IN THE FULNESS OF TIME!!
(The following is an abridged version of the sermon Bishop Sellers preached at the Service of Holy Communion which opened the 100th Synod of the Diocese of Mid-America, June 15, 2006 held at St. Andrew’s.)
It is a delight to be here meeting with you in these familiar walls of my home church. A parish I first came to serve in the fall of 1950. You may have noticed the color of my hair is now white, and that I am slower and uncertain in my step. Time has brought many changes to each of us as well as to our church. That is what I wish to speak about this morning.
God tells us about change – important and needed change in the Bible. In fact God controls change in each of us, in our church, in our neighborhood, and in our world. We are indeed blessed, and far better because he does bring change, “at the right time”. Change at the wrong time is disaster, but great at the right time. In my years of service, I have spoken about time, using two important scriptures. Galatians 4:4. “When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law…” and the familiar verses from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose, a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”
But what about our time, the time of the Reformed Episcopal Church. How has God moved through time in the life of our church born in 1873. Our church was born 97 years after our country started taking steps of Independence from the Crown of England. Politically the time had come for men to believe the independence and worth of individuals, an age of freedom was born that touched our forefathers as well as the founders of our Reformed Episcopal Church. As a nation we separated from the English Monarch. As a church we separated from the English Church known as the Church of England. Many played a role similar to a midwife in giving birth to a unique church that would take over 120 years to reach the maturity that God desired for us. These were years of struggle and searching, for the foundation God wanted established. A foundation built upon the actions taken in 1873 by Bishop George David Cummins with the help of Bishop Charles Edward Cheney.
But, as Moses was taken to the top of Mt. Nebo and shown the promised land, but denied entrance, so our founding bishops never lived to see the fullness or the reality of their visions for our denomination. Much patience was needed as time swung a pendulum between those who saw our church as a Presbyterian Church with a Prayer Book, or who saw our Episcopal government more like the Methodist pattern. Even geographic divisions became apparent. Few today remember that in the early years as the need to train clergy became evident, two opportunities 800 miles apart were presented. There was an effort to establish a College of Theology in Chicago. Later the University of Chicago grew from the seed of 160 acres of land near Chicago that Mr. Edward Martin of New York offered our young church. The Council of 1879 nominated a number of leaders to be the faculty. However this was not to become a reality for many reasons, but in 1886 Harriet Benson offered the young church a $200,000 Trust fund to help the Council build a church and establish a Theological Seminary in West Philadelphia. This was to become the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Episcopal Church. A Seminary from which I graduated in 1950.
God allowed many more years for the vision of a Reformed (read restructured) Episcopal Church. As divisions surfaced between the east and the west, (read Mid-America today). So too there were different views of Vestments and their color. Under Bishop Cheney, white vestments with stoles in liturgical colors were worn in the Synod of Chicago, while the Black preachers robe was favored in the East and South.
All this took place while in the background the church reached into the South and received a number of Black Churches that started after the Civil War when many blacks no longer attended the white Episcopal Churches of the Carolinas. At a later date our denomination reached North into Canada and rebuilt a warm relationship with the Canadian church which was started earlier when our Episcopacy was transferred to Canada and then on to England where the Free Church existed apart from the formal Church of England.
It was my honor in 1994 to be the Council speaker in England as the Free Church celebrated its 100th year. It was also a distinct pleasure to see our church and especially Bishop Royal Grote lead an effort to reach out in love to other churches of the Anglican Communion to establish fraternal bonds of love that in the case of the Anglican Province of America is well on its way to fulfilling the desire of Jesus that his disciples may be one.
Gradually, in the late 1990’s our church began to emphasize historic Episcopal practices and the use of white robes, and Episcopal Crosses and rings. Much effort was put into redoing the Book of Common Prayer so it was much more like that of our spiritual forefathers of the English church. A shift was made back to the original 39 Articles of Religion. Also to the use of more historic names and robes and practices. All this took time, but “when the fullness of Time was come” God gave us on the shores of America a real, Restructured Episcopal Church that was in the womb of time well over 100 years. A denomination that has seen its Seminaries grow in number so that each Diocese has its own school. A Church that today stands at the center of Biblically centered Episcopal Government, which remains true to the vision of its founding bishops who saw the true promise of the Reformed Episcopal Church but not the reality of it.
Your Reformed Episcopal Church had to be tested. Patient, it had to wait until the time appointed. When the Church of England lost its way, When the Episcopal Church USA failed to believe its early faith, When Theological cleansing was needed and a restructuring of the Episcopate was required. God saw us, and our branch of His church and said, “The Fullness of Time has come.” This is our history, this has been our destiny.
Stand proud in the Lord and in this branch of his church that proclaims:
- Episcopal Authority
- Two levels of clergy; Presbyter & Deacons
- An Organized Calendar of events representing the Life of Christ, called the Liturgical Season of the Year
- The guide of the Book of Common Prayer
- The historic 39 Articles of Religion
- The Biblical Sacraments
- An absolute belief in The Authority of the Scriptures
- We are a church filled with the colors of the seasons, a church that sings biblical hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs.
- A Church that recites the historic creeds of the church
- We are a church faithful to God, his Gospel, his Sacraments and his mission.
The Reformed Episcopal Church today is a church whose time has come. Amen, Amen.
by Rt. Rev. Franklin H. Sellers
Sunday School will resume on Sunday September 10, 2006 at 9:30 a.m. That day there will be a Rally Day picnic following the services. Plan to be with us. A sign-up sheet for carry-in dishes will be posted. Hot dogs, hamburgers & pop will be provided.
Preschool Open House
August 20, 2006 from 2-4 p.m. Class resumes September 5, 2006.
Missionary of The Month
Sue Brodish, Christian Kindergarten. Schwalmstadt, Germany.
VHS & DVD recordings of Bishop Sellers` sermon and the opening Service of Holy Communion are available. Please contact the church office to order - (708)614-7404.
Aug. 1 – Anne Robertson
Aug. 7 – Rev. Frank Levi
Aug. 7 – Florence Auman
Aug. 18 – Adam Sellers
Aug. 22 – John Robertson
Aug. 24 – Joan Reagan