By David W. Virtue
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It was another week of shock and awe for the Episcopal Church USA when the rector of the second largest parish in the DIOCESE OF FLORIDA -- one of the top 50 Episcopal churches in the country -- announced that he was quitting his parish, the diocese, and the Episcopal Church and was heading down the road to start St. Peter's in Tallahassee, coming under an African bishop.
In one fell swoop the Rev. Eric D. Dudley, 46, gutted St. John's church with its 2,000-plus members paving the way for other orthodox parish priests to follow his lead. At least a dozen or more are contemplating following his example.
It is Bishop John Howard's worst nightmare come true. The Rev. Jim McCaslin, rector of All Souls in Jacksonville, told VirtueOnline that the bishop has said he is convinced that this is one of the strongest -- potentially THE strongest -- dioceses in our church and in our communion. "The impression that he would create is that the 'Florida Six' are simply a small dissident minority in an otherwise healthy and unified diocese," Fr. McCaslin said. "The truth is that many individuals and congregations in this diocese are not willing to remain in ECUSA if it does not repent by General Convention in June 2006. Many are simply biding their time until then."
Following hard on the heels of Dudley's action to leave, several clergy in the Diocese of Florida formed the Anglican Alliance of North Florida to bring faithful Episcopalians together.
This is yet another example of a specific solution to affirm Biblical truth and state that orthodox theology matters more than affiliation with the Episcopal Church, said the Texas-based executive director of Anglicans United, the Rev. Todd Wetzel.
"Moderate and revisionist bishops in ECUSA just don't get it," Wetzel said. "They keep trying to trump faith with power politics and squash the orthodox with creative but incorrect application of canon law. Increasingly, they are coming up short, prompting this type of response from faithful priests and parishes.
"A new precedent is being established in the Anglican Communion: that of the non-geographic jurisdiction/diocese. Prior to this recent decade, non-geographic jurisdictions were rare. Two of the most notable in ECUSA were the bishop of the Armed Forces and the bishop of the ECUSA Churches in Europe.
"Orthodox archbishops and their provinces have been engaged for several years in deliberative processes to change their constitutions and canons to provide non-contiguous geographic oversight to parishes and dioceses seeking spiritual and theological covering. Prior to this time, there were a few bishops/dioceses in Africa and South America who were able constitutionally, to assume oversight of non-geographic parishes. You have heard their names repeatedly in the last three years, as more parishes in America came under their authority. Now, entire provinces are changing their constitution and canons, making it possible to extend their boundaries to non-geographic parishes and priests - especially the beleaguered orthodox in America."
Biblically and theologically orthodox Episcopalians should receive this new phenomenon as very good news.
The loss of more than 1,200-dues paying Episcopalians will not go down well with Howard, who has already begun belt-tightening procedures in the diocese. And if what VirtueOnline has learned comes true the number of those departing the diocese could be five times that number in the coming months. You can read the full account of Dudley's departure in today's digest plus a commentary of my own on what it all means.
IN ANOTHER NOTE on the Diocese of Florida, the mother of Richard Kaufmann, the youth minister who was fired by Howard, wrote to VirtueOnline to say that her son spent 14 of his 26 summers at Camp Weed moving from camper to counselor, assistant camp director to director. "Bishop Howard (amongst other things) fails to realize that the summer camp program isn't a business, but a Journey with Jesus instilled in these campers in elementary school. (Richard could have accepted the position to restart Camp Wingman in Central Florida 4 yrs. ago) but chose to stay with Camp Weed and give back what had meant so much to him growing up! Sadly, Howard is loosing the 'brightest star' at diocesan house, but the diocese's loss is someone else's gain! Richard will bring other children to Christ because he is a natural with it," said Merilyn Kaufmann.
If there was any doubt about where Bishop John Howard is going with the DIOCESE OF FLORIDA, a rector sent the following: The Rev. Brian Sunken will be the main speaker Nov. 9-12 at two programs, "Study of the Gospel of John and Christian Discipleship," and "Marching in the Light of God -- A Retreat of Spiritual Renewal," both sponsored by the Diocese of Florida. It may well be worth noting that in 2003, eight days after V. G. Robinson's confirmation to become the bishop of New Hampshire, Father Sunken was a signer on a major Anglican pro-gay-ordination petition listed at www.inclusivechurch.net. If you want to see what they believe here it is: "We call on our Church to live out the promise of the Gospel; to celebrate the diverse gifts of all members of the body of Christ; and in the ordering of our common life to open the ministries of deacon, priest and bishop to those so called to serve by God, regardless of their sex, race or sexual orientation."
