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One aspect of being a Bishop is answering the questions of those who are in your charge.   Frequently I receive inquiries from lay people outside our jurisdiction as well as from laity and ministers alike who are a part of the diocese I lead. Recently one asked if those of us in the Independent Sacramental Movement were not in essence Borderline Lutherans? My response follows.

As to the possibility that Independents might be borderline Lutherans, I would have to acknowledge that there may be some degree of truth to that thought, however I also have to point out that it is difficult if not impossible to accurately “pigeon-hole” or otherwise characterize and define the movement due to the diversity of thought within the Episcopacy of the movement.

In my opinion, and that opinion being based on verbal and electronic conversations with other Bishops as well as extensive study of the writings of various leaders within the movement, I would have to say that each jurisdiction is influenced by the original tradition it descended from. For example those that remain true to the school of thought first pioneered by Old Catholic Bishops of Utrecht, see themselves as the legitimate heirs to the ancient apostolic line and the sole defenders of the throne of St. Peter.   As any student of this aspect of history has discovered, the Bishops of Utrecht finally left from the Roman Church believing that the Romans had given to heresy due to the several controversial points of the first Vatican Council. Granted these Bishops had maintained ill feelings toward the school of Cardinals for some time before the so-called final straw of the findings of the Vatican Council, which gave them the final impetus to leave. Old Catholics believe, in essence, the Romans are the ones who departed from the straight and narrow way defined by tradition and even the Biblical teachings, and therefore these keepers of the tradition handed down from the Bishops of Utrecht would characterize themselves as true, one and only Catholics.

The Eastern Orthodox claim that the Holy Catholic Church (Christian Faith) began in year 33 AD fifty days after the resurrection of Christ and that which we have come to know as the Roman or Latin church remained in communion with the “orthodox” church until the year 1054 at which time the Latin or Roman church chose to adopt doctrines contrary to Orthodox belief; Papal infallibility being one point of many, and by making unacceptable claims of authority over the entire Christian Church. The Orthodox maintains that the Church of Rome has continued to adopt doctrines contrary to original beliefs of the church. See http://www.serfes.org/orthodox/inceptionoforthodoxchurch.htm

I recently enjoyed a lengthy exchange with a Bishop of a “Russian Orthodox/Old Catholic” group, which fifty years ago became disaffected with the leadership of a Russian Patriarch in exile. They split from the Russian Orthodox in Exile and maintain that they are the true keepers of that particular school of faith in America. Interestingly enough we find evidence on one of their websites that they have a separate but seemingly equal Old Catholic ministry/jurisdiction. So I would ask, rhetorically of course, how do we characterize them; Lutheran, Old Catholic, or Russian Orthodox?

Then we have the plethora of jurisdictions that claim some influence or even historical links to the Anglican Church. Interestingly enough, while John Paul II found that the Holy Orders of independents were valid but irregular (irregular only because the Romans did not approve of the conferral of these orders) the Anglicans have on their website a statement that categorically denies any communion with independents who claim to be Anglicans but whose Holy Orders were not issued by them. Therefore while the Romans at least acknowledge Independents and allow their people to receive sacraments from us under extreme circumstances, the Anglicans officially deny our existence. With that said, I have to point out that some Anglicans have shown me great compassion and consideration as a minister of the independent movement; but then again I have never ever represented myself as Anglican either, the ramifications of the latter seemingly being the source of their hostility to independent Anglicans. But then again I have to confess that I as a Bishop would not appreciate anyone falsely claiming to be a part of this jurisdiction either.

Another interesting aspect of the movement is the small but growing number of Charismatic Protestants that are falling in love with Sacramental worship and the mysticism found therein. This phenomenon is indeed interesting, as some tend to blend some parts of Lutheranism and even Calvinism with sacramental worship; consider the difficulty of reconciling Sola Gratia (saved by Grace) with ostensibly based “works” found within sacramental and liturgical life?   Perhaps these are disaffected refugees from the Church of Christ which sometimes practices liturgical forms of worship but are otherwise inclusive of LGBT issues; refugees fleeing from the heresy of the sexual identity revolution to older charismatic traditions.

