|Front row: Jim Reber, Charlie Ray, Willie Hill, Canon Mocke. Back row: ? Kevin Burke, Bishop James West|
At the risk of repeating myself, I want to re-emphasize the situation with the Reformed Episcopal Church, which is essentially committing apostasy by merging with an Anglo-Catholic and Romish continuing Anglican denomination called the Anglican Province of America, the presiding bishop of which is Walter Grundorf. I have recently been in contact by e-mail with the presiding bishop of the Anglican Orthodox Church, the Most Reverend Jerry L. Ogles. The Anglican Orthodox Church is very Evangelical and low church, according to Bishop Ogles and furthermore, the AOC separated from the Episcopal Church USA in 1963 over doctrinal issues and moral issues that have only gotten worse. To my surprise, Bishop Ogles informed me that "Wally" Grundorf was once ordained as a deacon with the Anglican Orthodox Church but was defrocked by Bishop James Parker Dees when it became obvious that Deacon Grundorf was intending to take one of the AOC parishes into Romish doctrines. (Grundorf is now the presiding bishop over the Anglican Province of America).
These developments between the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Province of America are alarming to me and I feel that I was terribly misled by the Rev. James Reber of the REC, who was at that time the pastor of a missionary parish of the REC in Maitland, Florida. Reverend Reber presented himself to me as a "Reformed" person, i.e. a Calvinist. I was later to learn that such was far from the truth. Rev. Reber told me up front that he was a "theonomist," which I totally disagree with. I let him know in no uncertain terms that I didn't agree with that schismatic Reformed teaching but I could tolerate it provided his views were not extremist. We agreed to disagree and Rev. Reber helped me to obtain orders as a deacon with the Reformed Episcopal Church so that I could serve with him and Kevin Burke, the other deacon at Trinity Reformed Episcopal Church, which had an active membership of maybe 15 or 20 people.
Initially, Rev. Reber had told me that the REC was thoroughly Reformed and that he himself had been ordained with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church prior to returning to the REC, after having earned his master of divinity through the Reformed Episcopal Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I read the Reformed Episcopal Church's Declaration of Principles statement, which is supposed to be unchangeable according to their original canons in the formation of the denomination in 1873 under Bishop David Cummins and I read For the Union of Evangelical Christendom: The Irony of the Reformed Episcopalians, by Allen C. Guelzo, (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994), 391 pp. I was convinced from the historical background information that the Reformed Episcopal Church was essentially Protestant, Reformed (i.e. moderately Calvinistic), and Evangelical. However, as time went on, my alarm bells kept going off, especially after attending the Southeast Diocese synod around 2003 where I learned that Bishop Royal Grote was hosting a representative of the Anglican Province of America who would speak briefly from the platform in one of the evening prayer services.
To my chagrin I was to discover that the REC and the APA were in process of a merger, which Reverend Reber downplayed to me as much as possible in the beginning, knowing that I was an avowed Calvinist and thoroughly Protestant. I think Rev. Reber mistakenly thought he could persuade me to accept the merger and maybe even persuade me in the Anglo-Catholic direction. It was only after I was ordained that I became aware of this mass apostasy on the part of the Reformed Episcopal Church, which was in direct opposition to their reason of being in the first place. According to all accounts, the Reformed Episcopal Church was formed after Evangelicals in the Protestant Episcopal Church were openly persecuted and forced out by Anglo-Catholic bishops in the PEC in the late 19th century. One need only read the Declaration of Principles of the REC to become aware of this.
I should have paid more attention to Allen C. Guelzo's comments in For the Union of Evangelical Christendom:
- What is interesting in this regard is to note how some Reformed Episcopalians, without any apparent prompting, have undergone some of the same changes, and followed virtually the same arc of reconciliation with their Anglican identity, as their Evangelical counterparts in the Church of England and the Episcopal Church. For just as the 1970s saw the pendulum of enthusiasm swing in Evangelical favor in England and the Episcopal Church, so in the 1980s something of the same resurgence of Anglican interest and life occurred in the Reformed Episcopal Church. Reformed Episcopalians began showing up at meetings of Anglican traditionalists in Fairfield, Connecticut, in 1985 and 1986; in 1988, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church sanctioned the opening of discussions; and in 1989, the Episcopal Synod of America (a joint venture of Episcopalian Evangelicals and traditionalist Anglo-Catholics) welcomed a Reformed Episcopalian onto their platform. Even the rochet and chimere for Reformed Episcopal bishops, and the surplice and scarf for the other clergy, have surfaced within the New York and Philadelphia Synod. (Page 334).
