Question: I have been watching television, telling that the Episcopalian church has ordained a gay bishop named Gene Robinson. Does this mean that the Episcopalian church has become a cult?
Answer: The way you phrased your question, I think it might have been influenced by an article I wrote recently. Let us review for a moment what I said in that article:
Becoming a Cult
8 August 2003
An interesting question was posed to me recently. The question was, "When a church or a denomination moves from being Christian in its beliefs to being a cult, what is the first sign of its downfall?" At first I was tempted to dismiss the question as being in the category of the 'what if' variety, but on serious reflection I realized that this has occurred a number of times in church history. When I began to think about what has happened in the two thousand year history of the church I was faced with the reality that the path taken by various organizations into heresy had been varied. I could even see where at least one, in the process of resisting the heretical teachings of others had slipped away from the truth themselves.
Still, I asked myself, was there one single thing that we could point to that is common to all falls, in so far as we know their story? As I thought about the matter, I could see some interesting parallels between church history and Hebrew history, as far as the developments of cults are concerned. As in Old Testament times, the development of pseudo Christian beliefs as in pseudo Hebraic beliefs are derived from those who were once in the faith, but moved away from it, eventually introducing what Scripture calls damnable heresies. My conclusion that the heretical slide has a common source of influence whether we are looking at it occur in the Old Testament days or the New Testament era of the church under grace. We know that influence as Lucifer or Satan. Lucifer means "light bringer" but he brings a false light and not the light of truth. Finally, as I thought on the question while continuing with the day's activities, a light of true understanding dawned in the fevered brain that was much troubled with the whole question.
There was indeed one indicator that was common to every slide into heresy that I could investigate. Every one of them at some point abandoned literal interpretation of Scripture and reliance upon that Scripture for its authority in faith and practice. Even the ones that gave lip service to the Scripture relied on their separate interpretation of the written word for what they now believed. Not a few of the groups had eventually gone so far as to develop their own bibles turning away from that word that had been commonly preserved and accepted among the faithful down through the church age. Christians are a people of the Book. It is a particular book that demands that those who follow Christ believe it. For an individual, church, or denomination to fall it must move away from that belief.
I want you to notice that in the article I was writing about the process of becoming a cult, not how to identify a particular movement as a cult. Cultic worship has to be based on a false god or a false definition of who the true God is. For instance, I would identify the Jehovah Witness movement as a cult because it is based on a false definition of who the Lord Jesus Christ, who is God, is. The god they serve is a god of their own definitions, not the God of the Bible. I would identify the David Koresh group, which is an offshoor movement of the Seventh Day Adventists as a cult because of their beliefs and focus on their human leader. I would identify the Roman Catholic Church as a cult because its core religion is based on Nimrod worship, developed by his mother-wife we know as Semiramis or Ashtarte. This religion is the Osiris-Isis worship of Egypt.
Now we come back to your question of whether the Episcopalian church is now a cult or not? I want to consider the matter carefully with you because I think the process of getting to the answer is as important as the answer. The reason for this is it provides us a modern opportunity to follow the process of making a decision concerning an organization's true affiliation.
There are those within the Anglican/Episcopalian body themselves who say that the Episcopalian Church has become apostate. One of these is Bishop Melvin Pickering. He is part of the ACIC, Anglican Church International Communion. He made a statement where he said "Recent action to affirm the election of a practicing homosexual as a Bishop in the Episcopal Church was expected," said Bishop Pickering, "by this action they have renounced Biblical teachings." Bishop Pickering was talking about the issue of apostasy, not whether or not the Episcopalian church was a cult.
Apostasy is basically a falling away from what one once believed. Bishop Pickering seems to be correct in his statement that the Episcopal leadership renounced clear biblical teachings regarding the issue of homosexuality. But are they truly apostate? As horrendous as this error seems to me I want to ascertain and make clear whether this is an error of interpretation, as some want to debate the issue? Or, has this church renounced Scripture, which is the basis for all that Christians believe concerning God and His plan for the salvation of men? Cal Thomas wrote that "An Episcopalian friend of mine, reacting to the elevation of an openly homosexual priest to the office of bishop, said to me, 'If you're a heterosexual clergyman and you're having sex outside of marriage, you can be expelled. But if you're a homosexual clergyman having sex outside marriage, they rejoice.'" The doubt he cast was whether or not the Episcopalian church was faithful to Scripture in one area and unfaithful in another?
