29 October 2006

Fr. Fenton Announces His Resignation from Zion

Fr. sent out an email today announcing his resignation from Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Detroit, and his intention to enter communion with the Orthodox Church. He is a man who will be sorely missed in Lutheranism. I think decades hence we will still be acknowledging our indebtedness to him in our Synod in the area of liturgics. Fr. Fenton, our prayers remain with you and your family. Friends at Zion, know that our prayers also remain with you today and in the days to come.

27 comments:

ptmccain said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ptmccain said...

Very sad news indeed, but not unexpected, in fact, probably a decision long overdue. I hope he finds the peace he has been lacking in Lutheranism.

My thoughts on Lutherans going East:

http://cyberbrethren.typepad.com/cyberbrethren/2006/10/thoughts_on_ort.html

Fr. Hank said...

Good for Fr. Fenton as he has reconciled with one of the three ancient Patriarcates.
On a liter note, no more "kicking against the pricks" of German/Scandanavian squabbles,,,,,, Greek/Slav/Arab squabbles are much more classy I'm told.
Which jurisdiction has he joined?

Anonymous said...

Where's "What You Do, Do Quickly" when one needs it? :) Perhaps Pr. McCain speaks for "John"?...

I have been heartened at the respectful tone in most of the dissenting comments to Fr. John's resignation and letter. I pray that it continues for the sake of Fr. John and for those who disagree with him.

William Weedon said...

Fr. Hank,

The Fentons are intending to live in the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America, specifically under His Grace, Bishop Mark of Toledo (an interesing man, by the way, who started life as a Roman Catholic, journied through evangelicalism and even taught at Oral Roberts University, and finally ended up with the Antiochians and was elected bishop a year or two ago).

Anonymous said...

Those whom have witnessed Mass at Zion will truly understand why he will be so sorely missed. Heaven on Earth.

Anonymous said...

Question:

Does denying that Jesus died to appease His Father's wrath mean that he rejects a major doctrine of Salvation which would then be a rejection of the Christian faith?

Anonymous said...

This news is grievous and heartbreaking. As a layperson such news causes me to not trust anyone, including especially pastors. We trust our souls to you who stand in the Lord's stead. You admonish and encourage us to bear our souls to you in private confession so that we may hear our Lord's absolution. And then such a pastor leaves us for another confession of faith.

Pastor Fenton was held in high regard by many in our synod, regarded as a leader, a frequent speaker, lecturer and author and now he leaves.

How is one to think about these things without great grief, a sense of betrayal, and heartbreak? While some may rejoice in this news and other be bolstered by it to make the same leap, I can only weep and pray that God would have mercy on us all.

William Weedon said...

Dear Anonymous 1,

To deny that Christ died to appease divine wrath over sin is to deny one metaphor of the atonement; there are others and these former Fr. Fenton has upheld. Can you preach the Gospel without that particular understanding of the atonement? Of course! Luther frequently did. But something is lost - especially with all the sacrificial imagery (which is what St. Cyril was developing in the patristic quote for today). What should NOT be allowed to be lost is that the Son bearing the brunt of divine wrath, interposing himself as a shield in front of humanity, is itself an awesome act of divine love toward the human race.

Anon #2,

About the pain, I wish I had an answer. But as a Lutheran, the answer would never be "trust me." Rather, "trust not in princes they are but mortal." If princes, how much more pastors. Trust rather the promises of God's Word to you. They will not fail you - you can count on them!

Pax!

Anonymous said...

What should NOT be allowed to be lost is that the Son bearing the brunt of divine wrath, interposing himself as a shield in front of humanity, is itself an awesome act of divine love toward the human race.

I don't see the difference Pastor. If I do not believe that there is Divine wrath, then I will not believe that Jesus was a shield in front of humanity, bearing the brunt of Divine wrath.

What is it exactly that the EO believe if not Divine wrath?

William Weedon said...

There are Orthodox who believe in divine wrath and speak of it quite concretely (Patrick Reardon comes to mind). But those heavily influenced by the theologian John Romanides rely upon a saying of St. Maximos where the saint speaks of the divine wrath merely as the rejection of divine love. In other words, there is no change in God's attitude toward the human race: it is always loving. But when that love is rejected, this is experienced by the human being as wrath.

Contrast this idea of St. Maximos with the words of St. Cyril that I posted as the patristic quote for the day, and you will notice a tension.

