"Divisions and separations are most objectionable in religion. They weaken the cause of true Christianity...But before we blame people for them, we must be careful that we lay the blame where it is deserved. False doctrine and heresy are even worse than schism. If people separate themselves from teaching which is positively false and unscriptural, they ought to be praised rather than reproved. In such cases separation is a virtue and not a sin...The old saying must never be forgotten, 'He is the schismatic who causes the schism'...Controversy in religion is a hateful thing...But there is one thing which is even worse than controversy, and that is false doctrine, allowed, and permitted without protest or molestation." ---J.C. Ryle on Division in the Church. (Cited by Iain Murray in Evangelicalism Divided, p. 141; originally from "Warnings to the Churches," Banner of Truth 1967).
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Leaders of the Episcopal Church meeting as the Executive Council this past week in Parsippany, NJ did what they were expected to do - raise the middle finger of defiance at the Anglican Communion, telling the Primates and Bishops of the worldwide body that they would not comply with the demands of Global South leaders to reverse or retract the church's liberal and revisionist positions on homosexuality, nor would they allow alternative supervision for disaffected orthodox Episcopalians.
They want to have their cake and eat it, too. Like spoiled children, they expect to remain part of the Anglican Communion and anticipate Dr. Rowan Williams will support them in their arrogance. The Episcopal Executive Council said that Anglican Primates cannot make decisions for the American denomination, and should stay out of their faces. "We question the authority of the Primates to impose deadlines and demands upon any of the churches of the Anglican Communion or to prescribe the relationships within any of the other instruments of our common life, including the Anglican Consultative Council. "We understand the requests made by the Primates from Dar es Salaam in February 2007 as a good-faith contribution to that on-going conversation." Still, the requests of the Primates are of a nature that can only properly be dealt with by our General Convention. They said that neither the Executive Council, the Presiding Bishop, nor the House of Bishops can give binding interpretations of General Convention resolutions nor make an "unequivocal common commitment" to denying future decisions by dioceses or General Convention." There is more hubris here than a fog over the English Channel.
The Episcopal Church claims to be hierarchical when they set about seizing properties in the name of the Dennis Canon. They then give lie to this claim when asked, as a Province of the Anglican Communion, to repent of its decisions regarding immoral sexual behavior to the rest of the communion!
The Executive Council further tightened the noose around orthodox necks at this meeting when they passed a resolution specifying that the changes made by the Diocese of Pittsburgh to its constitution and canons are "null and void," as are similar changes made by three other dioceses (San Joaquin, Quincy, and Fort Worth). In all cases, their constitutions "shall be as they were as if such amendments had not been passed." So the Executive Council has put all dioceses on notice that they cannot alter their relationship to TEC, its constitution, canons, or provincial governance without the express consent of the General Convention. You can read that story here or in today's digest. http://tinyurl.com/3bebr8
One knows what this means and where all this is going. If Common Cause partners, (those in the TEC) or any diocese tries to leave the Episcopal Church David Booth Beers will visit them with many lawsuits in hand and they will be sued till kingdom come. Furthermore if an orthodox diocesan bishop allows any of its priests to leave the diocese with their properties as Bishop Jeffrey Steenson (Rio Grande) and John-David Schofield (San Joaquin) have said they can do, Mr. Beers will visit lawsuits upon the diocese and said parishes.
What is at issue in the Diocese of Pittsburgh is that the Executive Council of the national church is attempting to undo a 2004 change to Pittsburgh's diocesan constitution that gives the diocesan convention the right to disagree with the national church about matters of faith and order, writes Bishop Bob Duncan at his diocesan website. It's like something from the Eagles' famous album Hotel California. The lyrics of the song describe the title establishment, a hotel where "you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave."
Canon David C. Anderson, CEO and President of the American Anglican Council told VOL that he believes that the national church wants to bankrupt orthodox parishes and that Mr. Beers and Mrs. Schori will spare no financial effort to doing just that. The first major test case will be the Diocese of Virginia.
A case in point, the DIOCESE OF SAN DIEGO and its Bishop James R. Mathes announced this week that it was pursuing three parishes in his diocese while going after St. John's Anglican Church for a THIRD time, in order to recover the property for the diocese, even though the courts found they had no case the first time around. We are going to see new levels of viciousness in Episcopal battles in coming months the likes of which you have never seen before. Mark my words. You can read that here or in today's digest. http://tinyurl.com/ywu8zh
A source in the DIOCESE OF COLORADO told VOL that Bishop Rob O'Neill has spent some $800,000 to date going after The Rev. Don Armstrong. The bishop has another $1,300,000 to use for legal fights in the diocese--the plan apparently is to bring down Armstrong so the rest of the orthodox will thereby be cowed into silence. A source from within the Standing Committee says O'Neill is liquidating unrestricted trusts worth $2.3 million in his fight with the orthodox priest.
