Concerning Matters Decided at the
2003 General Convention of ECUSA
As a preface we state clearly our desire to encourage and enhance the love of Christ within His Body. The witness of the Holy Spirit within our hearts is to love all as Christ loves us. This includes loving even unrepentant sinners according to Christ. The witness of the Spirit is also to proclaim the truth, and act consistently with the truth, as proclaimed by Scripture, by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, and by the tradition based on Scripture and teaching in Christ's Body for the past nearly 2000 years.
We therefore state clearly at the outset our belief, in accord with historic Christian belief, that homosexual behavior is sin, and that those persisting in homosexual behavior without repentance do not inherit the kingdom of God, and are therefore not legitimate members of the Body of Christ.
We begin by pointing out the historical sequence in ECUSA concerning women's ordination that has occurred over the past century and a half. This sequence conveys a lesson about how ECUSA functions.
As a matter of ECUSA history, the drive to approve women's ordination began in the mid-1850s and lasted until September 16, 1976, when the 1976 General Convention voted to approve women's ordination to be bishops, priests, and deacons. But the first women to be ordained (numbering 11) were "irregularly" ordained to the priesthood in Philadelphia in 1974, before any Convention had voted approval. The event raised a furor and the House of Bishops in emergency meeting declared the ordinations invalid. Nevertheless, the lawless ordination paved the way for the vote in the 1976 Convention to allow women's ordination.
At first ECUSA preserved for dissenting dioceses a "conscience clause" allowing bishops opposed to women's ordination from having to oversee and pastor women clergy in their dioceses. Thus, they could block women's ordination. At the 1997 General Convention 21 years later, the "conscience clause" was repealed and dioceses not ordaining women were ordered to allow it. Nevertheless, the 1998 Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops affirmed the conscience clause. But at the 2000 Convention, resolution A045 was passed that specifically demanded compliance with women's ordination in three dioceses still opposed.
The relevance of this progression about women's ordination to the circumstances involving the votes on homosexual behavior is this - a practice, denied for centuries based on Scripture and early Church tradition, was first committed lawlessly, and subsequently for the first time allowed, and then, later, required throughout ECUSA. Aside from any opinion on the legitimacy of women's ordination, this progression has clear implications for the recent history and present controversy about homosexual behavior.
Concerning ordination of homosexually active persons, the 1979 General Convention resolved that ordination of homosexuals was "not appropriate." Nevertheless, it was occurring behind the scenes in a lawless fashion. In 1977 a lesbian was ordained a priest. The pro-homosexual Episcopal group Integrity says at least 50 practicing homosexual persons had been ordained as priests by 1991.
The first canon-law action against ordination (to the diaconate) of a homosexually active person openly acknowledged as such occurred in 1990. The presiding bishop was charged with heresy. An ECUSA panel, convened as a court, voted to dismiss the charge, claiming that church doctrine did not bar ordination of practicing homosexuals.
This willfully blind judgment occurred despite ECUSA's Constitution proclaiming adherence to Faith and Order in the Book of Common Prayer, which so clearly is submitted to Scripture, and the clear Scriptural standards against homosexual behavior (abundantly clear in Genesis 19, Leviticus 18 & 20, Deut. 23:17-18 1 Kings 14:24, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Ephesians 5, 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1, and Jude).
In the mid 1990s an informal resolution affirming homosexual priests was advanced by some homosexual activists and was signed by one-third of the bishops. A contrary resolution rejecting same was signed by about one-third. One-third signed neither.
But by the 2000 Convention, Resolution D039 (Human Sexuality: Issues Related to Sexuality and Relationships) was passed, referring to homosexual relationships by the euphemistic "living in other life-long committed relationships" and describing them as "characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love," thus calling "holy" what God rejects.
At the present 2003 Convention, Resolution D039 from 2002 was reaffirmed! Now, more than 60% of dioceses have homosexual priests. And now at the 2003 Convention, two-thirds of lay delegations and bishops have approved a homosexual bishop.