At one time I was utterly convinced that St. Maximos had it right, but St. Cyril's words helped open up to me the other side of the Biblical witness that I was in danger of not hearing. I was in danger of merely anthropomorphisizing (is that the word?) divine wrath, saying it was a way of speaking to accomodate human weakness. But I have come to believe that that simply does not do justice to the Biblical picture of the atonement - a picture which is infinitely more complex than any of the schema by which it is proclaimed.

If I can put it this way: both the hymns "Salvation Unto Us Has Come" and "Dear Christians, One and All Rejoice" proclaim the Gospel beautifully. But the first does it by the penal substitutionary understanding of the atonement; the second by the Christus victor understanding of the atonement.

The Good News embraces Christ as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world by being made sin and indeed a curse for us on Calvary's tree; but the Good News also embraces Christ as the Lord of life who freely gave Himself death to destroy its power forever and did so in forgiving love for the human race.

Anonymous said...

"What should NOT be allowed to be lost is that the Son bearing the brunt of divine wrath, interposing himself as a shield in front of humanity, is itself an awesome act of divine love toward the human race."


This just confuses the stuffing out of me.

How is it that God the Father has all this wrath (yes, disdain) against us yet God the Son does not?

Is the trinity divided on this matter?

Is it from God himself that we need saving from?

Or can we understand wrath in the same way as light displacing darkness?

In anycase, this wrath and appeasement of God taken literally does not make much sense, to me.

I would say no...it is not required.



"History tells us that the Socinians could not accept the substitutionary theory because it replaced the concept of forgiveness with that of debt payment. To them if a debt had to be paid then God was not really forgiving anything. The corollary which is just as repugnant is the idea that because the debt was paid then God could forgive people. As if God could not forgive until appeased or persuaded to forgive mankind. To them God was perfectly capable of freely forgiving sins without requiring some debt to be paid or some appeasement of God."


May God bless Fr. Fenton and his family

Susan said...

to the Anonymous who doesn't see the difference about "appeasing the divine wrath" --
I agree with you. I don't understand either. But I know that John Fenton relies on God's grace and mercy in Christ. I know that Christ's blood shed on the cross and given in the chalice is his life and his strength. And I know that he believes himself to be a sinner who is saved by the triune God who is love. I may not understand (or agree with) everything he's saying, but be assured that he has not renounced the Faith.

and to the anonymous who wonders how we can think of these things without a great sense of grief and heartbreak --
Yes. Exactly! But honestly, there is grief and heartbreak on both sides.

William Weedon said...

Dear Anon,

You write:

This just confuses the stuffing out of me.

How is it that God the Father has all this wrath (yes, disdain) against us yet God the Son does not?

Rx. The Son bears divine wrath - not just the wrath of the Father. The Father loves us and has given the Son to bear this wrath so that we may live with God in His Holiness. The Son loves us and has freely consented to bear this wrath so that we may live with God in His Holiness. The Holy Spirit loves us and has worked the great miracle of the incarnation so that the Son of God would be able to bear the divine wrath so that we could live with God in His holiness.

Is the trinity divided on this matter?

Rx. As you can see from the above, by no means. The Blessed and Most Holy Trinity is united in their love for the human race and in their will that the Son become a human being to "be sin" and "become a curse" so that both the truthfulness of God's Word to man would be upheld and that man might yet be saved and not destroyed.

Is it from God himself that we need saving from?

Rx. What we need saving from is sin, for sin cannot enter the presence of the holy God. This is how God chose to condemn sin "in the flesh" of His Son, and to open the kingdom of heaven to all believers.


Or can we understand wrath in the same way as light displacing darkness?

Rx. His wrath is experienced as terror. It is precisely the terror Isaiah felt in the presence of the Blessed Trinity as the Seraphim sang their Trisagion and he cried out: "Woe is me!" It is the terror Peter experienced in the boat after the miraculous catch. It is the terror of sinful man in the presence of the All-Holy One and the certain knowledge that we cannot live with such holiness - it will destroy us.

In anycase, this wrath and appeasement of God taken literally does not make much sense, to me.

Rx. I hope the above is of some help. Anselm was NOT wrong; what was wrong was making that be the only way of describing the atonement, which is a mystery beyond all our categories. St. Gregory of Nazianzus nailed that.

I would say no...it is not required.

Rx. I said it was not required to preach the Good News, but it is certainly one way the Good News is given to us in the Scriptures and is stands behind the beautiful imagery from the sacrificial system.

William Weedon said...

Susan,

Amen!

A Member of Zion said...

