The day has come

The Feast of St Mary the Virgin
August 15, 2009

Dear Friends and Fellow Parishioners,

With some regret we write to tell you that we have discerned that it is time for us to leave The Episcopal Church, which means that we must leave the Church of the Holy Family, our church home for the past twenty years.

As most of you will know, this decision is not undertaken lightly. It follows on several years of prayer, thought and discussion, of searching the Scriptures under the guidance of catholic tradition, all as we watched The Episcopal Church as a whole move toward what we and many in The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Communion and the wider Church Catholic believe to be an unfaithful representation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There has been what Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina recently described as “a common pattern in how the core doctrines of our faith are being systematically deconstructed”, those core doctrines concerning the nature of God and the liturgical use of the trinitarian Name, the uniqueness of Christ and of the necessity of salvation through him, the authority of Holy Scripture, the theology of baptism, and the right understanding of the nature of our humanity (of which human sexuality, the presenting issue in the current crisis in the Anglican Communion, is a part). The Episcopal Church has consistently and repeatedly acted in a manner that has defied the wider discernment both of the Churches of the Anglican Communion and of the Church Catholic, and the actions of our General Convention and of our bishops over the past six years have fractured the bonds of affection throughout the Anglican Communion.

While the Diocese of North Carolina and our bishop, +Michael Curry, have concurred in and promoted the theological direction of The Episcopal Church, the Church of the Holy Family, under Father Timothy’s leadership, has remained largely unaffected. We have maintained right liturgical practice. The welcoming, inclusive and transformative gospel of Jesus Christ has been preached. The youth leadership have faithfully worked to present that gospel to our children and to help them work out the implications of the gospel in their lives. Through the years God has graciously given us a haven in Holy Family wherein we could discern what we should do, and where we should go, and for that we are profoundly thankful.

But this has come at a cost. A catholic understanding of the Church, wherein we are linked to other Christians through the ministry of the bishop, has had to be laid aside in favor of a de facto congregationalism. The cognitive dissonance of remaining Episcopalians – heirs of a catholic tradition of episcopacy – by becoming functional congregationalists has grown too great. This took on greater immediacy when our eldest daughter announced two weeks ago, reluctantly and with sadness, that she did not want to be confirmed in The Episcopal Church.

And so our decision. On this feast of St Mary the Virgin, when we commemorate her blessed dormition (falling asleep in death), we do well to remember her words at the wedding feast at Cana when she was asked what to do when the wine ran out. Indicating Jesus, she said, “Do whatever he tells you to do”. Echoing what our daughter told us that hot Texas afternoon, we are reluctant to leave Holy Family, but that is what we, with the prayer and counsel of friends, have discerned that we are being told to do.

We cannot adequately express what a blessing the fellowship of the Church of the Holy Family has been for us for the last twenty years. From the early years of the Fellowship of St Timothy, through the years of the Thursday night Bible study, through years of magnificent liturgy (including the baptisms – by immersion! – of our three daughters) and faithful, challenging and thoughtful preaching, through the prayers and encouragement of many friends, through the utter joy of working with parish musicians in our music teams and of leading the Children’s Choir, the Compline Choir and singing in the Adult Choir years ago: through all of these we have been blessed in ways for which we can never adequately express our thanks to God and to all of you.

We know that some of you support the direction that The Episcopal Church has taken. Our point is not to spark a debate or to judge your faithfulness personally, but to lay out the reasons for a decision that is momentous and life-changing for us.

Our last Sunday at Church of the Holy Family will be August 30th. We will work to keep our friendships with parishioners at Holy Family alive and well, and we hope that you will do the same for us. Keep us in your prayers, particularly as we look for our new church home, that we would rightly discern where the Lord is leading us. You all remain in our prayers.

In Christ’s peace,

The Martin-Grangers

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17 thoughts on “The day has come

  1. Dr Granger,

    I was born again by water and the Holy Spirit in an Anglican font and learned to worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness with the Book of Common Prayer and the Hymnal. It is, then, from my own experience as well as the conviction of principal that I describe the transmogrification of The Episcopal Church into a Gnostic sect as a pure sadness for Christians of every communion and confession, but the charity and clarity of your response is edifying in many ways.

    May the LORD of mercies be gracious to you and your family.

    Fr Jay Scott Newman
    St. Mary’s Catholic Church
    Greenville, SC

  2. “The cognitive dissonance of remaining Episcopalians – heirs of a catholic tradition of episcopacy – by becoming functional congregationalists has grown too great.”

    Spot-on!!

    I have said the exact same thing on other posts in the Anglican blogosphere. But here’s the thing: While you recognize the cognitive dissonance of functional congregationalism within historic Anglican ecclesiology, the majority of remaining “conservative” Episcopalians are not only in denial of their cognitive dissonance, but they seem to extol it as being a key component of a “to-be-determined” Third Way. Sarah Hey of StandFirm champions this de facto functional congregationalism on this thread titled “Traditional Episcopalians Remaining In TEC Need A Third Way.”

    In fact, Bishop Mark Lawrence whom you referenced seems to be advocating a de facto functional diocesanalism in his recent address to the DioSC clergy, which really is super-congregationalism or just a supersized version of congregationalism expanded and applied to the level of a diocese.

    And I’m immensely glad that your eldest daughter had the sense to see through what the liberal revisionists have done *and* to see through the charade that the “conservative” remaining Episcopalians are doing to fool or deceive themselves about what is really going on.

