays this heavy-handed side of Mr. Howe:

He has held the Diocese of Central Florida together while other dioceses have been torn apart by divisive social issues. He is celebrated by Episcopal leaders throughout the United States and the wider Anglican world for his pastoral but firm management of congregations divided over issues that have split other dioceses and congregations throughout North America, often involving lawsuits over Church property. (Legal battles elsewhere over departing clergy and congregations have cost both sides millions of dollars.) Ibid.

Also, having contact with at least one pastor, David Paul Knox, who serves a small Evangelical congregation in Longwood, Florida, Christ Church Longwood, it is known that the bishop has pressured churches to pay their apportionments to the diocese or face being placed on mission status with diocesan oversight rather than having self-sufficiency and independent status. After a certain period of probation if such congregations do not pay up the salary of the rector, who is already living on a small salary, will be cut and forced to either seek a bi-vocational way to support his family or perhaps even resign. His small and aging congregation would then be replaced with an Anglo-Catholic minister, most likely a retired one, rather than an Evangelical minister. Christ Church has been put on missionary status already.

Rev. David Paul Knox, son of the late D. Broughton Knox of the Sydney Diocese of the Anglican Church in Australia, has told me that the bishop has not been supportive of his ministry as an Evangelical. Mr. Knox's theological position is that of Sydney for the most part. He is a four point Calvinist or an Amyraldian and holds a Reformed view of the sacraments and the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion. I am greatly indebted to Mr. Knox for his kindness in allowing me to preach occasionally and to teach a Sunday school class on the Thirty-nine Articles for several months.

While the diocese is trying to paint the situation as improving, the truth is the diocese has lost a huge part of its financial base over the split. The article above says that fewer than 1,000 members left the diocese. That number reflects active and giving members. The diocese also boasts that there are at least 36,000 members who stayed with TEC in the Central Florida Diocese. But are these real numbers of weekly attendance and membership? One has to sincerely doubt that given the level of pressure administered to mission churches and other small congregations. One source I spoke to said that real level of attendance on weekly basis and those who financially support the congregations and the diocese is maybe 10% or 15% of that 36,000 figure. That would put real attendance at 3,600 or 5,400 at best. Compare that with actual attendance in conservative and Evangelical denominations at large and one can see that liberalism truly does destroy a denomination.


In fact, this past Sunday I visited St. Ann's Episcopal Church in Wauchula, Florida. St. Ann's is a small mission congregation served by a retired Episcopal chaplain, Rev. Jim McConnell. Mr. McConnell informed me that he lives in Fort Myers and that he serves five small congregations, including Wauchula and Fort Meade. He expressed concern to me that St. Ann's and other small mission status congregations would be closed and without episcopal ministry. I did observe that Mr. McConnell's theology is apparently conservative although he is a full-blown Anglo-Catholic, including offering the bread and wine as a sacrifice and the ringing of the bell signifying the real presence of Christ in the elements. This is objectionable to any Evangelical and Bible believing Christian in general and to Reformed Anglicans in particular.

The only reasonable conclusion one can draw as an Evangelical and a Reformed Anglican is that Bishop Howe is and was more concerned with preserving a false unity between “political” parties in what can only be called a secular institution known as The Episcopal Church. Basically, the denomination is a social club akin to the Masonic Lodge with secret rituals which allegedly and magically convey some ambiguous something. The Tractarian or Anglo-Catholic movement of the 19th century was a move to take the Church of England back in the direction of Rome. In other words, Anglo-Catholicism is not via media between Rome and the Protestants but instead it is Roman Catholic-lite.

