Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Why I Stayed, Part I
Arrogant as this sounds, when I first seriously discerned my call to ordination in 1983 at the age of 27, I saw it as a call to be a missionary TO the Episcopal Church because my experience of it was that many of its clergy were in my opinion clueless and not walking in a "personal" relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. It was about that time that Fr. Sam Fleming, then rector of Holy Communion, Charleston, where I was a member for a time, handed me Goodspeed's Apostolic Fathers. I was humbled by it because it showed me that Christianity started a bit before 1956 (the year of my birth), and that there has been no original thought, good or bad, for a couple of thousand years. I began to see that the church held within it a rich heritage of what we now call "ancient paths" liturgically, hermeneutically, pastorally, ecclesiologically and theologically. Thank God for Fr. Sam who helped to open my eyes to deeper truths. At the same time, the Diocese of South Carolina was transforming into a classically anglican evangelical place of refuge and a training ground for young evangelical clergy. In a few short years, we at Trinity School for Ministry tagged the Diocese as "Allison's Wonderland", referring to Bishop C. Fitzsimons Allison who helped to found the school as a center of evangelicalism for ECUSA, which was "going liberal and in need of correction". What he meant by that was that doctrines such as substitutionary atonement were in danger of being relegated to the historical recycle bin and replaced with modernist theology. Fitz once noted in my hearing that every theological giant's great revelation (Martin Luther's "sola fide", for example) would eventually ossify, at best, or become virulent, at worst, through well-meaning disciples who would try to protect, systematize and legalize the doctrine. See Zwinglianism. Fitz called it "spiritual entropy", the natural running down of an original energy. I wonder if that same sort of spiritual entropy may have begun to occur in South Carolina, where the defense of God and "orthodoxy" are tempted to overrun love, reason and respect for other views. Evangelicalism is but one of at least 5 main streams in historic Christianity, the others being Social Justice (old school liberal), Charismatic (pentecostal), Incarnational (Liturgical) and Contemplative: credit Richard Foster Streams of Living Water. Into the evangelical and eventually reformed world I was immersed. And out I came freshly-dipped as an eager young battle lieutenant into the field in Bennettsville, South Carolina in 1988. More to come.