"Now it is comparatively easy to be faithful if we do not care about being contemporary and easy to be contemporary if we do not bother to be faithful. It is the search for a combination for truth and relevance which is exacting." John R. W. Stott
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The final word on the meeting of the All Africa Bishops Conference in Nigeria was, according to a source, quite spectacular. The African provinces are agreed that repentance is the only way forward if the Anglican Communion is to survive. Even the Southern Africa Province agreed, though its primate, Ndungane was notably absent. The other bishops that came were all in agreement that the teaching of the church cannot be changed and called for The Episcopal Church to repent. They also supported the Network in the US and all the parishes that have been supported by overseas bishops and primates.
The African Church also determined that it would become self-sufficient in a bid to separate itself from revisionist Western influences, and with the theme of ‘Africa comes of Age’ the African bishops again issued a condemnation of practicing homosexuality. They also refuted the Windsor Report’s recommendation that those crossing boundaries to offer support to embattled traditionalists parishes in America should express regret.
The official communiqué of the conference stated that the African Church had “gone beyond the stage of mission ‘from the West to the rest’, to that of mission ‘from everywhere to everywhere’, and must therefore seek to work for the transformation of our continent by making the proclamation of the gospel in its fullness and making it relevant to fight against poverty, HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other health concerns, corruption, conflicts and human rights abuses. They also welcomed the Windsor Report’s call for a moratorium on the election and consecration of practicing homosexuals to the episcopate and the blessing of same-sex unions, with the African bishops declaring that they could not “sacrifice truth for any revisionist agenda which leans on a faulty understanding of Christian unity.”
So now we await and see what happens when the Primates met in February in Ireland. Will Frank Griswold turn up? If he does, will the Africans share Eucharist with him? If they do not, will Rowan Williams declare that a formal schism has occurred?
IN OTHER INTERNATIONAL NEWS, Primate Gregory Venables was reelected to lead and represent the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone. In addition, he was given unanimous and unqualified support for those responsibilities and consultations related to the Anglican Communion crisis and to ensure that “dioceses, bishops, churches and individuals who remain faithful to the life and testimony” of the Communion receive pastoral care. Hector “Tito” Zavala continues as the vice chair. The Southern Cone of the Americas includes the seven dioceses of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, Northern Argentina, and Uruguay. The Province was formed in 1983.
Meeting in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, during the first week of November, delegates welcomed a report from the Reverend Canon Dr. Bill Atwood, general secretary of Ekklesia, an Anglican organization representing a variety of Primates throughout the entire Global South. Synod reaction to the Windsor report was guardedly positive as it “provides valuable tools for the church to deal with the rebellious and unilateral actions” of American and Canadian churches. But it fails to direct these churches to the repentance necessary to restore broken communion, as required by the bishop’s pastoral letter earlier in the year. "The Synod also requested that the Primates meeting establish structures and limits by which the Communion can assure its future," said the Rt. Rev. Frank Lyons, Bishop of Bolivia.
And a statement from the British-based COUNCIL OF CHURCH SOCIETY regarding the Windsor Report said they are bitterly disappointed with the recent report of the Lambeth Commission. "Despite the effort that has gone into the report it does not effectively address the serious underlying issues nor does it provide proper pastoral care to ECUSA and Canada. However, given the terms of reference and the composition of the Commission this outcome is hardly surprising. If the report's recommendations are followed it will allow immorality to fester. In time it will destroy the churches of the Anglican Communion and the spiritual lives of their members. What is needed is clear action and discipline without creating international structures that will undermine the historic nature of Anglicanism. We hope that when the leaders of the Communion meet in February they will set aside the Windsor report and take decisive action. There must be a clear rebuke to the provinces of the United States and Canada, together with a call to repentance. Christian repentance always involves putting right what is wrong. Until this is done the provinces concerned should be declared to be outside the Communion. They must not be involved in any of its central bodies. Alongside this action, the Communion must seek to support and embrace those within North America reject the innovations."
IT WAS ANOTHER TOTALLY BIZARRE WEEK IN THE LIFE of The Episcopal Church.
