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Panel’s Favorable Response To

Panel’s Favorable Response To

Fort Worth Appeal Draws Fire

After what many conservatives viewed as a lackluster start, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Panel of Reference gave a favorable response in early January to the appeal filed by the orthodox Diocese of Fort Worth in 2005, centered on the issue of women’s ordination.

It was favorable enough, in fact, to evoke criticism from the left, most notably from the president of the Episcopal General Convention’s House of Deputies.

The Panel was established by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams in response to a 2005 call from Anglican primates for a group to investigate and offer recommendations in situations of “serious dispute” between a congregation and its diocese or a diocese and its province.

In its appeal, the Fort Worth diocese asserted that it had been subjected to “marginalization and intimidation” by The Episcopal Church’s leadership for its support of “the Church’s historic practice of holy orders,” especially as it concerned the “refusal to ordain or license women as priests.” This, despite alternate provisions the diocese had made for any Fort Worth women seeking ordination.

The Anglican Communion’s official position - generally ignored by The Episcopal Church (TEC) - is that women’s ordination is still undergoing a “reception” (testing) process, during which those on both sides of the issue are considered loyal Anglicans, and alternate episcopal care should be provided where there are differences over the matter.

In a six-page report released January 8, the Panel of Reference, chaired by retired Australian Archbishop Peter Carnley, recommended that “the Archbishop of Canterbury...discuss with [TEC’s] presiding bishop the clarification of the ambiguous wording” of a 1997 TEC canonical amendment widely taken to mandate churchwide acceptance of women’s ordination, “so as to ensure that the permissive nature of the ordination of women is maintained in any diocese.”

The group went on to commend the “Dallas Plan” and advise “that its procedures continue.” Under the ten-year-old agreement between Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker, a traditionalist, and Dallas Bishop James Stanton, a conservative who supports women’s ordination, women in the Fort Worth diocese who believe they have a call to priestly ministry are transferred to Dallas for the oversight of their discernment process; likewise, the oversight of a parish in Fort Worth that wanted a woman priest would be delegated to the Dallas bishop. (While several Fort Worth women have gone through the discernment process during the last decade, no parish in that diocese has yet called a female priest.) The Panel recommended that “The Archbishop of Canterbury, the presiding bishop, and the other primates of the Anglican Communion...publicly commend the adequacy of the Dallas Plan.”

INITIALLY, Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori issued a statement that appeared to give a somewhat positive, though implicitly qualified, response to the report. She said that, “We recognize that women do have access to ordination under the `Dallas Plan’ at present, which seems to address the intent of the canon.” Later events were to prove that her response was not universally representative of TEC’s leadership.

In an interview with The Living Church, Bishop Iker described the report as “the first specifically positive development in a long time for those who hold traditional views. It gives us the moral high ground in all this.”

He said that Bishop Schori’s statement struck him as “something carefully crafted to continue to deny the respect that should be afforded to persons who hold our position. It is a long way from being commending. I see nothing positive in it at all.”

Iker imagined that Bishop Schori was disturbed, moreover, to read the recommendation in the Panel’s report that “no diocese or parish should be compelled to accept the ministry of word or sacrament from an ordained woman.” “That would include her,” he said. (Fort Worth and half a dozen other Episcopal dioceses have appealed for a prelate to act in Schori’s stead where they are concerned - a matter that Anglican primates addressed in their recent communiqué).

In a statement from its London base, the traditionalist Forward in Faith International welcomed the Panel’s affirmation that opposition to the ordination of female priests and bishops is “a recognized theological position”; “should not be grounds for refusing consent to a bishop duly elected by the diocese”; and that “`no diocese or parish should be compelled to accept the ministry of word or sacrament from an ordained woman’.” The statement went on to express hope for “full recognition of the ‘Dallas Plan’” on the part of the presiding bishop, as well as “primatial oversight for the diocese alternative to her own.”

“Antithetical To Our Polity”

Reaction from the Episcopal left was predictably negative. Speaking as president of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus, the Rev. Elizabeth Kaeton said that the report “not only calls for flagrant disobedience of the constitution and canons of The Episcopal Church, [it] preserves and promotes a system of institutional sexism and misogyny.”

And, in contrast to Bishop Schori’s tepid response, House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson fired off a letter to Archbishop Williams and Panel members only four days after the report’s publication. Echoing Kaeton’s truculent line, Anderson claimed that the recommendation that TEC clarify the permissive nature of its canons concerning women’s ordination was “antithetical to our polity and therefore not appropriate.” She went on to assert the supreme authority of the General Convention and the sole authority of “our ecclesiastical courts or the General Convention” to interpret TEC’s canons.

Anderson’s hasty and aggressive - some might say arrogant - response to the Panel may have inadvertently or deliberately decimated any lingering belief that TEC is serious in its expressed commitment to the interdependency of Anglican Communion provinces. The Anderson letter makes it clear that, when push comes to shove, TEC’s leadership is concerned for neither truth nor unity but its determination to have what it wants, regardless of the consequences.

ANOTHER NOTABLE FEATURE of the Anderson letter is its bald claim that, from the time of their enactment, “Generally...The Episcopal Church did not think the 1976 canons (permitting women priests) were permissive or ambiguous.” On the contrary, until it became part of the revisionist apologetic for theological cleansing in the mid-1990s, most people on both sides of the question (apart from the radical fringe) not only understood these canons as permissive, but recognized that had they been presented as mandatory they never would have been enacted in the first place. Anderson’s claim that the 1997 amendments were made “to address any possible misunderstanding [of their mandatory character]” is thus at best a memory failure and at worst deliberately disingenuous. Those amendments actually were intended by their proponents to make women’s ordination mandatory, and would not even have been proposed had it not been clearly understood that the 1976 canons were in fact permissive.

Panel Chairman Responds

In February, the Panel’s Chairman, Archbishop Carnley, responded to Anderson, saying that the fact that each province has its own polity and policy does not prevent other members of the Communion from considering and coming to its own conclusions about such matters.

Carnley noted that the Panel includes retired Texas Episcopal Bishop Claude Payne, “who clarified many matters for us.” Representations were also made to the Panel by the presiding bishop’s chancellor, and drafts of the Panel’s report were shown to Bishop Iker and to both the former and current presiding bishops, he noted. “The report is the outcome of a consultative process in which we became fully aware of [TEC’s] decision-making processes,” he said.

“In an international Communion of Christians, we do not live in self-contained compartments,” Carnley told Anderson. “It may be worth restating here that the Panel does not have the status of a court or tribunal. Its sole duty is to report to the Archbishop of Canterbury on the understanding it develops of a situation on the basis of submissions made to it by the parties concerned, and with his consent to offer recommendations which can be considered by the proper authorities of those involved. Any action of a jurisdictional or legislative kind must obviously be taken within an individual province, and in your case the obvious competent institution is the General Convention. That is why the Panel recommended that the presiding bishop might pursue the clarification of the wording of the relevant canons in that forum, given the varying interpretation of them that had been arrived at by Bishop Iker and Bishop [Frank] Griswold, in addition to the third interpretation now offered by yourself.

“I can assure you that the Panel is well aware of the polity of the Episcopal Church,” Carnley wrote Anderson. “We hope, however, that a pastoral rather than juridical resolution of tensions relating to the ordination of women may be possible within [TEC], and offer the suggestions contained in the Fort Worth Report in this spirit.”

Carnley’s response to Anderson is remarkable in that it seems to evince a change in thinking on the liberal Archbishop’s part. Carnley ordained women as priests before the Anglican Church in Australia approved the innovation, and during his active episcopate resisted ideas of alternate episcopal care for those theologically opposed to women’s ordination. n

Sources: Forward in Faith, Diocese of Fort Worth, The Living Church, VirtueOnline, The Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal News Service

C Of E Synod Pressures Bishops

On Civil Partnerships Advice

The simmering controversy over the Church of England’s pastoral guidance on same-sex civil partnerships finally came to a boil at the church’s late February General Synod, but the meeting ended with bishops obliged only to keep their policy “under review.”

Reports indicated that conservative and liberal elements in the Synod joined in encouraging the House of Bishops to review its 2005 guidelines, which state that clergy may register same-sex civil partnerships, now legal under British law, if they promise their bishops they will abstain from sex. The guidelines also disallow church blessings of gay unions. The bishops maintained that their advice was compatible with traditional teaching on sexual morality.

However, the policy, which has also drawn some stern criticism from foreign Anglican leaders, has been widely scored in the C of E as confused and/or intrusive. Some say that, however unintentionally, it appears to condone same-sex “marriage,” while others note that it requires bishops to ask whether gay clergy are abstaining from sex, which it is clear some prelates will not do; nor will some gay clergy give such an assurance.

And a number of bishops have complained that they were misled by the government about the true nature of the civil partnerships legislation, which was supposed to benefit a range of domestic situations. At least one government minister referred to civil partnerships as the equivalent to gay “marriage,” and that is the popular perception of them.

The Synod’s discussion of civil partnerships, introduced by a private member’s motion by the Rev. Paul Perkin of Southwark, came just days after Anglican primates gave the liberal U.S.-based Episcopal Church until September 30 to show that it had reversed its pro-gay policies or face “consequences” which are presumed to include expulsion from the Anglican Communion.

After debate that was at time passionate, the Synod passed a motion that seems to combine intentions from both the left and right (and which therefore will not entirely satisfy either side). Notably, it commits to the 1998 Lambeth Conference’s orthodox sexuality resolution (1.10); it says that efforts to prevent “diversity of opinion” and “impaired fellowship” over sexuality doctrine “would not be advanced by doing anything that could be perceived as the [C of E] qualifying its commitment to the entirety of the Lambeth Conference resolutions” (of 1998, as well as of 1988 and 1978). But the motion welcomes “dialogue” and “listening,” and affirms “that homosexual orientation in itself is no bar to a faithful Christian life” or participation in lay and ordained church ministry, without stating the need for celibacy in such circumstances.

In another motion, the Synod acknowledged “the diversity of views within the [C of E] on whether Parliament might better have addressed the injustices affecting persons of the same sex wishing to share a common life, had it done so in a way that avoided creating a legal framework with many similarities to marriage.” It also noted “the intention of the House [of Bishops] to keep their Pastoral Statement under review.” n

Sources: The Daily Telegraph, The Church of England Newspaper

 

Virginia Diocese Seeks

Reading On Gay Blessings;

Elects New Bishop

Undeterred by the loss of 15 of its congregations in recent months, delegates to the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia’s Annual Council in Richmond January 26-27 decided that a commission should find out if support is gathering in the diocese for a parish-level “local option” to bless same-gender unions.

The seceded parishes objected to The Episcopal Church’s revisions of the faith, including its acceptance of homosexuality, not least as shown by Virginia Bishop Peter Lee’s support for the 2003 consecration of practicing gay cleric Gene Robinson. But the Council voted to recommend that Bishop Lee appoint a commission to report back to the next annual Council on whether it discerns in the diocese an “emerging consensus” for permitting “local option” to bless same-sex unions. Remarkably, delegates cited the Lambeth Conference and 2004 Windsor Report as support for their move, saying that both “called us to...respond with compassion and understanding to the pain and suffering of those who, because of their sexual orientation, endure marginalization and rejection in the church and in the world.”

The Council also endorsed the new presiding bishop’s version of the gospel, the Millennium Development Goals, and approved a $4.5 million budget.

Moreover, the Council voiced support for Lee’s actions toward congregations in which a majority of members have voted to leave; the diocese has declared the property of 11 of the 15 seceded congregations abandoned and filed suit for their buildings in court; the national church has now filed actions against the parishes as well.

In remarks to the Council, Lee insisted that the diocese’s differences with the congregations that have departed the diocese “are not about property but about legacy.” The church buildings in the diocese were given by generations past to be Episcopal churches, and the diocese seeks to ensure that they continue as such, he said.

Among the seceded congregations there are minorities who want to continue or start over as Episcopal Church (TEC) parishes, and some of them sent delegates who were welcomed at the Council; delegates attended from the remnant Episcopal parishes of St. Margaret’s, Woodsbridge, St. Stephen’s, Heathsville; and the Falls Church in the Virginia City of the same name. In addition, two members of the Church of the Epiphany, Herndon, were present as guests “while the loyalists in that congregation seek to reorganize,” Lee said.

