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Rector's Address - July 14, 2002

 

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 Rector’s Address – July 14, 2002

The Church of the Good Shepherd, Rosemont

The Rev. Dr. David L. Moyer, SSC

 

Christian religion is about the soul – its health and salvation; and is equally concerned about the souls of others.

 

The Church Fathers spoke of the trinity of man – man being made in the image of God. Just as we know God in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, so too man is to be known and understood as a trinity of being. There is the body, the soul, and the spirit. St.Paul teaches this in First Thessalonians 5:23.

 

The Church Fathers further taught(and modern psychology has as well) that the human soul can also be understood as a trinity – mind, will, and emotions. I ask you today to use your minds. Work hard with your minds, rather than letting your emotions reign. We heard earlier the Summary of the Law – “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with thy mind.” Please use your minds this morning.

 

Having said that, please listen to what St. Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome:

 

“I appeal to you, brethren, to take note of those who create dissensions and difficulties, in opposition to the doctrine which you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by fair and flattering words they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded. For while your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, I would have you wise as to what is good and guileless as to what is evil; then the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet”(16:17-19).

 

St. John Chrysostom, 4th century Bishop of Constantinople and Doctor of the Church, wrote of these verses: “Division is the subversion of the Church. Turning things upside down like this is the Devil’s weapon. As long as the body is united he has no way of getting in, but harm comes from division. And where does division come from? From doctrines which are contrary to the teaching of the Apostles.”

 

Today, July 14th, is Bastille Day – a day for France parallel to our own July 4th. It is a day that celebrates the beginning of victory over tyranny as the people exercised their freedom of expression. Today is also the anniversary of the Oxford Movement. It was on this day in 1833 that John Keble, a parish priest, stood in the pulpit of the Oxford University Chapel preaching the Assize sermon on “National Apostasy.” It was the spark that lit the fire of the Oxford Movement. Keble, who appears on the left panel of the triptych in our Lady Chapel, preached with great passion and resolve, calling the Church of England to renounce her apostasy, to repent of it, and to return to her rightful heritage and integrity as a divine society of people “set apart.” The Greek work for Church, “ecclesia,” means just that, “set apart.” He called the Church to be a people governed by God, and grounded in Biblical, Catholic, and Apostolic Faith and Order.

 

Good Shepherd, Rosemont, is a proud beneficiary and steward of the success and influence of the Oxford Movement. We are proud to be known as such a bearer of this legacy.

 

The Episcopal Church suffers from tyranny and apostasy. I, in particular, am a victim of tyranny and apostasy. Specifically, a tyrannical and apostate bishop.

 

I am a priest who made solemn vows to the Lord God who called me to Holy Orders. I was charged 25 years ago to be “a messenger, a watchman, and a steward.” I was asked by the bishop who ordained me:

 

“Will you be ready, with all faithful diligence, to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God’s Word; and to use both public and private monitions and exhortations, as well to the sick as to the whole, within your cures, as need shall require, and occasion shall be given? I answered: “I will, the Lord being my helper.”

(I should say at this point that this vow was removed from the Ordinal of the l979 Prayer Book.)

 

After I received the laying –on-of –hands, the bishop said, “Take thou the authority to preach the Word of God…”

 

Yes, the final vow I took was to obey the bishop over me, and to follow his godly admonitions, and to submit to his godly judgments. The ‘79 Prayer Book has placed this as the second vow, and now speaks of “the pastoral direction” of the bishop, rather than “godly” admonitions and judgments.

 

I cannot and will not obey a bishop who has departed from the Faith and Order of the Church, and whose admonitions, judgments, and directives are un-godly. I will not be an accomplice to the crime of destroying the faith once delivered to the saints. I will not mock God. I will not compromise with evil.

 

You and I were baptized and commissioned to be soldiers in the Church militant, because we are to fight against and defend the Church from all and anything that attacks, invades, and threatens her sacred honor as the bearer of Truth. This is Biblical and Catholic Christianity. It is not fundamentalism. It is Biblical, Catholic, Apostolic, and Anglican.

 

Father John Neville Figgis of the Community of the Resurrection (the order of which our own Brother Steven is a member) preached in 1913:

 

“Our first and clearest duty is to preserve the distinctiveness which makes Christianity what it is and not something else, and also to beware of supposing that a few concessions here and there will really conciliate our foes; for these foes are bent upon our annihilation and will be satisfied with nothing less.” (Charles Bennison says, “Just let me in, and all will be well.” Charles Bennison is our foe, and his letter to you is duplicitous and disingenuous. It is all smoke and mirrors.)

 

Father Figgis continues, “These are those who appear to suppose that at bottom everybody is really agreed if we only we knew it,” (Charles Bennison keeps harping on our common identity in Baptism.) “or that all our differences are matters of detail.” (Charles Bennison speaks of the freedom we have in the theology of the Resurrection.) “That if we only gave up our rather absurd attachment to the ‘tinsel of miracle,’ or our antiquated and non-modern notion of marriage,” (Yes, we’ve all read Charles Bennison’s “Rethinking Marriage Again,” and refuse to acknowledge this as Christian.) “or a fanatical and unhealthy doctrine of sin…, to say nothing of our creeds and formularies – that all would be well.”