    Best wishes on finding a new and better and spiritually healthier church home.

  3. May God bless all of you. As a fellow Tarheel, I faced this decision some years ago; unlike you, we did not have a supportive church family, and so we left.

  4. I have to echo Truth Divides and thank you for articulating the cause of that “cognitive dissonance” so well. We’ve also just left our beloved parish. God bless you as you leave your old home. May He lead you to a good place.

  5. Bless you and your family. You may remember we left our former parish (which is still in TEC), St. Margaret’s, a couple of years ago and began a new parish under the Archbishop of West Africa. It has been a hard journey, but a joyful one is so many ways. May you also find that joy in Him in your new church.

  6. Todd, the only thing you can do, of course! May you count it all as joy in the days ahead. May you find a spiritually wholesome place to worship and serve. I’ll remember you and your family in my prayers.

    There’s always Fr. Jay Scoot Newman’s lovely parish!

  7. For us it was less painful because our entire church (Christ Church, Plano, TX) decided to leave TEC
    and join the new Anglican Church in North America. We had to pay TEC
    for the grounds and building, but it was worth it to maintain the unity of
    the local church and to be able to press forward not being held back
    by TEC.

    We’ve only been going to Christ Church for about four years, but I’ve
    heard some of the old-timers talk about how difficult things (i.e.
    doctrinal controversies) were while they were still in TEC. It’s so
    good to be able to focus on the future and not continually struggling
    with TEC.

    Hope things work out well for you.

  8. Many thanks for all the replies and for the prayers, brothers and sisters.

    Please keep the parish we’re departing, Church of the Holy Family in Chapel Hill, in your prayers as well.

  9. My family made the same painful decision a little over five years ago. I feel the pain of it to this day, but I have also experienced the Holy Spirit’s rich blessings. I pray the later for you, and an ease of the former.

  10. Well, there’s a lot of time since I last visited your blog, and now I find these news.
    Be sure of my poor prayers and of the prayers of our little community here in Argentina.

  11. Todd, I read this the day after you posted. My response has been delayed by my attendance at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly and the fallout of that body’s horrendous acts. More than ever, I know the heartbreaking struggle you have been in — when you were regularly blogging (oh, how you enriched my reading) and since.

    Alas, I have no young daughter to hold out her hand and say, probably not quite as innocently as we’d like, “Daddy, let’s not go that way.” We find relief in the most unexpected ways, no?

    The following prayer is an option for the end of preaching Vespers in the Lutheran Book of Worship:

    “Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

    May the Church of the Holy Family wish you godspeed as you go out with good courage, your family at your side, our Lord leading and supporting you.

    And perhaps you’ll keep us updated on this new part of your journey.

    Pax et bonum,
    The Rev. Steven P. Tibbetts, STS

  12. And so our decision. On this feast of St Mary the Virgin, when we commemorate her blessed dormition (falling asleep in death), we do well to remember her words at the wedding feast at Cana when she was asked what to do when the wine ran out. Indicating Jesus, she said, “Do whatever he tells you to do”. Echoing what our daughter told us that hot Texas afternoon, we are reluctant to leave Holy Family, but that is what we, with the prayer and counsel of friends, have discerned that we are being told to do.

    –a link to this blog was passed on to me by a friend from college, and I have to commend you and your family for both your diligent reflection on the issues, understanding the faith and ultimately listening to the Holy Spirit’s instruction. It is a brilliant example of how we all ought to live regardless of our views of the Episcopalian Church.

  13. When you and your family have completed your move to a new congregation, it would be a blessing to your readers to learn about your search and the process which led you wherever you land.

    Lead, Kindly Light!

  14. Todd,
    Your letter was of great interest to my family as we are in the throws of trying to go where the Holy Spirit is leading us out and away from a congregation (not Episcopalian) we have been serving in for many years. The theological issues you described are not owned by the Episcopalian denomination alone. We have been observing what we’d label “a calling out by the Holy Spirit” of many people from many denominations to the clarification of who the bride of Christ aka. the Church really is. God Bless You and Yours. . . Your longtime friend and Sister in Christ, Paige Wiersma

  15. Paige,

    How nice to hear from you!

    You’re right concerning the fact that the theological issues that I noted in our letter are not owned by The Episcopal Church. A number of Anglicans, including leaders such as Archbishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, have observed that God is calling the orthodox faithful in Protestant denominations closer into fellowship with one another. This is happening in a structural/institutional way already, as a few conservative churches who have left the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have petitioned to join the Anglican Church in North America – and, I pray, in the formation of the conservative Lutheran Church in North America, who will, I hope, enter into full communion with the ACNA. My longtime best friend Randall Keiser and I have fondly dreamed of a church that brings conservative Methodists home to their mother church together with conservative Anglicans/Episcopalians! In the last few years I have come to believe that, although it isn’t a precondition to the return of our Lord (that is entirely at the Father’s sovereign will), we will see a reuniting of the Church before our Lord’s return in glory – probably the reunion first of West (Rome) and East (the Orthodox Churches), then the reunion with the separated Eastern Churches (the Oriental Orthodox and the Church of the East), and finally the reunion of orthodox Christians in the West with the bishop of Rome. I don’t think we know what that will look like (other than something like the Church of the late fourth century), and I don’t believe that it will merely mean the absorption of all into any existing institutional structure.

    We will be praying for you and your family, sister. God bless.

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