"I am the way into the doleful city. I am the way into eternal grief, I am the way to a forsaken race. Justice was it was that moved my great creator; divine omnipotence created me, and highest wisdom joined with primal love. Before me nothing but eternal things were made, and I shall last eternally. Abandon all hope, you who enter." The Divine Comedy from Dante's, The Inferno
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It was another week of angst in the life of the Anglican Communion. From Myrtle Beach where the Anglican Mission in America held its fifth annual winter conference to Albuquerque where Frank Griswold got blasted for consecrating a bishop, to New Westminster, BC where the revisionist bishop Michael Ingham attempted to snatch two congregations from their orthodox rectors (while they were at the AMIA conference) and got blasted for doing so by five primates, to Utah where ECUSA's bishops once again announced no change of course for the Episcopal Church (downhill) to the release of a minority report by some 25 bishops saying they want the Windsor Report upheld - it was a week Dante could have included in his Divine Comedy, with a focus on the Inferno. It was also a week that saw the death of a godly priest.
If you have any doubts about what will happen in February in Ireland it won’t be the Three Furies that Griswold faces but 23 Primatial Furies, and they won't let The Pluriform One off the hook. They might just move to suspend him. Dr. Rowan Williams has been given the green light by his synod to uphold the Windsor Report which does not bode well for Frank Griswold, and my discussions with five orthodox archbishops this past week reveal that they will hold Griswold's feet to the flames. Oh Dante, Oh Inferno.
At the end of the day Griswold may yet reach his field beyond right and wrong with Sufi the Rumi, but he may find, alas, when he gets there, he is all alone.
THE WEEK BEGAN auspiciously enough in Myrtle Beach, SC where nearly 1,000 faithful Anglicans, most of them ex-ECUSAN's gathered to herald the 5th anniversary of the ANGLICAN MISSION IN AMERICA'S rise from the ashes of a spiritually and morally bankrupt Episcopal Church. The focus of the occasion was on equipping, empowering and mission with calls to step outside the box, evangelize and make disciples of the 130 million unchurched Americans. Their founding bishop Chuck Murphy announced that the AMIA was opening a new parish every six weeks and that he was happy to be working with Pittsburgh Bishop Bob Duncan of the Network following an "inside/outside strategy" as the Anglican Communion hobbles towards realignment.
You can read several stories in today's digest about that conference.
THE 1000th CONSECRATION of a bishop in the Anglican Communion did not go smoothly on the weekend. In the Cathedral Church of St. John, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Jeffrey Steenson, 52, in the DIOCESE OF THE RIO GRANDE had hands laid on him by PB Frank Griswold and a panoply of purple shirts, mostly orthodox, but the Rev. Carl Brenner who told VirtueOnline that he would protest if Griswold showed up and laid hands on him, did precisely that. He stood up and publicly protested the consecration. "Jeffrey, I stand in objection to your consecration as the seventh Bishop of the Diocese of the Rio Grande. I object because you have willingly conceded to the laying on of hands and consecration by our Presiding Bishop and other bishops of the church that have avowedly supported the actions of the Diocese of New Hampshire and who are leading our church in a spiritually perilous manner." When he finished Griswold politely thanked him and continued with the consecration.
That, of course is Griswold's style. He doesn’t answer his accusers, he doesn’t repent. He acknowledges and moves on. He did it at the consecration of V. Gene Robinson, except in that case he interrupted the Rev. Dr. Earle Fox when Fox got a little too graphic about the consequences of anal sex and was politely told by Griswold to move it along.
But it was Steenson's day, but hardly one that he will remember with warm fuzzies. Steenson is a good man. He is orthodox, gentle, kind and pastoral, all the characteristics that make for a good bishop. He is known and liked in the diocese. But the real question is can he stand up to the Via Media crowd who won’t give him much of a honeymoon before they move in and push their pansexual agenda on the diocese. And here is where the rubber hits the road. Steenson's pastoral skills won't be enough. He will need theology, good theology to oppose them, and if he doesn't they will roll right over him and he will be toast. If he doesn’t get up to speed and realize that these revisionists will brook no opposition to their understanding of pansexual inclusivity and diversity, and he doesn’t, at the end of the day fire them, he will be chopped liver. Will he roll over and play ball with the HOB and Griswold, another convert to pluriformity? Will he personally join the Network? We shall know more ere long.
THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH HOUSE OF BISHOPS met in Salt Lake City this week and did what we already knew they would do - nothing. Central Florida Bishop John W. Howe's sensible proposals got short shrift. He wrote to his diocese with his first hand impressions. "I went with the strong conviction that agenda that was sent to us envisioned trying to do too much in too little time, and that we would not be able to deal adequately with the recommendations of the Windsor Report that were addressed specifically to the bishops of the Episcopal Church." Howe offered an amended agenda. It was rejected. "I did not expect that suggestion to prevail. And it didn't. "There were several comments to the effect that 'we need to consider the questions of the Reception Commission of the Anglican Consultative Council,' and 'this agenda was crafted precisely to keep us from going directly to the recommendations, without considering the report itself first.'
Howe said that several bishops commented publicly "we should have listened to John Howe."
The bishop noted that virtually everyone is agreed that we need to "express regret" for the damage we have done to the Anglican Communion by making certain decisions vis. a vis. issues of human sexuality unilaterally and in opposition to the overwhelming majority position of the Communion. Furthermore there is nothing approaching consensus among us as to the validity of the decisions themselves, but many who doubted - or somehow failed to see - the enormous negative consequences of the way in which we made these decisions are now painfully aware of these consequences. There was, however, a very high level of desire to continue to "walk together" with the rest of the Communion.
But what was interesting that emerged from the HOB report was that the call for the three "moratoria" called for by the Windsor Report - on the consecration of non-celibate homosexual persons as bishops; on the blessing of same-sex unions; and on the crossing of diocesan boundaries, only the last was it said that this should be PERMANENT. So crossing boundaries is the real SIN, not moral misbehavior.
The House of Bishops issued a report as did a number of bishops who offered a minority report upholding the Windsor Report. You can read both statements in today's digest. But there is a downside even to that. If the orthodox bishops totally submit to the Windsor Report it allows the orthodox bishops to use the report as an excuse for their failure to cross diocesan lines. In other words what happened in Ohio could not be repeated. The "Akron Five" could never, in theory do that again. Have they thought that one through? One hopes they have.
The Presiding Bishop has established a committee to offer a theological explanation of how “a person living in a same gender union may be considered eligible to lead the flock of Christ” (Windsor Report, paragraph 135). This should be fun to see how he can pluriform that one away, unless of course he invites Jack Spong, Tom Shaw, Charles Bennison and a professor or two from EDS, VTS and Sewanee to be on the committee, then it's a slam dunk what they will say. No brains needed. On the other hand if Griswold were to invite Dr. Ephraim Radner, Dr. C. FitzSimons Allison and Prof. Christopher Seitz on the committee then I can tell you how the outcome would be.
In February 2005 the Primates of the Anglican Communion will consider the Windsor Report. You can read what the Anglican Communion Institute and theologians like Rob Sanders have to say about all this in today's digest. Prior to the meeting In Ireland, the CAPA bishops will gather in Nairobi at the end of January to take a statement with them to Ireland. I was told by one Primate that there will be no prevarication. The statement will be clear and succinct.
Some twenty one bishops (FitzSimons Allison, Alex Dickson will append their names I am told,) believed it was critically important to uphold and to submit to the findings of the Windsor Report. In blunt language they said ECUSA should comply in full with the unanimous recommendations of The Windsor Report. You can read their report.
One notable absentee on the minority report was John B. Lipscomb Bishop of Southwest Florida, a moderate but not unorthodox bishop.
FROM THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND concerning the Windsor Report comes this. "A briefing paper by the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, Chair of the House's Theology Group, and the Rt Rev John Hind, Chair of the Faith and Order Group, offered "an encouragement" to Dr Williams and was very sympathetic towards the Windsor Report, upholding the calls for regret and reconciliation."
