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Episcopal vote may spark realignment of scriptural traditionalists, writer says

DALLAS (BP)–Conservative Episcopalian William Murchison finds a bright side to the recent action of Episcopal leaders regarding homosexuality.

“Already, support for the scriptural traditionalists within the Episcopal Church has come from places like Africa, South America and Australia,” said Murchison, a contributing columnist for the Dallas Morning News and former senior editorial columnist.

The Aug. 5 action by the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops confirming the first openly homosexual bishop in denominational history could spark realignment within Christianity, Murchison said in an on-air interview with KCBI radio CEO Ron Harris Aug. 13. Murchison is the author of “There’s More to Life Than Politics and Reclaiming Morality in America” and is a contributor to various other publications, including National Review, The Wall Street Journal and First Things.

“Sites of Anglicanism such as England, Canada and the U.S., have seemed in large measure to have lost their faith,” Murchison said, “but the faith is alive and well in places like Africa. I find very heartening the phenomenon of southern conservative bishops standing shoulder to shoulder on this issue with African bishops.”

Murchison added another potential positive: “This may be one of the best things that happened to race relations in recent history.”

The local parish to which Murchison belongs strongly opposed the recent action. “We’re waiting to see what the Holy Spirit has in store for us,” he said. “We’re going to stick with the Bible with our traditional understanding of moral witness as opposed to these new ideas that others like the [Episcopal Church] are trying to introduce.”

The tendency “to disparage the scriptural witness on morality” has been manifest throughout Christianity, Murchison said, noting the opportunity “to wrestle with it and reassert Christian truth in this context.”

“We’ve needed to talk about this thing in a specific, intentional way for a long time,” he said.

Murchison traced the current cultural crisis over sex, marriage and the family to a new spirit introduced after World War II that shifted toward affirming “just about everything an individual wanted to do in the context of a sexual relationship” as valid and loving.

If personal preferences clashed with traditional values, Murchison said those favoring immorality “reinterpreted Scripture to make it look fine.”

Murchison said he expects a split among Episcopalians since the recent decision ignores the Anglican bishops’ 1998 affirmation of heterosexual monogamy as the Christian norm, which rejected sexual activity by homosexuals incompatible with Scripture. Also opposed was the recognition or blessing of same-sex unions, and the ordination of non-celibate gay men and lesbians.

The recent action of the House of Bishops during the Episcopal Church’s General Convention in Minneapolis, Murchison reiterated, “flies in the face” of the Anglican stance “and they will not get away with it.” When Anglican bishops gather for a mid-October emergency meeting initiated by the archbishop of Canterbury, Murchison expects a strategy to emerge. “World leaders are very strongly opposed to what the General Convention did,” he said.

Earlier on KCBI, Charles A. Hough III, assistant to the bishop of the Fort Worth Diocese, described the 2-million-member Episcopal Church as “a very small and liberal denomination that has been hijacked” in contrast to the 37 other provinces of the nearly 80-million-member Anglican Communion represented in 164 countries.

“The majority of its bishops and lay leaders have embraced a new religion,” Hough said of the Episcopal leadership, when they “unhook themselves from the authority of Scripture.”

Hough said 25 of the 100 dioceses in the Episcopal Church are conservative, including the one he serves. An effort to “stop this erosion” failed, he said, when the smaller group opposed an Iowa bishop who was ordaining homosexuals in the mid-1990s. “We are in the vast majority in the mainstream of the Anglican Communion,” Hough said, though a minority in the United States.

Hough described the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury’s call for an emergency meeting “to deal with the American problem” as historic. He expects a realignment to occur, placing the Episcopal Church outside the Anglican Communion. “There are a lot of hurting clergy and laymen that feel betrayed by this action,” he added. “We’re trying to stand for the faith and we’re not going to quit now.”

Like Murchison, Hough described the decision by the House of Bishops as providing clarity. “It’s brought in the rest of the Anglican Communion to help us. They know there are many faithful, Bible-believing Christians here in the United States and we need their help. We need an intervention.”

The bishop of Fort Worth, Jack Leo Iker, in a pastoral letter read in all local congregations Aug. 10, said the diocese’s delegation voted against consecration of a practicing homosexual as well as the resolution allowing the blessing of same-sex unions. He described the two “schismatic acts” as having “alienated us from the worldwide Anglican Communion” as well as repudiating “the clear teaching of Holy Scripture.”

Consequently, Iker noted that he has forbidden priests of the diocese from blessing same-sex unions under any circumstances. “This General Convention has abandoned the historic teaching of the church on matters of human sexuality, but we have not and we will not,” he noted of the local churches. “We will remain faithful to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and the clear teaching of the Bible as the Word of God.”

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  • Tammi Reed Ledbetter