"The persistent claim of these movements [women's liberation and gay rights] is that a greater fulfillment can be achieved when one is freed from the mundane concerns of ordinary family life. The Playboy mentality, which sees females as bunnies, playmates or sensual toys, is joined by feminists and gays offering an alternative to family life. And it is not only that alternative lifestyles to marriage and family should be acceptable [among Protestant clergy], but more often than not, there is a desire to embrace the alternative lifestyles as positively superior because they do not lock the human spirit into humdrum sex, unrewarding labor, and the unexciting relationships that characterize family life." Excerpted from Against the Protestant Gnostics (OUP) by Philip J. Lee.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
If you want to gauge the spiritual health of a nation when a tragedy like 911 occurs or what took place in London this week in terror attacks, look at how people respond.
A VirtueOnline columnist and former UPI Religion editor Uwe Siemon-Netto who was in London at the time of the blasts wrote this. "Here's the difference: in Washington, people poured into churches and synagogues. In London, they rushed to the pubs by the hundreds of thousands."
Uwe then went to St. Paul's Knightsbridge and was appalled to find only four other people kneeling in his favorite London church. "I went there that bloody Thursday afternoon, saddened by what I saw." He found four people on their knees...and they weren't even English, they were faithful visitors from Ohio.
There you have it; the Church of England is largely irrelevant in the lives of most British people. They are a nation without God and they don't particularly care what the Archbishop of Canterbury thinks or, for that matter, what most of his bishops think either. The C of E is irrelevant to the lives of tens of millions of Brits. Only a million or so even bother going to church any more.
What happened is that most Brits have adopted a stiff upper lip and "we'll get on with it" approach. God is not relevant.
Both Dr. Rowan Williams and ECUSA Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold weighed in on the London terror attacks. The two world Anglican leaders fell short in declaring the terrorist bombings in London acts of Jihardist Muslim murderers, while quickly endorsing ecumenical relations with Islam and Muslim leaders; with Griswold indulging in a statement of Western self-loathing and guilt.
Let us continue to remember the three faces of Islam. When Islam is the minority in a society, they are humble and deferential; when they are at parity, they are pushy and aggressive; when they are in the majority, they will kill you." I have written a commentary about the statements of both men in today's digest.
AND TO ADD to the C of E's problems their General Synod this week faces a crisis now that they have approved of consecrating women bishops. A senior bishop warned that he and hundreds of priests will quit the church and go to Rome if the move is approved. Andrew Burnham the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, is the first leading churchman to state that he would be likely to defect to the Roman Catholic Church. You can read that story today. Fourteen of the world's 38 Anglican Churches have already decided to allow women bishops; the Church of England has had women priests since 1994. Rome has also come up with a response to those fleeing.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams also told the Synod that it was still worth attempting to keep the worldwide Church from splitting over homosexuality despite deep divisions. He said last month's meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council, one of the Church's advisory bodies, had helped to foster respect on both sides. Dr Williams, in his presidential address, said the council meeting had failed to break the stalemate between the liberals and conservatives, but had at least obliged them to listen to each other. The Synod also debated a report suggesting that the Church should switch its resources from dioceses and cathedrals to groundbreaking mission work in an effort to reverse its long-term decline.
On another note - the Incitement to Religious Protest Bill produced a protest outside parliament of 2000 black Pentecostals, saying it will inhibit freedom of speech. Not a word about it in the media, of course, writes a VirtueOnline reader.
AN ANGLICAN PAN AMERICAN CONFERENCE of churchmen met in Nassau, Bahamas this past week and affirmed their common ministry together. The biblically orthodox Anglicans came from the Americas and Caribbean to promote their common ministry in the Western Hemisphere. They met under the chairmanship of Archbishop Drexel Gomez and Archbishop Gregory Venables.
