Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The fallout from the consecration of Fr. David L. Moyer on Wednesday to the episcopacy of the Anglican Church in America a jurisdiction of the Traditional Anglican Communion has begun.
Ultra-liberal ECUSA Pennsylvania Bishop Charles E. Bennison immediately jumped into the fray and said he would consult with his Standing Committee to consider whether he would move to seize the property.
That is easier said than done, said John H. Lewis Jr. Moyer's attorney. There is no basis to "seize the property" Lewis told VirtueOnline. "David Moyer was illegally and fraudulently deprived of his status as an Episcopal priest of the Diocese of Pennsylvania that issue is now before the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County. Secondly, the Parish has taken no action in violation of the Canons. Thirdly, according to Bennison, Fr. Moyer has been a lay person since September of 2002. No action was taken. It makes no sense to claim that it is worse for a Bishop to preside at Mass than for a "lay person" to preside at Mass and any attempt to "seize the property" would be in violation of the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania."
"Furthermore," says Lewis, "there are other reasons why such action would be improper and illegal-all of which would be asserted (including possible counterclaims) in the event of any attempt to 'seize the property.'"
Bennison also questioned whether Anglican leaders would accept Fr. Moyer as a bishop in the 78 million strong Anglican Communion (not to be confused with the Traditional Anglican Communion lead by Archbishop John Hepworth.). Bennison said that as only two Anglican Communion bishops (Davies and Kapinga) laid hands on him and three are required by canon law, his consecration was invalid. Numerous other TAC bishops including Archbishop John Hepworh laid hands on Moyer.
J. Robert Wright, historiographer for the Episcopal Church agreed saying "three is our operating procedure." Wright also said Episcopalians "cannot possibly recognize Moyer as a bishop because he is not consecrated for a church we are in communion with." The historiographer, however, very carefully did not agree with Bennison that the consecration was invalid. All he said was that three Anglican Communion bishops are the normal "procedure"-not that it is required.
Responding to these charges, Bishop Moyer described such views as "antiquated." Moyer stated that only one bishop laying hands is required for validity. Even if there are no formal ties between the two communions and other Continuing Anglican jurisdictions, there are active and vibrant relationships "on the ground" citing Australian bishop Russ Owen Davies of the Anglican Church of Australia who laid hands on Fr. Moyer.
But the action in consecrating Fr. Moyer has clearly muddied the ecclesiastical waters with both orthodox and liberal bishops around the world.
One orthodox Episcopal bishop told VirtueOnline that it was the worst and most damaging act setting back the catholic quest for unity in several hundred years!
Central African Primate Bernard Malango, under whose authority Fr. Moyer has been working wrote to Moyer several weeks before the consecration questioning the timing and his future relationship with him. "You need to understand that there are many complications that you don't know. Several of recent elections of bishops in my province have resulted in law suit challenges filed in courts. My own enthronement was delayed for months because of silly charges that were made. It is not simply for me to say that you are a priest in one relationship and a bishop in another. Something like that cannot be done without the agreement of Bishops here and other leaders as well. It might take action from the whole synod. I hope we can build that over the time but it is not there now. Malango did give David his blessing.
Yet a Dean of the Anglican Communion Network, Fr. John Guernsey wrote Fr. Moyer saying, "I want you to know that you are very much in my prayers today as you are ordained and consecrated a bishop in Christ's one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. May the Lord anoint you in power by His Spirit for faithful and fruitful ministry in this crucial time in history. God bless you."
FORWARD IN FAITH UK responded saying that despite serious misgivings about the manner in which it was effected, Forward in Faith UK welcomed the consecration of the Right Reverend David Moyer SSC and the Right Reverend David Chislett SSC as Bishops in the Church of God. We note the participation of Bishops Edward MacBurney SSC, Maternus Kapinga and Ross Davies SSC in these consecrations and salute the courage with which Bishop Davies has appointed Bishops Moyer and Chislett as assistant bishops in the Diocese of The Murray, in the Archdiocese of Adelaide. We assure the new bishops of our continuing good wishes and prayers. The letter was signed by John Fulham, Chairman, Geoffrey Kirk, Secretary and Stephen Parkinson, Director.
Forward in Faith's seven acting bishops issued a letter that wished Moyer but said that many would regard his consecration "as a stumbling block to the building up of an orthodox Anglican Province within these United States."