IN CANADA Michael Ingham, Bishop of New Westminster erupted in ecclesiastical rage and attempted to take over two parishes and close a third in the name of his brand of inclusivity, while the three rectors and some of their staff were in Myrtle Beach, SC this week. Ingham did a lightning rod blitzkrieg and announced that he was sending in his ecclesiastical troops to take over the pulpits of these orthodox congregations. It backfired. When the five Primates meeting with the AMIA in Myrtle Beach heard the news of Ingham's actions they blasted out a letter saying that not only was this an unwarranted attack but that no communion had been abandoned and "we rejoice that the gospel has not only continued to be preached, but that the mission of our churches has grown."
The Rev. Ed Hird, one of the afflicted priests said that Ingham has a bad habit of doing self-defeating actions whenever the Primates are convening or about to convene. He first acted when a number of Primates were still flying home from an agreement they had reached in Brazil and signed off by the Anglican primates including Michael Peers that no bishop should proceed to perform same-sex blessings. Ingham went ahead and did the dirty. In further examples of his venality, he moved against the traditional prayer Book parish of St. Martin's in North Vancouver and changed the locks. Archbishops Bernard Malango (Central Africa) and Yong Ping Chung (Southeast Asia) were in town when he acted. Ingham's defiant in your face actions will be duly dealt with when the Primates meeting in February in Ireland.
Ingham always pre-empts primatial gatherings with his actions. He loves to turn the media spotlight on himself and his egocentric purple shirt. The media hound may get his 15 minutes in the sun, but it could go much worse when the primates serve him up as chopped liver at the Dromantine Center to his Primate.
The significance of the Windsor Report is that it mentions the whole of the ECUSA but when it comes to the Anglican Church in Canada it mentions one tiny little diocese - New Westminster - with less than 6,000 members! (That's the equivalent of two churches in downtown Lagos). In the diocese of Shyira in Rwanda one parish alone has in excess of 2,400 members.
Hird, one of the priests in Ingham's line of fire said to VirtueOnline in Myrtle Beach that he sees the future as "wonderful" because "we are free to get on with church planting and preaching the gospel. We intend to plant churches throughout greater Vancouver and Canada. We have already grown from five to 11 churches in our first year. I see no let up in the growth of the Anglican Communion in Canada (ACiC). We have learned a lot from the AMIA and thus we have avoided a lot of pitfalls", he said.
When they heard what Ingham had done the five archbishops issued a statement which Said in essence that they were deeply concerned about the recent actions of the Bishop of New Westminster and chastised him for his deliberate disregard of the recommendations of the Windsor Report, and his pre-empting the decisions of the February 2005 Primatial meeting, by his unwarranted attack on the congregations and priests in Canada. We assure you that we will address these issues when we meet in February." They also said that contrary to the claim that your priests’ ministry has been abandoned, we affirm and rejoice that the gospel has not only continued to be preached, but that the mission of your churches has grown. Our congregations and clergy in Canada have indeed been faithful and fruitful. We are grateful for all that you have achieved over the last 12 months and pray for more growth in the future." The bully Ingham may find he has outgrown his usefulness to the Canadian church, and if Terry Buckle becomes the next Metropolitan of British Columbia and the Yukon he could discipline Ingham. For the moment Buckle is the temporary acting Metropolitan following the retirement of ultra-liberal Metropolitan David Crawley.
The five primates and one bishop were: The Most Rev. Fidele Dirokpa, Archbishop of Congo; The Most Rev. Immanuel Kolini, Archbishop of Rwanda; The Most Rev, Bernard Malango, Archbishop of Central Africa; The Most Rev. Benjamin Nzimbi, Archbishop of Kenya; The Most Rev. Datuk Yong Ping Chung, Archbishop of South East Asia and The Rt. Rev. Thomas W. Johnston, Missionary Bishop.