AS THE COUNCIL MEETING ENDED, delegates were looking toward a new but possibly more-of-the-same era in the diocese, electing a Mississippi priest to succeed Bishop Lee when he retires. Tapped in the third round of balloting on four candidates was the Very Rev. Shannon Sherwood Johnston, rector of All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Tupelo, Mississippi.

In a written response to a candidates’ questionnaire, Johnston named evangelism, mission and Christian education as the most important issues facing TEC in the coming years.

Speaking of the current Anglican conflict, he wrote that he would seek to “bridge our differences,” and maintained (despite mounting evidence to the contrary) that it is still possible for the church to remain united, despite strong differences of opinion over biblical authority and sexuality that have triggered significant losses in the diocese.

Married and an Alabama native, Bishop-elect Johnston has earned degrees from the University of the South and Seabury-Western Theological Seminary. He also attended Westcott House at Cambridge University. Ordained in 1988, he has served parishes in Alabama and Mississippi, where he is currently president of the standing committee. Johnston will be consecrated at the Washington National Cathedral May 26.

Under Episcopal canon, the diocesan bishop must resign within three years of the election of a bishop coadjutor. n

Sources: Episcopal News Service, The Washington Times, The Living Church

TEC Seeks Involvement

In NY Property Lawsuit

Pursuing, as one report put it, “her now-famous doctrine of peace and shalom,” Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori had attorneys file motions January 5 asking a New York state supreme court judge to allow The Episcopal Church (TEC) to join the Diocese of Central New York’s lawsuit against St. Andrew’s Church, Syracuse.

It was the first such action by the national church since Schori assumed office late in 2006.

The diocese has been seeking to seize St. Andrew’s property since the parish voted to pull out of TEC and affiliate with the Anglican Mission in America. The parish says it is a “free church” under New York state property law and therefore is in ultimate control of its property. Legal precedents in New York incline toward the retention of property by free churches in contests with denominational authorities.

Up to this writing, preliminary rulings by the court have largely been in the parish’s favor. Although denying a motion by the parish to dismiss the lawsuit outright, the court also denied diocesan motions to issue a preliminary injunction, to freeze the assets of the congregation, and to hold vestry members personally liable.

An offer by the parish in mid-January to settle the suit by deeding the parish real estate (church, parish hall and rectory) to the diocese in exchange for a five-year lease while new facilities were located, was rejected. Parish attorney Raymond Dague was puzzled and disappointed by the rebuff, saying that acceptance of the offer “would have spared everyone the scandal of a bishop suing a local church to assert spiritual authority in the civil courts.”

On January 31, the diocese filed a motion for partial summary judgment in the lawsuit. While saying that the motion, if granted, will not affect the parish’s occupancy of its property for the time being, attorney Dague said that, “The latest filing by the diocese is a clear attempt to wear down our people. Apparently Bishop [“Skip”] Adams would rather see our church padlocked than give us any breathing room.” n

Sources: www.DagueLaw.com, The Living Church

Deputies President Scores

San Joaquin, Says Parishes,

Dioceses, Can’t Leave TEC

A key Episcopal official took part in a recent California rally organized by members of the Diocese of San Joaquin who oppose the diocese’s late 2006 move to prepare for separation from The Episcopal Church (TEC) in favor of the wider Anglican Communion.

“I want you to know that you are part of The Episcopal Church. You will be supported and defended and prayed for,” Mrs. Bonnie Anderson, president of the Episcopal General Convention’s House of Deputies, told the gathering of several hundred participants at St. John’s Church, Lodi, California, on February 10.

Traditionalist San Joaquin Bishop John-David Schofield also attended the event, which began in the morning with a service of Holy Eucharist, continued with Mrs. Anderson’s address after lunch, and concluded with a panel discussion. The bishop sat in the front row with several other diocesan officials and reportedly made no public comment.

Anderson criticized the legislation approved during the San Joaquin convention last December in which delegates approved the first reading of constitutional amendments which would remove all references to TEC and identify San Joaquin as a constituent member of the Anglican Communion. The appeal of diocesan leaders to the Archbishop of Canterbury for alternate primatial oversight also brought critical remarks.

Anderson contended that individuals are free to leave TEC or come back to it at any time, but parishes and dioceses do not have that same right.

“Parishes cannot unilaterally disestablish themselves or remove themselves from a diocese. Diocesan bishops are in communion with the presiding bishop and other bishops of [TEC]. They cannot leave and take `their diocese’ with them,” she maintained.

The event was sponsored by Remain Episcopal, a diocesan group that is among self-styled Via Media groups that have been organized in a number of dioceses aligned with the conservative Anglican Communion Network. n

Sources: The Living Church, Episcopal News Service

TEC’s Largest Parish Joins AMiA

Christ Church, Plano, Texas, had been The Episcopal Church’s largest parish, but now it is aligned with the Anglican Mission in America.

The new affiliation was announced in late January, shortly after AMiA’s Winter Conference in Jacksonville, Florida, where participants included the Rev. David Roseberry, rector of Christ Church. The parish has an average weekend attendance of some 2,200 at five services, and (according to some reports) about double that number on its rolls.

Though it had been in a conservative diocese, Dallas, Christ Church had disassociated from The Episcopal Church (TEC) in September 2006, saying the parish’s orthodox mission was impaired by its membership in TEC; Bishop James Stanton reached a settlement with the parish allowing it to keep its property. In outlining their reasons for joining the AMiA, Christ Church leaders cited a common sense of mission, purpose, and values, focused on those who do not yet know the love of Christ; and the Anglican Mission’s connection to the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Christ Church’s temporary overseer after its split from TEC, the Bishop of Peru, Bill Godfrey, enthusiastically supported the parish’s realignment with the Anglican Mission, and Christ Church was warmly welcomed by AMiA leaders.

Christ Church is among a number of recent congregational additions to AMiA, and joins five other Anglican Mission congregations in Texas: All Saints, Houston; BridgePoint Church, Austin; HopePointe Church, the Woodlands; Mesa Community Church, Austin; and St. Cyprian’s International Church, Amarillo. n

Sources: AMiA, Report by Chris Sugden of Anglican Mainstream (anglican-mainstream.net), VirtueOnline

Booming AMiA Conference

Keeps Focus On Evangelizing

More than 1,200 faithful from all around the world  - including eight archbishops - gathered at the Anglican Mission in America’s seventh annual Winter Conference in Jacksonville, Florida, January 17-20 to mark AMiA’s growth and mobilize for more.

Gathered under the theme “enlarge the place of your tent” (Isaiah 54:2-3), the conference learned from AMiA’s Chairman, Bishop Charles (Chuck) Murphy, that the Anglican Mission had grown from 11 churches in 2000 to 108 congregations in 2007; another 13 fellowships, and 64 new works, are in progress, with ten more underway in Canada. The growth has been accomplished through the reception of existing congregations, response to groups that want to start an AMiA church, and planting churches in new territory. An initiative backed by the Anglican Communion province of Rwanda, the AMiA sees as its primary evangelistic focus the 130 million unchurched individuals in America. “Think Big!” Murphy urged the gathered clergy and laity.

Another sign of expansion was a key, but also controversial, announcement in Jacksonville that the AMiA is now part of an umbrella structure, the Anglican Mission in the Americas. The entity brings into one fellowship two existing bodies, AMiA and the Anglican Coalition in Canada (ACiC), and a nascent second U.S. wing, the Anglican Coalition in America (ACiA) which - unlike AMiA - will accept women priests.

The move, said to have been catalyzed by Rwandan Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini, upset some AMiA clergy in Jacksonville who feared that the Anglican Mission had compromised its biblically-based stand on the ordination issue. After a careful study, the AMiA concluded in 2003 that scripture, and its guidance on headship, supported the ordination of women only to the diaconate.

However, Bishop Murphy, who now chairs the umbrella structure, said that the AMiA has not changed its fundamental position on women’s ordination, and saw no significant change in its situation. He noted that the Anglican Communion at large encompasses differing practices on women’s ordination, an innovation still undergoing a testing (“reception”) period among Anglicans, and that the AMiA was linked from the start with a province, Rwanda, that accepts women priests. The ACiC, brought alongside AMiA last year and overseen by an AMiA bishop, also permits female priests.

“The charge from the province of Rwanda was to create a structure that could embrace all three groups and maintain the integrity and conscience of each of [them]...The three entities, ACiC, AMiA, ACiA, are equal, are in communion with one another and are under the authority of...Rwanda through its missionary outreach, the Anglican Mission in the Americas,” Murphy said. (For more on this, see “Changes In AMiA’s Structure Raise Concerns About Ordination Policy” in “bonus reports” linked to this (Jan-Mar) issue at http://www.challengeonline.org.)

“GOD IS DOING A NEW AND GREAT THING with the Anglican Mission in America at this crucial and critical moment in His church in North America and in the Anglican Communion,” former South East Asian Archbishop Yong Ping Chung told the some 1,600 congregants at the Winter Conference’s opening Eucharist on the evening of January 17. It was the largest turnout for the start of the annual meeting.

Responding to a crisis of faith and leadership in the U.S. Episcopal Church (TEC), the controversial consecrations of AMiA’s founding bishops, Chuck Murphy and Dr. John Rodgers, in 2000 shocked the Anglican world, said Yong. Some doubted the ministry would survive; even some conservatives condemned or distanced themselves from it, he said. But he hailed the AMiA’s growth, noting that over half of its churches are new plants, and the further expansion represented by the Anglican Mission in the Americas.

“Many have paid a price for their faith and come out of adverse and painful situations, just to focus on Him, and to give him authority and dominion that are rightfully His,” Yong said.

The gathering gave an ebullient welcome to Rwanda’s Archbishop Kolini and former South East Asian Archbishop Moses Tay, the two primates who consecrated Murphy and Rodgers in Singapore in 2000.

“One Church In The U.S.”

Other primates who brought greetings and encouragement to the largely American and Canadian audience included Archbishops Fidele Dirokpa of the Congo, Bernard Malango of Central Africa, Donald Mtetemela of Tanzania, Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya, and Ian Ernest of the Indian Ocean.

Among other prelates in attendance were Bolivian Bishop Frank Lyons of the Province of the Southern Cone, and Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan, Moderator of the Anglican Communion Network (ACN). Lyons asserted that “Shortly there will be one [faithful] church in the United States.” Duncan noted that there are now 900 networked conservative congregations from coast to coast and north to south, with more than 100 under the protection of foreign primates. Faithful American Anglicans are jurisdictionally divided for the moment but will in God’s time be “one biblical, missionary movement in this land,” he said.

Present as well were two bishops and the General Secretary of the Church of England in South Africa (CESA), an Evangelical Anglican body dispossessed from the wider Anglican fold in the 19th century. Other bodies and groups represented in Jacksonville included the Common Cause Partners, and the British-based Anglican Mainstream. Overall, conference participants hailed from 36 states and the District of Columbia, and 15 countries.

Dr. J. I. Packer, renowned author and theologian, taught daily Bible studies; Andy Piercy, most recently from Holy Trinity Brompton, London, home church of the Alpha course, led worship; and internationally acclaimed speakers included Piercy, the Rev. Canon Michael Green, Becky Pippert, the Rev. Jack Deere, and Greg Bunch.

Workshops addressed a wide variety of topics, including leadership, prayer, personal evangelism, team-building, spiritual formation, spiritual gifts, children’s and youth ministry, worship, marriage and family, healing, building dynamic churches, effective communications, and discipleship.

A workshop titled “Common worship: Presenting the new 1662 Prayer Book in Contemporary English,” led by the Rev. Phil Lyman of Pennsylvania and Dr. Peter Toon of the Prayer Book Society of the USA, was standing room only, with participants overflowing into the hall outside the conference room. Toon, who had a key role in the new volume, sees the response as an indication of growing awareness in the AMiA (most of which has used the 1979 Prayer Book) that the Anglican Mission needs the classic Anglican liturgy in order to stay anchored to the reformed catholic faith. A contemporary language version of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer services (which are the most widely used in the Anglican Communion, either in English or in translation) seems to provide a needed bridge to that historic liturgy for AMiA members.