If this observation is true then they are a part of a larger group that includes Anglican/Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and others that are becoming “independent” of traditional denominations—and just as Luther led a revolt against the Romans establishing a new branch of the Christian church—these groups are building what might become a branch of the church that is returning to orthodoxy in its beliefs and doctrines. But can we categorize them as Lutherans because they are leaving a church(s) that is (are) turning to heresy just as Luther perceived the Romans to be?

Perhaps rather than to be depressed at the premise of Christians losing the so called culture wars, we should be excited as we might just be living in an era that historians will some day recognize as important, just as we recognize the days in which Luther himself lived and worked.

The post modern church is embracing all sorts of abominations, including LGBT ideologies but not necessarily limited to those concepts alone and worthy of reformation.   To support my argument I offer the words of Christ;

Watch out for false prophets! They dress up like sheep, but inside they are wolves who have come to attack you. Matthew 7:15 CEV

While I do not normally advocate for the CEV, it most plainly states the idea that I believe Christ was trying to convey in this case; that the purveyors of false teachings will come to attack those that hold to the now two millennia old traditions.   Today we see this attack on the faith in that churches are rationalizing their falling away from traditional doctrine, largely but not limited to the talking points established by Matthew Vines in his book “God and the Gay Christian.” Even though each and everyone of these talking points has been thoroughly debunked by academics expert in history as well as Bible studies, and even though some of these same critics of Vines’ work are Gay themselves they none the less recognize the fallacies of Vines’ conclusions, that being we have misinterpreted the Bible for two thousand years and that GLBT lifestyle is acceptable in the eyes of God, even with volumes of evidence to the contrary, we still see Churches using these debunked talking points as justification for rationalizing the normalization of GLBT lifestyles.

GLBT issues are not the only questionable heresy of the modern church; we read of Catholic and Lutheran ministers in Europe advocating for the demolition of historical churches so that Mosques might be built in their place while these same ministers ignore those Mosques in which radicalization is taking place. In North America we see “Christian” churches ignoring the persecution and genocide of Christians by Muslims throughout the Middle East and Southern Asia; and even some that ignore the statistics proving otherwise and choose to believe the propaganda of the BLM thereby turning their backs on member Christians that happen to be law enforcement officers.

We see “saved by Grace” churches teaching that if you accept Christ as your savior—and join their church—you have in essence a get out of jail free card and no matter what ever you do in the future; you are still going to heaven.

We see churches using the first part of John 8:11 to rationalize any imaginable sin that one might take part in as acceptable in the eyes of God and the church, because in that verse Jesus said “Neither do I condemn thee…” completely ignoring the second half of the verse in which he said, “…Go and sin no more.” These same churches maintain that not only is it judgmental to tell another of his or her falling into a sinful lifestyle but it is hurtful and politically incorrect to do so.   Therefore they are sending the message we are not to preach the Gospel that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son to die for our sins.  That we must repent of our sins and be as born again. They send the message that we are all gong to heaven even though Jesus said “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but (only) he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Mathew 7:21 kjv)

Therefore, assuming that many individuals are recognizing these heretical tendencies as well as the multitudes of other heresies of the post modern church, tendencies that might be characterized as a falling away from sound and established doctrine, and assuming that these ministers and lay people that have recognized this falling away and in response formed a new movement independent of the old traditions which have embraced any number of heresies; might these same separatists be considered modern day Luthers? I mean after all those of us that are critical of that which the “bride of Christ” has become, how the church has been twisted from its original roots, can we who are a part of this modern day reformation movement not be compared to Luther in one way or another?

Now back to the original question; can the participants of the Independent Sacramental Movement be considered borderline Lutherans? I ask—again rhetorically—are not any of us that seek to reform the indulgences and extravagances of the bride of Christ (aka Christian Faith) Lutheran at heart?