BISHOP MATERNUA KAPINGA, Diocese of Ruvuma also wrote to David Moyer saying the news of his election as a Bishop in the Church of God had reached his attention and he was overjoyed for it. "You perceive your election as ACA (TAC) Bishop to be a call from God. It has touched my heart that you witness saying, "I am humbled, but I do know very deeply that this is the work of God." I interpret this to be your awareness of what God [is] calling you to do here and now. As a child of God and a follower of Christ you must decide to do it and actually do it." Kapinga not only wrote the letter, in the end he traveled to Rosemont to lay hands on Fr. Moyer.
Kapinga cited Cardinal John Henry Newman, who said: "Beware of trifling with your conscience. It is often said that second thoughts are best; so they are in matters of judgment, but not in matters of conscience. In matters of duty first thoughts are commonly best--they have more in them of the voice of God."
BISHOP GRAHAM HOWARD WALDEN, Bishop of The Murray (ret.) wrote saying that the consecration of the two men was valid "inasmuch as the consecrating bishops are 'bona fide' bishops of the Anglican Communion. Archbishop John Hepworth is well known to me and received a valid consecration to the Order of Bishop in the Diocese of The Murray. Ross Owen Davies, was similarly consecrated in Adelaide Cathedral. Walden recognizes Hepworth's orders.
IN THE US, ECUSA BISHOP William C. Wantland Bishop of Eau Claire (ret.) wrote saying that while he had had deep discussion, and some differences on this matter, "I truly support you with my prayers on this awesome new ministry you are being called to."
Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan, moderator of the Anglican Communion Network, issued a statement saying Moyer's move "raises difficulties in his relationship to the broader Anglican Communion."
We will, over the course of the next few months and years see how this consecration plays out. For the moment it is but another stone in the stream of Anglican realignment that will have profound and rippling effects for years to come.
AND THE LATEST WORD from what you might expect next week at the Dromantine Center where 38 archbishops will gather to reflect on the Windsor Report comes this. Archbishop Rowan Williams has given broad hints of what might happen. In his own words, "I feel I have no choice but to stand by the Windsor Report and a great deal of what it recommends; to stand by the Windsor Report to the extent that it identifies certain actions as having made our common language, our common discourse almost impossible..."
Even by William's usual standard of theological imprecision this is a telling statement. "If one portion of the church decides that it must take a conscientious risk, then there are inevitable results to that. There are consequences in hurt, misunderstanding, rupture and damage. It does us no good to pretend that the cost is not real...that a risky act ought to have or can have consequences."
There you have it. Where is the wiggle room? We shall know more ere long. You can read my story from what VirtueOnline's sources tell us from London today. The next report you receive will be from me in Ireland.
In the DIOCESE OF ALABAMA from The Apostle, the official newspaper of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama comes word that the Most Rev. Njongonkulu Ndugane, Archbishop of Cape Town and Primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, will visit the diocese on Sunday, March 6, and join Bishop Suffragan Mark Andrus in the 40th anniversary reenactment of the civil rights march across the Edmond Pettus Bridge in Selma.
It's ironic when you think about it. This liberal diocese picks the ONLY liberal African primate from the entire continent of Africa to celebrate this occasion with. It goes to show just how earnest Bishop Henry Parsley is in maintaining that link, another reason to think that when schism is formalized it will be easy to tell the sheep from the goats.
JOHN STOTT AGAIN. The North American representative for John Stott Ministries David Jones wrote to say that While Stott was not mentioned in the online version of TIME's (top 25 evangelicals), he did receive a paragraph in the newsstand edition. Here is what it said. "Although his home base is All Souls Church, Langham Place in London, John Stott is one of the most respected and beloved figures among believers in the U.S. Stott, 83, was present at the creation and is a principal framer of the 1974 Lausanne Covenant that sketched out what was then called neo-Evangelicalism. Stott practices a pious austerity that, were he Catholic, might be called saintly. He plunges the rich royalties from his more that 40 unassumingly brilliant books into a fund to educate pastors in the developing world. He lives in a two-room flat, except for four months a year spent writing in a Welsh cottage that until 2001 was lit be gaslight. His ministry board fitted it with electric lights, but most Evangelicals would have said he was sufficiently enlightened - and had enlightened them - already." John Stott Ministries has operated in the United States for 30 years. It is a broad-based, yet very grass roots movement of American Christians eager to help develop strategic Christian leaders around the world. We are working hard to develop the "future John Stotts" of the Evangelical church around the world.
