Bishop Iker: Devote Yourself to Apostolic Teaching and Fellowship

David Virtue DVirtue236 at AOL.COM
Sun May 13 22:22:25 EDT 2001


Bishop Iker: Devote Yourself to Apostolic Teaching and Fellowship

Special Report
By Robert Stowe England

Bishop Jack Iker of Forth Worth urged a gathering of Ango-Catholics
here yesterday to remain faithful and devoted to apostolic teaching and
fellowship.

Bishop Iker made his address at 1:30 pm as part of  an all-day
celebration of the faith, "Christ is Risen!" which was sponsored and
hosted by St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Bladensburg, where Fr. Michael
Heidt is rector.

Bishop Iker cited Acts 2:42 as the key Bible verse that provides "a
basic understanding of what it means to be a Catholic Christian." The
verse states: "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and
fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers."

Bishop Iker noted that these words are at the heart of the baptismal
covenant in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, which asks: "Will you
continue the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of
bread, and in the prayers?" He added, however, the question is also:
Will you devote yourself to it?

When Christian devote themselves to the apostles teaching and
fellowship, Bishop Iker said, it leads to the good results described in
Acts 2:47: "and the Lord added to their number day by day those who
were being saved."

Bishop Iker said that a church that is losing members needs to ask
itself this question: "Are we devoted to the teaching of the apostles -
- or have we departed from it? Are we proclaiming it, living it, and
joyfully witnessing to it -- or are we revising it and watering it
down, in an effort to make it more attractive to the world?"

An unfaithful and disobedient church will not be blessed by God and
will not grow, Bishop Iker said.

The Bishop of Forth Worth explained what is meant by apostolic
teaching. "First and foremost, it is in the Bible, the revealed Word of
God as contained in the Old and New Testaments, which contains all
things necessary for salvation," he said. "We can not add to it or
subtract from it. It is entrusted to us to hand on to future
generations," Bishop Iker said.

The word apostolic comes from the Greek word for sent, Bishop Iker
noted. Thus, the church is apostolic because Christians are sent "with
the life giving message to the world that Jesus is Lord," he said.

Apostolic teaching is also found in the apostolic tradition of the
church, Bishop Iker said, "as molded and formed under the guidance of
the Holy Spirit."

Echoing the theme from both a morning sermon by Fr. Geoffrey Kirk,
General Secretary of Forward in Faith / United Kingdom, Bishop Iker
said that apostolic teaching is "the whole Gospel of the faith of the
undivided church, and a sign of its authenticity is that it has been
believed by all Christians, everywhere and at all times."

Bringing home the timelessness of apostolic teaching, Bishop Iker noted
that "it is the same message that we proclaim today that converted the
Greco-Roman world."

Bishop Iker cited two basic attributes that mark authentic apostolic
teaching. "It is a belief in the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead
and our sharing in the risen life by grace through faith." From this
faith, he added, Christians pursue "a quality of life marked by high
moral and ethical standards, both sexually and otherwise."

If a church is to be an apostolic church, it must devote itself to the
apostles teaching, Bishop Iker said. To achieve this, the church is to
"be both a teaching Church and a learning Church." For this reason,
"sound Christian education and Biblical teaching must always be kept as
primary concerns in parish life," Bishop Iker said, "and not for church
school children alone, but for all ages."

The current fallen state of the church is partly due to the lack of
good apostolic teaching in the church, and not just due to the
conventional explanation that seminaries have failed to impart good
teaching to priests, Bishop Iker said.

Devotion to apostolic teaching should also be accompanied by a devotion
to the fellowship of the church, or the Greek word koinonia.
"Unfortunately," said Bishop Iker, "koinonia took on a negative context
a few years ago when when it was abused by a certain bishop who
hijacked it for political purposes." He was, of course, referring to
the former Bishop of Newark, John Spong, who used the term to describe
a statement he wrote affirming that homosexual practice is a gift of
God.

"We must reclaim [koinonia]  for its proper use in New Testament
terms," said Bishop Iker. "There it refers to a strong fellowship of
Christ's love and care, bound together by the Holy Spirit. It speaks of
the Church as a spiritual family, where we are brothers and sisters in
the Lord," he said.

Koinonia then is "a community of healing, redemption and
reconciliation, where we are loved into becoming the kind of people our
Heavenly Father wants us to be," Bishop Iker said.