The next AMiA Winter Conference is set for January 23-26, 2008 in Dallas, Texas.

*CHARISMA MAGAZINE recently chose AMiA’s Bishop Chuck Murphy as one of its top ten Christian newsmakers of 2006. Those named were selected because of “their Christian faith, compassion, and courage.”

*TWO TOP STAFF MEMBERS of the American Anglican Council (AAC), an organization that serves conservatives in and outside of TEC, are now working with and for the AMiA. The Rev. Canon Ellis E. Brust, AAC’s chief operating officer, is filling the newly-defined position of president, which “reflects AMiA’s preparation for its next phase of missionary growth and expansion,” said a news release. “He will act as the principal executive officer responsible for daily operations, supervision of management and field staff as well as assisting with resource development.” As well, Canon Brust’s wife, Cynthia, who was AAC’s communications director, is now serving AMiA in the same capacity; the Rev. Jay Greener, AMiA’s communications officer since 2002, accepted a call as rector of Church of the Redeemer in Highland Park, Illinois. Interestingly, AAC’s leader, Canon David Anderson, has also made a change of late, transferring his canonical residency from TEC to the Nigerian-sponsored Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). n

“Inappropriate Relationship”

Leads To Cleric’s Firing

An ex-Episcopal priest who has been a leading voice among faithful Anglicans in the U.S. was removed in February from his position as rector of a Florida parish after having an “inappropriate relationship” with an adult female church member.

The Rev. Samuel C. Pascoe, 56, has lost his license to minister in the Anglican Mission in America, to which the cleric had led his former Episcopal parish, Grace Church, Orange Park.

Grace’s move was part of an exodus of a number of parishes over the last year or so from the Jacksonville-based Episcopal Diocese of Florida, which followed upon the refusal of Bishop John Howard to end fellowship with pro-gay, revisionist Episcopal leaders or to grant the parishes’ request for alternate episcopal oversight. Since leaving Grace Episcopal’s property in 2006, Pascoe had orchestrated a $4 million fundraising campaign to build new facilities for his congregation.

Pascoe, who is married with three sons, is not talking to the media and referred all questions to Grace’s Senior Warden, David Nelson.

“It’s a painful thing that has taken place,” Nelson said. “And it’s difficult for Sam given the comments he has made” on issues of sexual morality.

A spokesman for Bishop Howard said the diocese had no comment.

Church journalist David Virtue said the tragedy is not for the conservative Anglican movement, but for Pascoe and his family. n

Source: The Times-Union

 

TEC Bishop And - Oops -

Communion Official Blast

Williams Before Primates Meet

Among the most interesting of the volleys that marked the run-up to February’s Primates’ Meeting was a surprising outburst against the Archbishop of Canterbury by an Episcopal bishop, which led to the leak of an e-mail in which no less than the Anglican Communion’s secretary general agreed  that the Archbishop was “fostering schism” in the church’s homosexual conflict.

The timing seemed particularly unfortunate for the Secretary General, Canon Kenneth Kearon, who, with personnel from the Communion’s (historically left-leaning) London office, would a short time later be front and center, providing support for the Archbishop and Primates’ Meeting in Tanzania.

It all began when Bishop Paul Marshall of the Diocese of Bethlehem (Pennsylvania) - a liberal prelate who nonetheless claims to be abiding by the 2004 Windsor Report - wrote a copiously scornful open letter to and about Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, titled, “If the Pope can go to Turkey, can the ABC go to Texas?” The screed, which hit the Internet on January 15, began life on January 12 as a “discussion starter” e-mail to members of the Episcopal House of Bishops.

When readers expressed interest, and said the letter should circulate more widely, Marshall expanded the document. In it, he accused Williams of lacking the intellectual integrity to maintain the pro-gay stance of his earlier years in academia; of manipulative meddling - beyond his authority - into the affairs of The Episcopal Church (TEC); and of failing to meet face to face with U.S. bishops. Marshall said, “I cannot help but anticipate that he will be remembered as having chosen a path that was not courageous or well-defined and actually fostered schism.”

It was ironic: Marshall vividly revealed what liberals are thinking about a man that conservatives took to be alarmingly liberal when he began his primacy - a judgement that for most has been tempered but not entirely abnegated over time.

Jim Naughton, a liberal TEC blogger and communications officer for the Diocese of Washington, said that Marshall’s criticism of Williams “articulates what many of us have been feeling about the Archbishop of Canterbury and his behavior toward our church for some time.” Naughton’s sentiments presaged several TEC bishops’ negative reactions to documents from February’s Primates’ Meeting.

MARSHALL BEGAN by describing Williams as “a pious and good man, great in so many ways,” who has nevertheless made “mistakes in policy and deed.” The liberal prelate accused Williams of favoritism toward conservatives in TEC, of neglecting to listen to and provide care for the U.S. province as a whole. Marshall said “my friend and neighbor Bob Duncan...and a few of his supporters, have had more time with Rowan Williams than has our entire House, or even our church gathered in convention.”

He continued: “The long-distance intervention in our process during the last moments of the [2006 General Convention] has made us a laughing-stock. (Katharine [Jefferts Schori] wonderfully rolled with that without losing her integrity, a marvelous first inning.) The public words of welcome he gave to our new primate would have made a Laodicean proud for their restrained enthusiasm. The widely-publicized Lambeth Palace photograph of Rowan, Frank, and Katharine all standing as far away from each other as the camera lens would allow has not been without its effect on many among us.”

Marshall said that the estrangement between Williams and TEC predated the 2003 election and consecration of gay cleric Gene Robinson, going back to Williams’ comments about the 9/11 terror attack on the U.S. He said that “People in my own diocese who lost loved ones in that attack have never recovered from the insensitive academic speculation of their galactic leader asking those covered in blood, ashes, and strewn body parts to reflect on the bombers and `why they hate’ the U.S.”

The bishop claimed that TEC’s innovative policies on homosexuality were enacted by “a church that has followed [Williams’] own carefully thought-through teachings on sexuality, teaching that he only last year suddenly dismissed as a sin of his academic youth.” He said that North American bishops have been shunned by the Archbishop they thought was a friend “with no notice that either his opinions or commitments were in flux.”

Marshall then accused the Archbishop of stacking the ecclesiastical deck against TEC in the Windsor Report process. Despite this, he said he had submitted to all of the Windsor Report’s demands (chiefly, moratoria on further gay bishops or blessings) “as a reluctant gesture of good will to the Communion and sacrifice of principle for the sake of those who may be weaker brethren. Cannot that be reciprocated?...”

“By Rowan’s subsequent actions and inactions the situation... for me now [is] manageable only by the combination of prayer and surrender to the belief that God will work this out through the usual means - crucifixion and resurrection. But before we get ready for life alone, we deserve to hear from him, in the room with us, an explanation of his distance and intentions.”

Marshall challenged Williams to reach out to TEC at least to the extent that the Pope reached out to Muslims in his November 2006 trip to Turkey. He said that, to his knowledge, Williams had made only one brief visit to the U.S. since 2003, for Communion fundraising purposes, and had avoided or cancelled other planned meetings with U.S. and Canadian bishops. Instead, Williams had sent representatives to speak to Episcopal bishops for him but who denied they were doing so, Marshall charged.

While not addressing the role that revisionist bishops have had in creating the problem, Marshall said: “Our relationship to the one who is expected to be first in a worldwide college of bishops is distant, confused, and multiply-triangulated. We are ceaselessly told by those who would destroy our church that the [Archbishop] endorses this or that crudely divisive action or position. Questions to Lambeth on these occasions are sometimes met with silence and sometimes with stunning equivocation.”

He said that part of pastoral care is staying “as close as possible to those who may be seen to be problematic. The Pope went to Turkey. Can the Archbishop of Canterbury not come to meet us just once at a regular or special meeting in any city he would care to name?”

Having requested this visit, though, Marshall went on to accuse Williams of appointing “a virtual lynch mob” to draft the Anglican covenant that appears likely to create “a curial bureaucracy” that will act as a colonial oppressor.

The prelate proposed that “no foreign bishop whatsoever” be allowed to address the TEC House of Bishops on its home turf until Archbishop Williams does so, and there undergoes “frank questioning.”

Kearon: Critique Of Williams “Accurate”

As Paul Marshall began, Canon Kearon continued, albeit less turgidly. Within days, Kearon e-mailed Louie Crew - a leading gay activist within TEC - that he had forwarded Marshall’s critique to Archbishop Williams.

“Sadly,” Kearon stated, “it’s very accurate, and is almost the script for a very difficult meeting I had with [Dr. Williams] last Wednesday. We discussed absolute limits of appeasement, and also how a future direction might be identified. Advisers (and sadly I’m not one of them) are at the heart of this.”

Crew described the publication of this private e-mail as a “betrayal”: “I shared the message with a limited number of trusted friends, one of whom betrayed me. I have harmed an important leader in the Church and I deeply regret that,” he said.

“For Kenneth Kearon to accuse Rowan Williams of fostering schism is quite extraordinary,” said the erudite Bishop of Durham, N.T. Wright, who served on the panel that produced the Windsor Report. “That is like someone in a house that is on fire accusing the firemen of ruining the book collection because they have sprayed water on it.

“It is quite clear,” Wright said, “that the split is coming from those in the American Church who are insisting on doing something that the Lambeth Conference and the rest of the Communion had asked them not to do. To accuse [Dr.] Williams of fomenting schism is really projecting onto Rowan the schismatic actions” of The Episcopal Church in approving and consecrating Gene Robinson in 2003, despite warnings from Anglican primates that this would “tear the fabric of the Communion at its deepest level...All that has happened subsequently is the rest of the Communion saying we really hope you did not mean that, but if you did, have you thought through the consequences?

“There are many in America who are trying to have their cake and eat it, who are doing the schismatic thing and then accusing those who object of being schismatic. That is the bizarre thing.”

The Daily Telegraph said that the secretary general’s support for Bishop Marshall’s comments are “the more remarkable because he is considered ‘a centrist and diplomat.’”

The newspaper said Kearon “may have been marginalized from the tight-knit group that now briefs the Archbishop.” Likewise, he may have had a harder time at February’s Primates’ Meeting than he would have otherwise. But he had a tough act to follow, anyway. Kearon succeeded the liberal Canon John Peterson, who was repeatedly accused of stealthfully thwarting or muting the conservative will of past Primates’ Meetings. One primate opined, though, that the new secretary general - who now also appears more of a liberal than some thought - does not have the same level of manipulative skill of his predecessor. Indeed, whatever talents he may have in that direction appear to have been largely unavailing in Tanzania. n

Sources: Daily Episcopalian weblog, Diocese of Washington weblog, The Living Church, Church Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph

Bishop Has Unexpected Role

In Council, Primates’ Meeting

It has been a surprising few months for the Episcopal Bishop of Western Louisiana, D. Bruce MacPherson.

First, he was tapped as president of the Presiding Bishop’s Council of Advice. He asked for time alone to pray before accepting the nomination, because this was not what he expected when he attended the meeting of the newly constituted Council with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori December 4-6 in Weehawken, New Jersey.

The reason is that MacPherson identifies himself as someone who wants The Episcopal Church (TEC) to both “stay in the Anglican Communion and follow the (2004) Windsor Report,” which laid out steps that TEC needed to take to repair relations in the Anglican Communion damaged by its pro-gay policies.

In another surprise, MacPherson was invited by the Archbishop of Canterbury to join in consultations linked to February’s Primates’ Meeting in Tanzania along with two other U.S. bishops besides Jefferts Schori (Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan, and the Presiding Bishop’s Deputy for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, Bishop Christopher Epting). The invitations to non-primates were highly unusual.

Moreover, MacPherson accepted the call to Tanzania even though the December Council meeting discouraged the Archbishop of Canterbury from inviting “additional ‘dissenting’ (conservative) bishops” from TEC to the Primates’ Meeting.

But some were quick to contend that MacPherson’s sudden elevation to the national and international stage fell short of a total conservative coup: the prelate is on record, while he was a suffragan bishop in Dallas, as supporting Resolution D039 of the 2000 General Convention, which registered support for “committed” same-sex and unwed heterosexual relationships (despite which there were differing interpretations of the resolution among conservatives).