CONVOCATION ADMITTED TO NETWORK. The Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan, Moderator of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes welcomed the Church of St. James the Apostle to the Network this week. He wrote the Rt. Rev. Martin Sigillito in St. Louis, MO saying, "I rejoice in counting you among the congregations and clergy who are standing together for the Gospel truth and our faithful expression of Anglicanism in North America." The Network is organized and administered through a series of six convocations (5 geographic and one for members of Forward in Faith North America). Each convocation is overseen by a Dean appointed by the Network and who generously serves on a voluntary basis. It is our pleasure to assign you to the Mid-Continental Convocation.
The DIOCESE OF FLORIDA had their Convocation of "conversation" recently and a VirtueOnline reported the following. "We were divided into small groups for discussion of the four speaker's topic. All of the speaker's basically stated that the church is in crises. This reflects in balance on the Pastoral letter from Bishop John Howard of October 17, 2004, that reflected that we were not in crises."
"They all also seemed to be saying that the train has jumped the track, and that we are waiting for the cars to crash. How they will land and what the extent of the damage will be is open, at this time, to the speculation of almost every individual in attendance. One of the speaker's, The Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner indicated that the African Primates had issued a date of June 1, 2005 as the date for something definitive to happen. Radner spoke about the return and embracing of holiness and that the turning away from holiness was at the core of ECUSA's problems."
The Rt. Rev. Mark Dyer also spoke on the Windsor Report and said that ECUSA was called to accountability and to repent (not just regret) see paragraph 134, page 52 of the report. He confirmed that the report put scripture as the basis of authority and that the creeds are the documents and statements of our Faith.
One Clergyman was perplexed with Dyer's talk due to the fact that it seem to be substantially different from the talk that he gave to the Diocese of Atlanta. Dyer stated, "A bishop does not represent just the local church (Diocese) but the all of the Communion. Therefore how can the Bishop of New Hampshire be a representative of "the church?"
Canon Dr. Mary Tanner from England gave a perspective from outside the ECUSA and spoke of "autonomy-in-communion" which means that though we are independent to make a lot of our own decisions, we must and should do so with the common knowledge. "We have to be aware of that relationship and the history and tenants that the relationship thereby imparts to us." To act outside of the established tenants puts us outside the communion (fellowship). She indicated that based on THE WINDSOR REPORT, the Episcopal Church had done just that. Dean Peter Moore, former president of TESM spoke with great passion and truth about the errors of the teaching and philosophy of ECUSA in the past couple of decades. He laid out a pattern of moving away from Scripture, the traditions and reasons of the greater bodies of Christ. He spoke of the uniqueness of our faith and our heritage as Anglicans and Christians and of what has been set aside by the leadership of ECUSA.
Said an observer, "The Diocese of Florida delegates to this Convocation seem to be more solidly orthodox than in the past. We were able to dialogue with greater honesty and without rancor. Bishop Howard did a lot of observing. He was surprised with the universal message of all the speakers and he appeared at times uncomfortable. He is a tooth grinder."
In the DIOCESE OF CENTRAL FLORIDA this week Bishop John W. Howe wrote to say that he felt compelled to respond to "Episcopal Voices" a pro gay activist group in The Episcopal Church who had taken a swipe at the Evangelical bishop in a post to the Bishops and Deputies (HOB/D) list for joining the Network and accused the bishop of being in a "contentious, fragile relationship with the Episcopal Church over human sexuality."
Wrote Howe, "Yes, it was "under my episcopate" that the Diocese of Central Florida voted by a majority of more that two to one, to join the Anglican Communion Network. However, I urged Convention, four times in a row, to defer that decision to the Diocesan Board for further study and reflection, thinking that it was too new for action of Convention in 2004. Convention decided otherwise."
Howe criticized "Voices" saying it was not a helpful characterization of our relationship with ECUSA to say we are in a "contentious, fragile relationship with the Episcopal Church over human sexuality." We clearly, by a huge majority, repudiated the two most controversial decisions of the last General Convention, but we, and I, are loyal, active participants in the councils of the Church. I have had several bishops tell me they consider me to be among the bishops with the greatest level of integrity in the House, and I am committed to remaining in dialogue and participation until whatever end we come to.
"No member of 'Episcopal Voices" has ever been treated with anything but the greatest respect (at least by me)." Howe said he was willing to meet with EV, and he renewed that willingness.
Howe also took issue with EV who said that every parish in the diocese was a Network parish," Not so, said Howe, the rectors of two parishes have pointedly said they are NOT "Network parishes," and we honor that decision. "We are not into manipulation, coercion, or the politics of power."