Apostolic teaching and apostolic fellowship belong together, Bishop
Iker said, "but breaking with one leads to breaking with the other."
Thus, a deviation from the teachings of the church leads to a break in
unity, or schism.

Returning again to final words of Acts 2:42, Bishop Iker noted that the
church should be devoted to  "the breaking of the bread and prayer,"
and that Catholic Christians are "called to be a Eucharistic people and
a priestly people."

Catholic Christian are "Eucharistic [people], in that it is at the
breaking of the bread at each mass that we encounter the Risen Lord and
receive Him, and priestly [people] in the sense of a people give to
prayer and intercession -- continually bringing others to God in our
prayer and worship -- and then going back into the world, taking Jesus
Christ to others around us."

Bishop Iker noted that Christians do not come to the alter every week
primarily for themselves, but for others. "We are intercessors and
channels of God's grace to the world," he said.

Bishop Iker cited a statement by Bishop Ben Kwashi of the Diocese of
Jos in Nigeria, where Anglicans are drawing their strength and pattern
of evangelism from the New Testament. Recalling faithfulness to
apostolic teaching brings growth, he pointed out that Nigeria has
become the largest province in the Anglican Communion because it took
seriously that the 1990s were a decade of evangelism.

According to Bishop Iker, Bishop Kwashi kept a 3x5 note card that
contained the things that characterize the mission and ministry of the
New Testament Church. (1) to obey God rather than man, (2) to preach
the word of God, (3) to be constant in prayer, (4) to be open to the
guidance of the Holy Spirit, and (5) to be determined not to be
distracted by things that do not keep the focus on Jesus.

Bishop Iker quoted William Temple to bring home his point: "It is
sometimes said that conduct is supremely important, and worship helps
it. The truth is that worship is supremely important, and conduct tests
it."

Those five points are what the prayer book means when it talks about
"our bounden duty as a Christian," Bishop Iker says. "This how the name
of Jesus is glorified and the Kingdom extended to the world."

 Cris Fouse on How God Accomplishes His Work

In a second address, Carolyn "Cris" Fouse, National Field Director for
Forward in Faith / North America in Fort Worth, told the afternoon
gathering that they should not succumb to the temptation to "be
incensed about what is going on, to be furious, and to be afraid about
what happens next."

She counseled the Catholic faithful against giving up hope. "Despair is
sin," she said.

Fouse recalled Matthew 28:16-20 when the disciples were given the Great
Commission to go into the world and preach the Gospel and baptize all
nations.

"Do you believe Jesus is Lord?" she asked. At first only one person
said "yes." So, she asked it again and the congregation of about 150
said "yes." "That's better," she said.

Then she went through a litany of questions to which the congregation
said yes: "Do you believe Jesus is God? Do you believe Jesus is the
Word? Do you believe Jesus is the head of the Church?" If we truly
believe these things, she said, we should not be afraid of persecution,
afraid to confront sin, afraid of being ignorant, or even afraid of
being unimportant.

Fouse noted that when St. Stephen was stoned to death as the first
martyr, a severe persecution began in Jerusalem, and all believers
except the apostles were scattered about Jude and Samaria. It was then
left to "ordinary Christians" to proclaim the word as they were
scattered about the ancient world, to such places as Venetia, Cyprus
and Antioch.

Fouse noted that many are being martyred today in Africa and "despite
that, they are obedient to the commands of Jesus."

Echoing the themes of Bishop Iker, Fouse noted that Saul and Barnabas
spent an entire year teaching, Paul stayed in Ephesus two years to
teach, for example, and followed up his teaching with letters to the
Ephesians. Christ spent three years teaching his disciples before his
death and resurrection, she noted.

"What are we teaching today?" Fouse asked. "Are we teaching the
traditions of the church and what it means to be a member of the body
of Christ?"

Fouse said that through their baptism all Christians have received the
power to be witnesses of the faith and that it is their duty to make
that witness. "God will work with us, but we must be obedient ot his
command," she said.

 Fr. Moyer Says Providence Placed Fr. Edwards at Accokeek

In a third address, given after an afternoon break, Fr. David Moyer,
President of Forward in Faith / North America and rector of Good
Shepherd Episcopal Church in Rosemont, Pa., reported that he and Cris
Fouse were traveling the country speaking at regional gatherings like
the one in Bladensburg.

