THE PARISH REGISTER
St. Andrews-Cheney Memorial Church
December 1997

 

A Pastoral Letter
From The Bishops Of The Reformed Episcopal Church
On Religion and Morality

Trinity XVIII October 1, 1997
 

PREAMBLE

To all the baptized of the Reformed Episcopal Church: grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For the past 124 years, this Church has existed as the heir of evangelical episcopal Christianity. As such, we have maintained the worship of our forbearers in both pattern and expression, and have retained their firm adherence to the Holy Scriptures as the Word of God written – our “sole rule of faith and practice.”

To a measure, we can look back over these years as having been blessed by God because of that commitment. However, a critical examination of our past demands that we acknowledge that while we have held fast to the great principles of our founding, we have been steadily losing our Christian minds. Consequently our regard for Christ and His Church, as well as our behavior toward one another, have been seriously affected. The evidence of this can be seen in the practices in which many of our people engage. How many times have we seen and heard brethren in this Church smile to the faces of those whom they inwardly disregard, only to go and talk about their fellow Christians behind their backs? Slanderous and evil remarks are made, and other brethren never come forward to confront those who engage in such activity. If some do speak out and confront such wickedness, other brethren accuse those who confront the sin of destroying the peace of the Church, and of acting in a high-handed manner. Proverbs 17:15 tells us: “He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just – both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.”

Others in the Church regard the leadership which God has placed over them with suspicion. Rather than listening to godly counsel and weighing it by Holy Scripture, counsel is dismissed out-of-hand as being unfit for their ears. Proverbs 18:13 tells us: “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.” Others feel no need to conduct their affairs by God’s standard of holiness. We tell ourselves, “That was for those early people of God; but we now know better”. Our Lord confronted this kind of pharisaical thinking in His Sermon on the Mount. He reminds his hearers that godly living is a matter of the heart. To speak of a brother as a fool places the accuser in danger of hell fire. To even think of a brother as a fool occasions the same result. The legalist in us all tells us that as long as we don’t use that specific word, we are not guilty of such a sin. But Jesus does not allow us to escape so easily. According to our Lord, murder begins in the heart. (Matthew 5:22)

Still others fail to heed the admonition of the Apostle Paul in writing to the Romans: “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God. The authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil.” Civil and ecclesiastical governments alike are treated by some with disdain. Such people appear to establish themselves as the ultimate determiners of all right and wrong.

The English Christian educator Harry Blamires spoke to this issue over 34 years ago:
“There is no longer a Christian mind. There is still of course a Christian ethic, a Christian practice, and a Christian spirituality. As a moral being, the modern Christian subscribes to a code other than that of the non-Christian. As a member of the church, he undertakes obligations and observations ignored by the non-Christian. As a spiritual being, in prayer and dedication, he strives to cultivate a dimension of life unexplored by the non-Christian. But as a thinking being, the modern Christian has succumbed to secularization. He accepts religion - its morality, its worship, its spiritual culture; but he rejects the religious view of life, the view which sets all earthly issues within the context of the eternal, the view which relates all human problems - social, political, cultural - to the doctrinal foundation of the Christian Faith, the view which sees all things here below in terms of God’s supremacy and earth’s transitoriness, in terms of Heaven and Hell.” (from The Christian Mind, Seabury Press, 1964)

TEACHING

Because of this condition, we, the Bishops of the Reformed Episcopal Church, are deeply impressed by the need for all the baptized in Christ to be reminded of their solemn duty to their Lord as the One who purchased their redemption. Accordingly, we hereby provide the following instruction.

A CHRISTIAN MIND IS FOCUSED ON HEAVENLY THINGS

“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your affections on things above, and not on things which are on the earth; for you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1,2)

To have a Christian mind, means that we view all things in their relation, whether direct or indirect, to a person’s eternal destiny as a redeemed and chosen child of God. To put it more pointedly, the first priority of a Christian mind is to be more concerned about honoring God than about honoring anything or anyone He has created. A Christian mind sees human life and human history held in the hands of God. It sees the whole universe sustained by his power and his love. It sees natural order as dependent upon supernatural order. It sees this life as an experience which is preparing us for another life to come. It understands that this world is a temporary place, not our true and final home. Thus every question and every issue that we face must, of necessity, spring out of our relationship with God, and must relate to the fact that we are beings bound for Heaven. However, the problem is that we are creatures bound by time. We love our surroundings far too much. We tend to make most of our value judgments based on the temporal rather than the eternal. And in so doing we fail to exercise a Christian mind. The writer of the Proverbs reminds us of what the mind of God is in regard to Christian behavior. “These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood; an heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.” (Proverbs 6:17-19)

THE CHRISTIAN MIND IS AWARE OF EVIL

Futhermore, a Christian mind is aware of evil. It acknowledges that the devil is a living personality whose goal is to overthrow the Kingdom of God. And because we as Christians have been made part of that holy nation of God which is His church, the devil and all his hosts are seeking to devour us.