- The Reformed Episcopalians may well have come back to Anglicanism only to discover that no one is quite sure what Anglicanism is. That could possibly mean that there is no longer any viable reason for Episcopalians to see the Reformed Episcopalians as being outside of official Anglicanism, but it could just as well mean that the Reformed Episcopalians have lost so much of their original raison d'etre that they no longer see any reason to remain outside official Anglicanism, or it could mean that there really is no Anglicanism left to come back to. (Page 335).
Moreover, the straw that broke the camel's back between Rev. Reber and me was the issue of apostolic succession and my vows to "obey" my bishop. I told "Jim" my views on apostolic succession were those of the Evangelical, low church side of things whereby apostolic succession is only valid as apostolic doctrine as recorded in Holy Scripture is upheld and taught by the bishops who are consecrated. The Reformed and Protestant doctrine is that where the Gospel is rightly preached and the sacraments are rightly administered, there you will find the true local church. This is even mentioned in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion:
XIX. Of the Church.
THE visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.
As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch, have erred: so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith.
Rev. Reber and I had strongly disagreed several times over the issue of theonomy, as it seemed to me that he was trying force me into accepting his views since he several times characterized those who disagreed with him as "antinomians." Thus, to him my views represented a challenge to his new found conversion to Anglo-Catholic views and to his theonomy. I was surprised therefore when he approached me and told me that I needed to contact Bishop James West immediately to "explain" myself because in his view I had broken my vows given at ordination to "obey the priests and the bishops appointed over me." I quickly pointed out to him that I had done nothing wrong since I had clearly promised to obey the Gospel and those over me so long as they too were in obedience to the one Gospel of Jesus Christ. I made it clear that he was more than welcome to bring formal charges of heresy against me if he thought I was doctrinally wrong on any point. He refused to do so and said that if I didn't contact the bishop he would take action. At that point I saw that he was determined that I should either agree with his views on theonomy, reconstruction and Anglo-Catholicism or I should voluntarily leave or be forced to leave based on his false charges. It was then that I realized I would never fit with the Reformed Episcopal Church and offered my resignation.
I for one will never compromise the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the same Gospel for which our English Reformers were burned at the stake, including Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer and a host of others. I gladly bear the reproach of apostates and heretics who have forsaken the gospel for the sake of man's traditions and man's approval. It has become increasingly obvious that the Reformed Episcopal Church is in agreement with the Anglo-Catholic denial of justification by faith alone as it is laid out so clearly in Article XI. Of the Justification of Man.
While I greatly appreciate the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the sacraments of the Anglican Reformed faith, I am not opposed to Protestant churches which adhere strictly to their traditional roots and their confession of faith while preaching the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and administering the sacraments in a proper manner. My true leanings are Calvinistic and I do believe in the complete sovereignty of God who has a purpose for everything that happens to us in this life. Therefore, I have a general commitment to most of the Reformed Confessions of Faith with The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion being the primary and foremost of them. I greatly admire the Westminster Standards and the Heidelberg Catechism.
Where God will take me from this point I do not know. But the one thing I do know is that God cannot fail to keep His visible church intact until the return of Christ. The gates of hell shall not prevail against His church, no matter how many former believers depart the faith for something less than apostolic doctrine as it is recorded once for all in Holy Scripture.
May the peace of God be with you all,
(P.S. Sadly, Bishop James West has since passed away. I truly hope that his heart was right with God. I believe it was since he told me himself that he was not comfortable with the Anglo-Catholic side of things. However, I could be wrong since it seems the denomination is determined to part from the Gospel and join with Romish Anglo-Catholics who deny all 5 of the solas of the English and Continental Reformation).
Addendum: The Reformed Episcopal Church no longer adheres to the plain teaching of the Declaration of Principles but has given them an Anglo-Catholic revisionist spin.