ANGLICAN COMMUNION INSTITUTE: The Fallacy of "After the Fall"
Orthodox Episcopal bishops failed to follow through on promises made to stand tall when revisionist leaders struck
How the inside strategy failed
By David W. Virtue
August 8, 2012
In an article titled After the Fall the Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner for the Anglican Communion Institute asks, "Who are the predominantly younger theologians and priests clustering around The Living Church's Covenant blog? Or 'A Tribe Called Anglican'? Or those who read more individual blogs like 'Creedal Christian' or 'The Conciliar Anglican'? Or those who have contributed to the recent book Pro Communione? Or who attend seminaries like Wycliffe College or Duke Divinity School? They are the future of Anglicanism in North America, that is who; and they are the reason why I am not so much worried about The Episcopal Church as I am eager simply to see the inevitable fruit of faithfulness whose seed is well-sown. The 'times they are a-changin'. The first one now, will later be last.
"Many of us, of course, are wondering about what our future is or should be in The Episcopal Church. For my part, I believe I have one, and plan to pursue it. It is just here that I wish to teach and write, pray and witness, God willing. And I believe that others have a future here too, a good future and a fruitful and faithful one," writes Radner.
This question must now be faced: How much more self-delusion, hubris, sheer bloody mindedness, indeed blindness, can he and writer/theologians of the Anglican Communion Institute continue to sustain in the face of overwhelming evidence that the Episcopal Church is apostate and heretical with not a shred of evidence that it will ever turn around? Ever. Furthermore, if the pathway The Episcopal Church continues on is sustained, the overwhelming prediction and conclusion is that within 25 years the church will cease to exist.
Consider the following:
* 22 Anglican provinces have declared themselves to be in impaired or in broken communion with The Episcopal Church.
* Orthodox and Roman Catholic Church leaders will not sit down at the same table with Mrs. Jefferts Schori. (It's not just because she's a woman. It's the theology of The Episcopal Church, stupid.)
* The Episcopal Church is slowly being replaced by the Anglican Church in North America with the ACNA now recognized by a dozen Primates of the Global South.
* The Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Nigeria will open a new diocese on North America soil, later this month, without so much as a glance at The Episcopal Church. Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, who is head of the largest Anglican province in the world, will do so in the very city (Indianapolis) where the last TEC General Convention was held. He will not be paying a visit or even deign to give a nod in the direction of TEC Bishop Catherine Waynick.
* The consecration of an openly practicing homosexual to the episcopacy in the person of Gene Robinson was the most communion breaking act in modern history. Adding a lesbian bishop in the person of Mary Glasspool, a decade later, only added to the blasphemy and confirmed the path TEC is on.
* The passage of provisional rites for same sex marriage only added another apostate stone on an already morally bankrupt church.
* The Covenant is, to all intents and purpose, dead on arrival. Mrs. Jefferts Schori said it was past its shelf life and the Mother Church (The CofE) could not pass it. So what future does it have when not a single Global South province has signed on to it?
* The Jerusalem Declaration has effectively replaced The Covenant. More have signed on to that that have ever, or will ever, sign on to the Covenant, unless you think that a corrupt little Anglican province like Mexico really counts and nobody does.
* The Episcopal Church said people who have had sex change operations (transgendered) should be allowed into Episcopal pulpits with at least two bishops (San Diego and Massachusetts) having Trannie priests up and running.
* Multiple dioceses have left the Episcopal Church including some 300 priests and more than 120,000 Episcopalians have escaped to other orthodox Anglican jurisdictions. (The Diocese of South Carolina is presently weighing its options).
* The Episcopal Church is engaged in multiple lawsuits to take back parishes that are lying fallow at a cost of millions of dollars to the national church thus stifling spending on evangelism and discipleship.
* The Episcopal Church has shrunk and continues to shrink as it pursues a course of liberalization and progressivism that is emptying churches across the country. It has lost a third of its membership in the last 10 years. The figure of 3.1 million is now 1.9 million. Average Sunday Attendance is 675,000 making it the fastest dying mainline Protestant church in America.
* The average age of an Episcopalian is between 62 and 65 and the average size congregation is now under 70.
Self-delusion dies hard apparently. Radner writes, "So we have this challenge: not to run away, as if Egypt were safer than Babylon. The Nations are all the same, and we are now scattered among them and they among us. Rather, we are asked to figure out more clearly and more straightforwardly what is our diasporal calling and to embrace it virtues and demands."
Would Radner really want his children to be "discipled" by a gay, lesbian or transgendered priest? One doubts it. Would he himself be welcome back in the Diocese of Colorado by Bishop O'Neill having fled to the safety of an orthodox seminary in Toronto, Canada? Not a chance, not a prayer.
