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Monday, May 3, 2010

Why the Dream died, and will keep dying

This is from my homey Athanasios Jayne, as seen from the Early Christians Today group. (the place where both some followers and former followers of David Bercot's ministry hang out at)

In this response he talks about why the fellowship in Tyler Texas fell apart.

Quote:
"Re: who are the others?
--- In earlychristianstoday@yahoogroups.com, "Reed Merino"
wrote:

You sound below a lot like Athanasios Jayne did, when
he was trying to convince people that their previous failed
experiences were inevitable...

Hi, Reed--glad to see that my remarks proved so memorable! :)

But I wouldn't go so far as to say that our failed experience
was "inevitable." My recollection of what happened to the
Dallas Early Christian group under David Bercot is rather
different from Dean Taylor's (a man whom I still count as
a friend).

The "movement" could have been much more than it was, but
it ultimately "died with a whimper," about a year after I
left--just as I had expected.

It was a combination of problems that led to its demise. One
major problem was that David kept changing his beliefs over
the years (and the changes in his Scroll Publishing materials
amply bear this out, to those who have watched the evolution,
or who still have his old tapes). He himself said that he was
on a "journey of discovery." But for me, and for most of us
I think, our "journey" as far as the fundamentals of the faith,
came to an end when we discovered the early Christian writings.
For us, things which had been settled and agreed-upon, in
accordance with the early Church witness, were no longer
"up for debate." Things like the Apostolic Succession of the
ministry, the Real Sacramental Presence of Christ in the
Eucharist, and infant Baptism--all of which were clearly
believed by the early (pre-Nicene) Church.

When Bishop Thomas Shank went back to his mission work in
Mexico, David was elected and Ordained a Bishop in Apostolic
Succession (by sympathetic Anglicans) as his replacement.
In David's very first sermon, he emphasized--in no uncertain
terms (I wish I had a tape of it!)--that he had "no intention
of changing anything." But about a year later, he announced
that he no longer wanted infant Baptism to be practiced in
our church. Shortly after this, he also began to teach in
direct opposition to the Apostolic Succession of the ministry
--despite both of these doctrines having been *unanimously*
agreed upon and affirmed in our written Statement of Faith
long before David became our Bishop.

I did what I could to oppose these changes, but as a laymen
without authority, and as a relative newcomer to the group,
it was a losing battle. David has a talent for teaching,
and he can be very convincing--even when he is teaching the
exact *opposite* of what he taught you a few years earlier.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the majority went along with these
changes, and decided to stay with David, a man who they
respected, a man who had been a close friend for year.
Rather than be an ongoing source of opposition in a losing
battle, I decided it was time to leave. At that point, it
was obvious to me that the "movement" was doomed, that it
was reverting back toward 16th century Anabaptism, and had
abandoned the pre-Nicene consensus as being authoritative.
Thus, we were "back to Square One," and were returning to
the very chaos of subjective Protestantism which we had
all struggled and sacrificed to leave in the first place.
Bishop Tom attempted to intervene (since, after all, he
was one of the men who had Ordained David, and since
Bp. Tom's congregation was *supposed* to be a "sister
church of like precious faith), but in vain. His efforts
were rejected as unwarranted "interference"). In the end,
I moved to Arizona to join Bp. Tom's congregation, because
I knew his beliefs hadn't changed, and so we were still
of one mind.

I knew (from years of prior experience among them) that the
Anabaptists were better at Anabaptism than our little group
in Dallas could hope to be, and that therefore, eventually,
it would become clear that there was no real reason for us
to exist and to struggle on alone. Our distinctive "reason
for being" (the early Church faith) had been fatally
compromised, and would ultimately be lost altogether--and
this is *exactly* what happened. In the end, the members in
Dallas were scattered to the four winds, some going this way,
others that way, and some returned to the very denominations
they had left to join us. Dean and David both ended-up
moving from Texas to PA (the "Anabaptist Mecca"), and joining
different Anabaptist churches (Dean is now a minister of the
Ephreta "Charity" church)--churches which deny undeniable
early Church teachings, even teaching that are "salvation
issues," things like Baptism for the remission of sins, and
that the Communion is the true and sacramental Body and
Blood of Christ (a belief which Dean once strongly insisted,
in my hearing, that he would rather die for than abandon).
These are beyond question essential and fundamental parts
of the faith of the early Church--the "faith which was once
delivered unto the saints." And yet now, I am sorry to say,
both David and Dean are members of churches that would not
hesitate to *excommunicate* them for daring to believe and
confess these same God-given truths.