The fact that the world and all of its powers are under the constant onslaught of the Evil One is a well established truth of our Christian faith. But today, Christians have grown accustomed to ignoring the implications of this fact. We have become anesthetized to the recognition of evil even when it confronts us openly. We can easily minimize it, or evade it, by assigning our own convenient moral categories. Certain “minor” sins are permissible, while other “greater” sins are not. Each person establishes his or her own set of priorities. The list of each individual is different from that of his or her neighbor. All too often God’s list is completely ignored. We have become tolerant of evil in our society, in the lives of those around us, in the church, in our homes and families, and in ourselves. But we are reminded in Leviticus 5:1 that if we keep silent in the face of sin, we are guilty of committing the sin ourselves.

THE CHRISTIAN MIND HAS A PROPER CONCEPTION OF TRUTH

“Sanctify them by the Truth; Thy Word is Truth.” (John 17:17) Truth is Christ Himself. He is the living embodiment of God’s revelation of Himself to all humanity. As Truth incarnate, Christ has displayed the character of God both by percept and example. He has both taught us and shown us how we are obligated to live before the God who created us. Our Lord definitively articulated the kind of behavior His people are to exhibit in His Sermon on the Mount. God’s people are to live according to a standard of ethics which is defined by God himself. To excuse ourselves from doing so is to deny the very Truth which became incarnate in order to free us from our bondage to sin.

THE CHRISTIAN MIND ACCEPTS AUTHORITY

Christian thinking accepts authority. Principally, the first authority is that which belongs to God. Throughout the pages of Holy Scripture, God not only revealed that He has authority over all of His Creation, but he instructs His covenant people to be submissive to those whom he has placed in authority over them. The early Church Fathers all testify to the fact that Christ gave the keys of the Kingdom to his Apostles and to their successors. Thus the authority of Christ Himself is placed firmly in the leadership of His Church on earth. Furthermore, he has ordained that there be successive levels of authority over the people of God. Bishops, pastors, and deacons are to rule over the household of faith. Fathers are to rule over their families. Family members are to obey those above them. We all know this is the pattern set forth by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians, chapters 4 and 5. Furthermore, this establishes the order which applies to every endeavor of life. But, like the children of Israel of old, “every man does what is right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25) Our present worldly culture motivates us to challenge everything, and invites us to rail against every kind of authority. Children no longer respect parents. Wives do not reverence their husbands. Husbands do not love their wives as Christ loved the Church. For the most part, pastors and bishops are only respected and heeded in their exercise of spiritual oversight when the counsel offered happens to coincide with the position the hearer has already determined to take. We have become a society which does what seems right to us at the time. But Christian thinking accepts authority as divinely appointed by God, and obediently submits to it.

THE CHRISTIAN MIND DEMONSTRATES CONCERN FOR THE PERSON

Christian thinking is incarnational. It sees the world, the history of mankind, and his present condition in the light of the fact that God became man (John 1:1), taking our human nature upon Himself, and thus raising that human nature for all eternity. The Christian mind sees fellow human beings as those made in the image of God, but furthermore as those who possess the potential to be remade in the image of their Savior through the Redemption of Christ. Thus, the Christian mind views every action in terms of its potential to build up those who are created in the image of God. How different this is from the “what’s in it for me” attitude of the present age! Our moral and spiritual sensibilities have bee dulled by our materialistic, secularistic preoccupations. We measure value and worth in relation to possessions, accomplishments, and status. Yet, the Gospel makes it clear that our true value comes from our redemption by Christ alone. To think otherwise is to think with a non-Christian mind. No Christian can tear down another Christian and have a Christian mind. No Christian can act in a manner that says “Raca” to a brother or sister in the Lord and claim to have a Christian mind. St. Paul reminds us in Galatians 5:19-24: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of the which I tell you, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”

A CHRISTIAN MIND SEES LIFE SACRAMENTALLY

“I beseech you therefore, brethren by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service [spiritual service of worship].” (Romans 12:1,2)
The Christian mind thinks sacramentally. The Christian faith presents a sacramental view of life. It shows the Christian that all of the richness of life has come from a divine source. It also sees that this present life must be lived in conscious awareness of that divine presence. We are taught precisely this through our participation in the Lord’s Supper. Our lives are fed by His divine life so that we, in turn, might be changed - thus to go forth and transform the rest of His creation. Every act we commit, therefore, must be offered to Almighty God as an expression of praise and thanksgiving. Our art, music, labor, pleasure, and even our leisure is to be offered to God on His altar of sacrifice. But the hedonistic society in which we live has influenced every Christian to the contrary throughout his or her entire lifetime. This is where the lack of a Christian mind is most keenly felt. For it is in relation to this sacramental view of life that we either rise or fall as Christian people.

(The second half of this letter will appear in the next Parish register)


 

Founders' Day

December 2, 1873. The founding of the Reformed Episcopal Church.


Christmas Eve Candlelight Service

11:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Christmas Eve. Light refreshments will be served after the service in the Parish Hall.


Bake Sale

Sunday, December 14, 1997. Donation of baked goods welcome.


Nativity Preschool Play

Sunday, December 21st, at 1:00 p.m. Everyone invited.


Missionary of The Month

The Mortons
David, Rebecca, Philip, and Sam
UGANDA

Merry
Christmas!

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