June 05, 2004

Plano-West

On June 3rd and 4th I attended the Plano-West conference in Long Beach, California; I seem to have been almost the only blogger present, as I've not seen any in-person reports anywhere on the 'net. For the benefit, then, of my fellow orthodox Episcopalians here's a report of what went on. If you're one of my regular readers feel free to skip this, as I won't be providing a whole lot of context.

First, before you read this you should probably read this article which appeared in the Los Angeles Times, and this post about the Plano-West Statement which appeared on Kendall Harmon's blog. You might also wish to look at the Plano-West web page.

BISHOP BRUNO

A comment about the L.A. Times article I linked to above--it might give the impression that Bishop Bruno came to Long Beach to give an address, and was barred from entering the convention hall. This is not the case; the matter had been settled weeks earlier. The crux was the Bishop's unwillingness to sign the required Statement of Faith, which runs as follows:

I confess Jesus as the Lord to whom all authority in heaven and earth has been given by the Father. I believe all Scripture is God's Holy Word. I believe in and accept Jesus as Savior and Lord and that He is the only way into the heavenly kingdom. I uphold the sanctity of life. I believe God set aside marriage to be between one man and one woman, and that all Christians are called to chastity -- husbands and wives by exclusive sexual fidelity to one another and single persons by abstinence from sexual activity. I believe God intends and enables all people to live within these boundaries, with the help -- and in the fellowship -- of the church.

It was clear at the outset that Bishop Bruno would be unable to sign this statement, as he is a supporter of same-sex unions. I was distressed to discover that the sticking point, for him, came earlier--that he rejects Jesus' words, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me." I will say this for Bishop Bruno--he is honest and plain-spoken, and I honor him for that.

A BIT OF HISTORY

Next, a bit of history, to put what follows in perspective. Last August, Gene Robinson was elected to be the Bishop of New Hampshire. Robinson is openly gay, and lives with his partner. This was a wake-up call for many people, not so much because of the event itself, but because of what was revealed in the aftermath. The division in the Episcopal Church isn't merely a disagreement about sexual morality or Biblical interpretation; rather, it's a division that goes directly to the foundations of the faith. When we orthodox attempted to discuss it with our revisionist brothers and sisters, we discovered that we had no ground in common--not even enough to have a rational argument.

In October, a meeting was called at a church in Plano, Texas to discuss the situation. Intended originally to be a meeting of about fifty people, it swelled until there were well over a thousand, and the meeting had to be moved to Dallas. This was another eye-opener; the general reaction can be paraphrased as, "Good grief, there are more of us than I thought!"

In January, a similar conference, Plano-East, was held in Virginia. The major product of Plano-East was the Anglican Communion Network, a network of orthodox dioceses and parishes in the Episcopal Church. Having discovered each other at Plano, the orthodox began getting organized.

PLANO-WEST: A SUMMARY

Fittingly, then, the focus of Plano-West was the Great Commission: Jesus' parting command to his disciples to go forth and make disciples of all nations. Here is Plano-West in a nutshell: It's true that we must stand firm against those who would distort or modify the Gospel of Christ; that's what the Plano-West Statement is about. And at present we must wait on the Lord, as the Eames Commission does its work. But our focus as we wait must always be, not our doctrinal opponents, but the crucified and risen and living Christ. And Christ has already given us our marching orders in the form of the Great Commission. That's our call now as at any other time. The ecclesiastical matters will be sorted out over time; in the meantime, we must get on with the Lord's work.

The joyful and glorious thing about this is that it no longer matters what the revisionists do--we know what we must do. The revisionists have legislated themselves into irrelevance. They will no doubt cause us pain and inconvenience--but that's what happens when you pick up the Cross of Christ. As Biblically orthodox Christians, we've no right to complain about that; we were warned.

OPENING ADDRESS: Rev. Dr. Ron Jackson

The first session began with music; then, Jim Dale, the Plano-West Program Consultant, said a few words and introduced Ron Jackson, the rector of St. Luke's of the Mountains in La Crescenta (my home church). Here's a summary, based on my notes:

He began by saying that the Christian life is filled with paradoxes which we must embrace. He listed several; the main one was that to overcome fear, we must walk in faith. Of course, walking in faith means stepping out into the unknown, which of course engenders fear.

