Vol I No. 7
Anglicans Worldwide

Exceptions and Rules

by William J. Martin

go and sin no more

One finds it more than a little bit alarming to think that the largest church in Christendom might be about to schism because some of its “elders” are ruled by exceptions rather than by the rules. Any half-wit knows that one cannot run anything on the basis of exceptions. Exceptions are only and ever exceptions because they are rules. And if one wishes to see what happens to churches that are governed by exceptions and not rules just look at Mainline Protestantism in postmodern America. There one finds a history of how what began as exceptions -promoted in the name of mercy, came to define the beliefs of formerly Christian communities. Of course, on closer inspection, one finds that the exceptions were not being treated with mercy at all. True mercy is severe and demanding. True mercy tries to help the sinner out of his sin. The “mercy” that characterized the Mainline Churches’ approach to exceptions was really an accommodation of behaviors that were no longer treated as sinful. And against the sins that were now suddenly virtues, they came to believe that only certain other sins exist. The biggest culprit for most of them ended up being Capitalism. This makes sense since the Mainline Churches have been top heavy with “elders” who stopped believing in the dialectic of Grace and Free Will for some time. What one means is that the adult dialogue between God’s Grace and the call of free will to embrace it became something that the Mainline Churches could no longer abide. They couldn’t abide it since they were consumed with victimization and determinism. So they became addicted to forms of hurt and woundedness, which they thought could be relieved only through enforced guilt, shame, and  vengeance. Goodness, generosity, and mercy needed suddenly to be enforced on a sinful majority of oppressive men who were incurably lost and beyond hope. So goodness, generosity, and mercy were no longer virtues to be discovered and encouraged through rational reflection and an act of will. Rather, now they were to forced upon people as the just deserts of an entitled minority!

Of course, enforced virtue is no longer virtue. It is a lot harder to convert a man to goodness, generosity, and mercy than to force him into their effects! Once the effects become something deserved, merited, or earned by reason of abuse at the hand of an oppressive majority, then the virtues and the process of acquiring them are wholly lost. And the most significant loss is found in souls that no longer believe that man must be converted to goodness, generosity, and mercy through creative persuasion, dialectic, and exhortation. In other words, what is lost is the Grace of God and man’s needful response to it through faith and the voluntary act. What is gained is anger, fury, rage, resentment, bitterness, despair, unbelief, and vengeance. And this from all sides!

So the Mainline Churches have become institutions of despair, the last refuge for scoundrels who had stopped believing and hoping in a God whose love transforms the universe through severe mercy and the hard work of the Holy Spirit’s sanctification.  The old time religion is lost on them because they believe neither in free will nor Grace. They are caught in pre-adult world where everything that happens in the world happens to people. Thus people are incurably imprisoned by forces that they cannot escape. So all of the poor, used, abused, violated, hurt, wounded, maimed, mocked, and derided exceptions in society are given a pass. They are given a pass now since their condition was only ever a condition because of the bigotry and prejudice of  a majority that had oppressed them from dawn of time. So what has hitherto been treated as a condemnable exception ought to be treated now as more like the rule. In addition, they are given a pass because the “elders” of the churches are too intellectually uncreative and stupid, and spiritually indolent and cowardly to help them. If the “elders” of the churches had ever worked through their own dying to sin and coming alive to righteousness, then they might be able to offer the hope that has been rewarded by trusting in God’s Grace. They might then have the intellectual and spiritual ability to share the Divine Assistance as what never accommodates and enables the sinner in his sin but always assists him out of it and into sainthood! This is not to say that true elders do not suffer with sinners. They do, but they do so in the grips of Christ’s command to go and sin no more. True Elders are not consumed with the sickness of sin but with the salvation solution and remedy for it! Having been transformed by Severe Mercy, they share its power and strength with others.

Now make no mistake, there are still heroic voices within the Church or Rome calling pilgrims to faith in God’s Grace. We must pray that they are we might be one as Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one. Still there are those who have been refined in the fire of the Holy Spirit’s consuming desire and because of it can rouse men to revival in the midst of this perverse and crooked generation. They are men who are members of the True Church, Christ’s Mystical Body, who are not interested in indulging and enabling the sinners’ multifarious neuroses but in applying the painful and yet healing balm of Gilead made flesh to the sin-sick soul.