They also took a crack at the revisionist Archbishop of Brazil for his "lack of restraint" in his precipitous actions against The Rt. Revd. Robinson Cavalcanti, Bishop of Recife for not allowing the Panel of Reference an opportunity to mediate the conflict. You can read the full story and line up of invitees in today's digest.
IN MY last digest I reported on Bishop "Skip" Adams of the DIOCESE OF CENTRAL NEW YORK's refusal to allow Pittsburgh Bishop Bob Duncan to preach at St. Andrew's Church in Vestal, New York. The Rev. Tony Seel, (the rector) wrote back to say that the reasoning given was that after he asked, the bishop took it to his Standing Committee who argued that Bishop Duncan should be refused because he was a "lightning rod." Fr. Seel blew a gasket. "I pointed out to the bishop that he had no problem inviting the very liberal theologian Marcus Borg into our diocese, another lightning rod..." A previous bishop had invited John Spong to the diocese and under that bishop the diocesan council voted not to support a Luis Palau [evangelistic] crusade in Syracuse. "These inclusive folks just kill me," he wrote to VirtueOnline.
GIVING TO THE ECUSA is way down. According to ECUSA DOLLARS a Blog that follows the numbers here is what we know.
Diocesan budgets/giving down 36
Diocesan budgets/giving unclear 3
Diocesan budgets/giving up 2!
Diocesan budgets/giving unknown 69
THE EXECUTIVE COUNCIL met in Louisville, Kentucky right after the meeting in Nottingham and was told by the Rev. Charles Fulton, director of congregational development at New York's church center, that the decline in Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) for 2003 was 23,000 or 2.8 percent. The decline DOUBLED in 2003," he said. But in 2004 it is expected to drop even more. So far nearly 20,000 Episcopalians have dropped out of sight with parochial reports coming in from 73 dioceses. It could rise to 30,000 when all the dioceses check in. That's over 500 dues paying Episcopalians leaving the church every week. "I don't think anyone can deny that the actions of the 2003 General Convention contributed, but so did probably 1,000 other actions," said Fulton. How about ONE action - the consecration of V. Gene Robinson. Fulton said it was a "systemic decline" not a "traumatic decline." Really. It's amazing what Episcopal liberals do with language. The Robinson consecration is the single biggest "trauma" the Episcopal Church has ever faced and it has resulted in at least 22 provinces breaking off from it. And this is not traumatic! "Time will not be our friend," he said. He's right, and if the Episcopal Church doesn't get a handle on the gospel and its true exclusive message, time will destroy it.
The council also heard from its investment advisers who in their supreme wisdom decided to cut its payout to the ECUSA from 5.5% to five percent because it might "diminish the church's endowments over time." The half point cut only amounts to $1 million. But a million here and a million there and sooner or later it starts to look like real money.
In the DIOCESE OF OKLAHOMA, you may recall the deacon at the cathedral in Oklahoma City one Rev. Paula (nee Paul) Schonauer had had a sex-change operation after divorcing his wife (and two kids). Well, now he/she and his/her girlfriend are planning to go off to California in the near future with his new squeeze Pam Trotter for a "commitment ceremony."
Oklahoma Bishop Robert Moody who elevated history's first ordained transsexual deacon (Paul to Paula Schonauer) in 1999 and offered her/him to be a deacon in the cathedral apparently doesn't mind. VirtueOnline called Paula and he/she told me that she/he was taking a leave of absence from the Episcopal Church and had asked for 3 more years. "I have done this by choice. I don't have any connection with the Episcopal Church right now. I still have my secular job. I am not [necessarily] going to remain in ECUSA and hurt the church. I am seeing saw what Gene Robinson's consecration is doing and I don't want to make it any worse." The bishop has been very pastoral, he said.
When I called the Diocese to find out more, I was told by a spokesperson, "I'd rather not give you any information." Of course not. Heaven forbid that we should find out the truth. Paula still has a base voice when I spoke with him/her, one would never know he/she had had a sex change operation. Now just imagine how confused a congregation would be! Paul(a) still believes that what he did is good news for transgendered people and the church. "People have exploited my situation," he solemnly told VirtueOnline.