There have been regional gatherings in Newport, R.I. and Sarasota,
Fla., as well as Canada and there is to be another one in San Diego in
September. So far, Fr. Moyer said, the gathering at Bladensburg has
been the largest one.

"There's a realignment going on and God is bringing together faithful
Anglicans," Fr. Moyer said.

"I believe in the Providence of God," he said, "and I believe without a
shadow of doubt that Sam Edwards is the right man at the right time in
the right place." This statement drew a sustained standing ovation from
the congregation.

Fr. Moyer then read from the inscription inside the Gideon Bibles that
are left at hotels and motels, which he says he once used for his own
evening office when he found he had left his own Bible at home when he
was traveling. He read the Gideon statement in its entirety.

"The Bible contains the mind of God," the Gideon statement begins. It
then states that the Bible provides the way for salvation. The Bible's
stories are true, its decisions are immutable, according to the Gideon
statement.

According to the Gideon statement, the Bible provides light, food,
"comfort to cheer" us, and "a river of pleasure." It is a map for
Pilgrims, a compass for pilots, a sword for soldiers, it is Paradise
Restored.

The Gideon Bible statement encourages those who pick it up to read it
slowly, frequently, and prayerfully. Reading the Bible invokes the
highest responsibility, the statement says, and it concludes with a
warning against "all who trifle with its sacred contents."

"That just grabbed me," Fr. Moyer said. He then only partly in jest
said, "run to your nearest motel" and get a copy of the Gideon Bible
and copy the statement and study it.

Fr. Moyer, echoing the themes of Bishop Iker and Cris Fouse, urged
those gathering to be "wedded to the apostles teaching" and to work to
bring others to Christ, but to do it all "with joy."

Following the cue of Cris Fouse, he, too, asked a series of questions,
to which the congregation replied yes. Are we happy amidst troubles?
Are we happy amidst challenges? Are we happy not knowing what the
bishop will do? Are we happy not knowing what ECUSA will do? Are we
happy not knowing what the Archbishop of Canterbury will do? Are we
happy not knowing what the Primates will do?

"Are we happy? Yes," said Fr. Moyer. "We need to be. We should be --
because we are in a saving relationship with Jesus Christ," he said.

Fr. Moyer said that each of us is unique, and that with all our
strengths and weaknesses and even when our weaknesses outnumber our
strengths, we can be a vessel for Jesus Christ. "He counts on me. He
counts on you. No one is to go AWOL," he said.

Recalling that Jesus is the word of God, Fr. Moyer said, "In Him alone
we find the truth of God. No pluriform truth," he said in reference to
a frequently quoted statement by Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold that
different people have different truths and, for that reason, there is
pluriform truth.

"I am an Evangelical," Fr. Moyer said. "The Gospel we proclaim is the
Gospel of Christ. We are Evangelical Catholics. We are Catholic
Evangelicals."

The Gospel is "the sword of God," Fr. Moyer noted, citing a well-known
verse from the Bible. "This is what God has pressed on me to proclaim.
I will stand by that by God's grace."

Speaking of the threats made against him and his parish in the Diocese
of Pennsylvania by Bishop Charles Bennison, Fr. Moyer said, "I do not
fear Bishop Bennsion. I do fear standing before the judgment seat of
Christ and being asked, 'Why did you not defend my word?'"

Fr. Moyer noted that the process of salvation is an ongoing one. "We
are people being saved. I am saved. I am being saved. I hope to be
saved," he said. "In that journey to salvation we should be very
happy."

Salvation comes, however, not from seeking, he said. "We are not
seekers. We don't seek. We have found. We grasp it. We appropriate it.
We are obedient ot the teachings of Christ. We have comfort in a
personal relationship with Jesus. We are commissioned for Him even
though we may only feel like dimly-burning wicks," Fr. Moyer said.

Fr. Moyer said that those in the Diocese of Washington should be
grateful that God has answered their prayers and sent Fr. Edwards to be
rector of Christ Church in Accokeek. "We have to have the grace to love
others, speak the trust in love to those captured by erroneous thinking
and erroneous teaching," he said.

Fr. Moyer said that much of the Episcopal Church has become "the
UnChurch," a phrase used by Fr. Edwards to describe the church and
which has troubled Suffragan Bishop Jane Dixon. "Fr. Edwards is right.
There are priests and laity that are part of the Unchurch and it
grieves the Holy Spirit."

"We are in a very critical time," concluded Fr. Moyer. "All of us must
join hands and pray without ceasing."

END




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