Episco-Fact #109
October 4, 2018

Last week you stated that William Tyndale was executed for heresy. Are there heresies in the Episcopal Church and what happens if someone holds a heresy?

The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion are less rigorous about guarding Orthodoxy than is the Roman Catholic Church. Hence, the line by Robin Williams (Comedian and Episcopalian) from ten reasons for being Episcopalian: "No matter what you believe, there's bound to be at least one other Episcopalian who agrees with you." This position also leads to the other often related saying about the Episcopal Church's more casual position on Orthodoxy: "In the Episcopal Church, one can believe anything, but don't get caught using the wrong salad fork."

Unlike the Catholic Church, the Episcopal Church does not have an official Magisterium (the church's authority or office to give authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition). We do hold, however, that the Holy Scriptures are the inspired word of God and contain all things necessary for salvation. In order to apply that last statement, we believe that as a gathered community in worship, inspired by the Holy Spirit and each other in prayer, song, preaching and communion, that the meaning of God's word will be revealed to us. That leaves the church plenty of room for investigation and revelation to continue.

Being a church centered on the act of worship to be the place where we come to understand God's will as revealed in Jesus Christ, we have all sorts of ways in the Book of Common Prayer that keep us attached to the historic norms of belief and practice.

In our weekly practice of Holy Eucharist, we repeat the Nicene Creed (a sufficient statement of faith), the Lord's Prayer (the model form of prayer given by Jesus to his disciples), and we rehearse salvation history in the Great Thanksgiving. All of these words are centered in the ancient practices and beliefs of the Great Church, which turns into the Roman Catholic Church, from which the Anglican Church is formed. This one of the important reasons that we endorse the weekly, at a minimum, practice of church attendance, repetition builds the habits of faith and belief, as does the contact with fellow journeyers (i.e. one's church friends).

During the last twenty or so years, as the Episcopal Church has often focused more on being in communion than establishing heresy. We have endured the challenging statements of the Right Rev. John Shelby Spong (some of which would certainly have been considered heresy in other traditions) and the Right Rev. John Robinson, both men bishops in the Communion. There probably are Episcopalians who assert ideas that are problematic to Orthodoxy. But trials and excommunication have been deemed less effective than worship, communion, prayer, and fellowship in finding the narrow path extolled by Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

 

David+