THE DIOCESE OF IOWA is in free fall according to recent statistics about that diocese. According to the Episcopal Church Annual of 1986 (itself based on parochial reports of 1984) there were 17,699 baptized members in the diocese of Iowa. By 1993 the annual lists showed 14,326 members, and the 2004 annual lists 11,390 members. According to the U.S. Census data, the population of Iowa grew from 2,776,755 in 1990 to 2,926,324 in 2000.
AND IN THE DIOCESE OF NEWARK comes this. In the fourteen years from 1990-2004, the Diocese of Newark lost 11 congregations (8.5%), its baptized members dropped 19.4%. Confirmed communicants dropped 2.8%, average Sunday Attendance declined 13.8%. (data only for 1992-2004) , pupils in Sunday School dropped 21.4%, Baptisms of children dropped 27.3%, of adults by 16.8%. Confirmations of children dropped 36.3%, of adults by 37.5%. Receptions from other faith communities dropped 43.4%. Marriages dropped by 46.1%. Burials dropped 41%. Bishop Croneberger recently painted an even grimmer picture saying that some 40 parishes were in peril of closing. Pansexuality clearly does not have people rushing back to the Episcopal Church. You don't think they need a new (old) message of redemption? I hear it is playing quite well all around Newark…but not in ECUSA.
AND STAND FIRM ALABAMA MEMBERS will hold a praise & prayer worship service for Friday, February 25th at 6 p.m. called “Unity in Jesus Christ”. The 174th Annual Diocesan Convention is being held Feb. 24th-26th in Birmingham. Arrangements have been made with Church of the Ascension in Birmingham for the one hour Praise and Worship service (no Eucharist) in their parish hall. "Be on your guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be brave. Be strong. Be loving in everything you do." - I Corinthians 16:13-14 Church of the Ascension is located in Vestavia Hills, one block west of U. S. 31 at 1912 Canyon Road, behind Publix and the Rave Cinema. Bishops Henry Parsley and Mark Andrus are not amused.
AND WITH SADNESS we announce the death of the Rev. Lou Tarsitano, a former Episcopal priest. His close friend the Rev. Chris Pierce wrote to say, "Our brother Lou is now absent from the body and at home with our Lord Jesus. He died at 5:30 a.m. Jan. 15th, 2005. Funeral services were held Monday afternoon at St. Andrew’s in Savannah, GA. In accordance with Lou’s expressed wishes (and to no one’s surprise), the service was strictly in accordance with the Book of Common Prayer. His exact words were; "Don't let anyone turn it into some papistical mess." Interment will be next Saturday in Chicago. Letters of condolence may be sent to: The Tarsitano Family, 609 Beauregard Street, Savannah, GA 31405.
JANE WILLIAMS, the wife of the Archbishop of Canterbury is said to be in the Diocese of Los Angeles, Jon Bruno's diocese the week of the Primates meeting in Ireland. She will be addressing the Episcopal Church Women out there. You don't think she might call for a moratorium on lesbian ordinations do you?
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AND TO ROUND OFF THIS WEEK'S NEWS, the church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea in Palm Beach will be the scene of zillionaire Donald Trump's third wedding. The service will be performed by the Rev. Hap Warren. So what happened to the sanctity of marriage clause? Is this another ECUSA new low? Certainly The Donald is no believer, but then again the love of money and the ECUSA were never that far apart. Perhaps they can get the thrice married Bishop Walter Righter to give his added blessing. Perhaps The Donald can make out a check to EPISCOPAL TSUNAMI and send it to Frank, just in time for the Primates meeting.
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LATE BREAKING NEWS…"To active clergy in the DIOCESE OF CENTRAL NEW YORK: Important issues have presented themselves that may affect our life as a diocese. In that regard, I have critical information to share with you. For this reason, I am calling you to an emergency meeting of the clergy of the diocese. This meeting will take place Wednesday afternoon, January 19th from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the Holiday Inn in Liverpool (the Convention hotel). I am requiring attendance by all active clergy, including those who are retired and those who are licensed to officiate. If you are unable to attend, you must contact my office (via e-mail or phone) with a stated reason. "
The Rt. Rev Gladstone B. "Skip" Adams
The Bishop of Central New York
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