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Another TEC Bishop to Rome...Two Dioceses Ready to Exit...Canada in Turmoil...

A divine substitute. How could God express simultaneously his holiness in judgment and his love in pardon? Only by providing a divine substitute for the sinner, so that the substitute would receive the judgment and the sinner the pardon. We sinners still of course have to suffer some of the personal, psychological and social consequences of our sins, but the penal consequence, the deserved penalty of alienation from God, has been borne by Another in our place, so that we may be spared it.---"The Cross of Christ" by John R. W. Stott

The Uniqueness of Christ. "The ultimate issue in relation to Jesus Christ is not one of semantics (the meaning of words) but of homage (the attitude of the heart), not whether our tongue can subscribe to an orthodox formulation of the person of Jesus, but whether our knee has bowed before his majesty. Besides, reverence always precedes understanding. We shall know him only if we are willing to obey him---From "The Authentic Jesus" by John R. W. Stott

Dear Brothers and Sisters
www.virtueonline.org
11/21/2007

It was another week of turmoil in the Episcopal Church, with two dioceses, Ft. Worth and San Joaquin making exit sounds about leaving the liberal denomination. They are about to ring down the final curtain on a theologically and morally bankrupt church. All that will be left to fight over is the legal right to properties.

It was also a week that saw a fourth Episcopal bishop announce that he was leaving the Episcopal Church and crossing the Tiber to join the Roman Catholic Church.

The Bishop of Southwest Florida John H. Lipscomb follows in the footsteps of former Albany Bishop Dan Herzog and Rio Grande Bishop Jeffrey Steenson.

One wonders if Mrs. Jefferts Schori is getting the message. Bishops are flying off to Rome, alternatively to the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) or to Evangelicalism (Nigeria, Uganda and the Southern Cone.) Nobody seems to be running off to becoming an Affirming Catholic bishop with liberal TEC bishops watching in dismay as their dioceses continue to go into decline. Many of them are taking early retirement so they will not be around when the balloon finally goes up.

But it was the Anglican Church of Canada that stole much of the limelight with the departure of orthodox Bishop Donald Harvey to the Province of the Southern Cone and a statement by ultra-liberal Bishop Michael Ingham of New Westminster, that "full-blown schism" was now a reality in the Canadian Church. A third Canadian diocese, Niagara announced it was full steam ahead for same-sex blessings.

*****

Delegates to the DIOCESE OF FT. WORTH'S annual convention took their first step this week to cut ties to the Episcopal Church, a move driven by the diocese's opposition to the ordination of women and gay men and the blessing of same-sex unions. More than 200 clergy and lay delegates voted at the Will Rogers Memorial Center, by an overwhelming majority rejecting on first reading an amendment assenting to the authority of the Episcopal Church.

Speaking in a news conference following the convention's conclusion, Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker said the decisions "marked a firm resolve about moving forward together, recognizing that there are parts that are not fully behind the path we've chosen, but the debate is always characterized by respect and honesty." "It's important to note that the decisions made today are preliminary decisions that need to be ratified by another convention," he added. The convention noted that the diocese wishes "to remain within the family of the Anglican Communion while dissociating itself from the moral, theological, and disciplinary innovations of the Episcopal Church..." If the constitutional and canonical amendments pass a second reading, presumably at the 2008 diocesan convention, Mrs. Jefferts Schori and David Booth Beers will claim that this violates the requirements of the Episcopal Church's Constitution and Canons. Article V, Section 1 says that a diocese's constitution must include "an unqualified accession" to the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church.

The Presiding Bishop could ask the Episcopal Church's Title IV Review Committee to consider whether the bishops supporting those constitutional changes have abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church. If the committee agreed that abandonment had taken place, the bishops would have two months to recant before the matter went to the full House of Bishops. If the House concurred, the Presiding Bishop could depose the bishops and Mrs. Jefferts Schori will then claim that the sees are vacant There is no appeal and no right of formal trial outside of a hearing before the House of Bishops.

*****

The DIOCESE OF SAN JOAQUIN based in Fresno, California got an invitation from the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of South America offering the Diocese membership on an emergency and pastoral basis.

The announcement comes two weeks before the Diocese is scheduled hear the second and final reading of Constitutional changes first adopted on December 2, 2006. Should the second reading of the Constitutional changes be approved at the Diocesan Convention on December 8, 2007, the Diocese is free to accept the invitation to align with the Province of the Southern Cone and remain a diocese with full membership within the Anglican Communion.

According to the Rt. Rev. John-David M. Schofield, Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin, "We welcome the invitation extended by the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone. The invitation assures the Diocese's place in the Anglican Communion and full communion with the See of Canterbury."

*****

The DIOCESE OF PENNSYLVANIA held a diocesan-wide meeting this week to bring everyone up to speed with Bishop Bennison's inhibition and the state of the diocese, which is in shambles. Several hundred clergy and laity gathered at St. Mary's in Wayne to listen to two legal vultures, David Booth Beers (he loves to sue vestries) and Michael Rehill (who got the notorious thrice-married Walter Righter off the sodomite hook forever enshrining the notion that TEC has no core doctrine on morality) and Bishop Clayton Matthews, Mrs. Jefferts Schori's consigliore for bad boy bishops along with members of the Standing Committee, now running the diocese, answer questions to a befuddled and bewildered audience of mostly liberal clergy and laity who voted for Bennison.