MY STORY ON CALIFORNIA BISHOP BILL SWING ordaining a convicted murderer to the priesthood got the ire up of several folks with one writing the following letter to the bishop:
The Rt. Rev. William Swing Bishop of the Diocese of California Episcopal Church, USA
July 7, 2005
I read an item in a newsletter reporting that you ordained a convicted murder to the priesthood. This was startling. The Book of Common Prayer -- even the liberal 1979 version -- has the following line in the Presentation of the Candidate for the priesthood, "Therefore, if any of you know any impediment or crime because of which we should not proceed, come forward now and make it known."
A couple of questions:
1. Is being convicted of murder no longer an impediment to ordination in ECUSA? 2. What is an impediment to ordination? Not being inclusive? 3. What was your sermon about at the ordination? Something vacuous -- like comparing this murderer's incarceration to Paul's time in prison for evangelizing the Gospel?
Looking forward to hearing your exegesis. I am quite sure I could do a doctoral thesis on it.
Gene Koprowski, MLA (The University of Chicago)
We await Swing's answer.
ON THE PLUS side of the ledger, a liberal seminary: the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest (ETSS) in Austin, Texas, has appointed a known orthodox theologian to run the place. The Very Rev. Philip W. Turner III has been appointed interim dean for the 2005-2006 academic year effective Aug. 1. Turner served as dean of Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University, another of the 11 seminaries of the Episcopal Church, from 1991 to 1998. The recommendation came from neo-conservative Texas Bishop Don Wimberly after Titus Pressler, who will be sub-dean and vice president for academic affairs at General Seminary, resigned.
Now it should be noted that this seminary allows cohabiting by its inmates and this will not sit well with Turner who has written scathingly of the Church's new fangled theology of sexual gratification. He wrote: "The Episcopal Church's problem is far more theological than it is moral - a theological poverty that is truly monumental and that stands behind the moral missteps recently taken by its governing bodies." We'll see how that goes down with the faculty.
EPISCOPAL LIFE, the Episcopal Church's official newspaper in its July/August issue has managed to spin what happened at Nottingham, England recently by saying that the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada were NOT isolated by the ACC, that the slim margin of two votes to step down from all participation in the ACC including committees amounted to nothing.
Wrote editor Jerry Hames; "Ultimately, the decision of the ACC, composed of bishops, clergy and laity, and the Anglican Communion's only constitutional body, will have no effect on these current relationships."
So there you have it. Of course he could have added that the ACC's budget in 2003 was $1.8 million and had dropped to $1.37 million in 2005 was being funded to the tune of $600,000 by the ECUSA and another $100,000 by the Canadians. These two provinces alone will cough up over 50% of their total budget. So you think the ACC is going to bite the hand that feeds it? In your dreams.
At the meeting, the liberal leaderships of the American and Canadian Churches attempted to explain why they had defied official policy by consecrating Anglicanism's first homosexual bishop and endorsing the blessing of same-sex unions. The council nevertheless endorsed the decision of the Church's primates last year to remove them from its key committees for at least three years, a reprimand that increased the likelihood that they will be expelled.
AUSTRALIAN'S ELECT ASPINALL. The Anglican Church of Australia's General Synod elected the Archbishop of Brisbane The Most Rev. Phillip Aspinall, 45, to be the next Primate of the Anglican Church. It was Aspinall who fired Fr. David Chislett an Anglo-Catholic priest in his diocese and then revoked his licence because he was consecrated a bishop in the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) even though he holds a licence from the Anglican bishop of the Murray diocese. It was a disappointing but not surprising move, said one observer.
A high level source in Australia called VirtueOnline to say that the vote was close. A slim two votes. Aspinall got 11 and Jensen got 9 in the HOB. Jensen did well in the House of Bishops in all the ballots. In the Houses of Clergy and Laity he didn't get the votes.
