Truro Issues Statement on Baucum/Johnston Controversy
The full statement can be found here. It indicates that the vestry and ordained leaders of Truro continue to hold an orthodox position on sexuality and the nature of Christian marriage. The statement also indicates that the vestry and the ordained leaders of Truro believe that Bishop Johnston’s positions are heretical and that he and all who promote same sex relationships engage in false, destructive teaching. On these points we congratulate them, but we note that neither of these points was ever in dispute. No one at Stand Firm has ever questioned the orthodoxy of Truro as a church body.
Our objection is to the relationship between Truro’s rector, Tory Baucum, and the Bishop of Virginia, Shannon Johnston. Truro’s statement makes reference to this relationship:
One outgrowth of Truro’s teaching and missional outreach has drawn considerable comment: the personal friendship between our rector and Bishop Shannon Johnston of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. This outreach has been undertaken with the full knowledge and support of the vestry. In public and private conversation with +Shannon, Tory has been frank about his and the parish’s conviction that the Episcopal Church is schismatic, that +Shannon is engaging in false teaching relative to sexuality, marriage and nuptial theology, and that he needs to repent.
We want to stress that the relationship between Baucum and Johnston is far more than personal. It involves mutual mission endeavors and the promotion of one another’s ministry. Baucum has legitimized - verbally and in his public association - the ministry of Bishop Johnston, and embraced him as creedally orthodox.
The effect of these actions has been, as we have pointed out repeatedly, to reduce the issue of homosexuality to one over which fellow Christians might disagree and yet remain brothers, sharing in Christian ministry together. To say that Bishop Johnston is a false teacher spreading destructive heresies, and yet embrace him as a brother and promote his ministry, is both theologically incoherent and pastorally irresponsible.
So - far from putting any concerns to rest, if anything the Truro statement raises even more questions:
For one, why is Truro characterizing as “personal” a relationship between Tory Baucum and Shannon Johnston that is very clearly public - one that involves not just the intertwining of their personal lives, but of the public missions and ministries of their respective churches?
For another, if “[t]his outreach has been undertaken with the full knowledge and support of the vestry,” then why on earth has Truro consented to a relationship between Baucum and Johnston that makes them corporately complicit in Johnston’s teaching, teaching they themselves characterize as false?
For yet another, where is Baucum’s bishop, John Guernsey, in all of this? Last year when this story first surfaced his silence was odd but perhaps understandable; but this year, with each passing day it becomes more and more of a concern, especially given his long-time reliability in publicly repudiating heresy and false teaching when he sees it.
The bottom line, as we’ve posted more than once, is simply this:
Either Shannon Johnston is a false teacher or he is not. Either the issue over which Truro split from Virginia is a gospel matter or it is not.
If it is the former then it is outrageous that Truro/Baucum should all promote Johnston in any way at all. If it is the latter then Truro/Baucum ought to repent of splitting over a secondary matter and return to TEC.
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