Orthodox Score Three Significant Goals this week
By David W. Virtue
It was a week that orthodox Episcopalians and Anglicans in the U.S and around the world might justly feel proud and not just a little vindicated.
The first major event was the guilty charges found against the revisionist Bishop of Pennsylvania, Charles E. Bennison. An ecclesiastical court declared that he knowingly did nothing while his brother John Bennison, also a cleric, engaged in sexual relations with a minor. A court found him guilty 9 - 0. A second charge that he covered up his brother's sexual misbehavior also got a guilty verdict of 6 - 3, garnering the necessary two-thirds necessary vote for a guilty verdict.
He will appeal, of course. Bennison is a narcissist and sociopath so he sees he has done nothing wrong. A number of Episcopal bishops I spoke with here in Jerusalem say Bennison is toast. He will never get his See back again. He will fight the conviction, but he will not win. He walked away from charges that he mismanaged the diocese. In September, he faces civil charges, brought against him by Fr. David L. Moyer, that he committed fraud. He will be cross-examined by one of Philadelphia's most astute lawyers. It is being said that what Bennison experienced in the ecclesiastical court is just a taste of what he can expect at his civil trial.
The second major event, for which orthodox Anglicans in the US are rejoicing, is that a court decision in Fairfax, Virginia saw 11 faithful orthodox Anglican congregations, which broke with the U.S. Episcopal Church, win a second court decision. The latest ruling by a Virginia judge is part of the larger upheaval over orthodoxy in the global Anglican community.
These congregations broke with the Episcopal Church over the authority of Scripture and the consecration of Gene Robinson, the openly homoerotic Bishop of New Hampshire.
On Friday, Judge Randy Bellows of the Fairfax County Circuit Court ruled that the Virginia law under which the congregations want to keep the property is constitutional.
"We have maintained all along that our churches' own trustees hold title for the benefit of these congregations. It's also gratifying to see the judge recognize that the statute means what it says -- it's 'conclusive' of ownership," said Jim Oakes, vice chairman of the Anglican District of Virginia, to which the traditionalist churches now belong.
The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and its Bishop, Peter Lee promptly labeled the decision "regrettable" and said it still believes the law violates the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of church-state separation. They will, of course, continue to pursue every legal option available to them. They will need to raise several more millions of dollars to do so. They have already mortgaged a number of properties in the diocese to meet current legal bills, but sources tell VOL that, unless the national church steps in with a blank check book, Lee is on the hook for more fire sales to pay the fees. Two parishes, Falls Church and Truro, are said to be worth at least $25 million.
The third and most significant goal attained this week occurred here in Jerusalem where some 1200 pilgrims gathered to reaffirm the historic Christian Faith in the land of its birth.
Today, this fellowship of Confessing Anglicans has affirmed by acclamation a Declaration that they will uphold the faith, maintain the sanctity of marriage, use the classic Book of Common Prayer and form a Primates' Council to "oversee the transition process." In effect, they told the Archbishop of Canterbury that they don't need to go through him to get to Jesus and that the Anglican Communion is his to lose, if he does not discipline theologically and morally errant provinces like the U.S. Episcopal Church. For the future, they will no longer look to him for leadership of the Anglican Communion.
This is the worst-case scenario a leader of 56 million Anglicans could possibly face on the eve of the decennial gathering of bishops in Canterbury. To be told that he no longer speaks for 70% of the Anglican Communion is a personal humiliation that is hard to imagine.
This week is one that orthodox Anglicans around the world can rejoice in. They have been beaten down (but not out) and now they are on their way up. There is light at the end of the tunnel. A new day has dawned in the Anglican Communion, and as one Archbishop noted, "we have seen the good hand of God work mightily."
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