FLORIDA RECTOR BIDS FAREWELL TO DIOCESE AND THE ECUSA
Anglican Alliance of North Florida formed with seven parishes. More will join.
By David W. Virtue
TALLAHASSEE, FL (10/2/2005)--The rector of the 2,000-strong evangelical St. John's Episcopal Church, the second largest parish in the diocese and one of the top 50 in the Episcopal Church, and the mother church of the Diocese of Florida, announced at the 9am service Sunday that he was resigning from the church, the diocese and the Episcopal Church.
The Rev. Eric D. Dudley, 46, an evangelical priest said in a written statement from the pulpit, that his reasons for leaving were the deeply embedded unrepentant heresies in the Episcopal Church; that he saw no chance of "changing the fabric of the church"; disillusionment with his Bishop John Howard, and that he saw no hope for the future for a truly orthodox rector or bishop in the Episcopal Church.
St. John's, founded in 1829, predated the organization of the diocese by nine years. Its Rector, Francis Huger Rutledge, was consecrated the first bishop of Florida in 1851.
The majority of St. John's will leave to hold their first worship service next Sunday as St. Peter's Anglican Church under the authority of an overseas bishop. Dudley was joined in his departure by two Associate Rectors, the Rev. Michael Petty and the Rev. Brad Page, who also serves as Chaplain at Florida State University. The vast majority of the lay staff and the vestry will also join the new congregation at St. Peter's.
They will meet at the former Church of Christ building on Thomasville Rd. in Tallahassee which was purchased by a group of businessmen from the church. The church will use the property for 3 to 5 years until we can buy land and build on it, said Dudley.
One of two remaining clergy is retired Bishop Alden Hathaway who works with mission in the church.
Dudley told VirtueOnline late last night that he had prepared himself and the congregation for the change and he saw the future in very hopeful terms. "I have been a priest for 20 years, rector at St. John's for 10 years and a member of the Diocesan Standing Committee."
Bishop Howard was not informed of the move to prevent any punitive action by him, Dudley told VirtueOnline. "We moved quickly." Dudley said he expects to be inhibited and deposed, but he really doesn't care. "I intend to remain a part of the larger Anglican Communion and to faithfully proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in this strong new expression of orthodox Anglicanism in America."
In a stunning revelation, Dudley told VirtueOnline that he has talked with at least 50 priests across the country, and at least 15 in the Diocese of Florida, all of whom plan to do the same thing that he has done. "They all have a similar agenda but they are on different timetables." said Dudley. "We will begin to see a mass exodus from the Episcopal Church now until after the next General Convention next year."
"What people realize now is that this is no longer about the buildings but 'the faith once delivered to the saints.' We are through with the Episcopal Church. It is beyond redemption."
"I met with more than 50 senior high school youth on Sunday and they were enormously excited and supportive of this direction," said Dudley.
Questioned on what he left behind, Dudley said, "we left St. John's in sound financial condition with a notebook with everything in it so they can move forward."
Asked how many of the congregation he expects will come with to St. Peter's, Dudley said that he estimated some 60 percent or more will follow him to St. Peter's. "I expect more will come, but we won't know for sure till next Sunday."
Dudley was not part of the original Florida Six. "I have tried very hard to work patiently and responsibly within the system, but I see not future in that," he told VirtueOnline.
ANGLICAN ALLIANCE FORMED
On the same day as Dudley announced his departure, the Rev. James McCaslin, rector of All Souls, Jacksonville announced the formation of the Anglican Alliance of North Florida which includes the "Florida Six" and the newly formed St. Peter's. McCaslin told VirtueOnline late Sunday that in time it will come to include more parishes who wish to be a voice for orthodoxy in the diocese.
Representatives from several Alliance churches will stand in fellowship with St. Peter's at their first worship service next Sunday at 10:00am, he said.
In a statement from McCaslin sent to VirtueOnline, the orthodox priest said that the Bishop of Florida [John Howard] has said that he is "convinced that this is one of the strongest - potentially THE strongest - diocese in our church and in our communion." The impression that he would create is that the "Florida Six" are simply a small dissident minority in an otherwise healthy and unified diocese.
