Saturday, October 30, 2010

Joy Is Greatest

Joy is greatest, when sorrows increase,

And tears a mighty strength, release,

Should all hell break and all good cease,

A life of struggle knows true peace,

When He is most and we are least.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Brush With Heresy: My Experience in a Word-of-Faith Anglican Church

While I am excited about beginning my new blog, I had anticipated my first article being completely dedicated to the grace of God in my life, which is the primary reason for creating this blog. Life Not In Vain is intended to be a journal of my experiences, thoughts and observations on the glorious life that is found only in Christ, with some modest, yet hopefully worthwhile, nuggets that I might impart to the spiritually-inquisitive.

However, this first article will take an unexpected turn for me, as it will be a reaction to a recent and difficult time--an experience that, to my utter dismay, I likely share with thousands of other Christ-followers in churches throughout the country. This experience has caused myself and my family much grief and heartache. We have had to depart from our church, leaving behind a group of people we truly love.

To set up this story, I was saved by God at the age of 18. I am a musician. For almost 25 years, I have had the privilege of leading the people of God in worship and song, living out a God-given gift and calling that brings me to knees of thankfulness whenever I think about it. In early 2010, compelled to pursue vocational ministry, I left a church that my family and I had been involved with for four years, which we deeply loved and were committed to, to take a position at a different church as the director of worship.

Overall, my church background has been non-denominational (or, where denominational affiliations were significantly under-emphasized). I consider myself an evangelical believer who espouses Reformed theology. When considering the possibility of serving in ministry in some denomination, I was completely willing to lay aside my distinctives for the sake of the advancement of the gospel and the unity of the body of Christ, to which I was intently devoted. This ultimately led me to a mainline denomination: the Anglican Church.

Anglicanism, I had learned, is an historic tradition that dates back to the Reformation. It was established in England during the sixteenth century, after King Henry VIII cut ties with the Roman Catholic Church. It is officially Protestant, but also holds to (non Roman) Catholic traditions, taking what is called the “Via Media” or middle road between the two. Its theology has very Reformed origins, deriving from Thomas Cramner, Archbishop of Canterbury and author of the Anglican prayer book, Book of Common Prayer and the 39 (originally 42) Articles of Religion, which strongly affirm justification by faith. Although the Anglican Church is a denomination of great diversity (more than any I have seen)--allowing orthodox and liberal alike, Protestant and Anglo-Catholic, Evangelical and Charismatic--I felt assured that I could serve there, as some significant men of God, including C.S. Lewis, J.I. Packer, J.C. Ryle and John Stott, were Anglicans. One of the great worship leaders of our time, Matt Redman, is also an Anglican.

Now, there wasn’t complete acceptance of Anglican doctrine, on my part, including the more Catholic idea of a “three-legged stool,” where the bible, church tradition, and reason are equally authoritative. Yet, I embraced much of its liturgy and even sought to understand the relevance of the Eucharist more fully and the validity of the concept of Christ’s real presence in it. While there were some differences, I gravitated toward that which unified. I sought common ground within this diverse environment.

After careful consideration, the church that I had become a part of, where I had led my family, I believed, was one that stood for conservatism and orthodoxy, as it had been an offshoot of a number of local Episcopal churches in my area, whose members were weary of liberalism and sought the pure teaching of the bible--which, they believed, would be attained by reverting back to the roots of the Episcopal Church (as it is known in the U.S.), which are found in Anglicanism. This church, a member of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), a conservative branch of the Anglican Communion, seemed like a place where I could confidently serve and bring up my family in the Lord.

By this church, I was hired as the director of worship (and eventually became the director of outreach, as well), to develop a new church service, specifically for Millennials and younger Gen-Xers; while another, more traditional, service already existed for its current members, who were mostly seniors and, understandably, preferred to worship as they had been brought up. I had been given great freedom to create a service that was culturally and musically relevant to twenty and thirty-somethings, as long as I sought to maintain spiritual and biblical integrity, as well as a certain amount of Anglican identity (of which I was very happy to do).