Radner: "One of the best-kept secrets of The Episcopal Church is that, within its current membership, are found the Anglican Communion's most vibrant, creative, and serious younger theological minds; among its clergy are some of the Communion's most humble and grace-filled pastors; among its people the most fervent prayers. It is a secret, because they have not sought to kick against the pricks (Acts 9:5), but rather to let Jesus lead the way; they have not sought to advertise their embrace of cultural approval - whoever's culture. - but have instead immersed themselves in the witness of the saints and their forbears in faith; they have let weakness provide a forum for divine strength. Imagine: The Episcopal Church as the earthen receptacle of apostolic riches. But this, after all, is what we should expect, not denigrate (2 Cor. 4:7). And, in fact, I do expect God's rich blessing to arise from these and others among us - again, as the Lord has promised to the leaven and the seed of the Kingdom (Lk. 13:18-21). And from this blessing shall be given a place for the Nations to find their own transformed peace, a culture turned from water into wine. The future lies, not with General Convention, but with the promises of God. And these promises are given to our children and our children's children (Acts 2:39)."
VOL: Who exactly are they? Chris Wells of the Living Church, Ian Markham president of VTS, Justyn Terry of TSM are certainly some of them. There are others at TSM and Nashotah House, but that's about it. It should be pointed out that those seminaries are now serving the wider Anglican Communion and not merely The Episcopal Church as they train priests for the emerging Anglican Church in North America.
Perhaps the most delusional paragraph in Dr. Radner's riff is this, "To be sure, there are obstacles to be overcome and burdens to be assumed in such a vision: money, jobs, energy and endurance. But when Jesus tells his disciples, 'Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom' (Lk. 12:32), he does not do so in the face of comfortable times, but of hard ones - of funds dispersed, of antagonistic opposition, of lonely testimony. Yet this is just when he tells them of this certainty. And it is just for such a time that promises are given by God and made sure. 'He has torn... and he will bind us up... Come, let us press on to know the Lord; his going forth is as sure as the dawn' (Hos. 6:1-3)."
What world is he living in? After six years of Jefferts-Schori's reign of terror, picking off Radner's fellow conservatives one by one, does he really expect a different fate, especially with the feeble forces remaining after years of knee cappings, departures, and defrockings under the direction of TEC's well-funded legal team?
Former ACI Executive Director, Don Armstrong, suggests that there was a time when the orthodox core of the Episcopal Church was cohesive enough to have stood together and stem the tide of revisionist aggression. It was Radner himself who made the excuses for inaction that has left so many abandoned and out on the very limb that he and the few remaining conservatives now find themselves clinging.
Dr. Radner and his wife (who is also a priest), were one-time priests in the ultra-liberal Diocese of Colorado under its revisionist bishop, Rob O'Neill, before he fled to Canada to teach at the orthodox Wycliffe College, Toronto where he lives in ecclesiastical safety. In doing so, he left behind his ACI friend, supporter, and fellow crusader, Fr. Don Armstrong, to twist in the wind as he came under bitter attack from Bishop O'Neill, was sued for the church's property, had his financial books forensically examined three times, and continues to be harassed by diocesan lawyers. Armstrong has survived it all with grace, unwavering conviction, and a much bolstered faith, having left for the spiritually healthier environs of CANA, taking with him one of the largest congregations from the diocese (Grace and St. Stephens).
Armstrong says he is reminded of those days, right after he was first inhibited by O'Neill, whenever he reads Psalm 78:9. "The people of Ephraim, armed with the bow, turned back in the day of battle."
ACI theologians, including Radner, Dr. Philip Turner and Dr. Christopher Seitz, were quick to run for cover when the attacks came to cut off their spiritual and financial support from Armstrong's parish. Stemming from their lack of courage in those crucial moments, the determined voice of the once prominent Windsor Bishops quickly morphed into the now nearly silent and apologetic Communion Partners.
A timeline of events reveals some here-to-fore unknown details.
According to court documents provided VOL, the debate among conservatives in the summer of 2006 was about how to respond to the Episcopal Church's theologically determined departure from orthodoxy. The debate was essentially between an inside strategy, with the hope that ++Rowan would demote non-Windsor abiding TEC dioceses to an asymmetrical ecumenical relationship, or the departure strategy, simply leaving TEC and developing a parallel province.
In hopes of having a unified approach to assure the greatest impact, and to disable TEC's ability to fight back by the sheer enormity of the conservative response, a meeting was called in late August of 2006 by Bishop Ed Salmon (SC). It was held at his home in St. Louis with key leaders of the upcoming Windsor Bishops meeting planned to be held in September at Camp Allen. Bishops Jack Iker (Ft. Worth), Robert Duncan (Pittsburgh), Martyn Minns (CANA) were present to advocate ultimately leaving TEC, while Bishop Salmon, Philip Turner (by phone) and Fr. Armstrong represented the Anglican Institute strategy of working with the Primates from within.