"The truth is that many individuals and congregations in this diocese are not willing to remain in ECUSA if it does not repent by General Convention in June, 2006. Many are simply biding their time until then. Many parishioners are telling their vestries that they will pledge only for the first half of next year. At least one parish, very early in the fall stewardship season, has just told the diocese that it cannot pledge beyond June since its laity have said that June is the end of the road for them barring ECUSA repentance. Other parishes are considering adopting this approach."
Last weekend clergy from the "Florida Six" met on retreat with other North Florida conservative Anglican clergy. We prayed, sang, talked, broke bread, and relaxed together. Out of this retreat, the Anglican Alliance of North Florida was born. The Florida Six have joined together with certain Tallahassee parishes and non-parochial clergy as well. Details of the initial Alliance signatories and statement will be forthcoming shortly. We expect more Anglican congregations and clergy to join the Anglican Alliance in the days ahead, said McCaslin.
"We are excited and blessed to be part of the new Anglican Alliance of North Florida. In truth, we expect to see it grow into a vibrant community with a common vision for mission and ministry, sharing our resources, under the Lordship of Christ Jesus and the full authority of Scripture," said McCaslin.
McCaslin told VirtueOnline that Bishop John Howard has been creating the myth that there are just six disgruntled parishes, but there are more and more churches that are just biding their time and waiting for General Convention.
"Many parishes are just pledging for six months, they won't commit to a full year," he said.
THE FOLLOWING IS A LETTER FROM THE REV. ERIC D. DUDLEY TO THE MEMBERS OF ST. JOHN'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH.
October 3, 2005.
From: Fr. Eric D. Dudley
As you may know by now, I resigned as Rector of St. John's Church this past Sunday morning. Over the past two years it has become increasingly difficult for my family and me to remain a part of the Episcopal Church. After two years of prayerful struggling as well as thousands of conversations with fellow priests and bishops, I have come to realize that the roots of heresy are so deep in the Episcopal Church (in seminaries, among priests and bishops) that there really is no possibility of changing the fabric of this Church. I have arrived at a place where I do not feel comfortable using Episcopal literature, sending youth and college students to Episcopal conferences (even in the Diocese of Florida), or affirming my vows as a priest (to the "Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of the Episcopal Church"). When, last Spring, I had a lengthy conversation in my office with a young man who is just beginning to believe in Christ, I felt sick that I was leading him to new faith in a church that has turned its back on the very foundations of faith. I cannot do that ever again!
No truly orthodox rector or bishop I know has any hope for the future of the Episcopal Church. One priest suggested to me that even though he saw no chance of change in my lifetime or my children's, that if I would stand steadfast, and teach my children to do the same, that MAYBE my grandchildren would benefit from a healthy Episcopal Church. This would mean that for the remaining twenty years of my ministry I would have to fight this negative battle and hope that my children would be willing to give their lives to do the same, in the feeble hope that some fragment of orthodoxy might survive. I would much rather pour my life and ministry into building a strong Anglicanism in America based on the solid Gospel of Jesus Christ. From my perspective, the Episcopal Church is a Church that has lost its moorings and has left the fleet (the larger Anglican Communion), cut free from its anchor (Christ), and is being tossed about by all the whims of modern-day secularism. I am not called to stay in that boat. I will instead remain solidly anchored to Christ with the larger fleet of Anglicanism.
I do want you to know how very thankful I am for the ten years of ministry I have enjoyed as rector of St. John's Parish. Together, by God's grace, we have done many wonderful things to shape hearts and minds for Jesus Christ, and I will treasure the memories of my time in this parish. However, for me faithfulness requires a willingness to let go of buildings, and money, and even relationships for the sake of the truth of Scripture and the person of Jesus. Several people have been to see me to suggest that I wage a legal battle for the property of St. John's. I have made clear many times over that I would never do this, not because such a battle could not be won legally, but because to enter such a battle is not only unscriptural, but would leave us all losers spiritually. It is my heart's desire to leave St. John's respectfully, lovingly, peacefully.
I want to thank the many vestry members who, over the last ten years, have worked to make St. John's strong, creating many assets that did not exist ten years ago: 1) a completely renovated church building 2) a new pipe organ 3) a renovated parish hall 4) a bookstore 5) a café 6) a college ministry 7) the Marshall House property 8) St. John's Foundation. I especially want to extend my appreciation to the current wardens, Major Harding and Rob Langford; to the Chair of the Finance Committee, Jack Buford; the Treasurer, Paul Sullivan; and, our Chancellor, Frank Shaw, III who have all worked very hard to make certain St. John's has a sound future. Normally this time of year we are thousands of dollars in the red (as a result of low summer contributions), but this year we find ourselves solidly in the black, and with a new organ which has been paid in full without the need to borrow additional funds. While we do still have a $450,000 line of credit to pay down, I inherited ten years ago more than $200,000 in debt from the previous building program (a much smaller program) which we paid down in a very short period. St. John's has many assets and can certainly build a strong future should it so choose.