A STATISTICS WONK wrote VirtueOnline and said that according to the official statistics of ECUSA, in the year 2003 (the last stats available), ECUSA lost 36,368 confirmed members. That is an average of 100 PER DAY! If the average Episcopal Church is only about 100 members, (it's actually 77), then we are losing one congregation each day! One can only wonder about the statistics for 2004 and 2005. The end can't be far off.
In a recent article I stated that Bishop Lipscomb, DIOCESE OF SOUTHWEST FLORIDA, recently explained the endorsing of the Windsor Report at a meeting and that people were confused.
"Not all of us in the Diocese are confused about it, only those who wish to be," wrote a layman to VirtueOnline.
"I am on the vestry of Grace Episcopal Church, Tampa, Florida, and in our July vestry meeting, we accepted and endorsed the entire Windsor Report by unanimous vote. Our Rector, Rev. Benjamin Twinamaani, sent a pastoral letter to the entire membership of our parish stating that endorsement by the vestry and himself. He also sent a letter to Bishop Lipscomb stating the same. Anybody in this diocese who is 'confused' at the meeting you referred to were clergy, and basically they don't want to take a stand either way," he said.
The Bishop of the DIOCESE OF SOUTHERN VIRGINIA, David Bane, resigned his position this past week during a special council of the diocese. His resignation is effective at the Diocesan Council in February 2006. He apparently wanted to stay until July 1, 2006, but the Standing Committee of the diocese said he needed to go sooner rather than later. This diocese has been in turmoil for some time. The diocese recently unloaded its suffragan bishop, Carol Joy Gallagher, who went on to become the assistant bishop in the Diocese of Newark, a veritable ecclesiastical graveyard for revisionist bishops. Bane's voting record was mixed, but he had more personal problems than most bishops should have, and they finally had to unload him.
In the DIOCESE OF ARKANSAS, where Bishop Larry Maze is about to retire, the Rev. Dr. Robert Bowman, an REC priest who know him well and watched what he did to the diocese, wrote this to VirtueOnline: "Maze has driven hundreds out of the (P)ECUSA in the City of Little Rock, alone, to say nothing of the rest of the Diocese. Saint Andrew's AMiA and Saint Thomas' REC is just a portion of those who have left. As one who lived in Little Rock for 6 years, and served as founding Rector of Saint Thomas' Church, I speak as an eyewitness of the revisionism in the diocese of Arkansas."
In LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY, comes word from Frank Lockwood of the Herald-Leader.
"Anglicans at Presbyterian church" ran the headline. When conservatives gathered to discuss problems in the Episcopal Church, they picked an unlikely meeting place: Calvin Presbyterian Church in Louisville. Ellis Brust, the chief operating officer of the American Anglican Council, wasn't welcomed at any of the parishes in Kentucky's largest city during a recent visit. Conservative rectors feared incurring the wrath of Kentucky Bishop Ted Gulick if they opened their doors, Brust said.
Jay Magness, the bishop's principal assistant, said nobody's being pressured. Clergy are free to host or attend AAC events, he added. Brust didn't need church space in Lexington. His speech at Bella Notte attracted about 50 people.
VERSAILLES CHURCH THRIVES. While conservative and liberal Episcopalians continue to battle, Versailles' new Anglican congregation is quietly moving forward. Formed in January 2004, days after the Lexington diocese fired the conservative leadership of St. John's Episcopal Church, its average attendance is now 175. "We're growing. We're adding staff. ... We've bought some land," said the Rev. David Brannen, rector of St. Andrew's Anglican Church. Congregants paid cash for seven acres at the corner of the Bluegrass Parkway and Route 33. Brannen hopes to begin construction at the site in 2006. For now, the congregation is worshiping at Hunter Elementary School. "It's hard to keep the gospel down; it just keeps bubbling to the surface,...and people of faith won't be silenced either," Brannen said. Amen to that.
In the DIOCESE OF DELAWARE, VirtueOnline has learned that the Cathedral Church of St. John is bankrupt, and Bishop Wayne P. Wright recently asked the rector, the Very Rev. Margaret "Peggy" Patterson, to leave.
