Schismaticus est qui separationem causat, non qui separat.
The schismatic is the one who causes the separation, not the one who separates. J. C. Ryle, Charges and Addresses (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1978) p. 69.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Dennis Canon was once thought to be the Maginot Line for revisionist bishops out to protect their diocesan fortresses from departing orthodox priests and parishes. Now, it may prove just as vulnerable as the original and can be fought in civil court with the real possibility of winning.
The 1979 property law states that all parish property belongs to the local diocese and the national church. But does it? It was passed by General Convention at that time so that the property might "be secured from alienation to those not affiliated with this Church."
The French army felt it could hide behind a so-called "Great Wall" of France, where the nation could feel secure. The wall failed the army. And if the Dennis Canon should go to a state Supreme Court or even higher there is every expectation that a revisionist bishop could lose.
Fighting may seem out of character for a denomination that has traditionally been viewed as "the church in wing tips, the church of the Scotch and soda," made up of well-bred people "worshipping God in extremely good taste," in the words of Episcopal convert Garrison Keillor.
Not any more. The Episcopal Church is in a state of civil war with itself, with one diocesan bishop after another facing, or about to face, a barrage of lawyers across a crowded courtroom.
It is ironic. In its 300-plus years of existence, the Episcopal Church USA has weathered revolution, civil war, world wars, segregation, integration, and the switch from the King James Bible to the New Standard Revised Version. It has accepted women to the priesthood and produced a theologically dumbed-down version of the Prayer Book, with relatively few splits or schisms. But now it faces the serious possibility of schism, having shot itself in the foot over the consecration of an avowed homosexual to the episcopacy.
The property issue, which for 25 years has lain dormant and was thought to be a done deal, might not be quite so "done."
The proposed change in canon law passed in one house in 1976, but it apparently failed to pass in the other. As with many state legislatures, there is a large amount of church legislation that passes through a logjam on the last day and night of the legislative session. This is apparently what happened to the property change canon.
According to Messrs. White and Dyckman, the two canon lawyers appointed by the church to compile and annotate all canonical changes effected by the General Convention, "there is no record of it (the proposed change) having passed both houses". These words were contained in a 1981 or 1982 copy of White and Dyckman's Annotated Constitution and Canon of the Protestant Episcopal Church of North America (the official and legal record of all proceedings of the convention).
What this means is that it is now feasible for a parish to fight and have the Dennis Canon heard in open court if for no other reason than that it should be challenged and possibly overturned. A United Methodist parish in California did so and won against its own denomination.
So it is probably not an insignificant matter that the Bishop of Los Angeles, J. Jon Bruno, will host a group of some 20 bishops for a four-day meeting in July to "continue the conversation" that might end not in going to that now-famous "deeper place" of Frank Griswold's but a precursor to a division of the assets. This gives the lie to the famous axiom that heresy is worse than schism. It is clearly a precursor to it.
Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan has said that the Network considers itself the legitimate Episcopal Church and that by forcing a decisive vote on the communion at the 2006 GC it will be vindicated no matter which way the majority of bishops and deputies vote.
He's right, of course; no resolution will be needed, just the votes themselves will determine ECUSA's own place in the communion.
A lot of Episcopalians don't know that we are in impaired communion with the majority of primates, but they will after the next convention. The Episcopal Church will have thrown itself out; it will have walked apart on its own accord.
But the issue of who legally owns the Episcopal Church may not be so simple.
Bishop William Wantland (Eau Claire ret.) was in Washington, D.C., last weekend and told a reporter that the declaration that ECUSA is a constituent member of the Anglican Communion appears in the constitution's preamble, but it does not carry the same weight as the rest of the constitution. The conservatives could not rely on the violation of the preamble to the constitution to sufficiently change the legal picture regarding church property, he said.
While Bishop Duncan believes that the Episcopal Church is in impaired communion with the rest of the Anglican Communion, making the legal case will clearly be a lot harder. At the end of the day, the Episcopal Church will not voluntarily move away, and the Network cannot make it go.