I cannot neglect telling you how greatly disillusioned I have been by the actions of the present Bishop of Florida and by some of the members of our parish who call themselves "Parishioners For Hopeful Reconciliation." While the actions of some of these people have been deeply distressing to me, my family, and the staff of St. John's, ultimately I do not make the choice I make because of those actions. The real rift in our Church, while brought to the fore by sexuality, exists because we have allowed this church for forty years to move away from Scripture as the foundation for our life together.
I realize that I said at our Annual Parish Meeting I would wait until after General Convention in June to take this step. However, I choose to take it now for the following reasons: 1) Neither I nor my family can walk through another year of the emotional upheaval and turmoil we have withstood for the last two. I find myself becoming a cynical and resentful priest, something I would never want to be. 2) I think we all realize clearly that General Convention cannot and will not change the ultimate direction of this Church (especially after the Nottingham report offered by ECUSA to the Anglican Communion this past summer. Michael Petty reviewed the report for us in the last Proclamation!, pointing out that the Episcopal Church has made a very strident commitment to move ahead with what ECUSA sees as a prophetic call, leading the Church to a "new truth").3) Knowing in my heart that I would be leaving at least by June, I could not in good conscience go through a stewardship process this fall calling on you to give sacrificially for 2006 when I myself am not committed to 2006. 4) Orthodox people at St. John's have begun to leave, and others to tell me they are on the verge of leaving. I could not sit around and watch solidly orthodox people continue to leave with no strong Anglican place to go. Numerous members of the parish have come to me asking me to consider this move, and I do so as much for their sake as for my own convictions.
I have, therefore, resigned as Rector of St. John's and have placed myself under the authority of an Archbishop in the Anglican Communion, thereby remaining true to the larger witness and tradition of Anglicanism. Beginning this Sunday, October 9 at 10:00 a.m., I will establish St. Peter's Anglican Church. A group of people have purchased the old Church of Christ building immediately adjacent to Kool Beanz restaurant on Thomasville Road and have made it available to me freely, for 3-5 years, as a transition space while we grow a congregation, buy property, and build other buildings. Fr. Petty and Fr. Page have chosen to come with me, sacrificing their own security for what they too believe to be the call of Christ.
I leave you deeply saddened for the Episcopal Church, but filled with excitement and hope for the future of a strongly orthodox Anglicanism in America. I leave, not with words of condemnation on my lips for St. John's, but with genuine thanksgiving for what we have shared, and with prayers as you walk the direction you believe you must go, and I walk the direction I believe I must go. St. John's has been a vital parish in the downtown community for 175 years, and will weather this storm as it has many before. My family and I will miss doing ministry in the life of this parish and will always wish for you only the best.
May the peace of God be with you.
St. John's Parish
THE FOLLOWING IS A LETTER FROM THE ANGLICAN ALLIANCE OF NORTH FLORIDA
October 2, 2005
From: Jim McCaslin, Rector, All Souls, Jacksonville, Florida.
To: Friends of All Souls
Jesus said, "if you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32 NIV).
The Bishop of Florida has said that he is "convinced that this is one of the strongest - potentially THE strongest - diocese in our church and in our communion." The impression that he would create is that the "Florida Six" are simply a small dissident minority in an otherwise healthy and unified diocese.
The truth is that many individuals and congregations in this diocese are not willing to remain in ECUSA if it does not repent by General Convention in June, 2006. Many are simply biding their time until then. Many parishioners are telling their vestries that they will pledge only for the first half of next year. At least one parish, very early in the fall stewardship season, has just told the diocese that it cannot pledge beyond June since its laity have said that June is the end of the road for them barring ECUSA repentance. Other parishes are considering adopting this approach.
