Seeing this was heartening: Truro Anglican’s bishop, +John Guernsey, finally pulls the plug on Truro’s rector Tory Baucum’s “reconciliation” with Episcopal bishop Shannon Johnston. This was doubtless a hard pill for Baucum to swallow (as one could feel in his response) but that’s what happens in situations like this.
It’s good to note that the breaking point came over Johnston’s endorsement of another loose cannon of the left: John Dominic Crossan, one of Roman Catholicism’s career deniers. In some ways Crossan lives in a time warp, and perhaps that’s one reason Johnston felt it was uncontroversial to bring him in.
I mentioned in my last piece on the subject that there have been two rounds of major Episcopal decline: Round I in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and Round II from 2003 onwards. Almost all the Round II disputes have centred around sexuality. Although that topic was certainly a big deal during Round I, the core contention (which for Episcopalians was masked by the Prayer Book controversy) was about basic issues of doctrine and belief. The left’s point of attack were the basics of the faith; when the Episcopal church blinked over James Pike’s challenge of same, things went downhill.
Since that time we’ve had a shift from the “modern” approach, where the Bible’s truth content was denigrated and the basic beliefs were challenged, to a “post-modern” approach, where we say that the Bible is all good but means something entirely different from what it says. That shift changed the character of the debate, which is why the current acrimony centres around behaviour and not belief. To a large extent Crossan is a relic of the old pattern, still dangerous but not necessarily the current way of pursuing liberal religion.
But belief drives behaviour. Had the Episcopal Church or any church stuck to its guns on the essentials of the faith and the truth content of its Scriptures we wouldn’t be where we’re at now, i.e., having to fight the war over human sexuality within the borders of the church, with split following. (I hope that Evangelicals will take note of this).
Evidently Johnston, like in the movie The Sting, figured that bringing in an old con that everyone had forgotten about would work. To the credit of Bishop Guernsey and many others, it didn’t. It’s good that the tipping point came over this and not the usual subject, although that too is present. My prayer is that the ACNA, Guernsey, Baucum and Truro Anglican will hold fast and not repeat the mistakes of the past.