Church splits are the story of Western civilization

Tue, 04/17/2007 - 4:00pm
By: Letters to the ...

“The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.” This verse from Psalm 118 has been used to describe a typology in Judeo-Christian history, one that involves God’s chosen people rejecting a prophet because his words were too hard to hear. Ultimately, Christ was the stone rejected by the Jews, and he became the cornerstone of the Christian Church.

Hearing this phrase in mass last Friday reminded me of the people of All Saints’ Anglican church. They were the ones being rejected by the “builders” of the Episcopal Church, and I’m sure they will go on to be the cornerstone of a new flourishing of the Anglican faith.

In Christian history, this pattern, which began with the Old Testament, has occurred frequently. Those loyal to the Trinity and the dual nature of Christ as God and man were rejected by the Arians of the 4th century, who believed Christ was merely a great man.

St. Francis and St. Thomas Aquinas were rejected by large and influential segments within the Catholic Church in the 12th and 13th centuries, only to become the source for a spiritual and intellectual renewal of the Church.

Many of the reformers of the 16th century thought themselves to be the rejected cornerstones, although as a Catholic, I tend to think of them more as angry malcontents rebelling against the abuses of an overly complacent, even corrupt church, but one which nevertheless, by returning to its spiritual and gospel roots, was able to maintain its mission to serve Christ in the world.

The common pattern to all of these rejected cornerstone scenarios is that the rejectee was calling the rejectors to re-ground themselves in the original, animating principles of the faith and to reject the contemporary, false accretions of doctrine and practice.

Those who were rejected weren’t rejected for advocating some new, innovative change. Rather, they were rejected for calling people back to the original principles of the faith.

This is the situation many erstwhile Episcopalians find themselves in. They were minding their own business, believing they were still in a church which honored and lived the constant teachings of Christ and his apostolic church. Then, within a several-year period, their leadership rejected the authority of scripture, the centrality of Christ, and the fundamental moral code common to historical Christianity and Judaism. Those who were once orthodox now became dissenters from the new party line, and found themselves locked out of the churches they had built.

It should not be surprising, this state of affairs. It is the story of Western civilization, which in the past 250 years has slowly but surely chosen to reject its founding Christian principles and replace them with the morality du jour, based on an exceedingly selfish and relativistic view of the world and man.

So by being rejected by their own church, I welcome the new Anglicans to the club of Western Civilization Castaways, of rejected stones, of those who would fight to preserve and affirm the values — both theological and moral — which had once created a civilization with so much promise. It’s small but growing club, but one in which I am very proud to be a member.

Trey Hoffman

Peachtree City, Ga.

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