Much planning had gone into this new service, as the rector (pastor) of the church (I’ll call him Pastor Ryan), a recent Fuller Seminary graduate in his late-forties and I worked closely with one another to essentially plant a whole new church from the ground up. We had successfully launched three preview services, with our official service launch date quickly approaching.

In a meeting to assess our last preview service and determine what to do as we moved forward, Pastor Ryan dropped one of the biggest bombs on me that I had ever experienced. He suggested that I look into a teacher, whose church in Northern California, he claimed, was being particularly blessed by God, “where the Spirit is really moving,” that I might consider his ministry as a template for what we were trying to do.

The teacher was Pastor Bill Johnson, of Bethel Church and--making no bones about it--he is a false faith-healer and teacher, whose heresies include the doctrine that Jesus Christ was “born again.” In his sermon, “Jesus Is Our Model” (December 20, 2009), Johnson states, “…Did you know that Jesus was born again? I asked… the first service and they said, “No.” But I will show it. It’s in the Bible. He had to be. He became sin.  In Hebrews 1 it says this, “For to which of the angels did he ever say, ‘You are my son. Today I have begotten you’?’” And Acts 13 explains that: “God has fulfilled this for us, their children, in that he has raised up Jesus.” As it is also written in the second Psalm: “You are my Son, Today I have begotten You. And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption.”  He was born through Mary the first time and through the Resurrection the second time. He was ‘born again.’”

I was somewhat leery of Pastor Ryan’s recommendation; though, at that point, not completely certain of my suspicions, that Bill Johnson was a false teacher. I had an idea, but needed to confirm it, before making any kind of judgment. So, I agreed to look into him. After considerable research, I emailed Pastor Ryan and informed him that I had found Bill Johnson to be a heretic and that I would not support, endorse, or assist to model our ministry after this man; and that I presumed he was unaware of Johnson being in any way heretical (seeking to give him the benefit of the doubt).

But, when we had gotten together to discuss my findings in detail, my worst fears had come to pass: Pastor Ryan was, not only, not ignorant of many of Johnson’s teachings, but a devout supporter. I explained to him that Bill Johnson teaches blasphemy--to claim that Jesus, the Son of God, needed to become born again. Pastor Ryan emphatically denied that he taught such a thing. So, I read to him Johnson’s quote. But, attempting to cast a shadow of doubt on my sources, he disqualified them, saying that there are many people out there who hate Johnson and are jealous of him, seeking to publicly discredit him. He considered them as nothing more than heresy-hunters. But, I insisted that my sources were all legitimate and that the information was easily verifiable.

At this, Pastor Ryan said that he would have to hear the whole sermon--in context--that he would not accept the quote on its own. He added, that he needed to understand what he meant by his statements. I responded, saying a born again Jesus is not the Jesus of the bible. I followed that by saying, if Bill Johnson (or anyone else) were to emphatically state that Jesus is not God, or was a deviant homosexual, or a pathological liar, could any context possibly change its meaning, to the point that it was able to communicate anything decent about Christ? Did he really need to interpret similar statements such as these, by their context? When Johnson said Jesus was born again, what else could he have possibly meant? In fact, Bill Johnson explained the meaning directly in his own quote. He said that Jesus had to be born again, because “he became sin.” Pastor Ryan, attempting to defend this, said, “well, it even says in the bible that he became sin.” He was referring to 2 Corinthians 5:21, which relates to human sin being imputed to Christ, as His righteousness was likewise imputed to believers. He had no sin in Himself, but was “made to be sin” just as believers have no righteousness in themselves, but were made to be righteous, both in the eyes of God the Father. This is the basic premise of the doctrine of justification. Any reputable pastor would know this and never seek to change its meaning for one that makes Jesus out to actually be sin, therefore needing to be born again.