The dominant image of the conference was the ship. Ships are made to sail deep waters and stormy seas, and so are we. What kind of ship is Jesus trying to build in ECUSA? One directed by the Holy Spirit. (During seven years of oppression during which church services were illegal, the size of the Anglican Church in Mozambique doubled.)

We must learn how to sail in rough water; and, more, we must put our faith in Christ and step out of the boat, as Peter did, and join Him in walking on water. As we do so, we must expect problems; they shouldn't surprise us. We must keep our eyes on Jesus at all times. We must remember that there's no security in the boat. We must accept fear; it's the price of growth. We must see failure as an opportunity to grow. The alternative is boredom and spiritual stagnation.

At one point, he compared ECUSA with the Queen Mary, which is anchored in plain sight from the conference center entrance. It's a beautiful ship, but you can't sail anywhere on it anymore; in fact, it's not even really afloat. Although it sits in the water, it's effectively resting in dry dock.

Finally, he gave us a few numbers. In attendance at Plano-West were men and women from 76 Californian churches as well as those from churches in Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Texas, Hawaii, and Alaska. In addition, we had with us two bishops, Bishop Beckwith of the Diocese of Springfield, and Bishop Wasonga, who is from Kenya.

THE LIFESTYLE OF THOSE WHO CHANGED THE WORLD: Rev. Canon Dr. Michael Green.

Green was the principle speaker at the conference; he gave a series of talks based on the Acts of the Apostles, and a time when the Church growth was shockingly rapid. In this talk, he described the hallmarks of the lifestyle of the Christians of Acts.

He began with the image of ECUSA as the Queen Mary--as an ocean liner, it had a small crew (the professional clergy) and many, many passengers. A much better model for us is a submarine--where there no passengers at all, because every one on board, lay and clergy alike, is a member of the crew.

The lifestyle of the first Christians had these characteristics:

-- Dedication to the Gospel at any cost, including martyrdom.

-- Enthusiasm.

-- Joy. St. Stephen sang praise even as he was being stoned.

-- Faith -- the conviction that if the Gospel is preached, people will come to the lord.

-- Endurance in the face of persecution. The early Christians didn't church-shop; once settled in a place, they remained until they were forcibly ejected.

-- Holiness. Even those chosen to serve at the common table were required to be of good repute, and full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. (Only this kind of holiness forestalls murmuring.) (The best answer to the question of legalism vs. license is the question, "What would Jesus want me to do in this situation?"

-- Spiritual Power. Real spiritual power. The apostles healed people and raised them from the dead as Jesus had.

-- Courage.

-- Generosity.

-- And constant Prayer.

KINGDOM MOMENT: Fr. Russell Martin, President of AAC's San Diego chapter.

Martin spoke of the blessings and the challenges in the San Diego diocese, and encouraged us to remember that ECUSA is God's church, not Frank Griswold's. It's in Christ's hands, and though decaying and leaky, it is being rebuilt.

GREETINGS: Peter Beckwith, Bp. of Springfield and AAC vice president.

Interestingly, Beckwith was a Navy chaplain, and currently holds the rank of Read Admiral in the US Navy Reserve. He had a number of things to say:

-- God is using the AAC and the Anglican Communion Network.

-- God takes the cross, the sign of death, and makes it a sign of life.

-- God can use General Convention 2003 (and General Synod 2004) for his own purposes.

-- We must not think that God is on our side. Rather, we must be assured that we are on His side.

-- We are sails; it's God that fills us. We are not the wind; if we try to be the wind, all we get is hot air (and he alluded to the House of Bishops).

-- The church is always in crisis.

-- We are instruments of salvation. We mustn't wait.

-- We should give thanks for the current difficulties. He quoted a man who said, many years ago, "There's nothing wrong with this church that a little persecution won't help."

-- The worst place a ship can be during a hurricane is in the harbor--when storms approach Norfolk, all the ships go out to see and put their bow into the wind.

-- When all else fails, we should read the Manual, i.e., the Bible. And when we do so, we shouldn't listen to the naysayers.