This new bishop describes his partner's love for him as "sacramental," a word with a long history in Christianity, meaning for all Christians something sacred as opposed to profane, and for some (Roman Catholics and Anglo-Catholics), meaning something that confers the grace of Christ. Homosexual activists advance new interpretations of Scripture long known to proscribe homosexual relations, in order to persuade the unwary, and persuade potential initiates to ECUSA, of the legitimacy of homosexual relations. In such ways, the homosexual advocates in ECUSA are actively co-opting the use of traditional language for what ultimately are diabolical ends.
The diabolical nature of what has happened is clearly illustrated by the fact that the new homosexual bishop helped found an organization facilitating and promoting homosexual, lesbian, and transgender relationships among youth in the church. The organization which he helped found has sunk to the depths of promoting pornographic activity on its website.
The other matter before the 2003 Convention, the question of developing and approving a rite for same-sex unions, has already shown the early signs of the same kind of progression as manifested for women's ordination and ordination of homosexually active persons. First came the lawless acts committed without authority - it is well known that some parishes have already had special services honoring and "consecrating" same-sex unions, despite the lack of authority to do so. Then, proposals were introduced repeatedly at the general conventions. The 2000 Convention failed to approve development of a same-sex rite. But this year, the ECUSA news website reported that a compromise resolution was introduced on preparing rites for same-sex blessings that would allow for local option.
The final action by the House of Bishops on same-sex rites was to once again endorse homosexual behavior. The HOB passed a substitute resolution that approves local option policy on non-marital unions. Dioceses are authorized to do whatever they want. The resolution's fifth clause states: "...we recognize that local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions...."
This clause is an open door for parishes everywhere to develop and use their own rites endorsing homosexual unions. And again, the conscience clause is being used to soften the opposition to a radical innovation contrary to Scripture. Even before this clause was passed, same-sex blessings had been performed unofficially and unlawfully in about two-thirds of the 110 U.S. dioceses. Bishops in three dioceses have formally approved them, without authorization of any sort.
The pattern is abundantly clear in all cases - women's ordination, ordination of homosexually active persons, and homosexual unions. After lawless breaking of church canons by a zealous minority, a decision was made to approve the very practice formerly denied on the basis of Scripture and tradition. In the case of women's ordination, the last stage has been reached - canon law was eventually totally reversed into a requirement that all submit to it. Is there any doubt what is going to happen concerning homosexual clergy and bishops, or about same-sex unions? At first there will be local option, but later, compulsion.
What compounds the difficulty facing dissenting parishes that resist such changes is that, in many cases, their dioceses have pursued legal means to take control of the dissenting parishes. Dioceses aim at complete control - both the local pastorate and vestry, and as well the church property. Parishes are in general losing the resulting legal battles.
The conclusion is unmistakable. Local option will not preserve the right of refusal of homosexual priests and same-sex unions. Thus, should Church of the X continue to espouse opposition to homosexual clergy, and opposition to tolerance of homosexual behavior, even the temporary enjoyment of a local option (i.e., a "conscience" clause) against the ECUSA-wide practice is destined to fail over the long run.
Furthermore, a divided nationwide church organization that for decades has been progressing toward greater tolerance of homosexual sinning, and now affirms and endorses it by two-thirds vote, is clearly incapable of self-reversal, without wholesale internal explosions and decimation.
The anti-Scriptural practice of tolerating and even encouraging homosexual behavior is so deeply embedded in ECUSA that for many years a member of ECUSA's Executive Council has been a person practicing homosexual behavior and advocating it both within and without ECUSA. He was formally accorded the right to be on a ballot at the 2003 Convention for President of the House of Deputies.