The born again Jesus doctrine comes from a movement known as Word of Faith. Bill Johnson is a prime example of a Word of Faith teacher. And this doctrine is common, not only to Johnson, but to many Word of Faith teachers, including Benny Hinn, who is a close friend and mentor of Bill Johnson (Benny and Suzanne Hinn Ministries are, by no coincidence, listed at the very top of “Friends of Bethel,” located on Bethel Church’s website). It is no wonder that Johnson teaches this doctrine. Benny Hinn, claiming the Holy Spirit had showed him this, has also stated: “He’s (speaking of Jesus) in the underworld now. God isn’t there, the Holy Ghost isn’t there and the Bible says He was begotten. Do you know what that word begotten means? It means reborn. Do you want another shocker? Have you been begotten? So was He. Don’t let anyone deceive you. Jesus was reborn. You say, ‘what are you talking about?’... He was reborn. He had to be reborn… If He was not reborn, I could not be reborn. Jesus was born again. If He was not reborn, I would never be reborn. How can I face Jesus and say, ‘Jesus, you went through everything I’ve gone through, except the new birth?’” (Benny Hinn “Our Position In Christ, part one, video tape #tv-24)

Notice the similarities between Hinn’s teaching and Johnson’s.

And other false teachers, including Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin and Fred Price have all taught the born again Jesus doctrine. They teach that Jesus did not pay for sin on the cross, but that, after His crucifixion, while he physically lay dead, he was in hell, suffering, being tormented by Satan and his demons, until he died spiritually for all sins, having taken on a sinful nature and becoming totally estranged from the Father until he was born again, when he rose from the grave. This is blasphemy from the darkest recesses of hell.

The point of their doctrine is to prove that, since Jesus was a human just like we are, he had to undergo new birth just as we do, so that we might also become just as he is--a superhuman god. Humans becoming gods is not a foreign concept to the Word of Faith (nor to the wicked desires that lie in the hearts of all humanity since Adam). It is the foundation for this movement’s existence, whereby humans becoming born again and subsequently godlike, are empowered with a supernatural ability to experience and perform heavenly manifestations of all kinds, in virtually unlimited scope, just as Jesus Himself did. This gives momentum to other heresies, such as faith-healing and prosperity doctrines; as well as the doctrine teaching that, through Christ’s work on the cross, all things have now been restored “on earth, as it is in heaven,” meaning that the many heavenly blessings the bible teaches as being fulfilled after Christ returns, or glimpsed in limited measure here on earth, are available now in their fullness, if one simply has enough faith to embrace them. According to this, God has manifested his kingdom on earth, right now, with a widespread and constant flow of miracles, with the goal of proving Himself to humanity by these. This, to the Word of Faith, is the true fulfillment of the Great Commission. Evangelism becomes a magic show.

For almost three months, I privately discussed the seriousness of this and other teachings with Pastor Ryan, explaining that they are contrary to Scripture, as the Apostle Paul would call them, “doctrines of demons.” I urged him to categorically reject Johnson, a false teacher who is clearly deceiving the church. Yet, Pastor Ryan would not reject him. In fact, he refused to judge him as a heretic at all. He continued to support him, saying that he had read many of his books, listened to many of his teachings and had even visited his church with several other families from our church and that he was convinced that Bill Johnson was a man of God who has blessed him and many others with his teachings. Now, he admitted that he didn’t agree with everything he taught and that certain things “cause concern” but he would not accept anything that I had presented as being substantial enough to become alarmed. I was continually met with excuses, rationalizations and, most of all, indifference. I urged him to know the truth and protect himself and the members of our parish from the eternal dangers of these influences, as there were some who had even given personal testimonies of being healed by Benny Hinn and prophesied over by the late Kathryn Kuhlman (a notorious faith-healer from the mid-twentieth century). But he said that he “should not have to be responsible for them” in this matter, as there was no problem in the church, whatsoever.

