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The Muddled Mind of Arizona Episcopal Bishop Kirk Smith

The Muddled Mind of Arizona Episcopal Bishop Kirk Smith

News Analysis

By David W. Virtue
November 5, 2009

Of all the commentary appearing on blogs and in Anglican cyberspace regarding the Pope's recent offer of a safe harbor to traditionalist Anglicans, none has appeared more inane, muddled and downright inaccurate than that of the Rt. Rev. Kirk S. Smith, the Episcopal Bishop of Arizona.

Here is what he said:

SMITH: I've been waiting a few days to make any comment on the recent invitation from Pope Benedict XVI to disgruntled Anglicans to become Roman Catholics.

VOL: First of all, these Anglicans are hardly "disgruntled". What they are wanting is to be faithful to Scripture, tradition and reason at a time when the Episcopal Church is unfaithful to Scripture, has virtually wiped out all tradition, and is being totally unreasonable over property issues.

SMITH: This current invitation is a bit different in that those going to Rome have been promised that they can maintain their Anglican ways (Prayer book, etc) and even have oversight by former Anglican bishops. Still those priests and bishops will be ruled by the Vatican.

VOL: That's precisely why the Pope set it up this way rather than giving them a Personal Prelature as he did Opus Dei. Anglicans would retain their Anglican identity rather than simply being absorbed like the Borg. It is exactly why they wanted their own bishops and at least one group - the Traditional Anglican Communion - has accepted the offer.

SMITH: The reason dissenting Episcopalians left our church is because they don't like control.

VOL: Nonsense. It has nothing to do with control. Episcopalians left to to go to Rome, the AC-NA and countless other Anglican jurisdictions because they no longer believe TEC upholds the faith once for all delivered to the saints. It has nothing to do with control. And speaking of control, there is no bigger control freak than Katharine Jefferts Schori who has assumed papal like powers in deposing bishops and controlling what bishops do over orthodox parishes that want to leave with their properties. She has said she would sooner sell them to saloon keepers than to faithful Anglicans. Who's controlling who here?

SMITH: I doubt many of them would be anxious to trade in their current relative independence for orders from the Chair of St Peter.

VOL: You have just contradicted yourself, Bishop. You just said that conservatives left because they didn't like control? Now you're saying that they will be trading in their "relative independence" to take "orders from the Chair of St. Peter." Which is it Bishop Smith? You can't have it both ways.

SMITH: It might be a different story in England where there is a much more pronounced Anglo-Catholic wing of the Church of England, yet even so, there is wide disagreement among Anglo-Catholics over such issues as the ordination of women, use of the Roman missal instead of the Prayerbook, and the role of gay and lesbian people in the church. As has been pointed out, the Roman Church's position on sexuality is hardly consistent. It does not permit married clergy (except for Anglican converts?) and it does not permit gay clergy (even though until recently pedophilia was secretly tolerated?) There seems to be something missing here.

VOL: Actually that is inaccurate on nearly all counts. Anglo-Catholics are totally united over the rejection of women to the priesthood. You will not find a single Anglo-Catholic who believes in WO. Furthermore, use of the Missal among Anglo-Catholics is very widespread and has been so for a very long time. The Roman Catholic Church's response to sex scandals has been terrible, to say the least, and they have paid a huge price with whole dioceses' declaring bankruptcy and millions paid out to those abused, often decades later. To his credit, this Pope has sent emissaries to the U.S. to clean out the Pink Mafia from its seminaries. This Pope will not tolerate sodomy in the seminaries or in his pulpits. Lastly, the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church in the US and abroad was a matter of homosexuals preying on adolescent boys, not one of pedophilia, as the bishop alleges. It is "more correct," said Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, to speak of ephebophilia, a homosexual attraction to adolescent males, than pedophilia, in relation to the scandals. "Of all priests involved in the abuses, 80 to 90 per cent belong to this sexual orientation minority which is sexually engaged with adolescent boys between the ages of 11 and 17," said Tomasi. His statement is backed up by a report commissioned by US bishops that found that in the overwhelming majority of cases the clergy involved were homosexuals, with 81 percent of victims being adolescent males. The Arizona bishop's charge of pedophilia against Catholic priests is dead wrong.

