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US Diocese asked to rehabilitate Pelagius: The Church of England Newspaper, Oct 28, 2011 p 7. October 29, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Diocese of Atlanta has been asked to rehabilitate Pelagius.

Delegates to the diocesan convention will be asked to reverse the condemnation of the Council of Carthage upon Pelagius, and to explore whether the Fifth century heretic may inform the theology of the Episcopal Church.

Resolution R11-7 before the convention states in part:

“Whereas the historical record of Pelagius’s contribution to our theological tradition is shrouded in the political ambition of his theological antagonists who sought to discredit what they felt was a threat to the empire, and their ecclesiastical dominance, and whereas an understanding of his life and writings might bring more to bear on his good standing in our tradition;”

“And whereas his restitution as a viable theological voice within our tradition might encourage a deeper understanding of sin, grace, free will, and the goodness of God’s creation, and whereas in as much as the history of Pelagius represents to some the struggle for theological exploration that is our birthright as Anglicans, Be it resolved, that this 105th Annual Council of the Diocese of Atlanta appoint a committee of discernment overseen by our Bishop, to consider these matters as a means to honor the contributions of Pelagius and reclaim his voice in our tradition.”

A British monk, Pelagius rejected the doctrines of original sin, substitutionary atonement, and justification by faith.  Mankind possessed an unconditioned free will and was able to obtain his own salvation through personal betterment rather than grace, he argued.  In the Letter to Demetrias, Pelagius argued that Adam’s sin was not what caused us to sin.  Humans were born good, but over time became wicked through voluntary acts.  “Over the years our sin gradually corrupts us, building an addiction and then holding us bound with what seems like the force of nature itself.”

The Council of Carthage in 416 condemned Pelagius’ teaching.  Augustine argued that the British monk’s teaching contradicted Paul’s words in Philippians 2:12-13 because Pelagius located the capacity “to will and to do” what pleases God in human nature rather than in God’s grace. (On the Grace of Christ, V.6 and VI.)

“We must realize that Pelagius believes that neither our will nor our action is helped by divine aid…he believes that God does not help us to will, that he does not help us to act, that he helps us only to be able to will and to act.”(On the Grace of Christ, V.6).

The proposed resolution has brought mixed responses from the Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies chat room, with some ridiculing the notion that the Diocese of Atlanta believed itself capable of redefining church doctrine.  However, other deputies have endorsed the resolution saying it gives a breath of Celtic Christianity to the Episcopal Church and enhances the church’s theological diversity.

The vote on Pelagius takes place on 4 Nov 2011.


1. US Diocese asked to rehabilitate Pelagius: The Church of England Newspaper, Oct 28, 2011 p 7. – fullarmorofgodblogs - October 29, 2011
2. John Richardson - October 29, 2011

I was going to say “You couldn’t make this stuff up,” but then ‘making it up’ as they go along seems to be of the essence of much of TEC’s approach to theology. I presume they’ve heard of the Articles of Religion, though, and especially Article IX.

3. US Episcopal Diocese Seeks to Rehabilitate Pelagius « Fr Stephen's Blog - October 29, 2011

[…] on to courting heresy: First published in The Church of England […]

4. Episcopelagians? « Caelum Et Terra - November 2, 2011

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5. Celinda Scott - November 3, 2011

I can just see the headlines in some newspapers if the Diocese of Altanta really does formally state that Pelagian views are fine as part of the diversity of TEC: “Diocese of Atlanta denies the concept of original sin.” But it does seem as though our Presiding Bishop agrees with Pelagius as described above–we’re all born good and in need of kind teachers, rather than a savior. And if people act selfishly or worse, it can be attributed to their upbringing, rather than anything inherently wrong in the human condition. –One of the forgotten implications of original sin, it appears, is that it levels the playing field. “All have sinned (not just people who didn’t have good parents or teachers or favorable economic circumstances) and come short of the glory of God,” as St. Paul says. And experience tells most of us that even people with the luck to have those benefits often act selfishly, greedily, and in their own interests, without consideration of the needs of other or even their own more long-term needs. There would have to be a pretty thorough re-editing of the New Testament to make Pelagian teaching an accepted part of Christian doctrine.

6. Rehabilitating Pelagius - November 5, 2011

[…] resolution submitted to the Annual Council of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta asks the Council (in the words of George Conger) “to reverse the condemnation of the Council of Carthage upon Pelagius, and to explore […]

7. AMcG - November 28, 2011

Interesting how few people who made much of this story when it was a mere proposal by one individual have reported the fact that the proposal failed. Retractationes, anyone?

geoconger - November 29, 2011

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