ANGLICAN ESSENTIALS: Rev. Canon Dr. Kendall Harmon.

This is the same talk Harmon gave at the earlier Plano conferences, so I understand, so I won't go into great detail. It was outstanding, though; Harmon is a gifted speaker and teacher. I very much wish I had had the opportunity to meet him, but alas it didn't happen. (If you're reading this, Dr. Harmon, please accept my thanks.)

He began by saying that ECUSA is under judgement; we dropped the ball, seriously. Judgement results in pain, confusion (as Mark Shea says, sin makes you stupid), and ultimately in clarification and cleansing as we shed penultimate things.

So what are the essentials of Anglicanism?

-- Traditionally, we are catholic (small "C") Christians; we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before.

-- Traditionally, we are charismatic--we must recover a sense of God as Great and Awesome.

-- Traditionally, we are canonical -- we recognize the authority of the Bible. He suggested we think of the Bible as a personal letter from God, stained with His own blood.

And our focus as Anglican Christians must be on:

-- Christ.

-- The cross -- Christ as a full, perfect sacrifice for the whole world.

-- Conversion -- bringing people to Christ. As someone famously said, the church is the only organization that exists to serve those who don't belong to it.

KINGDOM MOMENT: Bishop Joseph Wasonga, of Kenya.

I'm afraid I didn't take any notes of what Bishop Wasonga said.

THE MESSAGE OF THOSE WHO CHANGED THE WORLD: Michael Green

The aim of the apostles was full and complete conversion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, nothing less. This was unprecedented in the ancient world; new gods were no big deal back then, but asking someone to renounce their old gods was almost unheard of. The Jewish synagogue did attract a few proselytes, or "God-fearers", but elsewhere it simply didn't happen.

The disciples had a deep assurance of the truth of the Gospel, and knew that it was needed by those around them.

Green describes the conversion of Saul of Tarsus (St. Paul):

-- Saul's conversion touched his conscience: "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"

-- It illumined his mind, so that he knew that Jesus is Lord (this was the earliest creed).

-- His will was touched--he surrendered his life to Christ.

-- And his subsequent life showed all of these things.

The apostle's approach was to listen to people, find out who they were and what their needs were, and then to preach the gospel accordingly. They were astonishingly flexible in their presentation of the unchanging Gospel. However, the focus was always on Jesus, as Lord and Christ, and as God and Man. They spoke as needed of the Jesus who can still a troubled conscience and bring peace, who can fill an empty life, who can heal the paralytic, who can free the captives.

They spoke of Christ as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.

They were seriously, passionately consumed by the Gospel.

They refused to allow any syncretism or relativism to creep into the Gospel.

They joyfully challenged all they met, and their witness centered on Jesus.

WORKSHOP ON THE ANGLICAN CRISIS: Kendall Harmon

Harmon asked, and then answered, the question, "Why is the election of Gene Robinson a serious crisis?" He had six answers, six reasons, which he compared to an iceberg. Only the most obvious, least important answer is visible at the top. He started at the top, and worked down.

First, the consecration of Robinson is about sacraments. It has always been understood that a bishop when consecrated is consecrated for the whole church. That consecration is an example of the sacrament of Holy Orders. And a sacrament always has two parts: a form, and an intent. (Think of a wedding rehearsal. They go through the form in detail, but the couple isn't married because there was no intent.) Part of the intent of a bishop's consecration, traditionally and theologically, is that the new bishop is consecrated as a bishop for the whole of Christ's church. Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, who participated in the consecration, has said multiple times that he was surprised at all the fuss the consecration raised, as he thought it was a purely local affair. Was the necessary sacramental intent present?

Second, it's about theological anthropology. There's no such thing as a "person"; there are only men and women. We've lost that in our public discourse. This has led us into confusion. He pointed out here that Biblically, same-sex behavior is in fact part of God's judgement on a particular sin, that of worshipping the creature rather than the Creator. Our American insistence on acting out our sexuality and on good sex at all costs is idolatrous in the extreme.

Third, it's about marriage. Marriage, in classic Anglican/catholic theology, has four purposes: Communion, the sharing of burdens and joys; Union, the couple become one flesh (and this is most clearly seen in the long-married); Procreation, per the command to be fruitful and multiply; and Prevention of sin--not just sexual sin, but sin in general. Learning to live with your spouse requires it. Your spouse rescues you from yourself.