In the DIOCESE OF PITTSBURGH at their diocesan convention, Canon George Werner, the president of the House of Deputies was roundly defeated in his efforts to be re-elected as a General Convention deputy from the Diocese of Pittsburgh. A week before the diocesan convention Werner sent a letter on his letterhead as President of the House of Deputies to every clergyperson in the Diocese of Pittsburgh asking for their vote. On top of that an appeal letter went out from four of the eight 2003 General Convention deputies (the other four declined to sign on) to all deputies to diocesan convention also asking for support of Werner's candidacy. The full court press was on. But Werner got sandbagged. To my knowledge this has never happened to a sitting president of the HOD. Werner is a classic liberal who promised to work with conservatives. It never happened. His idea of working with the orthodox is to have a token orthodox person on any committee who is guaranteed to lose in any open vote. The diocesan convention response was a resounding defeat for him, and humiliating. Werner was neither elected a deputy nor an alternate. He finished ninth of nine nominees for the four deputy and four alternate slots. Therefore the 2004 General Convention will be his last unless he changes his canonical residence to another diocese and is elected from that diocese as a clergy deputy. Rumor has it that he considering changing his canonical residence to the Diocese of West Virginia. Just before going to cyber press Werner announced through official ECUSA channels that he would not seek re-election. No loss there. Perhaps Louie Crew who ran against Werner might have another go for the job. God save us all.
In other news Bishop Bob Duncan, with the agreement of the Standing Committee, has put two parishes, Calvary in Pittsburgh and St Stephen's Wilkensburg on notice that if they continue the lawsuit against the two Bishops and 16 other leaders (select members of the Standing Committee and Board of Trustees) that he will dissolve the relationship between the diocese and the two parishes. In effect kick them out of the diocese. This will be in accordance with the disciplinary canons of the diocese. The bishop made it clear that he does not want to go this route if at all possible. He called the lawsuit a "scandal". The Rev. Harold Lewis (Calvary) said in response that he will not drop the suit. Lionel Diemel of the revisionist PEP(boys) gang said he will recruit other parishes and the national church to fight this move by the bishop and standing committee.
But there are alternatives. Civil court litigation is a legitimate remedy available to orthodox priests and orthodox parishes being persecuted by revisionist bishops. Surrender is not an option for an honorable Christian. Fr. David Moyer has shown that resistance can be successful. The revisionist bishops bear the responsibility that money has to be spent on litigation.
It is now open warfare in The Episcopal Church. And if there cannot be any agreed upon universal canons to govern the whole communion, then the lawsuits and dogfights in the ECUSA will continue indefinitely. VirtueOnline has been saying for years that it would come to this. There are now at least six dioceses: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Los Angeles, Olympia (shortly), and Missouri, with at least a dozen others poised to head into the courts over property issues. VirtueOnline predicts that by the middle of next year fully 30 percent of all ECUSA dioceses will be facing civil actions over property issues costing both parishes and dioceses tens of millions of dollars in legal fees. This is what it will come down too. One must ask the obvious question, is this the will of God, is this what Jesus expects his church to be about? Episcopalians plan to spend their hard earned dollars...on lawsuits? Mission of course is finished. Dead Men's Money (endowment) will be used by revisionist dioceses to fund their legal actions; parishes will mostly lose and leave.
In the DIOCESE OF PENNSYLVANIA, two Episcopal priests (a husband and wife team) in two separate parishes were found to be Druids and practicing the Wiccan religion. VirtueOnline and Ted Olsen of Christianity Today exposed them. They recanted their actions, apologized and promised never to practice witchcraft rites again. Bishop Charles Bennison put them on notice but did not inhibit them. Late yesterday the Rev. Bill Melnyk announced he had resigned from his parish. A newspaper report did not say it, but VirtueOnline got word that his dipping into his Discretionary Funds to support a Druid organization might have been the reason for his heave-ho. His wife, Glyn Melnyk AKA "Raven" and "Glispa" (the witch) is still riding her broomstick over at St. Francis. You can read those stories today.
In another parish, St. Andrew's the associate rector their, the Rev. Richard Miller was caught buying an $80,000 BMW and charging it to the parish! When the rector, the Rev. Elsa Mintz found out about it, she fired him. But the parish is now stuck with the monthly payments and because the church's name is on the deed of sale she is now filing criminal charges to get the church's name off the title. Bishop Charles E. Bennison said he would not inhibit the priest. Last year another Pennsylvania priest pled guilty and paid a $300 fine for masturbating in front of two park rangers in a public park. He kept his job as well. FOOTNOTE: Bennison will inhibit you if you have a faith to declare, like Fr. David Moyer, but if you believe in hobgoblins and foul fiends, grand larceny and a little homoerotic sex then you are most welcome in the diocese. Just bring your own broomstick and condoms.