This is in keeping with what David Booth Beers, Mrs. Schori's attorney who told one orthodox bishop, "we have more money than they do, we can outspend them."
In keeping with the theme of ORTHODOX DISENGAGEMENT, I have pulled together a story "Who Belongs to Whom?" which you can read in today's digest or click here. http://tinyurl.com/2nv2m2. It might interest you to know that as The Episcopal Church unravels, the number of former Episcopal Churches with off shore affiliations continues to grow. Almost weekly, somewhere in the U.S., an orthodox Episcopal parish announces it is leaving the Episcopal Church over the denomination's rejection of Holy Scripture as authoritative, the consecration of an openly homosexual bishop to the episcopacy, the blessing of same sex unions, and, in some cases, the irregular ordination of women to the priesthood.
Now the Episcopal Church keeps saying that the number of parishes leaving TEC is miniscule, but VOL has documented that there are as many as 1,000 Anglican parishes in numerous jurisdictions across the country who no longer bow the knee to 815 2nd Ave., New York. In addition, the Anglican Communion Network (those orthodox folk still in The Episcopal Church) number at least 900 plus congregations as of January 2007, which includes 200,000 laity and 2,200 clergy affiliated with them. Those figures continues to grow weekly!
That is a total of nearly 2,000 Anglican and Episcopal congregations who explicitly want nothing to do with The Episcopal Church. While many remain a part of it, many more have broken free of it. Many have begun Anglican congregations without even a nod to the TEC. That is not "miniscule". They continue to grow even as the Episcopal Church slowly withers and dies.
Even when Episcopal parishes leave without their properties and become Anglican under an offshore archbishop, things do not fall apart. All the evidence coming into VOL is that, over time, those parishes grow with vibrant evangelism and discipleship programs. There is no evidence that the die and go away. The vast majority of Episcopal churches, on the other hand, now have double digit congregations with the average age slowly creeping towards three score years and ten.
The most recent example of Episcopal flight is the small Kenyan branch of American churches (about 20) under their soon to be American Bishop Bill Atwood. Orthodox American leaders and archbishops from around the Global South coalition have generally welcomed the news. Mrs. Schori (TEC/PB) and the Archbishop of Canterbury have remained silent. A spokesman for the Anglican Consultative Council told The Church of England Newspaper the proposed consecration was inopportune. "The current danger is that if each Province starts to react to the current situation independently of the Instruments of Communion, we are in danger of increased confusion Communion-wide."
But two serious issues will need to be addressed.
With the ever-growing population of American Anglicans under overseas jurisdictions, two issues emerge: First, since Anglican congregations in some of our major cities are under different Episcopal jurisdictions, how will they work together? If these congregations find a way to serve together for the sake of serving their regions, then mission and evangelism could flourish. However, if they do not find ways to collegially work together to serve their regions, then these congregations will never get beyond being chaplaincies to those who choose to affiliate with them.
Secondly, there has been a lot of public comment about how these overseas jurisdictions are temporary and a coalition is being formed that reflects steps in the development of a proto-province. If a new, national Anglican province is actually formed, then who, if necessary, will be willing to lay down his claim to episcopacy for the sake of the visible and structural unity of this new province? How flexible will these new bishops (and the archbishops they serve) be for the sake of reaching the United States with the Gospel? Or, to put it negatively, how stuck will this new province be in old TEC models that are committed to maintaining personal and structural power, no matter what the cost?
These issues are not for the future. They are in front of us now. Already, seeds have been sown that have germinated into mistrust between episcopacies and jurisdictions that act more in competition than in fellowship. There is already mistrust towards those who do or do not have "the true faith of the Apostles."
The welcome good news of the stated collegiality of Common Cause coalition must filter down to the way local congregations serve one another if the lofty desire for a new and mission minded Anglican province in the United States is to succeed.
None of us know truly how malformed we are by the ecclesiastical structures that have formed us. Unless we find ways to work, pray, and strategize together for the sake of mission, an Anglican province in the States will never have the spiritual dynamism of our sisters and brothers in the Global South. Instead, we will merely reflect the chaplaincy model we have inherited from the Church of England.
A spokesman for the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, James Naughton, said the proliferation of "offshore" churches "makes it clear how difficult it is going to be for the conservatives to unite, because each of these primates wants a piece of the action, and none is willing to subjugate himself to another." He is, regrettably, right.