What has been happening generally in ECUSA has also been occurring within the Diocese of X. The previous bishop of the diocese approved homosexual behavior inside the diocese, held meetings in church for pro-homosexual groups, and was a member of Integrity, a homosexual advocacy and support group. The diocese's lay delegation just voted unanimously at the 2003 Convention to approve the homosexual bishop. The present bishop of the diocese clearly revealed by his message in the latest issue of the X, issued shortly before the 2003 Convention, that he is more concerned with church "unity" than with upholding Scriptural truth. Although he voted against approval of the homosexual bishop, he did not speak out clearly and explicitly against homosexual behavior in any way whatever. His exercise of his office has been fatally compromised.
Thus, the diocese, as well as ECUSA generally, where Church of the X is domiciled, does not uphold nearly 2000 years of time-honored and tradition-honored interpretation of Scripture against homosexual behavior. The diocese therefore is fundamentally unable to protect Church of the X, if X continues to choose to resist endorsing homosexual clergy. Worse, the real possibility now exists that, given all recent history, ECUSA and therefore the diocese, will ultimately require X to be open to embracing homosexual clergy and same-sex unions.
Very significantly, the rector and other pastors of X are now in a position of being formally submitted to a diocese and ECUSA that are on record as affirming homosexual clergy. It is not proper for any clergy serving the Lord Jesus Christ to be submitted to a diocesan authority and ultimately to an ECUSA authority, which is arrayed against Scripture. The 2003 Convention action has put the capstone on an intolerable submission of X's leadership to ungodly authority in the diocese and ECUSA.
The crux of the entire matter is Scriptural authority. That it has played out as an attack on the Scriptural view of human sexuality, and of the creation ordinance of marriage, is itself extremely significant as well, because God uses the institution of holy matrimony between a man and a woman as a type of His relation to His Church.
In addition to the matter of X's new situation in submission to an ungodly authority in ECUSA, the actions at the 2003 Convention open a formal split between ECUSA and the great majority of the rest of the Anglican Communion. The Communion is formally on record by its bishops at the 1998 Lambeth Conference as disapproving homosexual behavior as sin, and as against blessing the homosexual lifestyle and so-called "same-sex unions."
Therefore, without a significant realignment of X with respect to its position within the Anglican Communion, specifically that X not be associated any longer with ECUSA, X thus finds itself institutionally estranged from the Anglican Communion generally. If X does nothing, the estrangement will amount to a de facto broken communion.
Even the entire Anglican Communion is at risk over these issues, because of similar scandals in Canada, England, and other countries. Also, at the head, the new Archbishop of Canterbury personally approves of homosexual relationships, and only disapproves formal actions in support of them because of the threat they pose to unity in the Communion.
The pastoral staff of X clearly regard homosexual behavior as sin, and are opposed to approval of homosexual clergy in ECUSA, as demonstrated by active support of Vestry actions over many years to withhold funds from ECUSA as a protest against ECUSA tolerance of homosexual behavior. The pastoral staff have publicly expressed deep concern over the 2003 Convention, and there was clear teaching recently that homosexual behavior is sin.
However, they did not publicly voice explicit and specific rejection of the itemized proposals on the agenda for the 2003 Convention. The failure to dissent publicly on the specific issues facing the 2003 Convention, despite the teaching against homosexual behavior, was no doubt aimed at preserving the spiritual harmony of X's local congregation, and aimed at avoiding stirring up dissension and discord within the diocese. But there comes a time when pastors must boldly lead the flock, rather than only respond, concerning ecclesiastical events outside the local body, especially when events reveal a compromise of unassailable Scriptural authority on matters of significant societal and church import.
If, by pastoral leading on such issues as homosexual behavior in ECUSA and in society, the congregation is stirred into minor or major turmoil, with differences of opinion arising within the body, such as to threaten the harmony within the body, then it is more than time for such to occur, given that society and ECUSA are already being torn apart by the issues in question. The church must be explicit and public in its witness, and uphold the truth. There must be an unambiguous and clear separation between light and darkness.
We come by these considerations to the place where we regard Church of the X in at least impaired communion with its diocese and with ECUSA. We believe that X should regard, and formally pronounce, its situation as one of broken communion. We believe X should seek alternative alignment within the Anglican Communion.