On the other hand, MacPherson maintained that his newly expanded role will effect no change in “the positions that I’ve taken on the defense of the gospel, the Anglican Communion, the Windsor Report, and the orthodox faith...I will not compromise my relationship with Jesus Christ. There has been no movement on that and there will be no movement from that.”

The Council is comprised of bishops who are either presidents or vice presidents of the nine geographic, internal Episcopal Church provinces. Bishop MacPherson is serving a second three-year term as president of Province VII. n

Sources: The Living Church, Episcopal News Service

Kenyan Leader Tours U.S.

Receives Request To Form U.S. Diocese

Faithful Anglicans from five states turned out January 12-13 to meet with Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi, leader of the Kenyan Church within the Anglican Communion, at St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Memphis, Tennessee.

Nzimbi was on a tour through the United States to visit not just with Kenyan immigrant congregations but with clergy and people disaffected by The Episcopal Church’s embrace of pan-sexualism and seeking oversight by overseas prelates who share their concerns.

In the course of the Memphis meeting, the Archbishop received a formal request from the 18 parishes represented there to form an American diocese of the Kenyan Church and appoint a bishop for them. Nzimbi did not immediately commit himself or his province to granting the request, but promised to discuss it with other participants in the February meeting of Anglican primates in Tanzania. He cautioned the delegates that, “We must go slowly and assure that in every step we are giving honor and glory to God.”

A Kenyan jurisdiction in the U.S. looked unlikely to be realized in the aftermath of February’s Primates’ Meeting, which called for a Pastoral Council set up by the primates to work out a system of alternate oversight and care for U.S. faithful involving “Windsor-compliant” Episcopal bishops.

If the request for a Kenyan-backed American diocese was granted, however, it would be the third time an African Anglican province has established an extra-territorial structure in North America: The Anglican Mission in America (AMiA) operates under the aegis of the Rwandan province and the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) under that of the Nigerian Church. Meanwhile, other congregations have set themselves under the jurisdiction of South American bishops, notably Bolivia.

Proceeding January 14 to Jacksonville, Florida, where he also attended the AMiA’s Winter Conference, Archbishop Nzimbi officiated at the ordination of an American woman, Lynne Ashmead, as a priest. This is believed to be the first time a global South primate has presided at such a service in the U.S. (and will serve as an uncomfortable reminder for some of the divisions over women’s ordination among conservative Anglicans internationally).

The Archbishop then traveled to eastern Massachusetts to visit a Kenyan expatriate congregation that was already establishing itself in the Attleboro area as the saga of All Saints’ unfolded across town. (See a separate story on the latter in this section.) The Rev. Paul Mwaniki, a Kenyan priest living in Attleboro, started St. James African Anglican Church in 2005 to serve the significant Kenyan expatriate population that lives in the area. The congregation is meeting at the Good News Bible Chapel in Attleboro while searching for a permanent home.

On January 21, Fr. Mwaniki was host to three Kenyan Bishops - Timothy Ranji of Mount Kenya South, Gideon Githiga of Thika, and Archbishop Nzimbi. Addressing the group, the Archbishop recalled the faith that the missionaries to Kenya brought with them, often at great personal sacrifice, and reminded his listeners of their present vocation to sustain that faith, even carrying it back and proclaiming it for the re-conversion of the lands from which it came to Kenya. Nzimbi, who has about 25 U.S. congregations under his care, said that, “We are here to be with you. We are here to support you. We are here to encourage you. And we are here to stand with you and tell you that Jesus has not changed. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

The Kenyan leader’s American walkabout was not without its critics. Revisionist Minnesota Episcopal Bishop James Jelinek -  saying that Nzimbi “does harm” to The Episcopal Church - forbade one of his priests to host a lecture by the Archbishop in his parish. (The lecture went ahead at a nearby Evangelical church.) Ohio Episcopal Bishop Mark Hollingsworth said that he was “profoundly disappointed” by Nzimbi’s plans to officiate at an ordination in Cleveland without his permission. (The ordination proceeded as scheduled.) n

Sources: The Attleboro Sun-Chronicle, VirtueOnline, Memphis Commercial Appeal, The Providence Journal, The Living Church, Episcopal News Service

Ex-TEC Congregation Evicted

In Massachusetts

A Massachusetts congregation that hoped it could negotiate with the diocese for its property after voting to leave The Episcopal Church (TEC) was forced to vacate its facilities in late January.

In mid-November, All Saints’ Church in Attleboro became the first of 23 New England congregations affiliated with the conservative Anglican Communion Network (ACN) to decide that it had had all it could stand of the revisionism of TEC and the Diocese of Massachusetts. At that time, a majority of members voted to end the parish’s 115-year association with the denomination, change its name to All Saints’ Anglican Church, and affiliate with the Rwandan Church by joining the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA).

The doctrinal and moral degeneration of TEC was a key factor in the congregation’s decision not to ask Massachusetts Bishop Marvel Thomas Shaw for alternative episcopal oversight, and instead to leave TEC altogether. According to Fr. Lance Guiffrida, All Saints’ rector since 2001, the parish saw no possibility of reconciling its position with that of TEC’s liberal majority, of which Bishop Shaw has long been a prominent member.

Guiffrida’s request to transfer to the Province of Rwanda was granted by ecclesiastical authorities there, but not in Massachusetts, where the diocesan machinery began to apply the now-common “abandonment of communion” template against the Nashotah-trained priest, who has 28 years of service to his credit. Remarkably, a diocesan staff officer, the Rev. Gregory Jacobs, maintained that if Guiffrida is deposed, it will mean that not just TEC, but “no other diocese in the Anglican Communion recognizes him as a priest.”

Meanwhile, the parish leaders’ request that the diocese grant them the title to the church building was also refused by diocesan officials; instead, they mailed a letter to all parishioners accusing Guiffrida of violating his ordination vows and parishioners of violating their “covenant with the diocese” by realigning with the Rwandan province.

In a letter received by the rector on January 23, the congregation was ordered off the property by January 31. The demand was not unexpected, and the rector and a majority of parishioners were already prepared to walk away.

After an emotional final service on January 28, Guiffrida said, “I can only promise you that you will own the next church.” Members left the property in the hands of a minority of TEC loyalists in the congregation, many of whom had ceased attending regularly because of their discomfort with Guiffrida’s evident commitment to a traditional understanding of Christianity that runs contrary to the prevailing assumptions of secular liberal New England culture.

The diocese sent retired priest William Underhill to serve as interim pastor until the parish finds a new rector. He officiated on the following Sunday, February 4, at a service that reportedly drew a congregation of 150 comprised not only of returning parishioners but a number of people from other parts of the diocese who wished to show their solidarity with the loyalist remnant. Among them was former Massachusetts Suffragan Bishop Barbara Harris - Anglicanism’s first female bishop - who is now serving in Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, All Saints’ Anglican held three Sunday services in rented quarters at Fisher College in North Attleboro, with a total attendance of 250 (as reported by an independent journalist). Present as a special guest to offer encouragement to the already-enthusiastic group was Tanzanian Bishop Jackton Lugumira (whose visit had been scheduled prior to the congregants’ ejection from their previous site). Bishop Lugumira told the assembly that God was putting them through a trial, and that this would not be the last one. However, he said, “it shows we are firm in what we believe. This makes you strong.  It grounds you in faith.” n

Sources: The Attleboro Sun-Chronicle, The Boston Globe, The Providence Journal

Atlanta Bishop Assumes

Control Of Seceded Parish

Atlanta Episcopal Bishop Neil Alexander recently declared himself in “total charge” of St. Andrew’s-in-the-Pines in Peachtree City, Georgia, and ordered the wardens and vestry to turn over the keys to the property and all parish assets.

This, after the some 350-member St. Andrew’s - which initially intended to keep its property - voted by 145-67 (68 percent) February 4 to withdraw from The Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Diocese of Atlanta.

Following the lead of a bloc of Virginia parishes, St. Andrew’s aligned with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), a missionary jurisdiction of the Anglican Communion province in Nigeria.

Senior Warden David Wardell said the main impetus for St. Andrew’s departure was TEC’s “practice of reinterpreting scripture, especially being driven by social change.” St. Andrew’s began losing members at a significant rate after the consecration of gay cleric Gene Robinson in 2003, as parishioners split over that issue and others stemming from it, Wardell said.

“The authority of Scripture and the issue of Jesus as the Savior are important to us,” one parishioner said.

St. Andrew’s hope that it could reach an amicable property settlement with Alexander appeared dim after the bishop’s demand letter of February 8, despite at least one meeting with the prelate.

In the end, the congregation decided to avoid the legal dispute, and held its first service as a CANA parish, under the name the Anglican Church of Fayette County, at a community center February 25; some 125 persons turned out for service, led by the Rev. Canon David C. Anderson, president of the American Anglican Council, who recently transferred from TEC to CANA as well. (The congregation has no rector at present.) The parish will meet at a school while searching for its own building. n

Sources: AAC, The Diocese of Atlanta, citizen.com

Judge Says Diocese Can’t

Amend Losing Property Suit

A California Superior Court judge ruled January 31 that the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego could not raise new legal claims in a case that had already been decided in favor of St. John’s, Fallbrook.

The decision means that what is now St. John’s Anglican Church, which left the diocese and The Episcopal Church (TEC) in July 2006, continues to own the property in which the congregation meets, and remains governed by the vestry that was in charge at the time of the secession.

In November 2006, Judge Jacqueline Stern ruled that the August 7, 2006, election of a new vestry by a minority of the congregation that wished to remain in TEC was invalid. San Diego Bishop James Mathes and other diocesan officials had maintained to the court that this replacement vestry was the legitimate leadership of the continuing St. John’s Episcopal Church and therefore legally entitled to control the property. Stern’s ruling, however, left the previous vestry in place, and she held in January 2007 that her November ruling ended the case. n

Source: North County Times

Pittsburgh: Liberals Revive

Property Dispute

A liberal rector and parish in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh recently returned to court to ask a judge to “enforce” an October 2005 property settlement with the conservative-led diocese that resulted from an earlier legal action by the liberals.

The previous court dispute challenged a 2003 diocesan convention resolution asserting that congregations own their buildings. The settlement said that, even if most Pittsburgh congregations left The Episcopal Church (TEC), any diocesan real estate and endowments would continue to be held and administered by the diocese for its parishes and institutions.

In the recent action, initiated in December, the Rev. Harold Lewis and Calvary Episcopal Church, and two other persons, filed a petition seeking remedies for alleged breaches of the 2005 settlement. The petitioners asked the judge to enforce a ruling prohibiting the Diocese of Pittsburgh from transferring title or the use of any real or personal property to any entity outside of TEC.

The action reportedly seeks to draw the national church into the dispute.

Diocesan sources denied that the settlement had been violated, and asserted that TEC owns no property in the diocese. They believe Lewis is girding for what he thinks will be a diocesan move to leave TEC with its properties, though Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan has repeatedly said it is TEC that has left the Anglican community.

But Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh (PEP), a liberal/corporatist group that is part of the so-called Via Media network, and which Fr. Lewis supports, thought it found confirmation of its claim that diocesan leaders are attempting to sever the diocese from TEC in the third revised appeal for alternative primatial oversight (APO) advanced by the Pittsburgh diocese on January 29. PEP noted that this third appeal was made to Anglican primates alone instead of Canterbury alone (as with the second request). It sought APO (a primatial substitute for revisionist Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori) as interim “cover” which would allow conservatives to continue “domestic legal and property battles” as that part of TEC which remains a constituent member of the Communion; the interim period would end when “a permanent and constituent Anglican Communion entity” is in place in the U.S. The appeal relied on last September’s call by global South Anglican primates for a separate ecclesial structure for U.S. faithful.

Anglican primates sought to answer that and other APO requests in February, saying that they would set up a Pastoral Council to develop a U.S.-based system of alternate primatial oversight and pastoral care.

Bishop Duncan denied that Calvary’s court action is about property. “The matters in play are theological and ecclesiastical. They have nothing to do with the property of the diocese,” he said.