Fortunately Thomas, who often writes with a religious slant, sheds some light on the question he has posed. He acknowledges the importance of the Bible as the source of "spiritual and relational instruction" then goes on to declare that some in the Episcopal church take a liberal view of the Scripture, which he defines as an attitude that "it must be constantly updated to suit cultural trends." Cal Thomas shows more wisdom than a great many religious scholars because he recognizes that "This view lends itself to constant misinterpretation and confusion. Eventually it leads to religious or political heresy." So we can say that Cal Thomas' view coincides with Bishop Pickering, and I might add many others who have weighed in on the subject. So now dear reader we began with your question concerning whether or not the Episcopal Church had become a cult and we have headed in the direction of an answer by considering first of all whether they are apostate concerning the faith?
Concerning the issue, which caused the question to be raised, the boundaries and the liberty of sexual expression was set out in the Old Testament and affirmed as unchanged in the New Testament. The argument raised by many, including the aforementioned Cal Thomas, is that in order to get around biblical teaching liberal theologians had to construct a theology that says the Bible does not really mean what it clearly says. Theology is the study of God and the relations between God and His universe. Each religion has some peculiar doctrine or theology that is its own. Every denomination has some peculiarities concerning its theology that marks them as being distinct among Christians. If you move away from those things you are no longer part of the particular group you identified with. This is true whether you change your name or not. But there are some things you have to have correct within the Christian religion that are fundamental to the Christian doctrine of God. When you're group does not have those things right, it is no longer Christian. It is a cult. As I said in my original article the central issue common to all churches that start out right and wind up a cult is a turning away from the literal interpretation, i.e. the authority, of Scripture. We are now on the road to seeing whether or not the Episcopal Church has gone that far?
Uwe Siemon-Netto, a Lutheran theologian and journalist writing for Christianity Today approached this question by asking if the U.S. Episcopalians were still a church? He raises the issue on three fronts:
1. How their current actions affect their fellowship with people of supposedly like faith and order world wide.
2. How their actions will affect relations with other churches worldwide. (His focus was primarily on Lutheran relations.)
3. Finally he asked if the U.S. Episcopal church was still a church in the historical and theological sense of the word?
Concerning his first two views I needed to consider only what the Word of God said about how two can walk together unless they be agreed? Concerning the third question he posed, we have but to look at what he said about what composes a church from his perspective:
What is a church? The Greek word, ek-klesia, defines it clearly: "called out" (of the masses by God, not libido. "Church" is not an assembly of the elect chic with the right to decide which political, sexual or other preference, or any fad for that matter, may be considered holy. "Church" is not an organization whose clerics representing Christ at the altar can declare their same-sex partnership "sacramental," as did the Rev. Canon V. Gene Robinson before his election to the New Hampshire bishopric was confirmed. Protestantism, Anglicanism included, affirms "two sacraments instituted by Christ our Lord in the Gospel-Baptism and the Lord's Supper," we read in article 25 of the Anglican Church's 39 Articles of Religion. Whims of concupiscence do definitely not fall under this rubric. In article 19 of the same 16th century statement of faith we find these words: "The visible church of Christ is a congregation of believers in which the pure Word of God is preached and in which the sacraments are rightly administered according to Christ's command in all those matters that are necessary for proper administration." "The pure word of God both in the Old and New Testaments proscribes divorce and certain types of sexual activity. Before Monday's crucial vote, Robinson's supporters spoke much of being guided by "the Spirit." No doubt, they were. But whether it was the Holy Spirit is quite a different question. All sorts of religious fiends…claimed adherence to the free-blowing Third Person in the Trinity.
…please let's give Luther a voice here. He said that the only safe way to probe such a question is to test it against Scripture. Had the ECUSA's House of Bishops done so in Minneapolis, the Rev. Robinson would not be given a miter, but the sound advice to repent. The selfishness and arrogance of the Minneapolis vote are astounding.
Behind the emotions of what Siemon-Netto has to say, some very relevant things come to the front that I have confirmed from other reports. One of the most significant of these issues was that Robinson declared his homosexual relationship of fifteen years to be "sacramental." This is not only a form of blasphemy, but since it was not contradicted by those who approved him for elevation to a high position, in fact because they sanctioned it by elevating him, they have in effect added a new sacrament to their observances. Frankly, I do not think most of them are even smart enough to realize they have done so either. But, by the adding of this sacrament to their practice, they have in effect changed their denomination and religion into another.
There are three reasons present in what I have presented for considering the U.S. Episcopal Church apostate:
1. They have moved away from their own 'sola scriptura' position, that is the Bible is the standard for doctrine and practice.
