Yesterday, the House of Deputies at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church just killed the following resolution:
Resolved, the House of _____ 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); 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); and be it further
Resolved, That we affirm that in Christ there is both the substitutionary essence of the Cross and the manifestation of GodÂs unlimited and unending love for all persons; 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 Holy Scripture.
I am nonplussed. I appreciate that there are arguments against such a resolution that do not implicate belief in the statement, i.e., that a church body cannot vote on the truth (it simply is the truth) and that a church need not constantly reaffirm what it has always taught. Both arguments are weak in the context of the Episcopal Church in 2006. We have consented to the consecration of a gay Bishop to the scandal of the wider Anglican Communion. While we argue that to do so was consistent with creedal Christianity, our brothers and sisters in rest of the Communion (and many right here) aren't so sure. In the face of a clear demand from the rest of the Anglican Communion calling upon us to express regret for doing so, we refused and refused even to pronounce a moratorium on further such consecrations (and same-sex blessings) while dialogue continues.
Maybe justice required all that. But then we elected a Presiding Bishop who has dallied with the heretical Bishop John Shelby Spong. (That the new PB is a woman also disturbs many parts of the Communion, but doing so 1)doesn't raise theological issues that are nearly so difficult and 2)that battle is pretty much over in our church and, in this case, was won by the right side.)
In this context, some reaffirmation of our commitment to creedal Christianity was in order.
Well, the argument continues, we don't have to buy into substitutionary atonement as an explanation of the Cross. But we do ("for our sake he was crucified by Pontius Pilate")and, besides, the resolution also speaks to thecrucifixionn as a manifestation of God's love.
But, some say, it is presumptious, divisive and maybe even "hateful" to insist on the uniqueness of Christ. That is the point at which we really go off the rails. The resolution does not say that non-Christians are not saved (that would actually be outside mainstream Christian thought as pronounced by such "liberals" as Pope Benedict XVI and John Paul II and Karl Barth), but that God's revelation in Jesus Christ is unique. If we can't affirm that, then it is one sad day.