The Pittsburgh diocese has filed a motion to dismiss the case. n

Sources: VirtueOnline, Episcopal News Service

Temporary Property Agreement

Reached In Olympia

A liberal bishop in Washington State has shown that disputes over the property of departing Episcopal parishes can be amicably resolved without the unseemliness and huge expense of litigation.

The Bishop of Olympia, Vincent Warner, and his diocesan standing committee have reached an agreement that allows two congregations that voted to leave The Episcopal Church (TEC) in 2004 to remain in their buildings for the next 7.5 years without paying rent or assessments. It also allows a TEC loyalist group from one of the congregations to share space with the latter in the same facility.

A preamble to the pact states that it has been undertaken in a “spirit of reconciliation and to provide a time for the worldwide Anglican Communion to address serious issues over which its members are not in agreement. It is the intention of all parties to remain members of the Anglican Communion.”

Under terms of the covenant, St. Stephen’s Anglican Church in Oak Harbor, Washington, and St. Charles’ Anglican Church in Poulsbo, Washington, will maintain their current worship schedules. St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church will have use of the property occupied by St. Stephen’s Anglican for Sunday worship at a mutually agreed upon time. The covenant also provides for a means of resolving potential disputes.

“In the event of an allegation of material breach of this agreement, both parties will follow the process of conferring,” the covenant states. “If the effort to confer is unsuccessful, the parties will take the matter to the Rt. Rev. Edward S. Little II, Bishop of Northern Indiana, or if unavailable, someone mutually agreed to by the parties.”

Bishop Little and retired Washington State Superior Court Judge Terrence Carroll, a member of the Judicial Dispute Resolution Center in Seattle, helped draft the covenant during two days of mediation talks last July. Publication of the covenant was delayed until recently in order to allow time for the relevant governing bodies and officials (including the previous and current presiding bishops) to review the document.

Reaching the concord was not easy, especially with some in the diocese pressuring Warner to punish the ex-Episcopal clergy and take their properties. But Canon Betsy Greenman of the diocese said, “We all tried to take a gospel approach...from a perspective of remaining in relationship. It was a faith journey for everyone involved.”

ABOUT A YEAR after the 2003 Episcopal General Convention, which approved the consecration of gay cleric Gene Robinson and same-sex blessings, members of St. Charles’ and St. Stephen’s voted overwhelmingly to disassociate from TEC and come under the oversight of the Bishop of Recife, Brazil, Robinson Cavalcanti (who himself is now under the alternate oversight of Southern Cone Archbishop Gregory Venables). The two Washington congregations are also aligned with the Anglican Communion Network (ACN), which represents some 900 congregations in North America. Members of St. Stephen’s who did not agree with that decision have been holding services in homes to continue the ministry of St. Stephen’s Episcopal in the Oak Harbor community.

Bishop Warner said the idea to structure the covenant to last seven-and-a-half years was based on the biblical concept of the jubilee.

The essence of it “is to provide space and time for the worldwide Anglican Communion to address the issues it faces and for the people in our congregations to be at worship with their friends and neighbors, building and rebuilding relationships,” he said. “There will be two General Conventions, a Lambeth Conference, and who knows how many Primates’ Meetings during the duration,” the bishop noted. Warner is looking toward retirement, but the agreement is binding on his successor.

There is no assurance that the congregations will keep their property after the term of the contract. However, considerable groundwork has been laid for further negotiations at that time.

“This would never have happened without Bishop Warner,” said the Ven. Duncan Clark, rector of St. Charles. He indicated that a warm relationship between the two parties remains and that they are looking for things they can do together.

Warner and Archdeacon Clark expressed hope that this agreement will offer a model of reconciliation for Anglican parishes and Episcopal dioceses throughout the church.

The pact was lauded by ACN’s Moderator, Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan, who commended Bishop Warner’s “very significant example of servant leadership. This represents the type of charity and generosity that I have been pleading for [from the majority] for years. If all the parties in our present dispute were willing to show the same charity and grace, our church would be in a much better state.” n

Sources included The Living Church

Northern California Bishop

Warned About Libel After

Congregation Pulls Out

Anglican realignment has come to the Diocese of Northern California, with the recent decision of St. John’s Church in Petaluma to end its 150-year relationship with The Episcopal Church (TEC).

The vestry and parishioners resolved to transfer, with their property, to a South American Anglican diocese.

In tandem with that move, the rector of what is now St. John’s Anglican Church, Fr. David H. Miller, requested letters dimissory from California Episcopal Bishop Jerry Lamb that would officially transfer him to the jurisdiction of Archbishop Gregory Venables. The latter has since received Miller as “an Anglican priest in good standing in the Diocese of Argentina, in the Province of the Southern Cone,” though Bishop Lamb refused to issue the requested transfer papers.

Indeed, acting just days before his retirement from office, Lamb not only refused to issue letters dimissory, he told Miller December 27 that he had “chosen to view” the cleric’s request as a renunciation of priestly orders in TEC. As such, Miller is no longer a “priest in good standing” in the Diocese of Northern California, and was quickly deposed by the bishop.

Lamb also declared the offices of the St. John’s vestry and wardens to be vacant, and said the diocese would “resist any and all attempts to remove a parish” from its jurisdiction.

In a January 3 letter to the diocese, Lamb said that Miller’s letter “was received with much sadness...I believe individuals have a right to make such changes as they feel necessary for their spiritual life. I don’t believe it is appropriate for anyone to try to take a congregation with them when they make such a change. Pray for me and for [new Northern California Bishop Barry Beisner] as we seek to respond to this action in an appropriate and pastoral manner.” Lamb said this after deposing Miller without open trial and within ten days of the longtime priest’s alleged offense.

Lamb said he refused letters dimissory based on his understanding that they are “sent when a person physically moves to another diocese,” whereas Miller planned to continue residing in his diocese.

This was disputed by the Rev. Dr. Lu T. Nguyen, the canon lawyer for St. John’s and a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. He maintained that the canon law in question “does not require a physical relocation,” and that the issuance of properly requested transfer papers is canonically required of bishops and not a discretionary matter.

Dr. Nguyen has also warned Bishops Lamb and Beisner that the bishops’ public statements that Miller had “voluntarily renounced” his orders are false and - if not retracted - libelous.

The 200-member St. John’s congregation, begun in 1856, is the first to attempt to leave the Diocese of Northern California with its property. It has been eyeing the exits since the 2003 General Convention - including Bishop Lamb - voted to confirm gay cleric V. Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire. Among other catalysts for the parish’s departure, Nguyen indicated, were the “revisionist theology” of TEC’s new presiding bishop and the 2006 election of Beisner - a twice-divorced and thrice-married cleric - to succeed Bishop Lamb in January 2007. Despite some controversy over Beisner’s marital history, his consecration was approved by the 2006 Episcopal General Convention.

At this writing, the diocese had not yet sued for St. John’s property, but the congregation was preparing for such action,  hiring, in addition to Nguyen, the Fresno law firm of Penner, Bradley, and Buettner. This firm won a landmark 2004 case involving a seceded Methodist congregation in which the appeals court upheld precedents allowing congregations like St. John’s to disassociate from the national church and retain their property. The court also ruled that third party property trusts (like TEC’s “Dennis Canon”) imposed on a congregation can be revoked by the congregation.

“The Episcopal Diocese of Northern California has no ownership” in the property of St. John’s Anglican Church, Nguyen has declared, and “no legal right to direct that any member of this corporation vacate the premises.”

*THE DIOCESE OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA has been on the leading edge of an unorthodox innovation - allowing the unbaptized to receive Holy Communion - under Bishop Lamb, but new diocesan Barry Beisner says serious conversation on the topic is required. “Under our existing canons, it is very clear that communion of the unbaptized is prohibited,” Beisner said not long ago. “Many of our ecumenical agreements also are predicated on that understanding. This is an instance where my personal views may not be in complete agreement with the majority sentiment in the diocese. It will not be my practice as bishop to invite the unbaptized to the table, but I am not going to begin an extensive policing policy for our clergy.” He said the diocese and whole church need to undertake a “serious conversation” on the matter. n

Sources: St. John’s Anglican Church, Diocese of Northern California, VirtueOnline, Episcopal News Service, The Living Church, San Francisco Chronicle

 

Georgia Bishop To Parish:

Stay and Pay Or Go Away

A parish frequently described as “the Mother Church of Georgia” was told by the local Episcopal bishop, Henry Louttit, late last year to either pay its diocesan assessments or leave the diocese.

The Bishop of Georgia made the demand of Christ Church, Savannah, which dates from 1733 and counts among its past rectors both John Wesley and George Whitefield. The parish is now led by Fr. Marcus B. Robertson.

At issue is the congregation’s desire not to have any of its contribution to the diocese passed on to The Episcopal Church (TEC) headquarters for support of the liberal national body’s program.

The parish’s Chancellor, Neil Creasy, said that Christ Church was not planning to leave TEC and has “no problem supporting the diocese. We don’t want to support the national church. The presiding bishop has made remarks that are at variance with Christianity as we’ve received it.” Creasy and other parish leaders voiced concern about TEC’s movement away from basic elements of the Christian faith, especially the authority of Scripture, the unique divinity of Christ, and the doctrine of salvation.

Creasy noted that Christ Church had for some time given $24,000 annually to support the work of the diocese. In November, the parish’s vestry decided to give the same amount for the diocese, to be distributed at the bishop’s discretion.

ON DECEMBER 3, though, the parish received what Creasy described as an “aggressive and threatening letter” from the diocese’s Chancellor, James L. Elliott.

In the letter, the request previously made by Christ Church’s leaders to be allowed to wait until after the 2008 Lambeth Conference to make a final decision on their future in the Georgia diocese was refused. Bishop Louttit was willing to give them until the end of June 2007, but only if they gave the diocese $60,000 by the end of 2006 (40 percent of the diocesan asking for the year), and $30,000 more before the end of June 2007, in each case to be divided between a few in-diocese programs. Should the congregation decide in June to stay within TEC, it would have to pay another $30,000 as well as what was termed “an unrestricted proportionate financial contribution,” part of which presumably would be passed on to the national church.

The letter said that if the parish decided to leave TEC, it would have to relinquish all its real and personal property to the diocese, and its clergy would be required to renounce their orders.

While asserting they had broken no canons and had no plans to leave TEC, parish leaders acknowledged that they had retained legal counsel.

At this writing, however, tensions appeared to have lessened; this, following a meeting between Bishop Louttit and Christ Church’s vestry in January, and the vestry’s decision “to give more money to the diocese, but not what they were asking, and to give on a regular basis,” still requesting that the funds remain within the diocese, a vestry member told TCC. However, the congregation voted to authorize the vestry to use the corpus of its endowment for legal fees - if needed. The parties will meet again in April.

Meanwhile, though, the diocese’s treatment of Christ Church unexpectedly triggered at Georgia’s early February convention the kind of discussion of key issues that has never before occurred. “People on the orthodox side got up and spoke who have never spoken before,” TCC’s vestry source said. And, the convention narrowly adopted a resolution in support of the Windsor Report and the proposed Anglican covenant. n

Sources: included VirtueOnline, SavannahNow.com   

Court: TEC Priest-Turned-

Continuing Bishop Can Go

To Trial Against Bennison

In a significant legal victory for U.S. orthodox Anglicans, a Pennsylvania court said January 25 that David L. Moyer can go to trial to seek damages against liberal Episcopal Bishop Charles Bennison for deposing him from the priesthood.

The ruling by a Montgomery County Court judge clears the way for a landmark test of the First Amendment. It will mark “the first time that a case will go to trial which involves ecclesiastical discipline of a priest in a hierarchical church,” said John Lewis, the attorney for Moyer, the former president of the traditionalist Forward in Faith, North America.

In an internationally-criticized action, Bennison, the Bishop of Pennsylvania, first inhibited Moyer and then deposed him without trial on September 4, 2002, claiming that the cleric had “abandoned the communion of this church” by an “open renunciation” of its discipline. At the time, Moyer had resisted moves by Bennison - who holds revisionist views on Christ, Scripture, sexuality and women’s ordination - to visit his parish, Good Shepherd, Rosemont, but had not left The Episcopal Church (TEC) (and indeed has remained rector of Good Shepherd to this day, despite his deposition). Moyer first filed civil actions against the bishop four years ago, and since then has aligned with the Anglican Church in America (ACA), a leading Continuing Church body, in which he now serves as a bishop. Good Shepherd has not formally left TEC.

