TWO CONFLICTING VIEWS OVER THE FUTURE OF ECUSA EMERGES
By David W. Virtue
It is now apparent that two very different and conflicting views of
what The Episcopal Church will look like are beginning to emerge, as
the Year 2003 ends, and the Year 2004 begins.
On one side is the "vision" of Frank T. Griswold, The Episcopal
Church's Presiding Bishop. His vision is contained in what he calls
guidelines for providing "Supplemental Episcopal Pastoral Care" for
those bishops who find they have "dissident" meaning biblically
orthodox parishes, who are at odds with theologically revisionist
diocesan bishops like Charles E. Bennison, Tom Shaw, and John Chane et
On the other side is the Confessing Network of Churches that has been
formed with some 13 dioceses now in place (and there will be more) that
offer a completely different vision of what The Episcopal Church will
look like as the Year 2004 unfolds.
One side is post-Biblical, post-modernist, culturally conforming and
accomodationist with regard to both 'the Faith once delivered' and
The other side is Biblical, faithful to Scripture, liturgically honest,
(that is they believe what the Prayer Book says and don't simply pay
lip service to it), gospel-driven with a clear understanding that while
the gospel message never changes, it must be spoken relevantly into a
pluralistic and pluriform world not much different from the First
These two visions will in time, face off and harden into battle lines,
which, if they do not find a way to live at peace with each other, will
come to blows. A full-blown war will break out as the year progresses.
Both sides claim that the Archbishop of Canterbury is not intervening
in ECUSA's internal affairs, but Dr. Williams has given the green light
for the Network to form, while at the same time affirming Griswold's
need to find a way through the maze of orthodox priests who need
protection in revisionist dioceses with the enticement of pastoral
The Archbishop of Canterbury is clearly staying above the fray, which
is probably a safe place to stay, (but not for long) when the simmering
battle breaks out into a full-scale war. And this will be no dogfight;
it will be a war for the very soul of the Episcopal Church.
Another reason why the Network is not buying into Griswold's "vision"
is that "supplemental pastoral care" is a crock. What it allows is for
a diocesan bishop like Charles Bennison or Bill Swing to let a flying
bishop come in on the understanding that the Diocesan can follow later
if he or she so chooses.
In other words it is only supplemental and not alternative pastoral
care, which is what Forward in Faith US wants and who will not settle
for anything less.
This is precisely the situation in the Diocese of Pennsylvania where
Bishop Bennison has demanded the right to visit the Anglo-Catholic
parish of Church of the Good Shepherd regardless of who the flying
bishop is that he allows to visit. Of course this is totally
unacceptable to Fr. David Moyer.
"Alternative" and "supplemental" are two very different concepts and
one hopes the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is said to be very bright,
should be able to figure out for himself without another Eames
Commission to help him.
The Network of Confessing Churches is saying that they cannot share the
same Narthex space with the ECUSA because it has a different gospel,
but they don't want to split off from the Episcopal Church because the
legal ramifications and property issues are enormous and everyone would
lose. It's a sort of legal separation without a full-blown divorce.
David Booth Beers, Griswold's legal guru might be itching to use the
Dennis Canon, but he can't if no one tries to pull their parish out of
the diocese and therefore out of the National Church. To that extent
his hands are tied.
Furthermore, taking back parish buildings while losing souls is, in the
long run, a no winner for revisionist bishops. Empty pews don't produce
revenue and maintenance costs for empty churches must come out of
But stubbornness and power make good bedfellows, and we have seen in
the Diocese of Pennsylvania and in the Diocese of New Westminster what
stubborn revisionist bishops can and will do.
Both Bennison and Ingham have adopted a scorched earth policy in
dealing with parish priests that don't agree with them, and who insist
there is only one gospel and any other "gospel" is anathema.