 

Dr. J.V. Langmead Casserley wrote in his book, Christian  Community: “The greatest danger that confronts the Church” is when it doesn’t “present the Gospel in its integrity to the world, but confuses it with our own prejudices, ideologies, passions, and fears, forging God’s signature so to speak at the foot of the scroll of merely human ideas.”

 

In the May edition of the Forward in Faith/United Kingdom “New Directions” it is written:

“The case of Fr. Sam Edwards demonstrates that revisionist bishops can and will refuse to appoint orthodox clergy. The case of Fr. David Moyer serves to show that revisionist bishops can and will remove clergy from their posts. The work of the Task Force of the General Convention, in enforcing the canons on women’s ordination, will eventually ensure that there is no place to run.

 

But Forward in Faith North America should not despair. Fr. David Moyer’s wise and measured response to Bishop Bennison has ensured that it is the Bishop, not the Rector, who is now on trial.

 

 Moyer has asked Bennsion to affirm some basic core doctrines: the uniqueness of Christ, his bodily resurrection from the dead, the supremacy of scripture in the determination of doctrine, and the restriction of genital sexual activity to Christian marriage.

 

 If the bishop can affirm those doctrines (and so recant his errors past) Fr. Moyer will have a won a soul for Jesus and the parish of the Good Shepherd Rosemont will have gained a bishop whom it can truly take to its heart. If Bishop Bennison cannot or will not affirm those doctrines then the world will surely conclude that it is he and not David Moyer who has abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church….

 

Why should the orthodox wish to continue in communion with the apostate? Who would wish to conclude ecumenical agreements with a Church which cannot discipline its own bishops, or demand of them allegiance to core doctrine?

 

 The Primates meet soon in Canterbury. They will have before them the pathetically inadequate Covenant entered into by the ECUSA House of Bishops for providing Sustained Episcopal Care for those, like Father Moyer, who can no longer in conscience receive the ministry of their diocesans. It is to be hoped that they treat those belated proposals with the contempt they deserve.

 

But we also hope and pray that the Primates will learn from the events at Rosemont the real nature of the problem. It is not a problem about how to care for an orthodox rump; it is problem about how to mitigate the rapacity of a revisionist majority, and in particular to restrain the actions of unbelieving bishops.

 

 The time has come to assert the simple principle that Bishops must be Christians.” 

 

Good Shepherd, Rosemont, is a Church of God. She is not a Church of David Moyer, Jeffrey Steenson, Andrew Mead, George Rutler, or any past Rector. She is not a Church of the present Vestry or a past Vestry. She is a Church of God. Her foundation is Anglican and Catholic – which means that authority is given to the scriptures and the Church Fathers. That’s what the Oxford Movement was all about restoring. We submit here to what has been believed and taught everywhere, always, and by all. Man-made Canons (and their abuse) are clearly subservient to all of this.

 

Let us never forget that the Pharisees decided to kill Jesus because He broke the “Law.” He healed a man on the Sabbath, and for that it was determined that He was to be eliminated. As Americans, let us not also forget the Boston Tea Party, and Rosa Parks who wouldn’t move to the back of the bus, and Martin Luther King who appealed to a higher law for good to triumph over evil.

 

As a soldier of and for Christ, I find myself in a trench. David Mills, a staff member at Father Dickinson’s Seminary, wrote recently:

 

“Any trench that scripture digs for us is one to die in, even if the trench is now in enemy territory. God has ordered us into the trenches, and it is our job to jump in without complaining about His choice. We must remember that we do not know His strategy. Not to die in your trench is desertion, and in the army you may get shot for it. We have no idea what future victory may be own because we stayed in the trenches and died when prudence said to retreat, or whether God will send in new soldiers and overwhelm the enemy just when we are about to die.”

 

I will remain as the Rector of this church – God willing. I have been placed here as your shepherd, as a shepherd of the Good Shepherd. I am not a hireling who flees when he sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep to be scattered. You and I are in this together. Alleluia!!

 

Let me conclude with a three-fold exhortation, and then some observations.

 

The exhortation begins with St. James:

“Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (1:2).

 

St. Paul writes:

“We rejoice in our suffering, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us”(Romans 5:3-5).

 

And our Lord Jesus Christ, who in His Sermon on the Mount stated:

“Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).

 

My observations are these. The three strong priests who assist me here are now much stronger in their vocation and orthodoxy. The vast majority of you have gone so much deeper in your spiritual lives since March 1st. And, on the heels of that great outpouring of love and generosity on my 25th Anniversary, your trust in me has grown, and your love and concern for my family is the richest of blessings.

 

The eyes of the worldwide Anglican Communion are upon us. The eyes of the Roman Catholic Church are upon us. With obedience to God the Father, servant hood to God the Son, and submission to God the Holy Spirit, let this time and the days to come be to God’s praise and glory.