In the January decision, Judge Thomas Branca rejected Bishop Bennison’s argument that the First Amendment principle of separation of church and state barred civil courts from deciding cases involving religious personnel disputes.

Moyer’s lawyers had argued that the priest had no other remedy because Bennison denied him due process by removing him without a church trial, as church law requires. They also said the bishop perverted the canons to depose Moyer. The abandonment canon was designed to be applied to clergy who join a religious body not in communion with TEC.

They also say Bennison fraudulently concealed relevant documents from the diocesan standing committee, which endorsed Moyer’s removal.

“Finally, after four years, a jury trial will make known the full story of the injustice I’ve suffered,” Moyer said after the ruling.

“I in no way abandoned the communion of the Church,” he stated. He said he had contended that Bennison is a “false teacher,” someone who has “separated himself from the teachings of the Church.” He said he could not expose his people to that and therefore could not welcome Bennison to Good Shepherd.

Moyer is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. The trial date had not been set at the time of writing.

Should Bishop Moyer prevail in his lawsuit, the decision  would carry the most weight in Pennsylvania, but would set a moral and legal precedent challenging the use of the abandonment canon against conservative clergy by liberal bishops in Connecticut, California, Florida and Virginia and other states. In most of these cases clergy are charged with abandonment even though they have transferred their canonical residency to another part of the Anglican Communion, of which TEC was still claiming to be a part at this writing.

Bennison’s court loss in January adds to his growing list of serious troubles. The bishop has been accused of concealing the sexual sins of his brother, a now-resigned priest, at a parish where they both worked in the 1970s. He is facing an ecclesiastical complaint filed by his own standing committee, which has asked him repeatedly to resign over trust and financial issues. Concerns about his handling of financial and real estate matters have only deepened as time has gone on. The diocese has recently had to deal with a serious budget shortfall. And it is now being investigated by the state of Maryland, in part over allegations that it is attempting to increase the assessed value of the land where the diocese’s Camp Wapiti (a pet project of Bennison’s) is located, at the expense of Maryland taxpayers. The diocese is in negotiations to sell future development rights on about half of the 600-plus acre parcel of land to the state. n

Sources: The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Church of England Newspaper

Conservative Colorado Priest

Suspended On Financial Charges

Activist conservative Colorado Episcopal priest, the Rev. Donald Armstrong, is under a 90-day inhibition, invoked by liberal Bishop Robert O’Neill, while he is investigated for “possible misapplication of church funds.”

Armstrong, rector of Grace and St. Stephen’s, Colorado Springs, was suspended with pay December 28 pending investigation of the allegation.

The cleric’s request for reinstatement at a February 7 hearing of the diocesan standing committee was rejected the next day. The ten-member committee also voted unanimously to hire an outside attorney to conduct a 60-day investigation, a further step toward a church trial for the priest.

The inhibition is based on one allegation brought against Fr. Armstrong in March 2006. Details of the accusation were being withheld while the investigation was conducted.

Marge Goss, senior warden of Grace and St. Stephen’s, said that the parish gave financial records to the diocese in March 2006, and that “the vestry has not been given a copy of the allegations so we don’t know a whole lot.” Jack Gloriod, a former member of the vestry, said “the vestry has been told to stay out of it. So we parishioners don’t know what’s going on...All kinds of stuff stinks to high heaven.” Bishop O’Neill maintained, however, that he had given vestry members “more specific information” but had asked them to keep quiet.

Armstrong’s lawyer, Daniel Sears of Denver, stated in January that the cleric denies the accusation against him, and that the complaint was brought by a single person. Sears added that Armstrong authorized a diocesan review of parish financial records in the spring of 2006, and was told on December 27 that he was the target of the inquiry. The diocese states that Armstrong is cooperating with the investigation. Diocesan spokeswoman Beckett Stokes said that the diocese has not contacted police because, “at this point, it’s just an allegation.”

ARMSTRONG, 57, has been rector of Grace and St. Stephen’s for 19 years. During his tenure, membership increased from 600 to 2,400, making it one of the largest parishes in the diocese. The cleric flew a helicopter in Vietnam, and describes himself as an Evangelical Episcopalian.

His parish has not attempted to secede from TEC, but - by one report - has “regularly withheld money from the diocese” since 2003 to protest the pro-gay direction of the denomination.

Nearly 300 parishioners signed a petition to Bishop O’Neill requesting Armstrong’s reinstatement, and accusing O’Neill of “an unconscionable and cruel act against our parish and its principal priest.” The petition’s organizers said that the bishop refused to meet with them to receive the protest. Since Armstrong’s suspension, tithes to the parish have decreased 40 percent.

Sources within Grace Church said that the parish carries about $2.4 million in debt, due to recent building programs. Pledges decreased by about $300,000 in 2006, and sources told The Gazette, a local newspaper, that “many parishioners withheld pledges because they were angry with church leadership.” The incoming senior warden for the parish, Jon Wroblewski, noted that all parish expenditures must be signed by two officials, not the rector alone. He also said that the parish has passed every independent audit that it has undergone. However, the last such audit was for the 2003 fiscal year; Wroblewski said that the parish will have another independent audit in 2007, to cover 2004-2006.

A few reports seemed to suggest that there may be some divided sentiments among parishioners, with some claiming that the church leadership hand-picks its successors.

Under the inhibition, Armstrong cannot “exercise any functions or pastoral responsibilities as a priest.” He is forbidden to speak publicly about his case, contact parishioners, or visit church grounds.

At the time of his inhibition, the cleric was attending a second meeting at Camp Allen, Texas of “Windsor-compliant” TEC bishops. He was providing support for the gathering of conservative prelates as executive director of the Colorado Springs-based Anglican Communion Institute (ACI). The ACI has been vocally critical of TEC and its national leadership.

On January 4, the American Anglican Council (AAC) issued a statement of support for Armstrong, saying that he is “a strong leader for biblical orthodoxy.” The AAC described Bishop O’Neill as “widely known for his support of the revisionist agenda.” It added that: “It is curious that these claims have arisen at this time, when other revisionist bishops across the nation have exhibited great hostility toward priests and churches within their respective dioceses who have taken similar stands to Fr. Armstrong’s in support of historic Anglicanism and biblical Christianity.”

In a January 24 letter to parishioners, Bishop O’Neill denied charges that the proceedings against Armstrong were motivated by church politics. He said that, “in spite of the theological differences and tensions that characterize the life of our church these days...under no circumstances would I play politics with any allegation of misconduct, financial or otherwise.” n

Sources: AAC, The Living Church, Denver Post, Episcopal News Service, Rocky Mountain News, The Washington Times, The Gazette

S.C. Bishop-Elect Buffeted

By Opposition Campaign

He is not the first conservative would-be Episcopal bishop to face a similar situation. But what has happened to the Diocese of South Carolina’s Bishop-elect, the Rev. Mark Lawrence, is a true sign of the times in The Episcopal Church (TEC).

By the time this issue of TCC is in circulation, Bishop-elect Lawrence may have squeaked by, receiving just enough consents from diocesan bishops and standing committees in TEC to proceed to consecration (a simple majority of each must approve him). At this writing, the South Carolina diocese reported that, while enough bishops had registered support, consents from ten more standing committees, postmarked by March 12, were required for Lawrence to succeed the also-conservative Bishop Edward Salmon.

But it was equally possible that the consecration will have been stymied by a concerted campaign by a liberal/corporatist group to block Lawrence, who has been serving as rector of St. Paul’s, Bakersfield in the orthodox Diocese of San Joaquin, California. The South Carolina diocese had already had to postpone Lawrence’s consecration, first scheduled in February, once, and Lawrence has twice had to postpone his family’s cross-country move to the Palmetto State. 

Initially, the president of South Carolina’s standing committee, Fr. J. Haden McCormick, wrote that the postponement was necessitated by “unanticipated delays in the mailing of the consent requests to diocesan bishops and standing committees, which did not occur until the second week of November 2006.” (Lawrence was elected decisively on the first ballot in mid-September 2006.) Because of canonical notification requirements, this would have placed the originally-scheduled consecration date (February 24) before the last date on which consents could be received (March 12).

It was, however, clear to experienced observers that there were other forces at work which the Standing Committee letter did not mention. A national organization of revisionist and corporatist Episcopalian activists, Via Media-USA, and its local affiliate, the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina, were busy trying to convince officials in Episcopal dioceses to withhold consent for Fr. Lawrence’s consecration.

Via Media-USA claimed before his election that Fr. Lawrence, as bishop, “would represent a threat to the unity of our church and to the cohesion of the Diocese of South Carolina.” It went on to assert that Lawrence favors (a) separating the South Carolina diocese from TEC, and (b) advocating that “the authority of the General Convention be surrendered to the primates of the Anglican Communion.” At issue were statements made by Lawrence in answer to questions posed to him in the run-up to the election.

The bishop-elect characterized some of Via Media’s documents as full of “all sorts of innuendos, misquotations, misunderstandings.”

Lawrence has supported the diocese’s appeal to Canterbury for alternate primatial oversight (APO) - a relationship with a primate other than revisionist Katharine Jefferts Schori - as “a temporary gasp for air” that is needed while the Anglican Communion works out a new “Anglican ecclesiology.” But he has said that he and diocesan officials have no plans to pull the diocese of out The Episcopal Church. Especially galling to the opponents of his consecration, though, was his statement that, “I shall commit myself to work at least as hard at keeping the Diocese of South Carolina in [TEC], as my sister and brother bishops work at keeping [TEC] in covenanted relationship with the worldwide Anglican Communion.”

A STATEMENT from the Diocese of Kansas’ standing committee December 19 made clear that the anti-consent campaign was having an effect. The panel complained that Lawrence “refuses to commit to keeping his diocese within The Episcopal Church unless [TEC] surrenders its autonomy with its ‘ethos of democracy’ and the ‘heresy’ of a national church and conforms to the decisions” of Anglican primates.

Following this naked assertion of ecclesiastical nationalism, the statement went on to maintain that the vow of a candidate for bishop “to conform to the doctrine and guard the faith and unity of [TEC] cannot be conditioned” upon the denomination conforming to the bishop’s beliefs concerning church governance and doctrine. “[H]e or she must be willing to conform to the decision of [TEC] once that decision has been made by the church.”

That the Kansas Episcopalians clearly recognize no higher authority than the Episcopal General Convention was also evident in their disturbance over Lawrence’s “statement that the (new) presiding bishop would not be welcome at his consecration.” They asserted that an Episcopal prelate’s acceptance of the presiding bishop’s authority cannot be preconditioned on “whether the presiding bishop conforms to certain beliefs of that bishop.”

It is noteworthy that the Kansas statement attempted to shift the blame for the consecration debacle from The Episcopal Church’s unilateral actions to the personal opinions of the bishop-elect. This tactic - called “blaming the victim” when applied to liberals by conservatives - is consistent with the ongoing refusal of TEC to take any responsibility for causing the distress within the Anglican Communion.

FOR HIS PART, Fr. Lawrence remarked in a January 12 letter to his parish that, “Frankly, I find it ironic that those of my generation who were so quick to trumpet the need for non-conformity when they were opposed to the ‘establishment’ are most ungracious towards those whom they think do not conform now that they are holding the [reins] of power. It gets harder not to come to the sad conclusion that inclusivity in this `faith community’ is [becoming] more narrowly defined by an exclusivistic agenda.”

While no details about the status of votes for Lawrence were given at the time, South Carolina’s standing committee evidently was concerned enough about the state of the count in mid-February that its president wrote the standing committees of other dioceses that had refused consent for Lawrence’s consecration, asking them to reconsider. The purpose of his letter was “to correct some of the misinformation surrounding our bishop-elect.” In response to questions about South Carolina’s willingness to remain in TEC, Fr. McCormick pointed out that Fr. Lawrence had lived in conformity to Episcopal canons throughout his ministry and that he had answered a direct question concerning his willingness to sign the bishop’s oath of conformity by simply saying, “yes.”