What will happen is what is happening now -- individual parishes and their priests are making up their minds to leave the Episcopal Church, thus pre-empting what might or might not happen at any General Convention. At the end of the day it might be irrelevant what orthodox or heterodox bishops resolve to do, because orthodox priests and parishes are doing it already.
On a brighter note, GEORGE GALLUP, the distinguished American pollster and evangelical Episcopalian, spoke to an ALPHA fund-raising breakfast near Valley Forge, Pa., recently, and said that despite a broken world, broken lives, broken marriages, and feelings of desolation, he had found strong feelings of hope in small groups that he and his wife, Kinny, had been in for more than 20 years.
"In this country people need to go deeper, searching for meaning in their lives," Gallup said. Eighty percent of Americans say they are Christina but only 10 percent have a transforming faith, a truly deep knowledge of Jesus Christ, he told more than 500 gathered to support ALPHA, the basic Christianity series sweeping the West.
Gallup cited former TIME magazine journalist David Aikman in his book "Jesus in Beijing" as saying that China will reach a critical mass with 30 percent of the population saying they are Christians. For the moment the Chinese have very little knowledge of God, preferring materialism with vestiges of Christianity still remaining. But all that is changing. Gallup predicted the Chinese will take the gospel West over the Silk Road and back to the Middle East. Gallup also cited what he calls an "explosion of faith in the Southern Cone." The 75-year old pollster praised ALPHA, saying that some 250 ALPHA groups now exist in the Philadelphia area with 25,000 people having heard the message in greater Philadelphia.
"If 80 percent of people became believers with 25,000 every year brought to ALPHA in 5 years ... in 20 years the entire world would be converted," Gallup said. It is the beauty of geometrical projection, he said.
THE CLOWN EUCHARIST that took place at Trinity Wall Street has gotten a number of people truly riled up. An Episcopal layman in New York filed a complaint with the attorney general of New York this week over the clown Eucharist. The layman claims it is illegal to falsely represent a charity in solicitation and use of funds in New York. The church represents itself as a "vibrant Episcopal church." However, its May 22 clown liturgy is not authorized by the Book of Common Prayer. The money used to finance this liturgy came from solicitations that purported to shop the church as a "vibrant" Episcopal church, the layman wrote to VirtueOnline. He and a group of angry Episcopalians are asking for an investigation. "It is not a lawsuit -- but if the Attorney General finds cause for fraud, they could sue them on behalf of the People of New York," the layman said.
In the DIOCESE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE, Vickie Gene Robinson's problems just seem to go from bad to worse. The church treasurer Christine Hersom of Trinity Episcopal Church on Main Street, Tilton, NH was charged this week with stealing more than $100,000. She allegedly used the money to pay her bills. A former rector of the church, the Rev. Martha Dwyner, blew the whistle on her.
In February, a former Trinity Episcopal Church volunteer and youth minister was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting two 4-year-old girls and stealing nearly $4,000 from the church-run food pantry. The suspect, Scott Nash, 45, of Northfield, is being held at the Merrimack County Jail on $1 million bail.
And last month, the pastor of Trinity Episcopal Church resigned after 14 hours of discussion between herself and church officials, including Bishop Gene Robinson. The Rev. Janet Lombardo's inability to address issues involving authority, collaboration, commitment, dissemination of information and judgment led to her departure, according to church officials. She had led the church for seven years.
And Robinson's consecration may yet split the communion. A bishop with no morals and a diocese in free fall, behold the joys of diversity.
In the DIOCESE OF CENTRAL NEW YORK, Bishop Gladstone "Skip" B. Adams, the revisionist bishop, makes an admission on the diocesan Web site. It is this: "No longer are we working primarily a one priest/one parish model. In addition, out of 105 churches, 69 are part-time, 60 are in some sort of decline." A source told VirtueOnline that there are really only about 100 parishes (five have been designated diocesan chapels) in the diocese with only about 20 percent that are any longer viable.
