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OXFORD: Reflections on Synod vote for C of E to be in Communion with the ACNA

OXFORD: Reflections on Synod vote for C of E to be in Communion with the ACNA

By Bishop Henry Scriven
Special to Virtueonline
February 7, 2010

Though I am quoted as one of the examples in the current debate, I am not a primary player. I went to Pittsburgh, with the enthusiastic encouragement of the Archbishop of Canterbury, in 2002 as Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Pittsburgh (but of course, canonically, as Assistant to Bishop Bob Duncan). I resigned from the House of Bishops when I knew I was to return to England as Mission Director for South America with SAMS and CMS.

What I wrote to the Presiding Bishop and how she replied are a matter of public record and being interpreted differently by different people. All I can say was that at no point did I renounce my orders and I do not believe that the Presiding Bishop has the right to receive the renunciation of my orders if I never gave it to her. That she treated Bishops Jack Iker and William Wantland in the same way (and their clear refutations are a matter of public record) makes me proud to be in their company.

I think it is very important for members of the Church of England to know that the Pittsburgh diocese is made up of very faithful and loyal Anglicans - by anyone's definition. These are priests (male and female) and laity who are students of scripture, faithful in daily prayer, the vast majority with spiritual directors.

Many have sacrificed much to serve Christ in hard situations; they have been loyal to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church. They believe the Creeds and the historic formularies of the Anglican Church. They feel called to follow the faith once delivered to the saints. They, and many thousands from other parts of the USA, are not crazy fundamentalists; many of them are far happier with being called Anglo-Catholic than they are with the title Evangelical.

They love the church but feel that the church in its official organisation as the Episcopal Church has abandoned them. Many of them have served the Episcopal Church faithfully and loyally as bishops, priests, deacons and lay leaders in Diocesan and General Conventions. They are good people and they are my friends. Please do not believe the slurs on the characters of these good people that you read in the blogs and websites that seek to paint them as extremists or freaks, a minority and few in number. They are none of these things.

Please do not think that these Anglicans left the Episcopal Church with glee and delight. There were (and are) many tears of genuine grief and sorrow. For myself, the vote in the 2003 General Convention to approve the election of the Bishop of New Hampshire left me in floods of almost uncontrollable tears (and I really don't do that sort of thing.). I knew something had changed and been broken and it could never be put back together again.

However you vote, please know that there are thousands of Anglicans who will still believe themselves to be in full communion with you and with the Archbishop of Canterbury, through the Province of the Southern Cone or a number of other Anglican Provinces, or through the Anglican Church in North America. No one who left the Episcopal Church for the ACNA had the intention of cutting themselves off from the Worldwide Anglican Communion; quite the reverse. By leaving TEC they see themselves more intimately connected to the Anglican Communion.

Let me tell you about one of the clergy you are being asked to support by your vote.

Mike Wurschmidt started Shepherd's Heart Fellowship with his wife Tina. They had been homeless and God called them to minister to those living on the streets and under the bridges of Pittsburgh. There are hundreds of stories of miracles of God's grace as they serve the least, the last and the lost. So much more than just a soup kitchen - a night shelter with food and bible study, a community reaching out with the compassion of Jesus to Veterans and many others who finally find hope and unconditional love and acceptance; but they also find the possibility of new transformed life in Christ.

I will never regret my time in Pittsburgh. It was a time of intense spiritual challenge and growth for me as a Christian and as a bishop. I believe the split in the diocese was inevitable and necessary though it breaks my heart, as my friends are on both sides.

In the ACNA in Pittsburgh alone are 132 clergy, dear friends and close colleagues with whom it was a privilege to serve, love and live. I will never be out of communion with them whatever the Church of England decides. I know them and their lives and their ministries are being lived to the glory of God and for the building up of his church and his Kingdom.

----Bishop Henry Scriven is Mission Director for South America with SAMS and CMS. He is based in Oxford, England

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