But this week's 221st Diocesan Convention came news that all is not well in the diocese, though you would never know it by all the adulation heaped on Bennison's head, especially from Roy Ahlmquist the Lutheran leader who praised Bennison for "his grace under fire...showing courage that Christian leaders must have, leadership, despite numerous unfriendly stories in the Philadelphia INQUIRER."
The true state of the diocese was revealed in a report by Peter Kreek, Vice chair of the Diocesan Council, commenting on the Diocese's "Our Holy Experiment" said this: "Of the 160 congregations in the diocese only 25 are growing, 57 are declining with 38 having declined over 10 percent in the last year. (You don't think Vickie Gene's consecration might have something to do with that do you?), the vast majority are barely holding their own," said Kreek. Furthermore somewhere between 7 and 15 congregations will close their doors in the coming year, said another source. No gospel, no growth, no brain surgery necessary to figure out why.
And to add insult to injury, in order to prop up the diocese, a report of the committee on financial Affairs given by Canon Gary Hall, who incidentally is fleeing the diocese to become Dean of Seabury-Western in Chicago, recommended that mandatory giving and voluntary be merged and giving (now mandatory) would be 10 percent across the board. But to spare the humiliation of the poorer aided parishes from having to come up with such a large amount there would be a sliding scale starting at 2 percent going up to 13 percent. So what this means is that evangelical parishes that are growing, like Church of the Good Samaritan in Paoli, would be forced to treble their pledge to a theologically and morally bankrupt diocese, from hard earned evangelical dollars. I think the vestry will have something to say about that. In short, bury the orthodox that have a faith, to pay for parishes and a diocese that doesn't have any faith. In the meantime, to balance the books and to come up with about a $300,000 shortfall, the diocese would "borrow" from its endowment. But the shortfall is going to be larger, said a source. It appears that congregational pledges can only support 65% of the upcoming budget. That would mean the diocese would need to spend from the endowment (not borrow) close to $700,000 for next year alone! According to Kreek, the shortfall of congregational giving (versus what they actually pledge) is between $200,000 and $300,000 annually! What the diocese is "borrowing" is the money to pay for Camp Wapiti with the hope, albeit vain, of repaying that money through a capital campaign.
But the real tragedy of the Diocesan convention is that the orthodox priests who recognize that Bennison is evil and an apostate failed to speak up. God does not require us to win. He does require us to be faithful.
And in the DIOCESE OF NORTH CAROLINA Bishop Bruce Curry has announced that the diocese is selling The Summit, the diocesan church center for a cool $4 million. Apparently, they feel that they need these funds, "to successfully carry out the mission of the diocese." But as one VirtueOnline reader noted, "We don't really know what that is, it doesn't seem to have very much to do with Jesus and the gospel." Really.
And in the DIOCESE OF FT. WORTH the following resolution was passed at their recent convention: "Therefore be it resolved, the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, meeting in convention the 6th day of November 2004, urges the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church (USA) to accept and implement the recommendations of the Windsor Report through repentance of their actions against God and His Church." As old Chinese proverb says, "rots of ruck".
Bishop Jack Iker spoke clearly of his commitment to the Communion. He said that if it comes to a choice of either the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion, the Diocese of Fort Worth will be with the Anglican Communion. He received a standing ovation for that, VirtueOnline was told.
In the DIOCESE OF SOUTHERN VIRGINIA, the Bishop, David Bane was asked to resign because of horribly bad leadership; “major ineptitude” in financial management and a near-total absence of accountability plus 66 other reasons that are crippling the diocese, according to an internal review. In an unanimous report issued last week, an internal committee described the diocese as “adrift and leaderless,” “floundering in all areas” and torn by hostility between Bishop David C. Bane Jr. and his deputy, Suffragan Bishop Carol J. Gallagher. (She's more revisionist than he is.) “This diocese has fallen in the last six years from being one of the most sought out, healthy dioceses for clergy to join, to being perceived as one of the most unhealthy, dysfunctional dioceses in the country,” the report stated. The bishop said he would not resign. Bishop Clayton Matthews, Frank Griswold's hit man for bad boy bishops is looking into it, but don't expect much from him except efforts to cover it all up. The diocese has 33,000 members and 123 parishes, including 27 in South Hampton Roads. Bane is a "dry drunk". Of course.