Same-sex unions are, by contrast, neither unitive nor procreative in the way marriage is.

Harmon noted at this point that the supporters of same-sex unions take one of three positions. Some say that our theological understanding of marriage has to be overhauled; but they don't provide such a new theology. Some say that same-sex unions are a new thing, a new state of Christian life; classical theology has an understanding only of two such states, married and single. Again, no new theology is presented to support this. And then there are those who say, "God is moving us in this direction; let's see what God's grace will do."

Fourth, it's about authority in the Church. Anglicans believe in giving authority to councils. Richard Hooker said that the authority of a council depends on its adherence to scripture, it adherence to the teachings of past councils, and a wide acceptance of the council's decisions after the fact. In fact, the actions of General Convention 2003 are inconsistent with scripture, and with past decisions of General Convention, and have been widely rejected.

Fifth, it's about scripture, about Biblical authority and interpretation. ECUSA has been trying to conform the Bible to its will and desires; but that's precisely backwards.

Sixth, and most important, it's about the Gospel itself. From the time of Christ, the church has preached a Gospel of Salvation and Transformation, in which Christ meets us where we are and brings us to holiness. ECUSA has replaced this with a Gospel of Affirmation, in which Christ meets us where we are and tells us how wonderful we are.

Harmon ended by saying that the Anglican Communion Network is a United Anglican Missionary Protest Movement. It's "United", in that the orthodox Anglican diaspora in North America is gathering together. It's "Missionary" in that it's about evangelism. It's "Protest", in that we must not only teach the truth, we must refute error. And it's a "Movement", in that as we wait on the Lord we must be busy at His work.

KINGDOM MOMENT

The evening began with praise music by the Justin Fox Band, which was too loud and did nothing for me--which is OK. It's not all about me, you know.

A young man from St. James, Newport Beach, spoke of how although he had been raised at St. James he had never been told he could know Christ. He had fallen into a period of five years of drugs and self-hatred, and had only recently escaped from it, thanks to someone from St. James who reached out to him in Christ's name.

FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION: Fr. Chuck Reischman

Then, Fr. Reischman spoke. Fr. Reischman is a young priest who is dedicated to planting churches and to youth ministry; he is currently involved in planting a church in Littleton, Colorado, a few blocks from Columbine High School.

I didn't take detailed notes on Reischman's talk; his point was that just as we must go evangelize the nations, so we must also evangelize our youth. And today's youth are hungry for the meat of the Gospel of Transformation, not the airy nothingness of the Gospel of Affirmation. They want the straight dope. He repeatedly called on those of us who are over thirty to remember the words we say at every baptism--that we will do all in our power to see that the newly baptized grow in the knowledge and love of Christ.

Apropos of nothing, he mentioned a bumper sticker a friend of his got after he became a Christian. It says, "I was dead once. I didn't like it."

The evening ended with a time of prayer. A great many young people had come for the evening, and Fr. Reischman had them break up into prayer teams of two. Then he directed those of us who were sick, those of us who were clergy, and those of us who influence the next generation to go up and get prayed for, the sick for healing, and the rest of us that we'd influence them properly, with God's help. (I went gladly--I've got four kids.)

MISSION FIELDS ARE RIPE FOR HARVEST: Rev. Alison Barfoot

[UPDATE: Rev. Barfoot's complete talk is available on-line here.]

The second day began with Morning Prayer and a sermon, on which I took no notes. The first talk was by Rev. Alison Barfoot, who is moving to Uganda to work for Archbishop Henry Orombi.

She began by asking us what our personal vision is for fulfilling the Great Commission. She noted that fulfilling it is our mission, not fighting the Gay Agenda or revisionist theology.

-- We can't be fully orthodox without a commitment to the Great Commission.

-- God's goal is to find out how many people will fit in front of his throne, and the more the merrier. She described this image as the picture on the lid of the jigsaw puzzle box; it makes putting the puzzle together much easier.

-- We are God's only plan for fulfilling the Great Commission.