Of course, I was shocked. I appealed to him with Scripture, citing Titus 1:9, which says that an elder (or pastor), must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. According to this passage, it is the duty of a pastor--dare I say, a rightful spiritual instinct he should have, as one who is “keeping watch over (the church’s) souls” (Heb. 13:17)--to rebuke anyone who has access to his flock, who would in any way contradict the sound teaching (in this case, that of Christ’s nature, deity and atonement) as revealed in Scripture, with lies and ear-tickling words, designed to appeal to human ego and pride, causing many to go astray.

Neither compelled, nor persuaded, Pastor Ryan sought only to convince me, instead. This is where other disturbing beliefs of his came to light. Bill Johnson has said that he refuses “to create a theology that allows for sickness” and when praying to God for healing, he insists, “pray for people (NOT - “if it be thy will” kind of prayer. In the thousands of people I’ve seen healed, I’ve never seen anyone healed from that kind of prayer.)” and, “if someone isn’t healed, realize the problem isn’t God,” that “all lack is on our end of the equation.”

I asked Pastor Ryan what he thought about these statements, that Johnson was circumventing the sovereign will of God in healing. But, he responded that the words “sovereign” and “sovereignty” were not even biblical words, but were derived from theological constructs of the Reformers, particularly John Calvin. But, I argued that the concept of the sovereignty of God was pervasive in Scripture, which clearly showed God as being in complete control of all things. Pastor Ryan would literally wince at my saying that God is “in control of all things.” He would reply, “Well, yes, God is in control of things (notice the omission of the word ‘all’).” Pastor Ryan emphatically denied the sovereignty of God, as defined in Scripture, only allowing for God to be a Lord, or King, or Despot--but not Sovereign--since, he claims, only these terms were found in the original languages. But these words do not have the same biblical meaning as the word, sovereign, as he well knows, which he seemed to have some kind of aversion toward.

And as we discussed this in reference to praying for God’s will in healing, he said he would be suspicious of a relationship a believer had with God, who prayed for God’s will for healing, as it would “show a lack of faith that God loves us very much” and an “implicit lack of trust in the goodness of God.” This is a clear example of Word of Faith thinking. It is called positive confession and assumes automatic healing from God, by the power of positive words, in spite of His actual will to heal, because all healing is God’s will and all one has to do is have enough faith and they shall receive healing. If healing is not present, neither was the person’s faith; yet, if healing is present, the faith of the person ultimately acted as the sovereign influence. While Pastor Ryan said he rejected the idea that it is God’s will for all to be healed here on earth, he simultaneously claimed that “faith is a power” and that healing “has fertile ground” to occur when there exists a true “hunger” and “sin is not a barrier.” This, again, puts the catalyst for healing in the confessing mouth of the one seeking the healing, not in the sovereign grace of a merciful and compassionate God--who will not be any ones’ genie. Pastor Ryan said he preferred using words that appealed to God’s goodness and faithfulness, when praying for healing--not to His sovereignty.

Scripture is very clear that God gives His people an inheritance (which will one day include complete physical healing for all, when Christ returns; see Rev. 21:4), “according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will... to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:11).” “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” (Romans 11:6). Grace is nullified, when it becomes a matter of our ability to believe. No matter how much faith one has, it must still ultimately lie in the sovereignty of God. One’s faith can never decide His will.

Pastor Ryan and I were obviously at an impasse. As the director of outreach, I was also involved in writing content for the church’s website. This created further disagreement, during which time all these other issues were still being debated. When he had taken on the task of writing an explanation of the gospel, he wrote of a salvation that was not merely providing freedom from sin, but from all its earthly effects. It put emphasis on a freedom from all societal ills, that the gospel meant that whole cities could be transformed and things like poverty and sickness should rightfully be eradicated. But, it de-emphasized Christ and the cross, except as it was useful for receiving these physical and societal blessings. It brought glory to the kingdom of God, but practically ignored its King. It implied (as he would explicitly communicate to me later) a collective salvation and downplayed the necessity for an individual one. Pastor Ryan asserted that God, throughout the bible (though only citing Old Testament passages referring to Israel), has always saved His people collectively. Then, in Matthew 11, when Jesus condemns Bethsaida and Chorazin, he argued that it proved God will judge cities collectively, therefore He must also save them collectively.