Furthermore, the Roman Catholic Church is picking up the pieces of a church (TEC) that publicly ordained a non-celibate homosexual to the episcopacy, because those fleeing believe their immortal souls might be at stake if they stayed or had any business with him. Can you blame them? Being a celibate bishop might not be something Smith wants for himself, but who can justify a twice divorced, three times married bishop like Barry Beisner. Smith needs to reflect on that little Biblical passage about who is without (sexual) sin casting the first stone. TEC has as much sexual sin to go around as The Roman Catholic Church.

SMITH: What I think is missing is any clear Gospel proclamation on the part of the Pope.

VOL: Say what? If TEC's bishops had a clear fix on the gospel, it would not be rapidly going downhill with every diocese being in numerical decline. It was Mrs. Jefferts Schori who ripped the need for personal salvation at GC2009. Most bishops believe in the weird, made-up "doctrine" of inclusion that denies repentance and faith, just a "come as you are, stay as you are", feel good church. The Anglican Church in North America was born precisely because The Episcopal Church has lost sight of what the gospel is.

SMITH: Of course, he (the Pope) wants to increase the rapidly dwindling ranks of his own church. What leader would not want to do that?

VOL: Say what? The Roman Catholic Church has a billion souls, give or take a million or two. Like their Anglican counterparts, they are growing by the millions in the Global South nations of sub-Sahara Africa. Admittedly, millions are pray, pay and obey Catholics who can be seen at church two or three times a year. They are Catholics nonetheless with as much of a church attendance track record as nominal Episcopalians who claim just over 2 million adherents but have an Average Sunday Attendance of about 700,000. By comparison you could fit most of TEC in a large SUV. Worldwide Anglicans are a mere 55 million not the vaunted 80 million that Lambeth proclaims. One has to take out the 25 million members of the Church of England who darken the doors at baptism and later fill cemetery plots. If it wasn't for the Global South Anglicanism would be a dying cult. Catholicism, for all its errors and omissions, continues to draw thinking people.

SMITH: Is the building up of a church on the basis of hatred consistent with Jesus' message? Is the idea "If you hate gay people and women, then come join us" one Benedict really wants to support? Or is this gesture likely to become, as I suspect, a tremendous embarrassment to present and future generations of Roman Catholics? Jesus Christ's message about love and acceptance of all seems to have been somehow overlooked by the Holy Father.

VOL: A billion people would not be going to a church that preached "hatred". The RCC has consistently (as have evangelicals) declared that HOMOSEXUAL BEHAVIOR is morally reprehensible and unacceptable in men, women, priests, bishops or anyone else. That is not homophobia. It is the belief that the church views marriage between a man and a woman as the only acceptable avenue for sexual behavior regardless of who breaks that commandment. The RCC has consistently said "love the sinner, hate the sin" as most of Christendom does. The Pope is not the slightest bit "embarrassed" by his stand and there is not a shred of evidence that the RCC is in decline because of his stance. Many non-Catholics view the Pope as a bulwark against post-modernism at a time when Islamic insurgency and Western decadence are polarizing the West.

SMITH: Lastly, such an invitation is simply not working. In every congregation I visit, the number of people I receive from the Roman Church is almost as great as those new Episcopalians I confirm. During my visitation last week I received six people. That in just one week. In my entire five years as bishop, I know of only two people who have left the Episcopal Church to become Roman Catholics. The migration is clearly in our direction.

VOL: Not only is this a narrow, provincial view of matters, the real reason Smith is seeing Catholics becoming Episcopalians has everything to do with divorce and remarriage and little else. It has nothing to do with Anglican doctrine. The Roman Catholic Church does not recognize divorce. Remarriage is only permitted and recognized if an annulment has taken place. The plea of Louie Crew to gay Catholics to join the Episcopal Church has fallen on deaf ears. There has been no wholesale departure of gay Catholics to the Episcopal Church or the Metropolitan Community Church for that matter. Gay Catholics are staying put or not going anywhere. Not even the advent of Gene Robinson has seen a massive flight of pansexual Catholics to New Hampshire or any other Episcopal diocese.

The kind of vapid pseudo spirituality Smith is promoting would be laughed at by any prelate in Rome or the Orthodox Church Patriarch for that matter. With the doctrine of inclusion nullifying and eliminating the need for the Cross or the Atonement, why should anyone believe in Smith's "gospel", a Unitarian church might have as much or more to offer. Smith needs to face the fact that he and the Pope have two very different religions and at the end of the day, more Anglican pilgrims will debark at Rome's door than Catholics embarking for Canterbury.


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