There are only five solid parishes in the whole diocese. St. Andrews in Syracuse; St. Andrew's in Vestal; Good Shepherd in Binghamton; St. Matthews (run by an orthodox woman priest), and St. Peters and St. John in Auburn, N.Y. The largest parish in the diocese is St. Andrew's in Syracuse which draws on average about 200 on a Sunday!
A group called the Wesleyan church meets at St. Paul's cathedral on Sunday and draws more than the regular Episcopal attendance at the cathedral service. A former dean of the cathedral admitted recently that only about 40 churches could afford a full-time priest. An orthodox priest told VirtueOnline, "If they don't have a gospel to proclaim they ought to close down. Propping them up does nobody any good and is a waste of resources."
A priest in the diocese who reviewed the statistics for the diocese described them as "horrendous." He said the Diocese of Central New York is in a $95,000 hole.
"As far as membership and attendance goes, more people go to the three largest non-denominational churches in Binghamton, New York, than go to all 95 or so Episcopal churches on any given Sunday," the priest said.
The DIOCESE OF SPRINGFIELD met last week in Springfield, Illinois where it received, accepted, and endorsed the Windsor Report and pledged to comply fully with its proposals and expectations. The diocese also resolved to continue to walk with the Anglican Communion, acknowledging that "we, as members of the Episcopal Church, are bound to this Communion not just by "the bonds of common affection" but also by the plain language of the Preamble to our Church's Constitution." The diocese is run by the orthodox Bishop Peter H. Beckwith.
GENERAL CONVENTION 2006 is barely a year away, but already the calendar is overflowing with resolutions that promise to change the world but usually change nothing. It does seem, however, that everything related to the Windsor Report will be heard together, as well as resolutions on same-sex blessings. Prediction. The HOB and HOD will endorse the Windsor Report and then carry on like it doesn't matter and then go right ahead and pass same-sex blessings, just so they don't fall too far behind the Canadians and the Diocese of New Westminster. One item of major interest will be the election of the next presiding bishop. A slew of revisionists wait in the wings, but the bets are on that a moderate will be chosen to offset the disastrous reign of Frank Griswold. Paul Marshall, bishop of Bethlehem, has handled the departures of Anglo-Catholics from his diocese reasonably well, and at one point in time even offered a safe place for them from the Diocese of Pennsylvania. While he has fallen off the cliff over homosexuality (read lesbianism), he is well educated and has a streak of fairness not found in, say, the bishop of Massachusetts, Tom Shaw, who hungers for the job and may get it because of his close personal friendship with Frank Griswold. Dean George Werner, president of the House of Deputies, got the boot from his own DIOCESE OF PITTSBURGH, and an election will also be held to replace him.
IN NOTTINGHAM next week the Anglican Consultative Council will weigh divestment among other things. Leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion are scheduled to consider a proposal to follow the Presbyterian Church (USA) in divesting from companies doing business with Israelis who "support the occupation of Palestinian lands."
It is not clear, however, what effect such a policy would have on the Anglican Communion's 38 autonomous provinces, which include the Episcopal Church in the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada.
The divestment plan could meet resistance within the Church of England, where the church commissioners, who are responsible for administering the church's inherited wealth, historically have shown an independent streak.
DR. ROWAN WILLIAMS' 13-MEMBER PANEL OF REFERENCE was revealed this week, and it is a victory for the orthodox. The panel was set up to resolve disputes between orthodox priests caught in revisionist dioceses who need protection. The list consists only four are staunch liberals, including Australian Primate Peter Carnley, three persons of uncertain persuasion, and at least seven persons who are or believed to be conservative or mostly conservative. At least four of the appointees have legal backgrounds. Some of the more solidly orthodox types include Maurice Sinclair (Southern Cone ret.); Robert Tong, an attorney in Sydney who is an evangelical and strong supporter of the archbishop of Sydney; and Stephen Trott a highly regarded Church of England priest. While the appointees might represent a fairly good cross-section of the Communion, it remains to be seen what will happen when they get in the clutches of Carnley.