There was no other solution. I could not resolve these issues with Pastor Ryan, so I told him that I needed to involve the elders of the church. His response, astonishingly, was, “I forbid you!” I pointed out that I had biblical grounds, according to 1 Timothy 5, as it describes proper protocol for dealing with charges against an elder. Then, in apparent desperation, he attempted to coerce me, by holding my job over my head, saying that I did not get paid to do such things. I told him that I was also a member of the church, that I was Scripturally-obligated to present this information to them and that I ultimately didn’t care about my job, if it meant having to be silent. Realizing that he had no true recourse, he said, “fine, go ahead and bring your charges and accusations to the elders,” adding that he was basically autonomous and could do as he pleased, even firing me, without their consent or approval.

I had first confided in the junior warden (I’ll call him Leo), explaining all that had taken place and was said in Pastor Ryan’s and my discussions. I spoke with him on the phone and sent emails, presenting the evidence, stating my positions and explaining why I felt there were serious theological problems with Pastor Ryan. My charges against him were that I believed he was sympathetic to heresy and false teachers; that he did not feel any responsibility for protecting the church he oversees, from them; that he personally had some heretical tendencies and beliefs (he had even admitted in one of our discussions that he had heresy; in fact, he claimed, “everyone has some kind of heresy” in order to justify his own); and that he had a skewed view of the gospel, so much so, that I didn’t believe the church-plant we were developing would be a healthy environment in which to bring and teach new disciples. According to the qualifications of an elder, both in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, I believed these were considered as disqualifying sins, revealing the fact that Pastor Ryan was not above reproach, nor completely willing to teach sound doctrine, or refute those who would teach otherwise.

This was not an easy thing to do. I had never had to stand against my own pastor, to charge him with being unfit to lead the people of God. I took no pleasure in this kind of role. However, I firmly believed that God had led me into this situation by His Spirit and that I was to be obedient to Him, regardless of the outcome.

Leo was very receptive to me and wholeheartedly agreed that this was a serious matter, with very potentially damaging consequences. He understood my positions, however, it had come out by his own admission that he was quite ignorant in matters of doctrine. He was also completely unaware of Word of Faith teachings. But, he had fully-assured me that he would learn of these things and prepare to address them with Pastor Ryan. He also said he would need to bring in the senior warden (I’ll call him, Jonah). To this point, I had an excellent relationship with both of these elders. However, I was nervous about the possible reaction of Jonah, because he had also, at times, showed subtle indications that he was of a similar ilk as Pastor Ryan, though he had never said anything overtly. But Leo had verbalized other concerns about him to me, that he can become hotheaded over theological debates. Now, I was even more worried. But, he was the senior warden after all and needed to be involved. I had to trust his spiritual judgment. I already trusted Leo’s judgment completely. He had always appeared to be very sensible.

After calling Leo, again, to explain that I felt that I was in a precarious situation, now--with Pastor Ryan using my job as leverage against me, that I might not proceed with this--he said he would call Jonah and explain to him what was going on (as he was unaware, to this point) and have him call me immediately. In a short amount of time, I had gotten the call from Jonah. He asked me to explain what was going on.

I began by describing the heresies of Bill Johnson to him. But, I was immediately met with skepticism. He had instantly turned the tables on me, putting me on the defensive and, just as Pastor Ryan did earlier, began to question and discredit my sources. He also defended Bill Johnson, by using his own experience with him as a measuring rod of the validity of his teachings and ministry. Even though I shared Johnson’s born again Jesus doctrine with him, which Jonah reluctantly admitted was of serious concern, he emphatically denied the possibility of Johnson being a heretic. Was it so hard for Jonah and Pastor Ryan to understand that a man who teaches heresy, is a heretic? I realized, at that point, that I was dealing with a similar lack of discernment with Jonah as with Pastor Ryan. Jonah had also been to Bethel Church and read Johnson’s books and it was becoming apparent that he was offended, because I was inadvertently questioning his own spiritual judgment.