The present situation cannot persist without severely damaging the integrity of X's witness to the world. It also may threaten the internal cohesion of its membership. We do not know if others in the congregation will, like us, find the disjunction between X and the diocese and ECUSA one that can no longer be tolerated. But on our part, we are convinced that the break cannot be repaired without major, substantive realignment throughout ECUSA and the Anglican Communion.
Until X takes deep and profound account of these considerations that we have expressed, and in some way resolves its affiliations in such a way as to purify its witness, the rupture with ECUSA will be a major obstacle affecting the church's ability to institutionally express God's truth and love to the surrounding world.
We don't expect all parishioners to agree with our views, or be inclined, even should they agree, to urge X to pursue its own realignment. We recognize, consequently, that X may decide that its response is to do nothing major, and to permit the congregation to disregard the historic shift that has just occurred by Convention action.
In our opinion, such disregard would be tantamount to discounting and trivializing the shift, and will only accomplish a lulling of the congregation, while ECUSA and society continue abandoning even further the teachings and disciplines of Christ.
We, for ourselves, cannot disregard any longer what has happened in recent years in ECUSA, and particularly what has now happened at the 2003 Convention. For some time, we have been unable to encourage anyone to join ECUSA. In a practical sense, that means we have not been able and cannot encourage anyone to be members at X, despite the fact that the body is full of the love of Christ and has locally remained true to the historic teaching about homosexual behavior.
Given the broken communion we are experiencing between ourselves and ECUSA, and the negligible chance of ECUSA's restoration to purity, we formally resign our membership in ECUSA. We must remain faithful with God's help to the teachings of Scripture as we understand them. We cannot tolerate any longer being "covered" by a diocese and an apostate denomination that openly espouses practices contrary to Scripture.
We acknowledge that this statement, dealing with grave matters, has a very sober tone. Despite that fact, we want to stress that our spirits are light in the Lord, despite our sobriety on the matters discussed.
This means, if we understand the canons correctly, that we are no longer eligible to serve the chalice or serve in any other formal way at X. What the broken communion between us and ECUSA means further for our relationship with the congregation at X we are not certain at present.
The irony is that ECUSA's canons regulate our official involvement in X, even though major ECUSA canons of far greater significance have been abandoned by ECUSA, which is supposed to operate by canon law. As Bishop Duncan of Pittsburgh has pointed out, ECUSA's actions are unconstitutional. The ECUSA Constitution says --
"The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America… is a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, a Fellowship within the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, … upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer."
Bishop Duncan calls attention to three phrases -
1. A constituent member of the Anglican Communion;
2. Within the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church; and
3. Upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order.
A very brief review of each phrase makes clear that the recent ECUSA action breaks each declaration.
In addition, the action at Convention is unlawful according to Article XX of the Articles of Religion, which states, "It is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God's Word written."
Therefore it is clear that ECUSA is a lawless organization. It is officially apostate.
Despite our decision to resign from ECUSA, we are comforted by the fact that Pastor X has issued a letter to the congregation, in which he assures us that X's leadership will respond very deliberately to what he calls "this grave situation." We hope that the response will take due account of us and others who cannot any longer be members of ECUSA.
At the close, we want to make explicitly clear that we have spoken to no one in X, or in the general community around X, concerning the considerations and conclusions we have reached with regard to ECUSA's actions and our status (with just one exception last Sunday after the service, in which only one or two sentences about Convention were spoken), and with the exception of various emails by John to Pastor X over the past year or more concerning these issues. Thus, it is our desire that the measure of our considerations and conclusions be taken by you as the leadership of X, for possible response, and for possible correction, if any is needed.
In being very reticent to share our concerns openly within the local body, we have desired to allow X's leadership the maximum flexibility in preserving the peace and harmony of the local body in the loving embrace of Jesus Christ and His true family.
In the love of Christ,
John and Judi Munday
August 9, 2003