By the Rev. Justin Clemente
A Pastoral Letter to the People of New Creation Church (Anglican), Hagerstown, MD.
August 7, 2018
To all the Faithful in Christ Jesus:
As most of you already know, Herald Mail reporter Janet Heim recently published an outstanding article on our work as a parish. It was a positive story about our new movement, and I remain grateful that HM highlighted five years of hard work on our part. You guys deserve it. To God be the glory. If you haven’t yet ready the article, go read it here!
Very clearly though, there were a few folks (actually, just local Episcopalians) who didn’t like the content of the story. More specifically, they had trouble with a single sentence which states that we’re the only Anglican congregation in Washington County. Let me be clear: the comments are mine and I stand by them. In this case, I followed the New Testament exhortation to let your “Yes be yes, and no be no.” If that is controversial, then so be it.
The negative comments were quite shrill and a bit over the top, which leads one to wonder, why? Well, though their leadership has long since departed biblical teaching and apostolic faith, Episcopalians are desperately clinging to legitimacy based on history and their status with the Abp. of Canterbury. This helps us to understand what’s going on here, and it will help you to explain the differences, should you have need to.
To sum up things, Episcopalians generally define “Anglican” as expressing fidelity to an office – the Archbishop of Canterbury. We define it as fidelity to the historic understanding of Holy Scripture and the Anglican formularies. One is based on polity, one is rooted in confession. That is why we do not agree.
The Anglican Church in North America, our province, represents a movement for reform and renewal WITHIN the global Anglican Communion. We stand with the vast majority of Anglicans world-wide in Africa, Asia, South America, etc, who remain committed to orthodox, biblical, Christ-exalting, Gospel-centered Anglicanism. We did not leave our Church. This movement is also known as GAFCON, which just held the largest Anglican gathering in fifty years.
Some in the area would like others to believe that we are nothing more than “un-Anglican hooligans,” coming into the area to break and destroy with no care at all. One of the responses to the article indicated that we’re the product of a “spat.” Don’t believe it. This is no spat, this is modern-day reformation on a level with that experienced by the Church of the 16th century! At stake is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and we’ve just had the privilege of feeling a few slight aftershocks in our neck of the woods.
We should also remember that many of our brothers and sisters in the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic have suffered much and lost much, all for the sake of that same Gospel. But, I can tell you that none our brave and godly leaders are looking back and concentrating upon TEC. They are looking forward, just as we are, to the task and mission before us: “Reaching North America with the Transforming Love of Jesus Christ.”
So, in the end, what does the negativity tell us? In part, it tells me we’re on the right track. Let’s stay faithful to the mission and faithful to our calling. Let’s remain confident that Christ Jesus has called us and is equipping us as members of his one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
Send us out with joy, O Lord, to do the work you have given us to do!
Photo credit: Louis Underwood / Used with permission / Changes made