So, will the newer Purple Shirts be prepared to lay them down for the higher cause and greater good of Anglican unity, or will they hang on to them at any cost. Regrettably history has shown that those given purple shirts are not prepared to do that. They love ecclesiastical power far too much to lay their miters down.
More Anglican splinter groups only prove that they are no better than the thousands of American Protestant (evangelical) sects that inhabit America like mushrooms after a rain, with names like "First Covenant Church of Bubba, GA...", "Community Bible Church..., "First Baptist Church..., "Third Baptist church..., "Bible Baptist..." etc.
EXECUTIVE COUNCIL Defends Membership in Abortion Rights Group. The chair of Executive Council's National Concerns Committee has written to the Bishop of Mississippi informing him that while The Episcopal Church does not support every action of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), Executive Council has no intention of withdrawing its membership. The Rt. Rev. Duncan M. Gray, III wrote council noting that at the most recent annual meeting of the Diocese of Mississippi, clergy and lay delegates had approved a resolution objecting to the decision by Executive Council in January 2006 to join RCRC on behalf of The Episcopal Church. "Its position of advocacy, both in terms of legislative initiatives, and organized opposition to specific Supreme Court nominees, unnecessarily disrupts our Church's carefully balanced and nuanced position on abortion as articulated by General Convention," Bishop Gray stated.
John Vanderstar of the Diocese of Washington responded on behalf of Executive Council, noting that The Episcopal Church has "a long history of supporting a woman's right to make her own decisions regarding a pregnancy" and that previous efforts at General Convention to withdraw The Episcopal Church from the RCRC have been unsuccessful.
MRS. SCHORI, TEC Presiding Bishop has written a letter to the House of Bishops outlining details of the upcoming house's September meeting in New Orleans. The meeting will begin with a dinner on the evening of Sept. 19. Schori wrote that "the planning committee during its recent conference call thought it would be important to gather as a community (bishops and spouses/partners) before formal sessions begin on September 20." The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams will arrive following the bishops' dinner. At its spring retreat, the House of Bishops requested that the Presiding Bishop negotiate a meeting with Archbishop Williams and the primates' Standing Committee prior to the Sept. 30 deadline for a response to the primates' communique. "A group from the planning committee will work with Archbishop Williams and me to determine the format of the time we will have together," Mrs. Schori wrote. She said that the formal part of the meeting would begin with the Holy Eucharist on the morning of Sept. 20. Archbishop Williams will depart the afternoon of Sept. 21. The bishops will help with a variety of relief projects on Sept. 22, and will gather with worshiping communities in the two dioceses the following day. "The weekend will be an important time for the larger Church to express its solidarity with these two dioceses," Schori wrote.
Delegates to the 31st annual convocation of the NAVAJOLAND AREA MISSION affirmed the Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald as bishop for Navajoland Area Mission. It was MacDonald's first convocation as Bishop of Navajoland. He has served as bishop of the Diocese of Alaska since 1997. His duties there will cease at the end of July. On June 22, he assumes his new role as bishop of all indigenous persons in Canada -- while also serving in Navajoland in the U.S. It is ironic that Macdonald is permitted to function across jurisdictions but the same privilege is not afforded other overseas archbishops who wish to take orthodox dioceses under their wing. Consistency is clearly not the hobgoblin of small minds.
The DIOCESE OF EL CAMINO REAL elected Mary Gray-Reeves as the third bishop of that diocese last week. Gray-Reeves, 44, archdeacon for deployment, Diocese of Southeast Florida, was elected on the second ballot from a slate of four candidates. She becomes the 15th woman elected as a bishop of the Episcopal Church and will be among the five youngest members of the House of Bishops. Archdeacon Gray-Reeves told parishioners at one walkabout that she was one of only two priests and one bishop in Florida to have voted as delegates to affirm the election of the Rev. Canon Gene Robinson as Bishop Coadjutor of New Hampshire. She said she doubted that she could be called to serve in another church in Florida as a result of that vote. The diocese has been in free fall since the disastrous leadership of Richard Shimpfky. Under him things deteriorated so badly that a priest yelled, "You're a liar!" at him during a meeting. A key committee later filed ecclesiastical charges against the bishop.