As a member of Zion Detroit I can assure you that Zion will go on as the confessional litugical LUTHERAN
church she has been for 125 years.

Kudos Pastor Weedon for your statement on trust. Our trust is first and foremost in the One True God not in man.

To John Fenton I say as the Bishop said yesterday, "Go in peace"

Anonymous said...

Pr. Weedon, Thankyou yet the confusion continues.

What then is wrath and how are we to understand it according to the love of God in that the Son must "stand in the way" of a wrathful Father who without this intervention would seem to want to destroy us...every last sinning one of us.

Isnt true that it was not necessary for Jesus to die...God can simply forgive and restore the cosmos without a needless sacrific; remembering that God needs nothing from us not even our prayers?

You say that we experience the wrath of God as terror...could this mean that wrath in no way is related to God's love?

As you can see...confusion continues

William Weedon said...

Dear Anon (how are you? Anastasia? Rose? Cindy? John?),

Wrath is the holiness of God experienced by sinners. I never said "wrathful Father." The Son in an unfathomable mystery of His divine-human person interposes Himself between sinful humanity and the all Holy Trinity in such a way that the Trinity can come to us as LIFE and not as DESTRUCTION. (Sorry, for shouting, but I always shout...). It is precisely the love of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, which provides for sinful humanity this "shield" (using the term applied to Messiah in the Psalms) for us so that we can come near to God and He to us; thus He destroys our sin without destroying us.

Lutherans are better at singing this than just talking about it. Consider these words from the Queen of Chorales which we sing at Epiphany:

Almighty Father, in Your Son
You loved us when not yet begun
Was this old earth's foundation!
Your Son has ransomed us in love
To live in Him here and above:
This is Your great salvation.
Alleluia!
Christ the living,
To us giving
Life forever,
Keeps us Yours and fails us never!

Pax!

William Weedon said...

Hey, that was obviously a WHO not HOW! lol.

Rose said...

Dear Anon (how are you? Anastasia? Rose? Cindy? John?)

Anon is not me...although as you might expect I am following the comments with great interest.

I'd love to participate but at this early stage in my life as an Orthodox Christian its better if I restrain from debate on these complex issues. There will come a time though...Anastasia is my role model! :)

William Weedon said...

Rose,

You picked a great role model. I just love Anastasia, though I've not met her face to face. I told her once that she was the best argument for women's ordination I'd ever met. ; ) What I especially love about her is how she always manages to speak a word of comfort - even if she happens to running you through with a hatpin (private joke!). Someday I pray God will grant me to meet her face to face. YOU too! I just told my SIL that it is so frustrating to have internet friends but not know what they look like!!!

Fr. Hank said...

Fr. Weedon,
Your Piepkorn is showing.
Fr. Hank

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Anyone has to admire Fr. Fenton's courage in following his conscience (and the example of Martin Luther!) even at considerable cost to himself. (Does he even have a job?) This is an example of obeying Christ's counsel to love Him better even than father and mother and earthly security and reputation and everything else. Fr. Fenton has me in awe, period.

The Orthodox do not imagine God's Wrath is merely poetical and not real. But we believe that in dying on the Cross, Christ was exercising that Wrath rather than being its target. The target of God's Wrath is always sin and evil and death -- not sinners, not the dying ones. Those, He came to rescue.

Nor is it true that our understanding of Wrath is due to the influence of Romanides. What Romanides did, in "The Ancestral Sin," was to document how ancient this understanding is.

Imagine my surprise, as I was browsing here, to find some namesake of mine being discussed.

Well, I know her and I can tell you what she looks like: old and fat. I'd never advise anyone to choose her for a role model, although no doubt she will welcome all the Christian love she can get.

Thank you, dear friends. I love you. Pray for me, as I pray for you.

Anastasia

Rose said...

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

See how Orthodox (big and small "o") she is! Now who couldn't learn from this!

Anastasia...I echo the awe you express regarding Father Fenton. It took great courage and faith to walk away from a secure livelihood, established reputation, etc., and follow his conscience in this. May he be given strength for the struggle and may his faithfulness be blessed.

Anonymous said...

Does one's conscience ever truly lead one into sin?

Mimi said...

My bias is clear, as I've been Orthodox for ten years (although I was never Lutheran). However, my response is "Many Years and Welcome Home".

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Sure, an ill-formed conscience can lead one in any direction, but it is Christ Jesus before whom our hearts shall stand or fall, not before men.

Anastasia