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Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta Wants to Reinstate Pelagius

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Mollie Hemingway, a writer for The Wall Street Journal (and, we might add, Modern Reformation) reported recently on the latest political machinations of the U.S. Episcopal Church leadership.


And who said liberals were inclusive? Well, they are in one sense—of Gnosticism, Arianism, and Pelagianism, for example. In fact, the Diocese of Atlanta has just passed a resolution seeking to give Pelagius a place of honor in the church. The resolution reads:


R11-7 Contributions of Pelagius



Whereas the historical record of Pelagius's contribution to our theological tradition is shrouded in the political ambition of his theological antagonists who sought to discredit what they felt was a threat to the empire, and their ecclesiastical dominance, and whereas an understanding of his life and writings might bring more to bear on his good standing in our tradition, and whereas his restitution as a viable theological voice within our tradition might encourage a deeper understanding of sin, grace, free will, and the goodness of God's creation, and whereas in as much as the history of Pelagius represents to some the struggle for theological exploration that is our birthright as Anglicans, Be it resolved, that this 105th Annual Council of the Diocese of Atlanta appoint a committee of discernment overseen by our Bishop, to consider these matters as a means to honor the contributions of Pelagius and reclaim his voice in our tradition And be it further resolved that this committee will report their conclusions at the next Annual Council.


On hearing the news, retired South Carolina Bishop C. FitzSimons Allison expressed disdain. Bishop Allison has written about the practical Pelagianism in our day, including a few articles in Modern Reformation over the years (see his articles). In his book, The Cruelty of Heresy, Allison writes, "The broad stream of Western thought since the 17th Century has been characterized by a confidence more congenial to Pelagianism than at any time in history. And Pelagianism is the banana peel on the cliff of Unitarianism." In response to the decision, Allison lamented, "As one considers the theologically inept accommodation to the secular world, there should be no surprise that Pelagian doctrine of the will's freedom without grace would be dug up again. A world losing its trust in God will compulsively trust in the human will to obey if it is sufficiently rebuked, exhorted, threatened and scolded. No wonder Richard Hooker and St. Augustine called it a 'cruel doctrine.'"


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  • This article wasn't presented as a resolution made by a person. This article was presented as something done by a diocese.

    Specifically, the article said, "In fact, the Diocese of Atlanta has just passed a resolution seeking to give Pelagius a place of honor in the church."

    That sentence is irresponsible and misleading.

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  • A shame this story has not yet been corrected. All this story proves is that the Diocese of Atlanta has a polity that allows well-intentioned but less well-informed members to put motions on the agenda. Is that as scandalous as all that? The saved may be predestined, but this matter is not (as far as we can tell!); let's see how they exercise their free will...

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  • Guest - Larry

    "Rather than condemning the Diocese of Atlanta for something that has yet to happen..."

    But something has happened. This even being considered is something that has happened. Just as with the discussions around the acceptance of homosexuality, the fact that it's even being discussed as a possibility among those who call themselves Christians says something about the organization.

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  • There is no "free" will. All mankind is born in bondage to sin and guilty of Adam's orginal sin. The fact that the 1979 Prayer Book (read revised and alternative services) includes a catechism that is essentially pelagian itself should be an indicator for why this resolution is being considered in the first place. The resolution was passed and the resolution seeks to give Pelagius an official approval simply points to the inherent liberalism of pelagianism and Arminianism.

    Although some scholars have argued that Pelagius himself did not believe the doctrines attributed to him, it is obvious that his students did teach these doctrines. Whether or not Pelagius himself believed them is a moot point since the doctrine itself is heretical. Scripture teaches that humankind is born with the guilt of Adam's fall and with a totally corrupt human nature.

    While it is true that The Episcopal Church is worse off than the Anglican Church in North America, both are essentially apostate denominations. TEC is apostate because of rampant liberal theology and the moral dilemma of the homosexuality issue. ACNA is Anglo-Catholic, semi-pelagian, and adheres to a form of sacerdotal theology which can only be called "Roman Catholic-lite". In other words, you'll find prayers to the saints, worshipping the sacramental elements, veneration of the saints and Mary and other idolatries. Anglo-Catholics also deny justification by faith alone and teach infused righteousness and other such anti-Protestant theology.

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  • [...] branch of my church put forward an out-of-nowhere (or, you could argue, an if-the-shoe-fits) proposal to rehabilitate Mockingbird baddie numero uno& Lets just say its been a tough [...]

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  • Interesting how few people who made much of this story when it was a mere proposal by one individual have reported the fact that the proposal failed. Retractationes, anyone?

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  • Guest - Andrew Smith

    Yes, the proposal was rejected but not outright. Apparently there was not enough theological consensus in the room to condemn what the Council of Ephesus did in AD 431. Ephesus 431, that's one of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, folks. So they tabled it for further "theological exploration."

    R11-7
    Contributions of Pelagius



    Whereas the historical record of Pelagius’s contribution to our theological tradition is shrouded in the political ambition of his theological antagonists who sought to discredit what they felt was a threat to the empire, and their ecclesiastical dominance, and whereas an understanding of his life and writings might bring more to bear on his good standing in our tradition, and whereas his restitution as a viable theological voice within our tradition might encourage a deeper understanding of sin, grace, free will, and the goodness of God’s creation, and whereas in as much as the history of Pelagius represents to some the struggle for theological exploration that is our birthright as Anglicans, Be it resolved, that this 105th Annual Council of the Diocese of Atlanta appoint a committee of discernment overseen by our Bishop, to consider these matters as a means to honor the contributions of Pelagius and reclaim his voice in our tradition And be it further resolved that this committee will report their conclusions at the next Annual Council.



    http://www.episcopalatlanta.org/Content/Resolutions_submitted_by_10_5_2011.asp

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  • Guest - Andrew Smith

    So as it turns out, I misread. Mea culpa. They did reject it. But I'm still with Larry on this one. My ajudicatory has a floor committee that would have killed something like this quickly before ever allowing such a thing to embarrass the church.

    No matter how you slice it: FAIL.

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  • I do not know the canons of this diocese. In most dioceses, though, the resolutions committee can't kill a resolution submitted with the proper number of signatures, etc., etc. All they can do is recommending voting "no."

    No matter how you slice, it if you know what is going on: WIN.

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  • Not that I agree with the resolution--I don't. But technically speaking there can be a distinction drawn between the teaching attributed to Pelagius and the teaching of Pelagius himself. Some scholars are of the opinion that his students went further than Pelagius himself. I'm not sure that I agree with that view but it is one view put forth.

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