Last weekend clergy from the "Florida Six" met on retreat with other North Florida conservative Anglican clergy. We prayed, sang, talked, broke bread, and relaxed together. Out of this retreat, the Anglican Alliance of North Florida was born. The Florida Six have joined together with certain other parishes and non-parochial clergy as well. Details of the initial Alliance signatories and statement will be forthcoming shortly. We expect more Anglican congregations and clergy to join the Anglican Alliance in the days ahead.
The largest parish in our Alliance worshiped together today for the last time as St. John's Episcopal Church as we know it. St. John's, with over 2,000 parishioners, was one of the largest parishes in the Episcopal Church. The mother church of the Diocese of Florida, founded in 1829, St. John's predated the organization of the diocese by nine years. Its Rector, Francis Huger Rutledge, was consecrated the first bishop of Florida in 1851. See Fr. Dudley's letter to his congregation below.
The majority of St. John's will leave to hold their first worship service next Sunday as St. Peter's Anglican Church under the authority of an overseas bishop. The Rector Eric Dudley will be accompanied by Associate Rectors Michael Petty and Brad Page, who also serves as Chaplain at Florida State University. The vast majority of the lay staff and the vestry will join the new congregation at St. Peter's. Representatives from several Alliance churches will stand in fellowship with St. Peter's at their first worship service next Sunday at 10:00am.
We are excited and blessed to be part of the new Anglican Alliance of North Florida. In truth, we expect to see it grow into a vibrant community with a common vision for mission and ministry, sharing our resources, under the Lordship of Christ Jesus and the full authority of Scripture.
The Anglican Alliance of North Florida
October 3, 2005
In light of the opportunities presented by the on-going realignment in the Anglican Communion and for the sake of expanding the Kingdom of God, we have formed an alliance of Anglican congregations and clergy in North Florida committed to:
1. the Lordship of Christ Jesus and the full authority of Scripture.
2. a common vision of mission and ministry and cooperative initiatives in discipleship, church planting and global mission.
3. mutual support and care through the sharing of our resources.
4. full communion only with "Anglican churches, dioceses and provinces that hold and maintain the historic faith, doctrine, sacraments and discipline of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church" (from the Constitution of the Church of Nigeria).
St Peter's Anglican Church, Tallahassee
The Rev. Eric Dudley, Rector
The Hon. Major Harding, Senior Warden, for the Vestry
The Rev. Brad Page
The Rev. Michael Petty
Church of the Advent, Tallahassee
The Rev. Bob Coon, Rector
George Allen, Sr. Warden, for the Vestry
The Rev. Travis Boline
St Luke's Community of Life, Tallahassee
The Rev. Jim Needham, Vicar
Mary Leffler, Sr. Warden, for the Mission Board
Church of the Redeemer, Jacksonville
The Rev. Neil Lebhar, Rector
William Shroeder IV, Senior Warden, for the Mission Board
The Rev. Shawn Porter
All Souls Church-Anglican, Jacksonville
The Rev. Jim McCaslin, Rector
The Hon. Haldane Taylor, Sr. Warden, for the Vestry
The Rev. Larry O'Connell
The Rev. Charles Bailey
The Rev. Dorie Head
The Rev. Simon Deng
The Rev. Harald Haugan (ret.)
The Rev. George Hall (ret.)
Calvary Church, Jacksonville
The Rev. David Sandifer, Vicar
Betty Collins, Sr. Warden, for the Mission Board
Christ The King Anglican Fellowship (AMiA), Jacksonville
The Rev. Rob Sanders
Paisley Boney III, for the Leadership Team
Grace Church, Orange Park
The Rev. Sam Pascoe, Rector
Thomas McKeithen, Sr. Warden, for the Vestry
The Rev. Travis Greenman
Emmaus Road Church (AMiA), Orange Park
The Rev. David Freels, Rector
Andrew Bisbee, for the Leadership Team
St. Michael's Church, Gainesville
The Rev. Charles Alexander Farmer
Emily Wilson, Sr. Warden, for the Vestry
St Teresa Parish, Wakulla County
The Rev. John Spicer, Rector
Roberta Phillips, Sr. Warden, for the Vestry
Additional clergy signing as individuals:
The Rev. David Allert
The Rev. Gary Blaylock
The Rev. Marvin Boyd
The Rev. Mark Eldredge
The Rev. James Hobby
The Rev. Sharon Hobby
(signatures on file)
Other congregations and clergy in North Florida are welcome to join the AANF by contacting the Rev. Jim McCaslin at firstname.lastname@example.org
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