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,