Tuesday, August 22, 2006

GC2006 and the Centrality of Christ

My response to Kendall Harmon's "Sex Without Form & Void" rests on an Episcopalian affirmation of the centrality and sufficiency of Christ. Here is one of the most articulate and brief defenses of that centrality and sufficiency in TEC, taken from GC2006; the text in boldface is from a resoultion, D058, brought before GC2006, and the text italicized is the defense to which I refer:

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church declares its unchanging commitment to Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the only name by which any person may be saved (Article XVIII);

First, this is an inappropriate subject for legislation. It is part of the historic doctrine of the Church, and such cannot be changed except in Ecumenical Council, the last of which was held in the 10th century.* It was acted upon by previous General Conventions in each edition of the Book of Common Prayer (and by the English Church since 1549). In the Prayer Book we have all of the 39 Articles of Faith (save one dealing with the English monarchy); we have the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds; we have the Baptismal covenant; and we have the statement signed by all ordinands that we "do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation.

And be it further Resolved, That we acknowledge the solemn responsibility placed upon us to share Christ with all persons when we hear His words, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6);

This, too, is covered in the Baptismal covenant, as well as in the welcome of the newly baptized: "We receive you into the household of God. Confess the faith of Christ crucified, proclaim his resurrection, and share with us in his eternal priesthood."* These words are affirmed at every Baptism and every renewal of Baptismal promises.

And be it further Resolved, That we affirm that in Christ there is both the substitutionary essence of the Cross and the manifestation of God's unlimited and unending love for all persons;

First, I don't have any idea what "substitutionary essence of the Cross" refers to.* "Substitutionary Atonement" is one interpretation of the doctrine of the Atonement, but not the only one. This "Resolved" should go to the House of Bishops Committee on Theology, not the Cognate Committee on Evangelism.* Regardless of the theological meaning of the words, the structure of the English sentence is very strange, since it suggests that the Cross alone accomplishes the Atonement and must logically be a person of the Trinity. In fact, Jesus is the one who accomplishes the Atonement on the Cross. He, not the cross, is the sacrifice. Jesus is God, not the cross on which he was crucified.* I think this particular "Resolved" is both bad English and bad theology.

And be it further Resolved, That we renew our dedication to be faithful witnesses to all persons of the saving love of God perfectly and uniquely revealed in Jesus and upheld by the full testimony of Scripture.

This final Resolved is covered in nearly every liturgy contained in the Book of Common Prayer.I ended by stating my embarrassment that anyone would introduce a debate on the substance of this resolution on the floor of the House of Deputies. The commitment to Jesus as Lord is not debatable, it is the foundation and first Creed of the Church since New Testament times. The House should discharge the Committee on Evangelism (and itself) from further consideration of this resolution because it has already been dealt with at previous General Conventions. Jesus is, and always has been, LORD.
[The Rev. Dr. Robert G. CertainDeputy, Diocese of San DiegoMember, the Cognate Committee on Evangelism]

Well done, Doctor.


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