A former member of the cathedral who now goes to Immanuel in Wilmington said she wrote the bishop two letters six years ago saying that there was something off kilter in the cathedral office, and he dismissed it. She received two letters saying, "I will pray for you." She was serving as volunteer in the office at the time.
A letter released by the cathedral say it had funds to operate through September. Recently the rectory was sold to pay overdue bills. There are no funds to pay an interim rector unless something can be done with a trust from Sophie May DuPont, said a source.
Apparently Peggy has built a very nice house in Santa Fe, New Mexico, during the last few years, said a parishioner.
Recently the diocese announced that it had planted its first church in 40 years, hardly something to brag about. They plant them one a week in the Province of Nigeria.
In the DIOCESE OF OHIO, the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration, in Cleveland participated in the Nautica Charity Casino Poker nights at the Nautica entertainment complex during August. As a result it netted approximately $35,000 for its coffers. This in spite of the fact that the former bishop, J. Clark Grew, was on record as opposing any parish's hosting or participating in gambling. I emailed Hollingsworth about it but got no reply. The church was the ONLY church to participate in these series of poker games. They were to provide at least 100 volunteers each of four nights.
A reader wrote to VirtueOnline to say, "This is one of the churches that can't afford a full-time priest. They have been using the Rev. Abraham Fiodemo, a native of Kenya, as a supply priest for over a year and a half. It is a Black congregation. The 99-year-old building seats over 600, yet there are rarely over 26 people in attendance at its dry, lifeless services. I've been there on several occasions, so I know whereof I speak."
Mark Hollingsworth, the current bishop of Ohio, met recently with the priest and the vestry of Transfiguration and told them they have 30 days to decide where they will worship, a reader told VirtueOnline. "Hollingsworth supposedly sees the building as unsafe. The Vestry is also aware that Cleveland Clinic wants the property for their own expansion. The sale would benefit the diocese. This priest urged the Vestry to go public. They seem reluctant to do so. The parish is current on all assessments. While very small, the parish has a rooted history in the diocese and serves the poorest of the community in outreach. The parish was combined from two parishes to one community several years ago. Clark Grew treated the parish with great love and care. Hollingsworth is very unpredictable and seems to be offering solutions to a problem the vestry does not see as existing. The overwhelming confusion is that this revisionist bishop seems to be treading on one of the sacred cows of ECUSA -- racism." Indeed.
THE RECENT MEETING OF THE HOB in Puerto Rico was by several accounts a disaster. I wrote to one orthodox bishop to ask what went on. He responded: "Really not a damn thing! Lots of talk, no decisions about anything." Really.
The Living Church Foundation reported that the public face presented at the conclusion of the Sept. 22-27 meeting at the Ritz Carlton San Juan Hotel Spa & Casino in Puerto Rico revealed an Episcopal Church that is focused on the injustices magnified by Hurricane Katrina, while privately there was widespread consensus that the Church is directionless and in danger of being processed to death, according to a number of bishops representing widely diverse theological positions. None was willing to speak for attribution.
"What did we accomplish?" one bishop wrote in response to a question from The Living Church. "You will have to ask others. I have no idea."
"A significant number of bishops have concluded that the twice-a-year gatherings are a waste of time and money so they rarely attend," said The Living Church. "Others, including a majority of bishops affiliated with the Anglican Communion Network, perceive the meetings to be a hostile environment where they are pushed to the margins because of their theological convictions."
No surprises here. The ECUSA is going through its own internal Katrina, but no one is willing to wash away the sins of homosexual behavior. The spiritually blind, deaf, and dumb are leading the spiritually blind, deaf, and dumb.
THE DIOCESE OF IOWA has received a resolution by the orthodox remnant in that diocese for the next convention on November 4-5 "that the 153rd Convention receives and accepts the Windsor Report and endorses its proposals and expectations." The resolution is being co-sponsored by St. Paul's Church in Durant, and St. Luke's Church in Des Moines. Will it pass? VirtueOnline will let you know.
IN THE DIOCESE OF RECIFE, BRAZIL, the action of Archbishop Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone to take this orthodox diocese under his ecclesiastical wing received jubilation from clergy and laity when they received the news.
The Rev. Miguel Uchoa, rector of Paróquia Anglicana do Espírito Santo, the largest parish (1,000 members) in the diocese, wrote to VirtueOnline to say, "This is what I call God's providence. Due to the slow moving of the archbishop's Panel of Reference and the 'No Action' by Rowan Williams the saints moved on and took a position."