In the Diocese of NW this past week, Michael Ingham shut down Holy
Cross a small but growing parish in Abbottsford, British Columbia. The
argument is; if you won't conform I will crush you like a gnat. Forget
the souls who will be hurt by his actions, or even what God thinks,
this is about the raw, naked, abuse of ecclesiastical power.
It is also why the new Network knows they cannot worship in the same
parish pews with these people. It is a lose-lose proposition,
repeatedly stated in interview after interview with Canon David
Anderson, president of the American Anglican Council.
But what the Network must address are those thriving orthodox parishes
in revisionist dioceses. How can they be protected? Bishop Robert
Duncan will have to do something for them. When Ft. Moyer was
"inhibited," he and a group of orthodox bishops and clergy planned to
meet with Ft. Moyer at the Radnor Hotel near Philadelphia earlier this
year. But Bennison objected and they backed down. At some point
orthodox bishops need to be willing to enter revisionist dioceses
without the permission of bishops like Bennison and take the risk, or
it will just be a shell game.
One of the reasons, but not overtly stated, as to why the Network won't
breakaway from the ECUSA is that they maintain they are the upholders
of the one true faith, and in abandoning the ECUSA, they are abandoning
what the ECUSA originally stood for, that is before the rot set in with
Bishops Pike and Spong. The argument, again not stated, is that in
time, as revisionism dies with no discernible gospel and liberal
seminaries start closing, as surely they will, and the orthodox ones
continue burgeoning, they might just win if they stay and fight. It
might take 10 or 20 years, but what is that in the life of the Church.
The history of the Christian Church is strewn with the dead bodies of
the faithful drawn over centuries.
Add to the mix what the Anglican Primates will do and how they will
act, and the Network (already affirmed by the Province of Uganda) has
strong international support that will only increase with time.
Already some twenty of the 38 primates have declared their support for
the formation of the "confessing network" organized by the AAC,
according to the Rev. Canon Bill Atwood, secretary general of the
EKKLESIA Society, and that figure will only grow. It is also a headache
for Williams, because he will never know when they will suddenly act
Canon Atwood himself has emerged as the orthodox answer to Canon John
Peterson of the Anglican Consultative Council. He may not have
Peterson's money or infrastructure, but he does have the ear and
confidence of the vast majority of primates who listen to him and are
guided by him.
Peterson has no respect among the orthodox primates, who no longer want
him anywhere near their provinces, and as money can no longer be used
by him to manipulate them, his power will drain away, in time, to
The Archbishop of Canterbury says he is waiting to see what the report
he has commissioned by Robin Eames will produce before he decides to
act to discipline Griswold. What he wants is "mutual accountability",
but that is an increasingly growing fiction, as Griswold and ECUSA's 62
revisionist bishops will be held accountable to no one but themselves.
And then there is the Anglican Communion's wild card - Nigerian Primate
Peter Akinola. He has come out blasting Griswold, Robinson and other
Western liberal bishops, refusing their money and ready to have the
African, Asian and Southern Cone bishops act on their own.
The argument, though he has not made it is, why should he be expected
to wait till Sept/Oct 2004 for the Eames Commission decision on
homosexuality when Frank Griswold publicly turned his back on the
Pastoral Letter he signed at Lambeth and within a few weeks consecrated
a non-celibate homosexual to the episcopacy!
Griswold has lied and flipped the bird to his fellow Primates while
schmoozing Rowan Williams just as he did George Carey over the AMIA
This morally conflicted, theologically contorted little man with his
force field mystic paganism, has proven there is no level he won't
stoop too, to stay in the Supreme Club of Purple as long as he can keep
Williams from acting against him. And he has done it with all the gall
and venality of a high class hooker who admits she will only do it for
$1,000 and not for 50 bucks in the back seat of a streetcar name ECUSA.
Is it the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning for ECUSA
and Frank Griswold? We wait and see. Whatever it is, 2004 promises to
be the most climactic year in the 200-year-old history of the Episcopal
Church with two conflicting world views locked in mortal combat.
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