In the DIOCESE OF COLORADO, orthodox theologian and rector the Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner is leaving the diocese and his parish Pueblo Episcopal [community] to take up a post as professor of historical theology at Wycliffe College, an Anglican seminary at the University of Toronto. In a statement Radner said: "I am not leaving the Episcopal Church." Radner, 51, has been pastor in Pueblo since being called here from Stamford, Conn., in June 1997. His wife, the Rev. Annette Brownlee, also has had pastoral duties at [Ascension] She will remain at the parish as "priest-in-charge" until late November, when she also will relocate to Wycliffe, where she will become seminary chaplain. In 2003, Ephraim Radner was among five candidates to be considered to head the Colorado Diocese. He had already had gained worldwide respect as a theologian and author by the time he was chosen earlier this year by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to be a part of an international panel asked to design a "covenant" for all the world's Anglican churches. Radner, who holds a doctorate in theology from Yale University, has said on frequent occasion that, while maintaining his opposition to the confirmation and ordination of Robinson, he is more focused on Episcopalians' and Anglicans' efforts to retain church unity.
THE DIRECTORS of SSC (Societas Sancta Cruz) meeting in Britain have decreed that no further "traditional Anglicans" are to be accepted to their membership, and that existing traditionalist members may not serve in any position of responsibility or honor. The acid test of an Anglican is apparently whether they accept the Archbishop of Canterbury as the unquestioned head of the Anglican community. Who died and made him Pope? And what does this say about The Episcopal Church which is in "impaired" communion with Canterbury? further, how does this follow the lead of the founders of SSC, like Fr. McKonakie? Many questions, few answers.
NBC POLL. Do you believe in God? NBC had a poll on this question. They had the highest number of responses they have ever had for one of their polls, and the percentage was the same as this: 86% to keep the words, IN God We Trust and God in the Pledge of Allegiance 14% against. That is a pretty 'commanding' public response.
OUSTER OF WILLIAM & MARY PRESIDENT SOUGHT. A new group: www.shouldnicholberenewed.org - is seeking the ouster of President Gene Nichol at the College of William & Mary in Virginia. Mr. Nichol achieved infamy for removing the Cross from the school's 275-year old Chapel, which had been home to arguably America's oldest Anglican Seminary. They cite poor financial stewardship and divisive leadership among his failings.
THE FUTURE OF CHRISTIANITY is under threat in Iraq. According to reports from Rome a Christian leader from Iraq has warned that Christianity may disappear from his country if no action is taken to stem the hardships faced by this minority community in the predominantly Muslim country. "Members of all religions - including both Islam and Christianity - are suffering now in my country but Christians as a minority are in greater danger of seeing their historic churches disappear," said Archbishop Jules Mikhael Al-Jamil, the Rome representative of the Syrian Catholic Church.
In ABUJA, NIGERIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP of Abuja, Rt. Rev. John Onayeikan has been elected president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), beating out the incumbent and Primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria the Most Rev. Peter Akinola. The vote was 72 to 33. In a keenly contested election, Onayeikan polled the majority of votes to defeat all 105 delegates of the National Executive Council (NEC) of CAN who participated in the election.
"Dispute grows over 'ABRASIVE' OXFORD PRINCIPAL"," reports Jonathan Petre in the Daily Telegraph, UK. Pressure is mounting on Church of England authorities to take action against the principal of an Oxford theological college accused of alienating staff. The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt. Rev. James Jones, is being urged to withdraw his support for the Rev. Richard Turnbull, the principal of Wycliffe Hall, who has been criticized for his alleged abrasive management style and conservative brand of Christianity. Alister McGrath, a leading theologian and Wycliffe's previous principal, has pulled out of delivering a prestigious lecture in Liverpool in protest of the lack of action by Bishop Jones, who is the chairman of the hall's governing council. The Bishop, meanwhile, has tried to assuage the concerns of senior colleagues in a confidential briefing at a meeting of the House of Bishops earlier this month. The dispute erupted following allegations of clashes between Dr. Turnbull, who is introducing reforms in the college, and disgruntled academics, some of whom have resigned. The row has now escalated into a battle for the soul of the Church's evangelical wing between conservatives, who are defending Dr. Turnbull, and moderates, who claim that his approach could tarnish the whole movement. It reflects splits in the wider Church over homosexuality, as Dr. Turnbull was one of the architects of a controversial 'covenant' last year under which evangelicals threatened to reject the authority of bishops regarded as being too liberal on the issue. Many moderates were dismayed by the fire-and-brimstone tone of a speech that Dr. Turnbull gave to the conservative evangelical pressure group Reform in October, in which he warned that 95 per cent of the country was in danger of going to hell.
ENGLAND: The U.K. must face the challenge of climate change with passion and creativity, not gloomy martyrdom, the Church of England has warned an official consultation. "If the U.K. can show the rest of the world an effective way of legislating against actions which we know will harm the planet, and in so doing have motivated good behavior, it will have done the human family a very great service of leadership," argues the submission by the Church's Mission and Public Affairs Council to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' Consultation on the draft Climate Change Bill. In the document, the Church also argues that the system of 'carbon credits' -- where countries each have an account of emission credits to 'spend' -- must be regulated so that rich countries are unable to purchase credits from developing countries, which have not signed the Kyoto agreement. The submission also suggests that rich countries should offer assistance with 'clean' development mechanisms.
