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Response of the REC to ECUSA's 2003 General Convention
The Reformed Episcopal Church disagrees with and is saddened over the Episcopal Church’s confirmation of a divorced, practicing homosexual to the Episcopacy and its failure to condemn the blessing of same sex unions. At the 46th General Council of the REC (1990), the following statement on sexuality was written based on the authority of the Holy Scriptures and historic Christian beliefs and ethics:
A Resolution regarding Christian Sexual Ethics
RESOLVED, that we, the 46th General Council of the Reformed Episcopal Church, reaffirm the biblical standard given for the well-being of society:
That sexual intercourse should take place only between a man and a woman who are married to each other.
That fornication, adultery, and homosexual acts are sinful in all circumstances.
That Christian leaders are called to be exemplary in all spheres of morality, including sexual morality, as a condition of being appointed or remaining in office.
That the Church is called upon to show Christ-like compassion to those who have fallen into sexual sin, encouraging them to repent and receive forgiveness, and offering the ministry of healing to all who suffer physically or emotionally as a result of such sin.
(Adopted by the 46th General Council of the Reformed Episcopal Church, meeting at St. Mark's Reformed Episcopal Church, Jenkintown, PA, Wednesday, May 23, 1990.)
The Articles of Religion, doctrinally subscribed to by the Reformed Episcopal Church and most of the worldwide Anglican Communion, speak at two particular points on the Scriptural parameters of the Church and its councils. Article 20, Of the Authority of the Church, states, “It is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it explain one place of Scripture that it be repugnant to another.” Also, Article 21, Of the Authority of General Councils, adds, “forasmuch as they be an assembly of men, whereof all be not governed with the Spirit and the Word of God, they may err, and sometimes have erred, even in things pertaining unto God. . . . unless it may be declared that they be taken out of holy Scripture.” Extending the principle stated in Article 21, the error embraced at the Episcopal Church’s recent convention, pertaining to matters of sexuality and the authority of Holy Scripture, should not be understood to be the expression of the will of the Holy Spirit and therefore moves that branch of Christ’s Church away from the historic Christian Faith.
Consequently, ECUSA's decisions will surely impair and impede substantive ecumenical dialogue with the Reformed Episcopal Church. These discussions have been recently chaired by the evangelical Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina, the Rt. Rev. Ed Salmon, along with the competent administration of Dr. Tom Ferguson of the Ecumenical Office of the Episcopal Church. The following resolution was the result of over sixty years of meetings and discussions between the Episcopal and the Reformed Episcopal Church:
Resolution 006 Ecumenism: Dialogue with the Reformed Episcopal Church
Resolved, That the General Convention receive with thanksgiving the start of ecumenical dialogue with the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC) and the Anglican Province of America (APA), occasioned by Resolution D047 of the 73rd General Convention. Be it further, Resolved, That the 1940 Report of the Committee on Approaches to Unity of the Episcopal Church and the Report submitted to the Bishops of the Anglican Communion by this Church concerning the validity of Holy Orders of the Reformed Episcopal Church be referred to the Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations for study during the 2003-2006 triennium and that the Commission report back to the 2006 General Convention on the validity of Holy Orders of the Reformed Episcopal Church.
The 1998 Lambeth Conference (Resolution IV.11) and the 73rd General Convention of the Episcopal Church (Resolution D039) have both requested that Anglicans initiate ecumenical dialogue with "a view to the reconciliation of all who own the Anglican tradition (Lambeth IV.11.b)." The recognition and reconciliation of ordained ministries is part of the Episcopal Church's commitment to seeking visible expression of unity and a means to foster common mission and witness in the world. The status of the Holy Orders of the Reformed Episcopal Church will be an important component in any ecumenical discussion with that church. This issue was first addressed in the 1940 Report of the Commission on Approaches to Unity. This commission produced a favorable assessment of the Holy Orders of the Reformed Episcopal Church. The Report was circulated to Bishops of the Anglican Communion in December of 1941. The Second World War precluded discussion of the report. Since no official action was ever taken by the General Convention, this resolution asks the Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations to study and update, if necessary, the previous report.
In early October of this year, the Reformed Episcopal Church will have Bishops and General Committee meetings. A significant part of the agenda will concern the negative impact of the Episcopal Church’s recent decisions regarding human sexuality on its relationship with the REC, as well as the REC’s potential relationship with the larger Anglican Communion as expressed at the 1998 Lambeth meeting seeking, “A view to the recognition and reconciliation of all who own the Anglican tradition” (Lambeth IV.11.b). In the interim, the REC remains in prayer for our brothers and sisters in Christ in ECUSA that they will come to a better mind. We also most especially support and pray for the Bishops, Presbyters, Deacons and Laity in ECUSA who stand for the historic Christian faith under the authority of Christ who revealed His will and commands by the Holy Spirit in Holy Scripture.
We will continue to honor our developing relationship with the AAC, and our fellow participants of the U.S. Anglican Congress, from which the Atlanta Covenant was derived, by supporting the “Orthodox Anglicans” in any way that we can.
The Most Rev. Leonard W. Riches
Presiding Bishop & Bishop Ordinary, Diocese of Northeast & Mid Atlantic
The Rt. Rev. Royal U. Grote
Ordinary, Diocese of Mid America
The Rt. Rev. James C. West
Ordinary, Diocese of Southeast
The Rt. Rev. Ray R. Sutton, Ph.D.
Chairman of the Interchurch Relations Committee