LOUISVILLE, KY: Episcopal Rector Forced to Resign because He Would Not Perform Gay Weddings
The vestry opposed his position. Kentucky Bishop Terry White did not support him
Fr. Erdman said he had no choice but to resign or contradict his conscience
By David W. Virtue DD
December 26, 2015
The Rev. Jonathan Erdman, rector of Calvary Church in Louisville, KY, is resigning because he could not in good conscience perform gay weddings. He will leave his church Jan. 10, 2016.
The vestry of his parish had been trying to force him out since the Episcopal Church authorized priests to perform gay weddings, and Fr. Jonathan, a high churchman, said he would not do that. The vestry has the support of Kentucky Episcopal Bishop Terry Allen White, who was complicit in the forced resignation of Erdman from his position as rector of the Church.At last summer's General Convention, The Episcopal Church adopted a resolution allowing gay marriage but also stipulating that it would honor theological diversity and specifically, "That no bishop, priest, deacon or lay person should be coerced or penalized in any manner, nor suffer any canonical disabilities, as a result of his or her theological objection to or support for the 78th General Convention's action contained in this resolution."
It was left to the bishops to enforce this resolution in their respective dioceses. Bishop White not only did not enforce this resolution, he was complicit in forcing the resignation of Fr. Erdman from his position as rector of Calvary Church.
His action flies in the face of General Convention resolutions on gay marriage and represents similar bullying tactics by revisionist bishops over the ordination of women, which moved from a conscience issue for orthodox bishops to a mandatory order.
A member of the church told VOL that the inaction and complicity of Bishop White leading to the resignation of Fr. Erdman was a betrayal of trust of the Episcopal Church. The Church seemed to foster an atmosphere of theological diversity, but only if members went in the direction Bishop White wanted to go. The source said the bishop's actions constitute potential fraud by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church by espousing an interest in "theological diversity" in order to achieve the Church's agenda to approve gay marriage.
In a letter to the parish, Fr. Erdman said he was resigning "with a heavy heart after the 11 a.m. service on January 10."
Erdman cited Martin Luther, who said, "My conscience is captive to the Word of God," and "to go against conscience is neither right nor safe." Erdman added, "I have never asked, nor should any be asked, to go against personal conscience or integrity. After prayer and study of scripture, I am not able to approve same-sex marriage as rector of Calvary. In order that all have the care they seek, I have provided for same-sex marriages at our cathedral."
"The vestry opposes my position, and the bishop does not support me in holding it. Therefore, I have no choice but to resign, or contradict my conscience. The love of Christ will always bind us together, but with the current leadership, I cannot stay."
Erdman described himself as a fellow minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with a love shared across many differences, and this rich variety has shaped him and changed him for the better. Together, we have fed and clothed the poor. We have welcomed them as friends into the church.
A long-serving layman in the parish told VOL that Calvary is a diverse parish with a small group of gay parishioners as well as old line rich Episcopalians and some young people. The parish has a weekly ASA of 120-130. The parish has an endowment of $7 million.
The source in the parish said Fr. Erdman is a High Church priest. "I wouldn't necessarily call him an Anglo-Catholic, though. I would consider him very orthodox."
Before coming to Calvary he was a curate at St. Thomas Fifth Avenue in New York, in the days of Fr. Andrew Mead. Fr. Erdman did his theological studies at Yale Divinity School.
When the story broke earlier this year, both sides obtained legal counsel and "facilitated conversations" began in the parish.
The source said Calvary Church is a venerable, old downtown historic parish in Louisville. It is middle of the road in regards to churchmanship, but Fr. Erdman improved the liturgy and music tremendously. "He is quite high liturgically for the Diocese of Kentucky. He is a solid preacher, a noted Biblical scholar. He lives and breathes his ministry."
Calvary called Erdman 5 1/2 years ago, but the parish has a history of forcing priests whom they do not like to leave. Some 15 years ago a priest was let go because the vestry claimed he was too liberal. Now it has gone the other way, the source told VOL. About 20 parishioners who did not regard the parish as "welcoming" have left.
"What concerns me is that Erdman feels beaten down. The bishop has been silent and cowardly by not having Erdman's back, especially as General Convention allowed priests of conscience not to go along with gay marriage. The bishop did a Pontius Pilate and remained silent. It is still a big mystery why he has remained silent in recent weeks when his leadership was called for," said the source.
The layman himself has been at the church since 2001, and several generations of his family have worshipped there. Erdman is married, 38, and has a wife and four children. Some of the parish's $7 million dollar endowment was used in the severance agreement given to Fr Erdman, VOL was told.
The source described the situation in the parish as "toxic" and said Fr. Erdman's case first broke loose last July. They approached Erdman about his stand on gay marriage, and he said a flat no. Members of the vestry, the wardens, clergy, and treasurer talked with the bishop, complaining about his liturgical style. The real issue however, was gay marriage. It was only a matter of time. Fr. Erdman's days were numbered.
The Rev. Erdman's resignation letter can be found here:
A CitizensGo petition has been started asking Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to hold Kentucky Bishop Terry White accountable for the forced resignation of Fr. Erdman. It can be found here:
Bishop White did not return an email seeking an explanation for his behavior.
BREAKING NEWS: The organist of the parish Eugene Lavery announced yesterday that he was resigning effective January 19th.
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