2. They have introduced new sacrament into their practice, which will be furthered played out in future events.
3. They have introduced the concept that God changes what He approves of over time, so theology becomes a fluid thing that will change as God changes.
This is enough to consider the organization apostate concerning their own denomination and the faith as it relates to all of Christendom.
Now, having determined that the leadership of the denomination is apostate concerning the faith, let us go forward to see if they have gone all the way to the point of establishing themselves as a cult. To do this the fact that the new bishop left his wife and rendered himself Scripturally unqualified for even the post he held before his elevation to bishop and many other things that would stir the mix does not matter. What matters is this: have they have completely introduced a new theology to take the place of the old?
The most obvious thing is the fact of what they say concerning the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. According to the leaders public statements, the "spirit is doing a new thing." And by their pronouncements this new thing is contrary to the revealed Word of God which the Holy Spirit inspired holy men of old to write down. I might point out that the words these men of old wrote down would also condemn those who say the spirit is doing a new thing for not being holy. But let me point out a far more important thing. That is, the Holy Spirit, being the Spirit of God could not possibly contradict Himself. So, if these men are following a spirit it cannot possibly be the Spirit of God. They have introduced a theology of God the Spirit that is contradictory to Scripture. They have changed doctrine.
Katherine, Kersten, who is a fellow at the Center of the American Experiment in Minneapolis, has identified a new religion in the Episcopal Church U.S.A., which she says is based on what she calls the "Gospel of Inclusion." She sees this new gospel as being based, not on the Bible, but America's secular therapeutic culture. According to Ms. Kersten, this new gospel has two watchwords, which are "inclusion," and "affirmation." She says that their message is that "Jesus came to make us feel good about ourselves." This is a far cry from the old message that He (Jesus) came to seek and to save that which was lost.
Apparently, the Gospel of Inclusion's prophets will follow the lead of many pseudo Christian cults before them. They will not set aside Scripture outright, they will simply reinterpret using methods imported from America's liberal universities. Kersten talks about;
Walter Brueggemann, a theologian quoted in a pro-same-sex-union Episcopal publication, put it like this: Scripture is "the chief authority when imaginatively construed in a certain interpretative trajectory. Approached this way, inconvenient passages can be dismissed as inconsistent with "Jesus" self-giving love…
The gospel of inclusion preaches a reconstructed therapeutic Jesus, who accepts us exactly as we are. Traditional Christianity, however, holds that Jesus calls us to repentance of sins, and to transformation through a new life lived according to God's will.
So I now come to the end of my answer, though it would be possible to write more about the subject of the reconstruction of theology and the abandonment of bedrock Christian teaching by those who have seized power in that organization. In short the Episcopal church has a new religion with a god of their own invention. They call this god by the names Christians are familiar with, but the way they define their gender neutral god leaves no doubt it is not the God of the Old and New Testament. While I must say there are many true believers still within the Episcopal U.S.A. group, at least for the moment, the god of that organization's leaders is not the true God. Therefore I must sadly conclude that the Episcopal church in the United States has become a cult.
 This article was published in the Daily Thought on the Internet on the date indicated.
 The Episcopalian Church began in the United States as the Anglican church in the United States with a measure of autonomy from the church in England.
About two years before this writing the Anglican Church International Communion was formed with Bishop Pickering as the President elect of the College of Bishops. The ACIC consists of Bishops from America, Australia, India and Haiti. Nine to fifteen US Bishops are expected to meet in October 2003 in San Antonio to continue to continue the drive to put at least a conservative Bishop in every State to offer local Episcopate oversight for conservative Anglican/Episcopalian.
 CAL Thomas: This is not your Father's church anymore
Published: August 6, 2003.
 As an example: There are many groups of people who identify themselves as Baptists but not all of them hold to the things that mark the historic Baptist beliefs. Therefore, just because they call themselves Baptists it is not realistic for people looking at them from the outside to consider them Baptists in spite of their claim to that distinction.
 Uwe Siemon-Netto is religion editor for United Press International.
 His remarks also included statements about what kinds of sacrifice and suffering will be imposed upon those who will lose their churches and investments in their local ministries because they wish to be faithful to God. I did not include them here because while I am sympathetic to such things they are not directly relevant to the question of whether the U.S. Episcopalian church has become a cult.
 The idea of God doing a new thing is not new. Most recently it was a very common expression among those connected with the Brownsville Revival and Vineyard Churches. Like what is going on in the Episcopalian Church, this was supposed to explain extrabiblical events and even actions contrary to Scripture.
 These are themes in many liberal church movements including what we see happening with the Willow Creek group.
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