“Present behavior is the best indicator we have of the future,” he said, noting that, according to TEC’s own statistics, South Carolina was ahead of all other dioceses in all categories of growth and was “the only diocese that has grown faster than its surrounding population. The tree is known by its fruits.”

Addressing questions raised about the presiding bishop’s participation (or not) in Lawrence’s consecration, McCormick noted that Bishop Salmon had worked out an agreement before the election that would enable the diocese to negotiate a chief consecrator acceptable to it. The bishop-elect “had nothing to do with this arrangement,” he said.

Likewise, the standing committee president noted that the diocese’s request for a primatial substitute for Jefferts Schori had been made prior to the election of Fr. Lawrence. In a more recent communication, Fr. McCormick said the standing committee is “grateful” for the concept of a “primatial vicar” as established by Anglican primates in February. 

At this writing, though, Lawrence and the Diocese of South Carolina were still waiting for the outcome of the consent process.

*SOUTH CAROLINA SUFFRAGAN BISHOP William Skilton, 66, has resigned after 11 years of ministry in the diocese. In a letter, Skilton said the decision was “freely made by me” and came at the request of the diocesan standing committee and with the concurrence of Bishop-elect Lawrence. Skilton negotiated a benefit package with the standing committee in order to enable Lawrence “to create a diocesan staff that will more effectively respond to his developing vision and the gifts that he brings to the diocese.” n

LATE NEWS: LAWRENCE ELECTION VOIDED

- See Page 42

Sources: Diocese of South Carolina, St. Paul’s, Bakersfield, Episcopal News Service, VirtueOnline, Charleston Post-Courier, The Living Church

Anglican Crisis News Briefs

More Fuss And Fallout

*THE EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE, home to The Episcopal Church’s gay bishop, Gene Robinson, declared in its November convention that gay, lesbian and transgendered people not just may but are “expected to exercise individual baptismal ministries at all levels of our common life in this diocese.” Bishop Robinson contended that, in his diocese, “the Gospel is being preached and heard without the kind of rancor and conflict so evident in other places. Our people are going about the business of being Christian with a real respect for one another, despite their disagreements about certain issues,” he said. “We still find our unity, not in unanimity of opinion, but at the communion rail...”

*MEANWHILE, BISHOP ROBINSON traveled in January to the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, where a documentary film, featuring his story and those of four other gay families, had been nominated for a grand jury prize. Titled For the Bible Tells Me So, the film is about families split by their beliefs about homosexuality and Scripture. The Sundance Festival included a movie called Zoo about bestiality. Neither it or For the Bible Tells Me So appear to have taken prizes at the festival.

*MORE EPISCOPAL DIOCESES have registered objection to Resolution B033, the measure urging non-consent for the consecration of those “whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church” that was passed by the 2006 General Convention after pressure was applied by the incoming and outgoing presiding bishops. Recently registering opposition or sharp criticism of B033 were the Dioceses of Northern Michigan and California. The convention of the latter last fall also supported a measure calling for a “truth and reconciliation” liturgy to “repent of the sin of heterosexism.” At its recent convention, the Diocese of New York narrowly rejected a call for the church to ignore B033, but reaffirmed its support for the inclusion and ordination of gays and lesbians.

*THE FORMERLY TRADITIONAL DIOCESE OF EAU CLAIRE, Wisconsin, meeting in convention in November, managed to pass a resolution affirming Jesus as Lord. But delegates rejected several orthodox resolutions on scriptural authority and sexual morality, and voted instead to “position the diocese in the central, moderate spectrum of historic Anglicanism.”

THE EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF ALASKA’S convention last fall defeated three conservative resolutions, including one that effectively called on the diocesan standing committee to abide by 2004 Windsor Report calls to halt support for further gay bishops and blessings.

*THE EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF SOUTH DAKOTA’S convention last fall adopted (inter alia) a resolution opposing a constitutional amendment in the state banning gay marriage.

*TWO-THIRDS OF THE 140 CONGREGANTS of an Episcopal church in San Angelo, Texas, have departed The Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Diocese of Northwest Texas, citing differences over scriptural authority. The ex-members of the Church of the Good Shepherd have aligned with the Ugandan Diocese of Mityana. Good Shepherd’s rector, Keith Adams, resigned January 5, saying that he would stand by vows he made to TEC. The Diocese of Northwest Texas - based in Lubbock and encompassing about 50 parishes - has so far lost just one other church, St. Nicholas in Midland (now Christ Church). Bishop Wallis Ohl said he does not expect such splits to be widespread, though another of his parishes, Holy Trinity, Midland, is said to be considering disaffiliation as well. Lest the idea really catch on, though, Bishop Ohl and his diocese have effected some discouragement in the form of a lawsuit aimed at seizing Good Shepherd’s building and other assets.

*FORMER MEMBERS OF ST. PAUL’S Episcopal Church in Yuma, Arizona, recently became the ninth congregational group to leave the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego to form an Anglican parish. The group launched Christ the Redeemer Anglican Church on February 4, at a cultural center that used to be the home of St. Paul’s. Redeemer is under the oversight of Bishop Frank Lyons of Bolivia in the Southern Cone, who is shepherding a number of other congregations that have left TEC. The separation among St. Paul’s congregants was said to be amicable, and unlike other break-ups in the diocese, the rector, the Rev. Tom Phillips, is not leaving. “I’ve been in the Episcopal Church for 31 years,” said Phillips, who plans to retire in April.

*VIRTUALLY THE WHOLE of All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Smyrna, Tennessee, voted in November to quit TEC and become St. Patrick’s Anglican Church. By Christmas, the congregation, the first in middle Tennessee to depart TEC, was worshiping at a Pentecostal church and seeking the oversight of another province of the Anglican Communion.

Reports indicated that parishioners were troubled by the gay controversy, but especially by the choice of revisionist Katharine Jefferts Schori as presiding bishop, a move they saw as cementing TEC’s drift away from orthodoxy. Of particular concern to members was Schori’s “[denial] of Jesus’ uniqueness for salvation” in her interview with Time magazine, and the issue of scriptural authority, said the Rev. Ray Kasch, the former rector of All Saints’ who now leads St. Patrick’s.

At last report, just-retired Tennessee Episcopal Bishop Bertram Herlong was attempting to continue All Saints’ with its some 15 remaining members, while St. Patrick’s was drawing some 180 worshipers.

*OVER 40,000 FAITHFUL EPISCOPALIANS left TEC last year, one report maintains.

*IN ITS 112TH CONVENTION in late January, the Episcopal Diocese of Washington “postponed indefinitely” a resolution expressing “extreme displeasure and firm disapproval” of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s decision to invite Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan, Moderator of the conservative Anglican Communion Network (ACN), to February’s Primates’ Meeting in Tanzania; the resolution also called for a commission to examine whether continued membership in the Anglican Communion is any longer beneficial to TEC. But the convention adopted a resolution declaring its respect for and support of Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori, and calling on Anglican primates to “graciously welcome” her to their February meeting.

*THE EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF WESTERN KANSAS, James Adams, has joined several other prelates in stating his disapproval of the theology of the new presiding bishop - the first female primate in the Anglican Church’s 500-year history. Adams, who is aligned with the ACN, said he did not deny Schori’s authority but said “she can’t represent me or my diocese by what she is stating in the press.” And while acknowledging Schori’s academic and work background and achievements, he said her scant experience in the church makes her unqualified for her position.

*THE EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF NEWARK’S convention January 20 considered but rejected a resolution that would have called on clergy to cease acting as “an agent of the state for any kind of civil marriage or civil union” and limit themselves only to “the blessing of the union as a holy act.” The convention postponed - probably until the next convention - action on another resolution that calls on the Episcopal General Convention to allow prayer book marriage rites to be used “for same-sex couples in those civil jurisdictions that permit same-sex marriage,” removing references to gender. A similar proposal was unsuccessful at the 2006 General Convention. Newark delegates agreed to reduce funding to the national church a few percentage points, apparently due to financial constraints. The convention bid farewell to retiring Bishop John Croneberger, whose successor, the Rev. Mark Beckwith, was installed January 27.

*MINNESOTA EPISCOPAL BISHOP James Jelinek, a liberal, tried to motivate delegates to his diocese’s convention last fall “do the work of mission and evangelism,” saying that it cannot wait. This, after a bishop’s commission revealed sobering statistics about a significant decline in membership and a systemic disability in trusting and working together on the diocesan level.

*CENTRAL FLORIDA BISHOP John Howe is a doctrinal conservative and aims to comply with the 2004 Windsor Report, but firmly rejected ideas of moving farther away from TEC when his diocesan convention met in late January. He particularly deplored ideas or moves to leave TEC for oversight by foreign Anglican Communion bishops, saying that this violates the Windsor Report’s admonition against boundary-crossing. He said “you can’t be `Windsor-compliant’ if the only parts of Windsor you comply with are those you like.” The convention did continue its support for the diocese’s request for a relationship with an Anglican primate other than Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori.

*A PAN-ANGLICAN EDUCATIONAL CONFERENCE that the last issue of TCC noted had been rescheduled from November to February 28-March 1 in Orlando has since been canceled with apologies by its main sponsor, Lay Episcopalians for the Anglican Communion (LEAC). The group’s leadership is considering different approaches toward reaching the vast majority of lay Episcopalians that it believes are under-informed or uninformed about what is at stake in the current Anglican conflict. Before the recent Primates’ Meeting in Tanzania, LEAC proposed a “province-in-waiting,” a faithful U.S. jurisdiction temporarily separate from the Communion, to stop the “bleeding” and growing jurisdictional disarray in America, if the Primates’ Meeting did not produce a solution. The entity would aim to bring together parishes that have left TEC for the oversight of various foreign Anglican provinces, and possibly other faithful Anglican groups. (Read more at www.layepiscopal.org)

*THE ANGLICAN CHURCH OF CANADA has seen an Ontario priest and parish depart for the first time. About 30 members of Trinity Anglican Church in Waterford have moved to a new space across town in protest against the church’s liberal drift, including on the issue of same-sex unions. They have joined the Anglican Coalition in Canada, a group of ten churches aligned with the Anglican Mission in the Americas, overseen by the conservative Anglican province of Rwanda. The Coalition grew out of the decision by the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster to start blessing same-sex unions. The Rev. Paul Carter of Vancouver, who leads the Coalition, said he expects more Ontario congregations will follow the Waterford congregation’s lead. That flock, now known as St. Barnabas Anglican Mission, is holding services in the hall of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Trinity Anglican, meanwhile, is continuing to worship with a temporary priest and about 30 parishioners in its 100-year-old building. n

Sources: Episcopal News Service, The Living Church, The Hartford Courant, VirtueOnline, San Angelo Standard-Times, San Diego Union-Tribune, The Tennessean, www.wsmv.com, www.dnj.com, Sun Media

AAC Leader Transfers

From TEC To CANA

Another prominent conservative cleric - the Rev. Canon David C. Anderson, president and chief executive officer of the American Anglican Council (AAC) - has transferred his canonical residency to a jurisdiction outside The Episcopal Church (TEC).

Anderson is now a priest of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), a missionary branch of the Church of Nigeria, the Anglican Communion’s largest province. The change places him under the authority of Bishop Martyn Minns of Virginia, who was consecrated for CANA last August.

Anderson’s decision was announced by the AAC on January 12, though it was actually made on November 1 of last year. The delayed announcement was said by the official Episcopal News Service to have been made “in response to media inquiries.”

Canon Anderson said he had worked for nearly 20 years to reform and renew TEC. Sadly, however, he had watched “the orthodox church of my childhood” disappear, and make clear over the past year that it “was not turning back.” He realized “that it was time for me to chart my course with the majority of the Anglican Communion. The hope of the future of North American Anglicanism lies with the global Anglican Communion and, more specifically, the global South primates, who robustly live out the Christian faith in the Anglican model.”