THE MAKERS OF A FILM adaptation of "The Da Vinci Code" have been told that they will not be allowed to shoot in Westminster Abbey. The abbey said in a statement that it would be inappropriate, as the novel by Dan Brown was "theologically unsound." The statement said, "We cannot commend or endorse the contentious and wayward religious and historic suggestions made in the book -- nor its views of Christianity and the New Testament."
THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND admits it has a cash shortage, writes Ruth Gledhill of the London Times, and it is forcing bishops to cut up to one-third of its clergy and making worshippers meet in each other's homes. A report to the General Synod next month says the church has allowed itself to "drift apart from society," undermining its mission to the whole nation. Some parts of the church are little more than a club for existing members, the authors say. Clergy numbers could be cut some 3,000 from a base of 9,400, resulting in training more laity to work unpaid and closing churches. Somehow the whole notion of gay dean Jeffrey John being the catalyst for jump-starting the church hasn't worked. Inclusivity clearly isn't working either. Maybe that ol' time religion might have something going for it after all!
IN ENGLAND outrage erupted over a move to ban Bibles in the three main hospitals in Leicester. Hospital managers believe the presence of the books could upset non-Christians and break equality and diversity rules. They also claimed that Bibles could have some kind of role in spreading the MRSA superbug. This has been refuted by medical studies. The managers have also refused an offer from Gideons International, the evangelical group that provides the Bibles, to make copies of the Koran and other holy scriptures. Gideons supplies 900,000 Bibles a year to hotels, libraries and hospitals in Britain.
Oddly enough not a single Church of England bishop has raised a protest at this outrage. But protests did come from some odd quarters. Iqbal Sacranie, of the Muslim Council of Britain, said the idea (to ban) was "ridiculous and extreme" and warned that respect for other faiths could not be achieved at the expense of Christianity. Prof Harminder Singh of the Sikh Divine fellowship also said, "In 30 years working with inter-faith groups this has never been an issue."
A director of Gideons said he had as yet to receive a single letter or e-mail or phone call from any member of another faith to say they were offended by a hospital Bible. But the Hospital Trust maintained that it was committed to religious diversity and equality and that there was a possibility that Bibles could give offense. Leicester has one of the biggest Asian populations of any city in Britain. Census 2001 figures showed there were 54 percent Christians, 11 percent Hindus, 7 per cent Muslims and 4 per cent Sikhs.
A NEW EDITION of the Gospels of the Bible for the first time shows Christ as a woman and God as female. The LTI publisher is touting a new edition of the Gospels that identifies Christ as a woman named Judith Christ of Nazareth.
LBI Institute says its version, "Judith Christ of Nazareth, The Gospels of the Bible," was corrected to reflect that Christ was a woman, extracted from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, takes Thomas Jefferson's edited Gospel one step further by "correcting" the gender of Christ and God. "This long-awaited revised text of the Gospels makes the moral message of Christ more accessible to many, and more illuminating to all," says Billie Shakespeare, vice president for the publisher, in a statement. "It is empowering. We published this new Bible to acknowledge the rise of women in society." The new version, according to the publisher, revises familiar stories, transforming the "Prodigal Son" into the "Prodigal Daughter" and the "Lord's Prayer" into the "Lady's Prayer."
We strongly suspect that this "gospel" will be the received text at most Episcopal seminaries in the next few months, as it fits well with the political correctness of most seminary professors, especially at EDS in Cambridge, Mass.
IN AFRICA they just keep raising the standards even as the American Episcopal Church lowers them. The Monitor newspaper in Kampala reports that the bishop of Rwenzori Diocese, Benezeri Kisembo, in the Province of Uganda, recently refused to confirm 62 Christians after they failed to answer the scripture questions put to them. The bishop said he would not promote Christianity based on ignorance of the Bible and other basic religious creeds. Kisembo said Christians who do not understand Bible teachings are a liability to the church, something he said he would not entertain. "There is lack of seriousness among our Christians and for that matter the church is loose," the bishop told the congregation.