No movement can survive weak leadership. No movement can
survive fundamental changes to its core beliefs. No movement
can survive without a clear vision and identity. And no
movement can survive without the deep conviction that it is
standing for something important--something worth living
and even dying for. Yet ALL of these problems existed in the
Good Shepherd Early Christian Church of Dallas. I tried,
I tried hard, but nothing I could do, alone, could keep the
dream from dying.

Athanasios





And this is what I had to say about the issue.


Re: Where are we? The answer

I stopped searching last year when I became Orthodox. I searched from 1997/1998 to 2006/2007. There comes a time in ones journey when the searching stops. What is the point in building an independent movement or community only to see it collapse? The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. And the Faith was once handed to the Saints. When Bercot's movement fell apart in Tyler Texas I got upset because I really wanted to join that group back in 2001/2002 because I had no place to go! No where to fellowship......and there is something wrong with that. Why would God allow his Church to fall and leave people hanging? With no place to go?

When the I.C.C.E.C. (international Charismatic Episcopal Church) splintered in September of 2006 that was the last straw. At that time I was in the ECUSA(Episcopal Church usa). I joined that denom in 2003 because I needed a place to fellowship(in Pittsburgh) that actually believed in the doctrine of the real presence. So I joined an Anglo-Catholic Parish. But when the ICCEC splintered in September of 2006 that's when I knew that recreating the early church was hopeless.

Bercot's attempted didn't work. the ICCEC's effort didn't work, and your experiment in Nevada didn't work. So why are you trying again in Norristown? And if it works then how will you keep it from being just another denomination out of many?

Also how can you trust that your movement will not fall apart, die out, or become liberal after you die?



I hope I wasn't mean to you or rude. Please forgive me if I sounded that way.



JNORM888

7 comments:

Paul Pavao said...

That story is ironic to me.

I helped start the fellowship in Tyler. At the beginning, it was just David and myself. It grew to seven families in a few months, and it was not very Orthodox/Catholic at all.

David's original move towards defending apostolic succession as an early church doctrine was not due to study. It was due to the need to deal with a couple of families that were very ... um ... pushy. He needed a source of authority and apostolic succession was convenient.

I was asked to leave that original fellowship for opposing the idea that apostolic succession ever had anything to do with authority. As you know from my site, I think it's clear that apostolic succession was an argument for the preservation of truth in the church that is no longer an effective argument.

So, I left--ordered to leave--based on opposition to doctrines that are Orthodox/Catholic. Quite the opposite of the experience of the fellow you quoted.

Paul Pavao said...

Oh, but my dream's not dying. I found what I was looking for at Rose Creek Village, and I believe what we are walking in matches both the experience of 2nd century Christians and the experience of early 16th century Anabaptists. They don't seem a lick different to me.

The foundation of the church, according to Scripture, is that those who name the name of Christ depart from iniquity. Both Protestants and Orthodox have, in my opinion, abandoned that, and made theological positions their foundation.

The foundational theological positions of the early church--and the early Anabaptists--were quite simple, and Christians of all types could agree with them.

Anonymous said...

Paul,

Scripture says the foundation of the Church is Christ and the apostles. Have you read Ignatius of Antioch?

Jnorm888 said...

Hello Shammah!

I thought you told me that you left Bercot and them around the early to mid 1990's? You were there when it was "Tyler Early Christian Fellowship" right? But when that went under the name changed to "Society of the Good Shepherd", then when that went under it changed to "Christ Church (ACA)", and finally it was "Good Shepherd Early Christian Church" and Orthopilgrim(Athanasios Jayne) left a year or so before that fellowship fell apart.



You said:
"David's original move towards defending apostolic succession as an early church doctrine was not due to study. It was due to the need to deal with a couple of families that were very ... um ... pushy. He needed a source of authority and apostolic succession was convenient."