One church's split from the DIOCESE OF SOUTHEAST FLORIDA, is official. A new church has started in Ft. Lauderdale under the leadership of The Rev. Bill Eaton. The Anglican Mission in America has affiliated a new congregation with 117 people called The Anglican Church of the Word mostly from fleeing Episcopalians. The congregation has doubled in size in less than a year and they discerned that its mission lay along the same path as the AMiA. “If we were to be involved in growth and even starting new churches, we knew that we could not be in a fight with the Episcopal Church USA,” declared Fr. Eaton. “Faced with that kind of a fight many people leave, or end up playing golf on Sunday mornings”. The Anglican Church of the Word is the only body to form from members who once belonged to the Episcopal Church in that diocese which consists of 82 churches from Key West to Jensen Beach.
A parish in the DIOCESE OF WESTERN LOUISIANA has moved to opt out of sending funds to the national church this week. Stand Firm clergy member Father William Senter sent a letter from Grace Episcopal Church in Lake Providence in Louisiana, saying he accepts the Diocesan asking for 2005, with the stipulation that no portion of the same be forwarded to the national church, and instead retained within the Diocese of Western Louisiana for its faithful work in mission and ministry. I have interviewed Bishop David MacPherson in today's digest.
And in the DIOCESE OF WASHINGTON it is now their canon law to Celebrate and Bless Covenant Relationships of gay and lesbian persons. "We believe that the development of a diocesan rite for the blessing of same sex relationships is a provisional and appropriate step at this time in our common life. Such rites have been celebrated in some of the congregations of this diocese for the past twenty years or so," said Bishop John Chane. "This rite is a covenant marked by sacred trust and commitment, witnessed and blessed in the presence of God by the community of the faithful." While any member of the clergy may decline to preside at the Celebration of a Covenant Relationship it is our hope that congregations and clergy that have not already done so will engage in prayerful conversation about the place of such relationships in the life of the church while making use of the resources available in this document."
What this means is that it will, for a time be optional then made mandatory at a Diocesan Convention and if you don't conform you are out. So much for inclusivity and to hell with what the Global South bishops think and what the Windsor Report called for.
And from the DIOCESE OF ATLANTA comes from this from a VirtueOnline reader: "We held the first day of our two day annual diocesan council. Among the exhibitors was some sort of AIDS coalition who were giving away condoms. They actually had them spilling out of a cornucopia. Apparently the bishop was aware of it, thus tacitly approving. Later, during his address, the bishop spoke at length on the Windsor Report, expressing his gratitude that the commission recognized the problems caused by crossing diocesan and provincial boundaries, that they upheld the alternative oversight plan set in place by the HOB, and explained that it will take several years to evaluate the report completely. I might add that the bishop apparently forgot to mention the fact that the commission requested a moratorium on gay unions and consecrations, and that the commission asked for some expression of regret." Why are we not surprised?
And in the DIOCESE OF BETHLEHEM'S recent convention, the clergy and laity rejected a resolution designed to keep the diocese in communication with worldwide Anglicans. A VirtueOnline reader wrote to say that the revisionists, many were obviously homosex oriented clergy, ruled the two day convention. Discussion on the resolution was cut short by the Bishop's imposing a 2-miniute comment period on each speaker, with the fifth speaker being a self-avowed homosexual member of the clergy calling the question to a vote. "I had submitted the proposed resolution and had requested a ballot on the resolution, stating that this was the only way to get a true vote of the convention, because of undue pressure being applied from some quarters (namely the Bishop.) The voice vote seemed reasonably close enough for me to ask for a standing vote. I was right about delegates not having the courage to vote their beliefs. Only about twelve to fourteen delegates stood to support the resolution. Of these only four were clergy," said Ray Nearhood, a vestry member of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Scranton, PA. who was also a delegate to this convention. "I left the convention feeling sad that a church that I have loved for many years is now preaching heresy."
DEMOCRATS got an awful surprise when the formidable bloc of Evangelicals pushed George W. Bush back into the White House. But they shouldn't gloat too much, and you can read why in my lead story today.
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