Furthermore, the theological relativism and revisionism rampant in TEC makes the denomination extremely liberal. Anyone is welcome in TEC, including atheists, open homosexuals or whatever. If one reads between the lines in the linked article it is clear that John Howe ordained open homosexuals, although he and the diocese “claim” that he advocated celibacy for homosexuals in the laity and in the ordained ministry. His spiritual affirmation of “diversity” is code for this sort of wiggle room for the liberals. While Howe said in public he was for the marriage of a man and a woman and that those not married should remain celibate, what he did not say was that he was strictly against civil partnerships or even gay marriage. Had that become the law of the land in the United States there is no doubt that TEC and Bishop Howe and the Central Florida Diocese would have followed the culture and the politically correct view rather than following Scripture as the only divinely inspired and infallible rule for doctrinal faith and a moral praxis.

One Evangelical minister with whom I spoke said that Howe's theology is basically high church Anglo-Catholicism coupled with Charismatic theology. My source said that Howe did not like the Global South because the Global South refused to compromise their commitment to dogmatic theology and the authority of Scripture for the sake of unity and peace on the institutional level.

Howe's legacy is that while his supporters claim that he tried to maintain unity and diversity and bring all parties together, his bottom line decisions always rested in the modernist and liberal revisionist theology and ethos. For this reason TEC is a shrinking and dying denomination. The Central Florida Diocese is in great distress financially and staff positions at the diocesan headquarters have been cut due to lack of funds.

I have to wonder if siding with the world at large and the theonomic left in the liberal mainline churches has sealed the fate of the Central Florida Diocese of the Episcopal Church? No serious Evangelical would knowingly join a denomination where homosexual behavior is endorsed, celebrated and encouraged and where homosexual priests, and even  an openly homosexual bishop, have openly served or are openly serving in that denomination. Couple that with Anglo-Catholicism and the shifting sands become quicksand.

Although the Anglican Church in North America claims to be conservative, one will find modernist views there as well. The ACNA is against abortion, gay marriage, and gay ministers. But the ACNA is a hodge podge of diverse theological views. Some of the continuing Anglican or Anglo-Catholic denominations are against the ordination of women and some are for it. The Anglican Mission in the Americas ordains women in the office of Deacon and the Reformed Episcopal Church is doing so as well, although the REC claims this is not a “ministerial” office. One finds it odd that such deaconesses are allowed to read the Scriptures, teach, preach and help administer the sacraments. (See, Order of Deaconesses). It really is a matter of time before liberalism and revisionism comes full circle and the ACNA again faces the same problem over homosexuality and abortion which caused the split with TEC. The Reformed Episcopal Church, headed by Leonard Riches, was at one time going to merge with the Anglican Province of America, headed by the high church Anglo-Catholic bishop, Wally Grundorf. The two churches have a full concordat of intercommunion and pulpit exchange. However, when the ACNA came into being the APA refused to join because of the women's ordination position. Apparently the opportunity for merging with a larger body was irresistible to the REC and all plans to merge with the APA have been dropped.

Basically, Reformed Anglicans are not welcome in any of the mentioned provinces or continuing churches. It seems that those who are truly five point Calvinists and favorable to the Lambeth Articles of 1595 and the Irish Articles are “outside the camp” so to speak. It seems to me that in light of the above and in light of the fact that the Evangelical side of Anglicanism is a mix of Arminianism and even Amyraldianism the only way forward is for five point Calvinists and Anglo-Reformed persons is to plant churches and start another province in the United States and elsewhere. Provinces are not formed on a geographical basis but a doctrinal basis. The trouble with forging such an alliance is that certain of them, including Robin Jordan of the Anglicans Ablaze blog, is that they wish to keep the sloppy agape approach of having fellowship with Anglo-Catholics and Charismatic Anglo-Catholics. Jordan himself claims some connection with Reformed theology but has no doctrinal statement of any sort posted. The only other Reformed Anglican presence I can find via the internet is the Anglo-Reformed blog, by Hudson Barton.

In my opinion such fellowship is impossible on the basis of a proper soteriology since the Anglo-Catholics and Charismatics generally do not uphold the five solas of the universal and Protestant Reformation, nor do they have a Reformed view of the two sacraments. Basically, they are preaching another gospel and not the Gospel upheld by a consensus of the Reformed confessions, including the Anglican Formularies (39 Articles and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal), the Irish Articles, the Westminster Standards, and the Three Forms of Unity. Anglo-Catholics would also be outside the soteriology of the Lutheran standards for doctrine such as the Book of Concord and the Augsburg Confession.