It was agreed by all those present in St. Louis to give one year to the ACI plan of pressure from within, with certain markers (a firm statement from the Primates meeting in Dar es Salaam, a clear rejection by the House of Bishops, continued same-sex blessings, the ordination of practicing gays in any diocese) which would trigger the en mass departure from TEC and the establishment of a parallel province.
That was the plan, Armstrong told VOL. "This approach was presented and affirmed in a meeting a few weeks later by the assembled Windsor Bishops at Camp Allen, in the presence of Canterbury's representative bishops Dr. N.T. Wright and Michael Scott-Joynt. After the Windsor Bishops made a clear and principled statement from their Camp Allen meeting, then Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold sent a letter to all the bishops rejecting their position and accusing the Colorado based ACI of undermining the stability and ministry of the church.
"In the meantime, the ACI consulted with a group of bishops who were meeting with Griswold and Jefferts Schori at 815 Second Avenue NY in which they both offered alternative Episcopal oversight for orthodox dioceses from Drexel Gomez, Archbishop of the West Indies. We called Drexel, and he said they had never spoken to him, and that she (Jefferts Schori) could not offer what she did not have the authority to give. So the bishops rejected 815's offer.
"In the weeks following, ACI testified at hearings conducted by Global South Primates who were discerning how best to support orthodox Anglicans in a heterodox church; consulted with Dr. Rowan Williams and the Communion Chancellor; and organized a second Camp Allen meeting of bishops."
After threatening Fr. Armstrong with inhibition for talking to primates, and having the parish and ACI offices raided by diocesan attorneys and accountants, Bishop O'Neill inhibited Armstrong, right after Christmas, 2006, effectively shutting down the ACI, leaving them essentially neutered with diminished resources and waning influence.
"The bishops went to their mattresses, the ACI theologians ran to Canada, leaving those who actually followed through on the agreement to form a parallel province to be picked off one at a time, without a critical mass of support to overpower the monomaniacal Jefferts Schori. This is a fate Radner himself, and one by one the remaining dioceses, will share, as each continues in silence while the others are being persecuted, with the attitude 'surely she won't come after me'...but she will, one at a time."
More realistic and less optimistic about the future of TEC, Armstrong concluded, "When we all left, it was according to the agreement hammered out around Bishop Salmon's dinning room table. Those who stayed in TEC simply did not do what they had agreed to...so the larger impact and witness that was undermined by ACI and this handful of bishops know mired in lawsuits and pending ecclesiastical actions against them left those who had faithfully given the ACI plan a chance, but then took their stand as agreed, feeling betrayed but far from defeated.
Under the leadership of Bishops Minns and Duncan and with the support of the majority of the worldwide Anglican Communion, the churches of the now well established parallel province have been about their ministries for several years freed from the spiritual oppression and resulting stunted growth, while those who backed down remain in an unhealthy church, a bed of their own making, fearful of what 815 will next do, knowing in their hearts they will abandon each other as the theological cleansing in TEC continues.
"Sadly this could have been avoided, the church forced to change course, if ACI and the weaker bishops had not broken ranks and run for cover."
Armstrong speculates that Jefferts Schori must have a folder of misdeeds and skeletons on each of these formerly brave men to have the strongest among them produce something as weak as their post General Convention minority report, giving thanks for the conscience clause they know will quickly disappear in practice, while even others ran home in silent fear.
Armstrong, a veteran helicopter pilot from the Vietnam War, said none of these guys would be welcome company in a fox hole.
Still, the delusion continues that the Episcopal Church is recoverable when all the evidence points to the complete evisceration of orthodoxy in The Episcopal Church that is ignoring of biblical warnings of judgment on such a church.
Canon lawyer Allan S. Haley says the problem with ECUSA's actions over the past nine years is that it refuses to regard what it has done as in any way disruptive to the one, true, holy, catholic and apostolic church of Christ. It has asserted its power to annul and set aside the holy orders of bishops, priests and deacons who were each ordained, not into ECUSA particularly, but into that one catholic and apostolic church. It seems to be retaliation for the fact that its gay and lesbian partnered bishops cannot be recognized by most of the other churches in the Communion, or invited to the Lambeth Conference.
"ECUSA has refused to allow clergy from other provinces to serve in its dioceses without their first renouncing their allegiance to the churches which licensed them, and then swearing a new oath of obedience solely to the "doctrine, discipline and worship" of the Episcopal Church (USA). ECUSA -- just like any other branch of the church catholic -- is a fallen church. One cannot find perfection on this earth, no matter which church one joins, but perfection, as such, is not the standard. Rather, faithfulness to Scripture and tradition is. And by that measure, ECUSA falls far short of the mark. It is led by the false teachers of whom first Jesus Christ, and later his apostles, warned their first disciples, who then handed down those warnings to us." He concludes, "The ECUSA has walked apart where the faithful cannot follow."
The ACI its theologians and contributors need to do the same thing.
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