Lay: Aspinall 9 Jensen 3, and
Clergy: Aspinall 11 Jensen 1.
They mainly comprised liberals.
Aspinall's term is only for two years and the source said that significant developments will take place in Australian Anglicanism which could translate into Jensen easily winning two years from now. The next time Australia elects a Primate it will vote to have a new primate in the style of the American Episcopal Church whose Primate, Frank Griswold has no diocese.
WHILE THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION particularly the American Episcopal Church plays footsie with the Arabs over disinvestment to punish Israel for occupying the West Bank (the Israelis are leaving the Gaza strip) and regularly sees Arab leaders while ignoring Israeli leaders, Israel has invited Pope Benedict to visit the Holy Land. In another sign of warming between the Jewish state and the Holy See the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told the pontiff that a first edition copy of an Israeli stamp commemorating Pope John Paul II's visit to the Holy Land had been struck.
We wonder if the Jewish state will ever strike up a stamp with Rowan Williams' or Frank Griswold's head on it. Don't hold your breath. They ain't loved in quite the same way. They bear-hugged Yasir Arafat too many times to please the Jews. The Episcopal Church was never known for its objectivity. Inclusion never includes Israel.
AFRO-ANGLICANS will meet in Canada to celebrate black heritage this month. They will converge on Toronto, Canada, for the third international conference on Afro-Anglicanism. The line up speakers speaks volumes. It includes: South African Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, a thorough going liberal, Frank Griswold of ECUSA and Ugandan-born Bishop John Sentamu who has been named as the next Archbishop of York. Interesting that neither Peter Akinola (Nigeria), Henry Orombi (Uganda) or Bernard Malango (Central Africa) were invited.
THE SEWANEE UNIVERSITY OF THE SOUTH had a goal to raise $3 million. Progress to Date is: $2.97 million with participation goal of 50%. Participation to date has been only 40%.Can one smell an honorary doctorate for V. Gene Robinson in the winds now that most of the money has come in?
ON A TRULY BRIGHT NOTE The DIOCESE OF PITTSBURGH announced this week that it had started four new congregations since 2001. The diocese is averaging one plant a year. Their vision: Four years - four newly established congregations. "All indications are that Bishop Robert Duncan was being realistic when in 2001 he outlined his vision to see 10 new "parish or parish-like institutions" planted during the first decade of the 21st Century. Jenni Bartling, the Diocese's congregational developer said "people are actually seeing churches being planted," she said. To help others prepare to plant, Bartling formed the "Church Parenting Network" this April. The group, which meets every month, brings together rectors and parish leaders from churches considering spinning off a new congregation to talk about what is involved and share ideas.
Perhaps some revisionist dioceses that are busy closing down parishes like the DIOCESE OF NEWARK could take a lesson out of the Diocese of Pittsburgh's book and figure out what to do. First thing of course is to have the right message to proclaim, and it is not inclusion. Try transformation. It might just work.
The Standing Committee of the DIOCESE OF FLORIDA met with Bishop John Howard to discuss the request by seven clergy of the diocese for Alternative Episcopal Oversight. The Standing Committee came to no conclusion and left the decision in the bishop's hands, one of the seven priests told VirtueOnline. The Standing Committee includes the following members: The Very Rev. Edward Harrison, Mr. Robert Ashmead, The Rev. Eric Dudley, Mr. Harris Willman, The Rev. George Young, III, and The Honorable William Stafford.
Among today's stories there is a statement from the he bishop of the DIOCESE OF THE SOUTHWEST the Rt. Rev. John B. Lipscomb who says that Episcopalians face a choice: accept the recommendations of the Windsor Report or walk apart. I have also examined at length the latest findings on sexuality, specifically bisexuality, which puts another dent in the Episcopal organization Integrity's claim that LGBT sexualities are fixed.
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