The only other option for Reformed Anglicans is to seek refuge in Presbyterian or Dutch Reformed congregations, which obviously have no set liturgy and follow an almost Anabaptist theory of the liturgy and sacrament including the use of grape juice. I myself attend Faith Presbyterian Church, Wauchula, Florida, which is part of the Presbyterian Church in America.

It is disappointing that the Sydney Diocese of Australia has proclaimed full communion with the Anglican Church in North America, despite the fact that the ACNA is neither Evangelical nor Reformed nor is it accommodating to Calvinist and Reformed Anglicans. GAFCON or the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans is no better since it is a nebulous and amorphous body with little to no solid doctrinal definitions on the soteriological issues and gives an open door to Anglo-Catholics and other groups which are not Protestant and Reformed but are instead Roman Catholic-lite. As the father of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther said, the church stands or falls with the doctrine of justification by faith alone.


May the peace of God be with you,

Charlie

--
Reasonable Christian Blog Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost; Answer. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be : world without end. Amen. 1662 Book of Common Prayer

8 comments:

aaytch said...

I almost agree with your statement: "...the only way forward is for five point Calvinists and Anglo-Reformed persons is to plant churches and start another province in the United States and elsewhere."

That's what "Anglo-Reformed" is all about; exploring possibilities other than the ones being shoved at us by Anglo-Catholics and "3-Streamers".

There are others who argue that ACNA will eventually become desperate enough to accommodate us in an acceptable manner. That strategy, or rather tactic, seems confused and almost idolatrous to me... but I don't wish to attack the good intentions of those who feel that way.

To me, the more hopeful scenario is to establish Anglo-Reformed missions sponsored by Dutch Reformed and/or Presbyterian churches... just as those organizations might establish missions to any other cultural group.

I disagree with you in this; that those of an Anglo-Reformed persuasion should hope to one day establish a "new province" of the presently constituted "Anglican Communion". This is precisely Satan's ambition. We should rather want to leave the "Anglican" idol behind us, and cling tightly to the "Anglo-Reformed" tradition that Anglicanism has long since forgotten.

Charlie J. Ray said...

You're probably right. Seeking a connection to the Anglican Communion might be a more corrupting influence and a reforming influence.

I think probably any new denomination should be a combination of the presbyterian and episcopal systems with local congregations retaining their rights to divide without losing their properties if they paid for the grounds and buildings with their own funds. This would help keep the central authority in check. States rights versus federal government in the secular realm. That's why Presbyterianism is more representative of democracy than episcopal polity in some ways.

Roland said...

Thank you for this well-written article. I just found your page whilst looking for something else. I am glad I discovered it. Another link you might add to your list is the Latimer Trust website (U.K.).
Also the Trinitarian Bible Society (London). Keep up the good work advancing the Kingdom of God through this online ministry.
http://northwestanglican.blogspot.com is good too.

Anonymous said...

http://www.latimertrust.org is the address for the above post.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Thanks for your kind remarks, Roland. I thought I had Latimer Trust on the site list. I'll add it. I have linked to it in the past, especially in my review of Lee Gatiss' book, The True Profession of the Gospel.

Latimer Trust Dot Org

May the peace of the Lord be with you!

Charlie

Charlie J. Ray said...

I no longer attend Faith Presbyterian Church because the pastor, Brook Larrison, says that Roman Catholics are "Christians" and that they are not in need of conversion to Christ. Go figure.

aaytch said...

Charlie, I think I may have discovered an Anglican parish that if you were living near it, you would choose to attend. The rector is an old friend, and please note that the association with the AOC should be seen as lightly maintained. In any case, you will find it interesting.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Thanks, Hudson. Do you have an address or link?

Peace!

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