In the most serious accusation by EV who accused the bishop of turning two parishes who 'disassociated' from the Network into aided parish status, Howe wrote: "Plans for that parish to establish an off-campus worship site are now threatened by plans for a so-called 'parallel' church in the same geographic area to be established by the diocese through its Congregational Development Commission. The parish "threatened" with aided parish status is Holy Trinity, Fruitland Park. It has made a very strange and convoluted pledge to the Diocese in which it wants a check made out to ECUSA to be counted as part of its pledge to the Diocese of Central Florida, and the other monies pledged to the Diocese are to "remain entirely within the Diocese. Holy Trinity is entirely free to specify that the portion of its pledge that - by action of the 2003 Special Convention - would go to "alternative giving" should go, instead, to ECUSA. We would gladly honor that. However, what they have done is send us a check made out to ECUSA, and then asked that we consider that check part of their gift to the Diocese of Central Florida. That would be directly parallel to sending us a check made out to the Billy Graham Association, and saying "Please count this as part of our gift to the Diocese of Central Florida. It just doesn't work that way!
Howe blasted the group saying, "I am incensed that anyone would suggest or imply that oppression or persecution of "liberals" in this Diocese is the policy of this "conservative" Bishop. Give me one shred of evidence, and I will repent." Howe concluded saying that the post to the Bishops and Deputies list was made by a person who is not a member of the Diocese of Central Florida. "He espouses ideas and opinions that most orthodox Christians would regard as questionable at best."
And in the DIOCESE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE the Police are searching for an Episcopalian, one Scott Nash, 45, of Northfield, senior warden of the Tilton Episcopal Church where he is said to have allegedly engaged in numerous sexual assaults within the last year, said two newspaper reports. Hilliard said the sexual allegations were reported to police by officials of the Episcopal Diocese, who have been helpful in the investigation. According to court records, Nash previously was convicted of stealing money from an employer.
AT THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND SYNOD this past week the General Synod Bishops continued with their liberal agenda while the laity demanded doctrinal reform. The conflicts within the Anglican Communion over homosexuality, doctrinal liberalism and female clergy manifested itself at the current meeting of the Church of England's governing bodies. News reports issued on the same day revealed the Church of England's proposal to extend pension benefits to the homosexual 'partners' of deceased gay clergy and allow female bishops. At the same time, a meeting of laity was reported as voting for the revival of tribunals for cases of doctrinal heresy. You can read stories about these issues in today's digest.
PRESIDING BISHOP FRANK GRISWOLD delivered himself of a sermon to the Executive Council meeting in Austin, Texas this past week. Virtueonline's cyber theologian Dr. Robert Sanders goes after Griswold in an essay you can read today declaring that it is little more than the Gnostic ramblings of a man more in tune with Jung than Jesus. He rips into the language of Griswold and the theology that lies behind it. This is an excellent read. Please forward to as many people as you know. It is important to know what our leaders are really saying and thinking.
The Very Rev'd G. Richard Lobs III Dean of The Cathedral Church of Saint Luke's in Orlando, Florida has done an excellent visual presentation of the last 50 years of the Episcopal Church. You can see this excellent presentation - Retracing our History online. You can see it at: http://www.virtueonline.org/stories/retracing_our_steps.pdf
And EPISCOPAL LESBIAN LEADER, Rev. Susan Russell used a visit to London courtesy of the Rev. Gregory Cameron, Deputy Secretary General of the Anglican Communion Office to rip into the Communion's orthodox once again. In a piece titled, "A California Yankee in King Arthur's Communion" she whined, "I am also increasingly clear that...we must reject the "urban myth" (perpetuated in no small measure by some of the foundational assumptions of the Windsor Report itself) that we find ourselves in this mess because of the actions of the American and Canadian Churches who unilaterally thrust a hitherto happily unified Communion into a schism-bound tailspin of controversy. Rather we cannot ignore the impact of the broken promises of an institution that failed...deep conversation... and blah, blah, blah. With her was the Rev. Colin Coward of Changing Attitudes, a C of E. gay organization as well as men and women including Michael Hopkins and I representing Integrity USA, Colin and Sally Rogers (Changing Attitudes, England), Kelvin Holdsworth (Changing Attitude, Scotland), Paul Collier (General Synod Human Sexuality Group), Giles Fraser (Inclusive Church), Richard Kirker and Anthony Braddick-Southgate (LGCM), and Bertrand Olivier (Clergy Consultation). Now there's a deeply unbiased group.
THE NEXT TIME I WRITE TO YOU ALL WILL BE FROM IRELAND where I will be covering the meeting of the Primates. I hope to bring you daily news as it unfolds.
David W. Virtue DD
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