Quick, someone bring this man to America and make him bishop of Pennsylvania. the first person to be fired would be Charles E. Bennison, who has yet to grip on basic doctrines of the faith and uphold them.
On a downbeat note the ritual killing of animals is being contemplated by Anglicans and Roman Catholics in southern Africa. Blood is being used to welcome ancestors. Anglican congregations have been losing worshippers to more indigenous forms of religion, and there are moves to introduce measures that better reflect local culture. The archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Njongonkulu Ndungane, has said that it is not prohibited. "It's not animal sacrifice as such," he said. "It's a liturgical function which connects the living with the dead."
Someone should remind the liberal archbishop that there has been one perfect sacrifice for sin, made once for all, and it never needs repeating. Quick, give this man a Bible. One can't imagine this won't go unnoticed by orthodox primates like Akinola, Orombi, Nzimbi and Malango.
IN THE DIOCESE OF FREDERICTON, NB, CANADA. which is coterminous with the Canadian province of New Brunswick (sandwiched between Nova Scotia, Quebec & Maine), the diocese passed a number of resolutions at its biennial synod recently by very large majorities regarding various aspects of the same-sex issue. The diocesan synod affirmed that it regards "being in full and visible communion with the archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion throughout the world as essential and vital and that any consideration of the Anglican Church of Canada 'walking apart' from the rest of the Anglican Communion is unacceptable and indeed contrary to the Solemn Declaration of 1893, and would thus seriously jeopardize the relationship between this Diocese and General Synod." The resolutions resolution states "That this Diocesan Synod repudiates resolution [A134 (5)] of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada (2004) to 'affirm the integrity and sanctity of committed adult same-sex relations.'" There was an attempt to soften the wording of the latter by replacing "repudiate" with "disagrees with," wrote Ian Wetmore, rector of the Parish of St Mary's (Devon) in Fredericton, NB. However, as some who spoke against such an amendment argued, General Synod needs to be repudiated; it needs to hear the mind of this diocese, and that its mind is made up. "These two resolutions alone send a clear message to the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada that it cannot bless what God refuses," Wetmore said. "The Diocese of Fredericton is intent on remaining in fellowship with the worldwide Anglican Communion."
In the DIOCESE OF RECIFE comes this urgent word. A storm has destroyed 5.000 houses, killed many people and left 32.000 homeless in the Anglican diocese. As part of the diocese, the Secretary of Social Action is working hard to obtain donations of food and clothing. "As Christians we are part of the process, this is not only a homeless tragedy, it is our tragedy too. We couldn't see this reality and not help the image and similarity of God. We are a poor diocese, a poor church; we don't have many resources, we don't have a lot of things, but we are trying to make difference," says a diocesan spokesman. You can make a difference too! Please, pray for us and if possible, help the homeless.
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THE POPE this week condemned gay marriages as fake and anarchic. Pope Benedict, in his first clear pronouncement on gay marriages since his election, condemned same-sex unions as fake and expressions of "anarchic freedom" that threaten the future of the family. The pope, who was elected in April, also condemned divorce, artificial birth control, trial marriages and free-style unions, saying all of these practices were dangerous for the family. "Today's various forms of dissolution of marriage, free unions, trial marriages as well as the pseudo-matrimonies between people of the same sex are instead expressions of anarchic freedom which falsely tries to pass itself off as the true liberation of man," he said.
MEMO to Frank and Vickie. You did wrong Frank in approving this consecration and you live wrong Vickie. Both your actions are killing the church. Repent or watch it all disappear down the drain.
THE SILLY SEASON for news in journalism is upon us, but there is no shortage of news in the Anglican Communion. The beat goes on. Please consider a donation (tax deductible) to VirtueOnline to keep the news coming and make travel possible so I can bring the news to you daily at the Website and weekly in digest form. We are approaching critical mass with events in England in less than two weeks, a General Convention in the United States barely a year away and more.
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