CANADA: Anglicans gather in face of possible schism. The Anglican Church of Canada will try to chart a path through the storm at a historic meeting in Winnipeg this week. More than 400 bishops, clergy and ordinary members of Canada's oldest Protestant church will convene on Monday for the church's General Synod -- the first such national meeting in three years -- to elect a new Canadian leader and to vote on whether to let priests bless the partnerships of same-sex couples. However the church decides to treat its gay and lesbian members, the outcome is certain to spark recriminations -- and possibly schism -- both in Canada and abroad. An influential group of retired Canadian bishops pleaded with the church on Thursday to approve the blessings and then move forward to more critical matters, saying a failure to do so, "will only continue to draw us away from issues which are gradually destroying God's creation," such as poverty and global warming. Meanwhile a group of conservative clerics warned Anglicans in a letter at Easter that any tampering with the church's traditional views on homosexuality would fragment the church and lead to "North American Protestant sectarianism."
Anglican Essentials Canada (AEC) is monitoring Canada's General Synod. You can check out their General Synod webpage for photos: anglicanessentials.ca/general_synod_07.htm. If you want to watch the proceedings from the floor of General Synod, see www.anglican.ca/gs2007/index.htm.
AND FROM VOL'S MOLE IN MINNESOTA comes this word. "Dear Dr. Virtue, I just wanted to say you've lost a mole in the Minnesota diocese. I've quit the Episcopal Church which means resigning from everything. As the saying goes, 'You can't be swimming in manure and not expect to come out stinking.' I'll miss some good friends, but you can't be dishing out 20% of your annual pledge to heretics and blasphemous clerics in full knowledge and feel good about it. This is a salvation issue. I want everyone to be with Jesus when it's all over and our days in our mortal coil has passed. It's tough love, but it's got to be done. Best of Luck and God Bless..."
IN TODAY'S DIGEST you can read more of the 'can homosexuals be healed or can't they' discussion. The debate is heating up over whether homosexuality may or may not have a genetic component. Dr. Robert Gagnon, the world's leading Biblical authority on Scriptural interpretation of the texts on homosexuality takes a crack at a Canadian theologian in an article, "Case Not Made: A Response to Prof. John Thorp's '"Making the Case'" for Blessing Homosexual Unions in the Anglican Church of Canada". This is a must read as their Synod is currently in session. http://tinyurl.com/yw8naw
The story that will truly capture your attention is the knowledge that an Episcopal theologian in Seattle says she can be both a Muslim and a Christian.
The elastic band of The Episcopal Church's theology was stretched to its limit with the announcement this past week that the Rev. Dr. Ann Holmes Redding, an Episcopal priest and theologian in the Diocese of Olympia, has become a practicing Muslim. This takes Episcopal lunacy to a whole new height. You can read the Seattle Times story and my own analysis here or in today's digest. http://tinyurl.com/38ah4x
And to make the point that the DIOCESE OF FLORIDA is on a losing streak, another breakaway parish in Mandarin, Florida took its 400 parishioners and literally walked away from their sanctuary in the aftermath of a split between The Episcopal Church over fundamental beliefs.
All Souls Church-Anglican will begin its final service at 9 a.m. Sunday, July 15, in the sanctuary at 10679 Old St. Augustine Road, where members worshipped for 28 years. The first rector, Whitey Haugan (1979-1999), will then lock up for the last time before the congregation walks to a temporary Sunday home at Mandarin Middle School at 5100 Hood Road to complete services. You can read the story here: http://tinyurl.com/2rknhh
WELCOME TO VIRTUEONLINE. We hope you will take a few moments to scan the list of stories today and check the website for even more stories that did not make the cut in today's digest. www.virtueonline.org Stories are added every few hours to the website.
You can also read first hand accounts of Christians being persecuted around the world, many at the hands of Muslims. If you want to see and read how some people are prepared to lay down their lives for the gospel, this is MUST reading. Please take a moment to read the latest news from the Barnabas Fund or click here. http://www.barnabasfund.org/
FUND-RAISING is slow during the summer months, but the bills continue. Please know that VOL depends entirely on its readers to maintain this ministry. In addition to myself there is a web master, part time office manager and others to pay. If you would like to support this ministry with a tax-deductible donation we would truly appreciate that. Please consider supporting this vital global ministry that goes out to over 45 countries. You can send a check via snail mail to:
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David W. Virtue DD
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