But Apostolic Succession is an early church doctrine is it not? Even you did a few youtube videos about it. It seems as if those families who pushed him on the issue were right. How come you weren't one of the people who pushed him on the issue? You have been reading the pre-Nicene fathers way longer than me! What, 20 years now? So why didn't you push him on the issue too?


You said:
"I was asked to leave that original fellowship for opposing the idea that apostolic succession ever had anything to do with authority. As you know from my site, I think it's clear that apostolic succession was an argument for the preservation of truth in the church that is no longer an effective argument."



It's both Shammah, ...both for the preservation of truth as well as for the authority and responsibility in preserving that truth. Bishops are authority figures.....are they not? You know very well that the monarchial bishops back then were authoritative, and the early christians gave no sign of Apostolic Succession as one day no longer being needed. You need to see it that way in order to justify your existence in doing something else.


You said:
"So, I left--ordered to leave--based on opposition to doctrines that are Orthodox/Catholic. Quite the opposite of the experience of the fellow you quoted."



Yes, I know about your experience. You left just when they were starting to embrace the very things I once liked about them, and Athanasios Jayne left when they started to reject those Catholic and Orthodox beliefs.

You were in the wrong for rejecting those things. Those things were true earlychristian doctrines! And you know they were true early christian beliefs!

But you were a different man then. Back then, you wouldn't compromise what you thought was right in order to have fellowship, but now you do.

You and I are more alike than you know or would like to admit.


You said:
"Oh, but my dream's not dying. I found what I was looking for at Rose Creek Village, and I believe what we are walking in matches both the experience of 2nd century Christians and the experience of early 16th century Anabaptists. They don't seem a lick different to me."



You know very well how some feel about your group. Now I won't say anything bad about it, and I had your back when others did. I know how it is to be alone, and so, I know the necessity of fellowship.

Shammah, I won't say anything bad about you nor your group, but I disagree with what you just said about it, and I think you know why.

But outside of all that, what will you do about your kids if they move out of town? Where will they go? And how do you know that your fellowship will survive once you die?

Do you really think God only wants to start independent local fellowships with no direct link/connection to the first century? I'm gonna eventually post the different interpretations that the church fathers and nonfathers had about the gates of hades not prevailing. And when I do, I bet that not one will have your interpretation that will allow for a complete apostosy with no visible remnant anywhere, and with no direct organic connection to the past at all.

Jnorm888 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jnorm888 said...

You pick and choose what you want to believe Shammah. If I go down this rabbit hole with you....then you will eventually either deny a portion of scripture as being valid for today or an interpretation of the church fathers as not being valid. We both know you will choose good morals and behavior over anything. For this is what it will ultimately come down to with you.

And so, my question to you is this.....what will you do once Rose Creek Village starts changing it's lifestyle? What will you do then?


Shammah, please forgive me if I was mean or rude to you. You know I don't want to be. I really do care about you! I really do. And you know I won't stop trying to help you become Orthodox.






Christ is Risen!

Paul Pavao said...

Hi JNorm,

A friend told me these comments were continuing. I had no idea.

To everyone else: I've been down the whole apostolic succession discussion road. I don't want to do it here. My thoughts are on my web site and around the internet quite a bit, so I don't see it as necessary to repeat them.

JNorm wrote, "We both know you will choose good morals and behavior over anything. For this is what it will ultimately come down to with you. And so, my question to you is this.....what will you do once Rose Creek Village starts changing it's lifestyle? What will you do then?"

It is true enough that is what matters to me, as long as good morals are judged by Christ's commands and we are preaching a life lived by the guidance of God's Spirit (Rom. 8:14 and its preceding verses).

So if RCV starts living disobediently to Christ, I'll speak up ...

After that? I hope I never have to find out because I don't know what I'd do. Many saints in that position in the 4th century started monasteries or fled to the desert.

I hope I'm never stuck with such a terrible choice.

Whether I am or not, though, I'll do what I've always done, which is devote myself to the fellowship of the saints in my town in the best way I know how, do or die, seeking the fellowship of the Spirit, their wisdom, and mutual encouragement with them.

But I won't spend any time wondering if we need to submit to some person in Istanbul, Rome, Antioch, or Alexandria; nor will I spend any time wondering if there's some organization whose name and principles we should adopt.

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