Now knowing that I had to find some common ground, to make any kind of a case, I asked him, “The bible is our complete and final authority to be able to discern truth and error--would you agree?” And, shockingly, with a tone of hostility in his voice, he said, “Don’t talk to me like some kind of encyclopedia salesman!” What kind of response is this? Surely, any wise church elder would agree that the bible is our authority for discerning truth! Who would react so adversely to this kind of question? And then he added, “It feels like you’re putting my head in a vice! You’re trying to get me to sign off on something I’m not ready to sign!” I thought to myself, “Are you serious?” I explained that I was simply trying to establish some form of consensus, so that I could proceed; otherwise, I had nowhere to go with this.

After I made a few more points, Jonah warned me that I was in danger of being pharisaical, as I had continued to point out Scripture to him, in supporting all my positions. I asked him, “Did you actually just call me a pharisee?” He said, “Yes, that’s what I’m calling you. I don’t know, there’s just something in your voice that sounds arrogant.” What I believe he was hearing was confidence, not arrogance. I was confident in my positions and even said that “I can verify everything I have said to you.” I also asked that he would not take my word for it, but that he would simply compare Johnson’s teachings, as well as Pastor Ryan’s beliefs, with the Word of God, that it would plainly speak for itself. Apparently, he didn’t care and began to grow weary of the whole discussion after about twenty minutes, saying he was “getting tired.”

So, Jonah finally asked obligatorily, “What do you think we should do about this?” I replied, “I should be asking you the same thing. You’re the senior elder of this church. It is your responsibility to take the necessary actions.” He asked, “What would those actions be?” I said, “We need to follow Scripture and deal with this according to the protocol it has laid out, to make this a broader discussion with the elders, myself and Pastor Ryan. These issues must be addressed by the elders and I would request all elders to become educated on Word of Faith teachings, to have an informed understanding and to seek the Lord in His Word, to discern this matter by the counsel of the Holy Spirit.” I also asked him to schedule the meeting. At first, he said he would; then he backpedaled, saying that “discernment is not something that can be attained in twenty minutes, or even twenty days.” He said he would first need to mull these things over. That meant he had no intention of scheduling a meeting... ever. And I knew, at that moment, that I was not going to have his support. I informed him, if that’s the case, that he would be accountable to God, for whatever detriment this would likely cause the church.

So, I contacted Leo again, to inform him of Jonah’s response. Disappointed, he said that he would see him that night and try to reason with him. Leo and Jonah were very close friends. A few days had gone by, when Leo called me, but this time, something in his voice was telling me there was something wrong. He began by asking me to refer back to a much earlier email I had sent him, telling him that Pastor Ryan and I were finding some common ground (ministry-wise, but not theologically). He asked me to reconsider what I was doing, until I had a chance to revisit that message. I told him, that email was irrelevant, now, after many things had transpired since then. Then, he began to argue issues with me, of which we had already discussed and had reached full agreement. Having very little knowledge of his own, he was now questioning my positions. This was clearly not coming from himself. He had spoken with Jonah and obviously Jonah had dissuaded him from pursuing the matter further. I can only imagine that Jonah, who has an extensive theological background, argued circles around Leo and it was enough to influence him to change his mind. I had lost all support.

Meanwhile, Pastor Ryan was insisting on another meeting, between him and myself, to determine, once and for all, what I was going to do about my job. To him, I clearly could not perform my duties, under these circumstances, as it was apparent that I had little respect for his leadership. During the meeting he asked me what I felt the Lord was leading me to do. “You certainly wouldn’t want to bring your family into an environment which you felt would be dangerous for them, would you?” he asked. But, rather than firing me, which I had expected him to do, he continued to give me the opportunity to stand with him, despite all the issues. He said that he was grieved by all of this, wishing I would just reconsider. I would not.