"You should have seen the faces of the 40 clergy and Bishop Robinson Cavalcanti when Canon Bill Atwood, executive director of Ekklesia, turned up holding 41 letters from Archbishop Gregory Venables," Uchoa reported. "He called out each one by name and gave them the license and letter recognizing them as priests and bishop. I saw people crying, clapping, jumping, shouting and praising the Lord."
THE ARCHBISHOP OF WALES, Dr. Barry Morgan, has come out supporting a new book that challenges the church's line on gays. The archbishop welcomed a "cogent" new book by 22 leading theologians that argues for gay people's inclusion within the Anglican ministry. Written by "some of the finest theological minds," it challenges the moratorium on gay consecrations and same-sex blessings of the Anglican Communion. "This book throws down a formidable challenge to the Anglican Communion. It cannot afford to ignore it," Archbishop Morgan commented.
The archbishop who was himself one of the people responsible for the Windsor Report, which recommended the moratorium, made it clear that the issue is far from settled: "The arguments advanced for including gay people [in the church] deserve to be read and pondered by all who are involved in the debate about human sexuality," he said.
The book, said the archbishop, "shows up the superficiality of previous Anglican discussion of this subject" and should "give the Anglican Church in many places cause for penitence for the way it has treated and thought about gay people."
THE ANGLICANS FOR ISRAEL WEB SITE has now been launched. You can visit it at http://www.anglicansforisrael.com/ Among its patrons are: The Rev. Lisa Battye, BNurs RM Dip Couns MA MTh; Professor David Marsland; the Rev. Peter Mullen, rector of St Michael's, Cornhill, and chaplain to the Stock Exchange; Father Martyn Perry; and Father Jesse Smith. The interfaith advisor and academic liaison officer is Dr. Irene Lancaster, Centre for Jewish Studies at Manchester University.
OBITUARY: M. Scott Peck died aged 69> He was a psychiatrist and author of "The Road Less Traveled," the ultimate self-help manual, which sold some 10 million copies and which set a record for a non-fiction book by spending more than eight years on the New York Times bestseller list.
Its opening sentence, "Life is difficult." introduced a tome that argued, uncontentiously and sensibly, that human experience was trying and imperfectible, and that only self-discipline, delaying gratification, acceptance that one's actions have consequences, and a determined attempt at spiritual growth could make sense of it. By contrast, Peck himself was, by his own admission, a self-deluding, gin-sodden, chain-smoking neurotic whose life was characterized by incessant infidelity and an inability to relate to his parents or children. "I'm a prophet, not a saint," he explained in an interview earlier this year. They could have made this guy an ECUSA bishop; his credentials were near perfect.
The Tri-Annual meeting of The Episcopal Church Missionary Community (ECMC) canceled its plans to meet at United Methodism's Lake Junaluska conference center. The cancellation came in response to Lake Junaluska's hosting the pro-homosexuality "Hearts on Fire" event over Labor Day weekend.
The Episcopal Church Missionary Community (ECMC) typically attracts more than 1,000 people to its regular "New Wineskins" gatherings. In reaction to "Hearts on Fire," ECMC rescheduled and relocated New Wineskins from fall 2006 at Lake Junaluska to spring 2007 at Ridgecrest, a Southern Baptist-owned facility not far from Lake Junaluska in western North Carolina.
Sharon Steinmiller (nee Stockdale), director of ECMC/New Wineskins Missionary Network. told VirtueOnline that they were not out to be punitive. "We did this because we stand for a biblical view on human sexuality," she said. "The Executive Committee of the southeastern jurisdiction which heads Junalaska used the notion of hospitality to host a pro-gay group, yet their policy says homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching of the United Methodist Church." The Rt. Rev. Derek Eaton, bishop of Nelson, the fastest-growing diocese in New Zealand, will be the keynote speaker. ECMC is an advocate for evangelical missions within the Episcopal Church.
FROM LAMBETH PALACE comes word that the archbishop will be attending part of the "South to South Encounter" to be held in Egypt next month. He will be delivering a keynote address on the conference theme of "One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church." The c\Conference will bring together representatives from provinces of the Global South regions of the Anglican Communion.
CORRECTION: In my article on members of the Special Commission VirtueOnline mistakenly stated that Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori did not go to seminary. A reader wrote to say that she graduated from CDSP in 1994 (M. Div). My apologies for the error.
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