She stated six essentials of an orthodox church:

1. All authority has been given to Jesus; the church must submit to it and act upon it.

2. The church must be a sending church. There are around 8,000 people groups who have never heard the gospel (1/5 of the world's population).

3. The church must disciple its members and raise up leaders.

4. It must baptize; theology (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is at the heart of missions.

5. It must be an obedient church, and lead its members to obedience in Christ. We must be obedient to God in the power of the Holy Spirit, not on our own power. Disobedience most often shows itself in the areas of money, sex, power, and speech. She notes that the message of obedience is only Good News if the gospel is a gospel of transformation. Small wonder that the gospel of affirmation has small use for it (and small evidence of it).

6. It must be an expectant church. It must expect that Jesus is alive and active.

Barfoot told her a wonderful story; apparently, this happened just recently. It seems that in the Middle East somewhere (she said where, but I've forgotten) there's a group of people called the Kashkai, who are muslims. During a Koran-study one week, a group of them came upon a passage which mentioned Jesus frequently and praised him highly. (Jesus is mentioned quite a lot in the Koran, evidently.) They decided that if Jesus was such a good man, they wanted to know more about him, but didn't know what to do. A few nights later, one of them had a dream that if he went to a particular bridge in the vicinity, he would be given information about Jesus.

Well, some missionaries had gone to a nearby city to do some evangelism; they had brought with them a quantity of literature in the local language--and nobody was interested. Disheartened, they drove away...and their jeep stopped running as they were crossing a bridge. They couldn't get it to start again. And as they were puzzling, a man came running up and said, "Where is the information about Jesus?" They handed over the literature, he ran off, and when they tried to start the jeep it started right up.

That's expectation!

KINGDOM MOMENT: Rev. Alice Markham

Markham was the associate rector at a church in Chicago. After GC2003, she preached a sermon about "Telling the Truth". The congregation loved it, with a few significant exceptions (including the junior and senior wardens). Emboldened, she kept preaching in like manner. And when the budget crunch hit, even though her contract had a year left to run, the wardens told her she was being let go. The parishioners pledged to raise the money to allow her to stay--and were told by the vestry that it was no go. Markham wasn't sacked for budgetary reasons, she was sacked, over the objections of the majority of the congregation, because she was telling the truth.

She called upon us to be careful who we elect to parish office.

THE APPROACH OF THOSE WHO CHANGED THE WORLD: Michael Green.

Practically speaking, how did the Apostles do it?

1. They worked outward from a hot center. Evangelism requires a hot, dynamic, passionate church.

2. In the early church, every Christian was a minister and evangelist. Most of the growth was due to the informal efforts of common Christians.

3. They worked with the fringe of the synagogue--the "God fearers".

4. Joyful worship.

5. Since large-scale public preaching was difficult in the Roman world, they met in houses. Folks will come to your house when they'd never enter a church. It is important to use neutral ground!

6. Missionary Journies.

7. Personal Evangelism (and this is the most effective kind.)

NETWORK CONVOCATION REPORT: Rev. Bill Thompson, Dean of the Western Convocation

(And a really great guy; I love Fr. Bill.)

First, Rev. Larry Bausch, Rector of Holy Trinity, Ocean Beach, presented the history of the Anglican Communion, and details about the ACN.

Then, Bill Thompson spoke about the inaugural meeting of the Western Convocation, which took place in the days just before Plano-West, and about his plans.

-- His only ministry as Dean is Christ and him crucified.

-- There will be team leaders, one clergy and one lay, in each diocese in the convocation.

-- There will be an annual convocation meeting--with as little legislation as possible.

-- There will be an emphasis on church planting--both planting new churches, and replanting remnant churches.

-- There will be an emphasis on training young, Biblically orthodox clergy.

NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL ISSUES -- Canon David Anderson, AAC President.

This was an important talk, but it was all about politics, and I didn't take notes.

PANEL, QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

A panel of clergy answered questions submitted during the conference. Again, I didn't take notes, but just listened. My favorite question and answer: someone asked Michael Green, "How can I engage in evangelism in my parish if my priest won't support me." He replied (I quote from memory) "Forget the priest; get on with it!" That was the complete answer; he did not elaborate, and I honor him for it.