I was told by him that the elders would not pursue this matter any further because they didn’t believe me. Notice, I did not say they didn’t believe the charges. The fact is, they would not allow me to formally present the charges to the vestry. What limited information they had listened to, would not be given the opportunity to be substantiated before them. They would simply ignore the evidence. Leo had made it perfectly clear when we had last spoken, why they were unwilling to address it: “We just left our former churches because of heresy (liberalism) and now we have to go through this again?”

Pastor Ryan expressed disappointment, saying he wished it didn’t have to be this way and hoped that I would one day repent. I echoed to him his sentiments. And then, curious, I asked, “What exactly do you think I should repent of?” His reply, “Because of arrogance and being unteachable.” I get the arrogance comment. Anyone who shows confidence in what they believe is usually considered arrogant. I let that one go. But, unteachable? I had spent nearly a year, passive on a number of Anglican matters of tradition and theology, whether hearing them from the pulpit, or membership classes, or wherever. I sought understanding from Pastor Ryan and other vestry members about their views on topics, from apostolic succession, to baptism, to high-church tradition, to polity--none of which I particularly agreed with, but ever once made controversial. I spent months studying the Book of Common Prayer, learning its prayers, confessions and various liturgies, that I might give honor to these things, as I learned to incorporate some Anglican traditions into my own approach of doing ministry and leading worship. I even allowed my teenage children to be confirmed in Anglicanism.

I was unteachable, because I disagreed with him.

And I gave much liberty--even when it practically appalled me--like when Pastor Ryan denied the inerrancy of Scripture, in passing, during an informal conversation with myself and a vestry member. To this Sola Scriptura reformist, this was repugnant. But I had not made an issue of this with him, until months later, after everything else had already come out, as it was one of several aberrant parts that had to be added to the sum of his person and addressed.

Looking back, I do not honestly believe I would have experienced a full conversion to Anglicanism. But overall, I was honored to have been a member of the Anglican Church, however brief it was. My issue here is not with Anglicanism. If I were to take issue with Anglicanism, it would have to be that, with too much liberty and diversity, the potential for theological relativism and subjectivism is greatly increased and accountability, severely diminished. It can become a breeding ground of progressive (liberal) thought, which, if left unchecked, will produce leaders like Pastor Ryan, who are free to develop any number of erroneous beliefs and teachings, which are not even in-line with traditional Anglican orthodoxy, ironically. Had he stuck with Anglican teaching, exclusively, this would have never happened and I would still be with this church. But he had admitted to me that he was not so much a proponent of Anglican teaching, but considered himself an “evangelical progressive.” He said he was not drawn to Anglicanism for its theology, or even the Eucharist; but because it is a uniquely “historical church that is also open to the moves of the Spirit.” What a strange dichotomy this is to me. It provides both a house built on the rock of orthodoxy, along with the winds and waves of biblically-untested supernatural experience.

I prefaced this article by stating that it would be taking an unexpected turn from a dedication to the grace of God in my life, as I had originally anticipated writing. It has, instead, been about my brush with heresy and my struggle (and eventual failure) in persuading the pastor and elders of the Anglican church where I committed myself to faithfully serve its people, to seek the truth of Scripture and lead with their shepherd’s rod, cracking the jaws of wolves--who ravenously take bites out of their sheep--until they are beaten dead, or at least driven far away.

But, I do see God’s grace, even in this. All along, I thought I was sent to sing and help build a new church; when, it turns out, I was probably sent to speak and perhaps help repair some parts of an existing one.

I am now back with the church I loved. I am no longer in vocational ministry and, at the time of this writing, I am jobless. But, I am thankful for having gone through this experience and would go forth again, in another just like it, if it serves the purpose of God and brings him glory.

Sovereign Lord, your grace is immense; your love, unfailing; and your wisdom, unsearchable. I pray for the pastor, elders and all members of this Anglican church, that you would lead and guide them into all truths; that you would restore them so that they would become a healthy church again; and that you would lead me and my family in your way and meet all our needs in Christ--according to YOUR WILL. In the Name of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Blessed Savior. Amen.