Anderson said that, while he gives thanks for the faithfulness of U.S. bishops aligned with the Anglican Communion Network (most of whose members remain in TEC), “it was time for me to move.” He indicated his work with the AAC, which serves faithful churches within and outside of TEC, would continue, and emphasized the organization’s objective of a “soon-to-be-united orthodox Anglican entity in North America.” n

Sources: American Anglican Council, Episcopal News Service

“Sexual Orientation Regulations”

Threaten Religious Freedom In U.K.

No Exemption Allowed On Gay Adoptions

Despite some vigorous opposition, a far-reaching set of “Sexual Orientation Regulations” (SOR) banning discrimination against homosexuals - strongly pressed by Tony Blair’s Labor government - will take effect April 30 in England, Scotland, and Wales.

A final bid to block the SOR failed March 21, when the House of Lords voted 168-122 against a motion rejecting the Equality Act, which outlaws discrimination against gay people in the provision of goods and services, including the ability to adopt – the most protested part of the legislation.

The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, spoke strongly against the Act in the Lords debate, to no avail (though he was only one of three Church of England prelates, out of a possible 26 in the Lords, who turned up for the vote). The House of Commons already approved the new rules without the opportunity for debate, though about 100 conservative MPs voted no.

The government refused calls for an exemption or limited application of SOR for churches and church-backed agencies and charities, causing widespread fear among traditional religious believers that they will be criminalized for acting according to the moral teachings of their faith. Opponents widely believe that the regulations will lead, for example, to the promotion of homosexuality in primary schools, and the “silencing” of Christians who believe in the Bible’s teaching on relationships. The Roman Catholic Church has said it will be forced to shut down its adoption agencies, which handle some of the most difficult-to-place children, rather than act against church teachings.

The one concession the government allowed church agencies was a 20-month transition period to prepare for the legal change. A spokesperson for Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the leader of Catholics in England and Wales, said the agencies would work with a team set up by the government to see “if a way through can be found.”

The spokesperson said that, currently, same-sex couples who approach Catholic agencies seeking to adopt are referred to other adoption organizations, but that will be disallowed under the new legislation.

In December 2006, Church of Ireland bishops denounced the process used by the government to apply the SOR in Northern Ireland – where the laws went into effect in January - as “frankly oppressive behavior.”

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor accused the government of an “abuse of parliamentary democracy” by forcing through the measures without a full parliamentary debate. Some backbench Tory MPs also have charged that the regulations were being “railroaded” through Parliament with “unseemly haste.” Mr. Blair denied the charge, saying that critics were effectively backing discrimination. There are reports that Blair was willing to allow a religious exemption, but was overcome by harder-line members of his Cabinet.

Lorely Burt, “Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Women and Equality,” was one MP who welcomed the impending regulations, saying they “will offer long overdue protection to lesbian, gay and bisexual people. Just as racial discrimination has been outlawed, people will soon no longer have to suffer the indignity of being discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.”

“Critics say the new rules mean hotels cannot refuse to provide rooms for gay couples, and religious groups would be obliged to rent out halls for ‘gay wedding’ receptions,” said the BBC. “They also argue a Christian, Jewish or Muslim printer could be forced to print a flyer for a gay night club, or a teacher would have to break the law to promote heterosexual marriage over homosexual civil partnership.” The Church of England has warned that under SOR, vicars might be sued if they refuse to bless same-sex civil partnerships.

A November 2006 poll, conducted for the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship, found that 72 percent of the 1,000 British adults surveyed agreed that the new law “should be applied selectively so as to ensure that people with strong religious beliefs are not forced to act against their conscience.”

“Attempts will certainly be made later on in the courts to overturn the regulations, but with very little chance of success,” an orthodox General Synod member told TCC.

The SOR are not expected to affect adoption policies at Church of England agencies, at which, according to The Times of London, couples and individuals “are assessed according to their suitability and to the needs of the child.”

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York agreed, however, that Catholic adoption agencies should be exempt from the SOR. In a late January letter to Prime Minister Blair, Dr. Rowan Williams and Dr. Sentamu said that “the rights of conscience cannot be made subject to legislation, however well-meaning. On numerous occasions in the past proper consideration has been given to the requirements of consciences alongside other considerations contributing to the common good, such as social need or human rights - the right, for example, of some doctors not to perform abortions, even though employed by the National Health Service.”

The Archbishops’ letter also discreetly criticized personal attacks on Communities Minister Ruth Kelly, a practicing Roman Catholic who had been reported to oppose the SOR. Kelly is a member of Opus Dei, the conservative Catholic movement that first rose to prominence in Franco-era Spain. In a probable surprise to her co-religionists, however, Kelly publicly supported the SOR in late January.

IN SPEAKING OUT against the Equality Act in the House of Lords March 21, Dr. Sentamu said the government was seeking to have “consciences surgically removed” and introduce a “new hierarchy of rights.”

In a wide-ranging speech, he asserted that the government had given in to “a new kind of secular dogmatism, which seeks to limit the proper sphere of religion to the internal activities of religious organizations.”

The legislation, he suggested, creates a new category of people of faith against whom it would now be legal to discriminate.

“Rather than leveling the playing field for those who suffer discrimination, an aim we fully support, this legislation effects a rearrangement of discriminatory attitudes and bias, so as to over-compensate and to skew the field the other way,” he said.

Quoting William Wilberforce, Sentamu said “the time is fast approaching when Christianity will be openly disavowed, in language as in fact it is already supposed to have disappeared from the conduct of men: when to believe will be deemed the indication of a feeble mind and contracted understanding.”

Other Church of England bishops who have spoken out against the SOR include the Bishops of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, and of Durham, N.T. Wright.

“Religion affects every area of life and cannot be reduced to just worship,” Nazir-Ali said in November. “These regulations will certainly affect a great deal of charitable work done by the churches and others. It is the poor and disadvantaged who will be the losers.”

Wright blasted Blair and the then-proposed SOR, saying that “the idea that New Labor can come up with a new morality which it forces on the Catholic Church after 2,000 years…is amazing arrogance on the part of the government. Legislation for a nouveau morality is deeply unwise. That is not how morality works.”

MEANWHILE the failure of so many C of E bishops who are in the Lords to appear for the vote on the Equality Act could have a big ripple effect. Before the vote, 42 members of the church’s General Synod said that the relevance of C of E bishops as the “custodians of moral and ethical values” would be tested in the March 21 debate. In a letter signed by lay members of the Synod, the bishops were also told that their appearance for the vote was critical, at a time when the government was considering a fully elected second chamber, and whether the 26 bishops of the state church should continue to be given their exclusive places on the coveted red benches.

The current text of the SORs can be accessed at http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2007/draft/20075920.htm. n

Sources: Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship, Anglican Mainstream, Liberal Democratic Party, British government, melaniephillips.com BBC, Ecumenical News InternationalThe Washington Times, The Church of England Newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail, Ecumenical News International, Times Online, Pink News, John Allen’s book, Opus Dei

Liberal Cleric Brings Ford

Into TEC Fight At Funeral

As the strife within The Episcopal Church (TEC) escalates, even U.S. presidents no longer able to speak for themselves are being drafted into the revisionist cause.

During his January 2 homily at the funeral of former President Gerald R. Ford, who died at 93 on December 26, an Episcopal priest, Fr. Robert Certain, portrayed Ford - a lifelong Episcopalian - as a supporter of present-day liberalism in TEC.

Fr. Certain, rector of St. Margaret’s Church in Palm Desert, California - the 38th president’s home church since 1977 - told the assembly of dignitaries at Washington National Cathedral, “Early this past summer, as I prepared to leave for the General Convention of The Episcopal Church, President Ford’s concern was for the church he loved. He asked me if we would face schism. After we discussed the various issues we would consider, particularly concerns about human sexuality and the leadership of women, he said he did not think they should be divisive for anyone who lived by the Great Commandments to love God and neighbor. He then asked me to work for reconciliation within the church. I assured him I would, just as he had worked for reconciliation within the nation 30 years ago.”

Fr. Certain also shortened the standard Gospel reading for the service, to omit Jesus’ hard saying in the last half of John 14:6: “no one comes to the Father except through me.” The message from Fr. Certain, some maintained, was that even the 1979 (so-called) Book of Common Prayer and its Bible readings are too hard-line for present-day liberal tastes.

At the January 3 burial service for President Ford in Grand Rapids, Michigan, former President Jimmy Carter followed Fr. Certain’s lead, and discussed his own and Ford’s liberal sympathies in the culture wars now dividing American churches.

Carter said, “Yesterday, on the flight here from Washington, Rosalynn and I were thrilled when one of [President Ford’s] sons came to tell us that the greatest gift he received from his father was his faith in Jesus Christ. It is true that Jerry and I shared a common commitment to our religious faith, not just in worshiping the same savior, but in attempting, in our own personal way, to achieve reconciliation within our respective denominations. We took to heart the admonition of the Apostle Paul that Christians should not be divided over seemingly important, but tangential issues, including sexual preferences and the role of women in the church, things like that. We both felt that Episcopalians, Baptists and others should live together in harmony, within the adequate and common belief that we are saved by the grace of God through our faith in Jesus Christ.”

As part of his “reconciliation” efforts, Carter and his fellow former U.S. president, Bill Clinton, are backing a new grouping of Baptists in a centrist organization that will tackle broader social issues and counter a perceived image of the Southern Baptist Convention as an exclusionary church. The new grouping has invited the Southern Baptists to its foundation convention in a year. n

Sources: Washington Cathedral, cartercenter.org, The Living Church, Episcopal News Service, justus.anglican.org, The American Spectator, Christianity Today, Ecumenical News International

--LATE NEWS--

Lawrence Election

Declared “Null And Void”

In a stunning turn of events, the election of the Rev. Mark Lawrence as Bishop of South Carolina was confirmed by sufficient numbers of diocesan bishops and standing committees, but was declared “null and void” by Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori for technical reasons.

In a decision that evoked considerable conservative backlash, Schori nullified the election because some of the written permissions by standing committees were offered electronically - a past practice which, however, is not allowed by Episcopal canons. The action follows an unprecedented campaign by liberal Episcopal leaders to block the consecration of the conservative bishop-elect, who remains at his parish in California.

The Rev. Todd Wetzel of Anglicans United questioned why Schori did not allow a short extension of time for electronic consents to be converted to written ones by overnight mail. His organization called on Schori to reconsider her decision or resign.

Some wondered if the same exacting standards had been met in other recent episcopal elections.

The president of South Carolina’s Standing Committee, the Rev. J. Haden McCormick, offered his “deepest condolences” to Lawrence and praised the cleric for the “patience and calmness” with which he endured an “unprecedented” level of scrutiny in The Episcopal Church (TEC). He prayed that “this tragic outcome will be a wake-up call to both clergy and [laity] throughout TEC as to the conditions in our church.”

It was the first time in 72 years that a bishop’s election has been rejected. Former South Carolina Bishop Edward Salmon has already retired. The diocese may now hold a new election, and church officials said it could elect Lawrence again. n

See More Stories On Our Website!

 

Please go to http://www.challengeonline.org for the following and other bonus reports linked to this edition (click on the Jan-Mar issue at right and then look for a table of contents for the extra stories; click on the story titles desired):

 

Changes In AMiA’s Structure Raise

   Concerns About Ordination Policy

What U.S. Bishops Told The Primates

TAC Archbishop John Hepworth On

   February’s Primates’ Meeting

Walking Apart: A Chronology Of How TEC Got There

Church Officials Debunk Report Of

   Pending Catholic-Anglican Unity

The Episcopal Church And The White House

Episcopalians Get An Earful In Egypt

Anglican Communion Network News

TAC: Two Suffragans Consecrated In Canada

Surprising Trends In Women’s Ordination

Silent No More: Women Testify To

   The Pain Of Their Abortions

Orombi: Militant Islam Is Century’s Key Challenge

Lord Carey Speaks His Mind On Islam

Allah, Christ And America - By The Rev. Earle Fox

Massachusetts To Allow Vote On

   Same-Sex Marriage Ban (and related news)

New Congress Brings Religious Firsts

NCC Funding - An IRD Report

China Faces Major Gender Imbalance

   Due To One-Child Policy

Backlash Builds Over “The Lost Tomb Of Jesus”

Bible Study Goes Portable And High Tech...and more

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