FESTIVAL EUCHARIST

The second day ended with a festival eucharist at which Michael Green gave the sermon; I probably should have taken notes but instead I just settled in and enjoyed it. It was a glorious, wonderful time, and I especially liked the recessional--it was probably the first time in ages that "Onward Christian Soldiers" has been sung, unapologetically and with intent, at any Anglican gathering of any size in the Diocese of Los Angeles.

Posted by Will Duquette at June 5, 2004 04:38 PM

Sue Martinez said:

Will, I just discovered your blog, due to Chris Johnson's link to here, and I'm delighted to find you. Thank you for posting such a thorough (well, nearly) summary of Plano West. The Holy Spirit was truly present. This was confirmed by Fr. Thompson this morning at an Altar Guild meeting, who reverted (if he can) to be our unassuming parish priest at All Saints'. I wholeheartedly agree with you; I (and all of our parish) love him, too. We are sad in a way that we must share him with the ACN, but it would be selfish not to. He also confirmed that Bp. Bruno was NOT turned away at the door, but was given the opportunity to sign the Statement of Belief that all attendees at Plano West signed. This was asked of him weeks ago when he was approached about "outside bishops" celebrating the Eucharist. This he graciously allowed, but stipulated that they were to do no episcopal functions.

One correction, though. Fr. Bill is DEAN of the Western Convocation, not "DEAD" of the Western Convocation.

I'd make an addition to the thanks that were given to the volunteers who organized Plano West in only 8 weeks. I'd thank the faithful bloggers who keep us informed of what's happening nationally and internationally. You weren't the only one there! (I'm still trying to figure out how Kendall Harmon managed to post to his blog while answering our questions from the podium.) You're one of a small, dedicated, but very influential army. Thank you.

Will Duquette said:

Kendall doesn't tend to post as much in the nature of personal reportage, though. I knew about his blog, of course, but I assumed that the kind of thing I did here wouldn't be forthcoming.

You are right, Bill Thompson is by no means DEAD of anything. I'll fix that.

Branford said:

Thanks, Will. I'm in San Diego but didn't have a chance to go to Plano West because of previous commitments. This report was great of you to do! I look forward to finding out from my priest, who did go, more about the event.

Judith Lown said:

I was at Plano-West (San Diego Diocese) and I congratulate you on the thoroughness and accuracy of your report. I pray that all of us who attended can bring the Spirit that we felt there home to our parishes. What you said about moving forward beyond the pain of 2003 is very true. BTW, "Larry" is Fr. Lawtrence Bausch, Rector of Holy Trinity, Ocean Beach, San Diego. A really fabulous priest.

Will Duquette said:

Judith, thanks much for giving me Fr. Bausch's name. I've updated the post.

Ruth Ann McClain said:

Many thanks for your informative report of Plano-West, which I discovered by link from Titusonenine, and will be back.

As one of my priest-friends has told me, "Good does come out of bad".............. Thank the Lord for the Internet!..to keep us like minded Orthodox informed.

Ruth Ann McClain, webmaster
http://www.stpetersanglicanchurch.org

Judith Lown said:

Heard today that our local Via Media voice has already spread word that those "hate filled" people had another meeting. It's a free country and anyone can have his or her own opinion, but whole-cloth fantasy cannot be a foundation for anything with a future.

R.F.Hansen said:

great news

Will Duquette said:

Judith, that's of course one of the reasons I got my report on line so fast. It shows pretty clearly where the emphasis was. :-)

Judith Lown said:

About the first question anyone asked was "What diocese are you from?" Almost everyone there was showing courage. San Diego, probably least. But the storm is approaching even our laid back diocese.

summersnow said:

The Rev. Alice Markham has come onto the staff of Church of the Resurrection in West Chicago, IL. The senior priest there is the Rev. George Koch, whose parish is set to be a refuge in the storm we find ourselves in here in Chi-Town. You can find out more at www.resurrection.org.

Karen said:

Will: I'd like permission to use an abbreviated version of your Plano-West entry in our parish newsletter. I was a volunteer at P-W but was unable to attend any of the sessions. This would appear in the St. James Newport Beach parish newsletter.

Thanks for your consideration.
Karen.