Gary l’Hommedieu has it right, regarding TEC PB Katherine Jefferts-Schori’s declaration that individual salvation is heretical:
This week the Presiding Bishop declared holy war on heresy, and that’s news. Which heresy? “That we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God.” This heresy must be stamped out with an inquisitorial zeal. “[Such an] individualist focus is a form of idolatry, for it puts me and my words in the place that only God can occupy.” “My words” here refer to the “sinner’s prayer” or equivalent, where an individual prays to initiate a saving relationship with Jesus Christ and has the gall to believe the Lord hears that prayer.
The Episcopal Church is now in open ideological war with American evangelicalism and the myriad of denominational structures that espouse it. Most notable among them is the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), an overtly evangelistic and mission oriented Province that celebrated its official inauguration in Dallas-Fort Worth two weeks ago.
The blunt truth is that this war has been going on for a long time, but it no longer a cold war.
Whether they like to admit it or not, a “view from the pew” is that the Episcopal Church, since at least the Second World War, has sold itself as an alternative to revivalistic evangelicalism, with all that goes with that. People who didn’t want a church with too rigid of doctrines, whose sensibilities complemented their upward social mobility, and who liked the aesthetic of the church became Episcopalians. That fuelled the growth of the church during the 1950’s and early 1960’s, that growth only to collapse with the chaos of that decade. TEC rebuilt itself somewhat after that catastrophe, only to repeat the feat after Vickie Gene Robinson’s consecration pushed things too far in 2003.
I don’t think they’re going to get a third chance.
In any case, what Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori has done is to canonise the war doctrinally. By taking a leaf from Roman Catholic communitarianism (another one of those “Affirming Catholic” moments) she has made abjuring individual salvation an official church practice. It’s a big step, but it isn’t without a preceding undertow in the life of the Episcopal Church.
In some ways, I find this opinion amusing. Many non-evangelicals feel that Evangelicalism is too individualistic and not sufficiently solicitous of the need to become a part of the Body of Christ. But, after years hearing Evangelical preachers beat on “forget not the assembling of yourselves,” I know for a fact that evangelical churches have a sense of community that is sorely lacking in others, especially Roman Catholic churches. The core problem of Evangelicalism isn’t excessive individualism but institutional fragmentation, which cannot be papered over by Gothardian authoritarianism.
Jefferts Schiori has also given soulwinners the weapon they’ve been waiting for. Now they can say that, if you want a personal relationship with God, you need to get out of the Episcopal Church, and that the Presiding Bishop agrees.