The news was not good. Bennison will face trial. If he is found guilty he faces one of three sentences, the last and worse is that he is defrocked and can never function again as a priest. Here's hoping. This is a bishop who among other things, could not affirm basic doctrines of the faith, allowed a convicted flasher priest to continue in office, and continues to allow a Wiccan woman priest to function as a priest. One of Bennison's memorable pastoral care situations revealed itself when he got tossed out of a hospital room by a black woman priest who said Bennison was personally responsible for the death of her husband, also a priest, and Bennison's memorable lie that he would allow seven Anglo-Catholic priests a flying bishop and then reneged on the deal.

Bennison also spent somewhere between $11 and $13 million on a camp on the Eastern Shore of Maryland (for 125 kids) which finally pushed the Standing Committee over the edge and they filed presentment charges against him. Meantime a sex scandal involving Bennison's brother (also a priest) got the attention of Mrs. Jefferts Schori who inhibited the sociopathic bishop. Bennison also faces civil charges of fraud and more and the diocese will have to pay the legal fees on this trial though not on the Presentment charges. On this, they were told, Bennison is on his own.

But Bennison is not the only guilty party. Those who elected him stand culpable as well. The Diocesan Council and Standing Committee collectively have the theological acumen and moral turpitude of a school of dead fish floating upside down in the Schuylkill River. They never went after Bennison when he denied the faith, "we are not doctrinal watchdogs" said one liberal clergyman, and the sex stuff seemed a bit too old and distant for them to get too exercised about. But when it came to money, they suddenly had epiphanies. Sound like the blowing of a mighty wind came upon them and they hurried to file a Presentment against the Venal One. And so it came about in the failed reign of Bennison the Standing Committee have become the de facto ecclesiastical leaders of the diocese.

But the members of the Standing Committee may have given a Thanksgiving gift to Charles Bennison. They recently announced that Rehill, who has been their attorney in drawing up the financial mismanagement charges against Bennison, has been elected chancellor of the Diocese! The problem with that is that Bennison, although inhibited, is still the bishop of the Diocese. Section 3.5.1 of the diocesan canons is quite clear that the duty of the chancellor is "to act as legal counselor. Of the bishop and of the standing committee" the diocesan canons are also quite clear. In distinguishing between "the bishop" (a person) and the "ecclesiastical authority"- the power exercised by the bishop. Under Canon 5 of the diocesan canons, the Standing Committee has become "the ecclesiastical authority", but they have not become "the bishop".

The question is who suggested Rehill as chancellor? Was it David Booth Beers? If so, then it will be ironic if the great canon fundamentalist is now responsible for this mess. Moreover, electing Rehill as chancellor was totally unnecessary. He could have continued as attorney for the Standing Committee. Dah!

And what of the diocese and its future? If Bennison is convicted and tossed out, and that could take a couple of years, as there will certainly be an appeal, (Bennison gets one shot), then you can be sure the diocesan sodomites and theological lightweights will turn right around and elect a Bennison clone. Why? It is estimated that more than 25% of the clergy are either homosexuals or lesbians. Some thirty percent of the parishes cannot pay their way and only about 10 (out of 155) are financially viable. Money to the diocese is drying up faster than hair spray in the wind and parishes will continue to close.

Whoever is elected will be pro-gay, theologically light-headed, doctrinally dubious, ethically challenged but he should have a minor in business at Wharton School of Business so he can run down diocesan Trust Funds in an orderly manner and preach MDG's for Mrs. Jefferts Schori. There is not a prayer that the diocese will ever elect a bishop who is sound in faith and morals. Hell would freeze before that happened.

*****

And the DIOCESE OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA adopted five resolutions at its diocesan convention, one of which called for the blessing of same gender rites. Another one urged every congregation to examine its legal documents of title to real and personal property and encourage action to assure that the legal record reflects that all property is held in trust for the benefit of the diocese, in accordance with the canons of the Episcopal Church. They also called upon the General Convention to develop and authorize same-sex union blessing rites (a proposed substitute resolution was voted out of order and a motion to postpone this resolution to the 2008 Convention was defeated by a vote of 184 to 125).

*****

In the DIOCESE OF DALLAS it was not all doom and gloom despite the loss of some 3,500 parishioners this year. At their 112th annual convention Bishop James Stanton called for the election of a bishop suffragan and said the last year has been his most difficult, both personally and professionally, and among the most challenging that the diocese has experienced. Despite the departures of Christ Church in Plano, St. Matthias in Dallas, and Faith in Allen, and members of four other churches where those who remain are finding ways to move forward, totaling approximately 3,400 members, the diocese reported a increase of 1,013 members across the diocese. The diocese lost approximately 3,000 in average Sunday attendance (ASA), but when adjusted for that loss, the ASA increased from 12,400 to near 12,958.

In other news the diocese trained more than 80 lay evangelists and two recent church plants had continued rapid growth. Since 2004, the diocese's giving to domestic and foreign missions has increased at an average rate of 18 percent per year. Last year, it increased by more than 10 percent to total about $2.5 million. These donations came from local parishes and amounted to about 2.5 times their operating budgets and expenses. The way to grow outreach and missions, Stanton said, is to grow the church.

The convention passed resolutions to:

* commend Stanton for the manner in which he has dealt with departing churches;
* affirm evangelism; and
* express disappointment with the House of Bishop's response to the Primates' Communique.
* Rejected a resolution supporting Millennium Development Goals

The convention also passed a $3.5 million 2008 diocesan budget.

*****

In CANADA retired Bishop Donald Harvey left the Anglican Church of Canada and became a full-time bishop of the more conservative Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of the Americas, causing an uproar from one coast to the other. "Because of the unabated theological decay in the Anglican Church of Canada, many long-time Anglicans have already left their church and left Anglicanism," Bishop Harvey said in a statement.

This got New Westminster Bishop Michael Ingham in a real lather. He announced to the world that "full blown schism" had come to the Anglican Church of Canada and he threatened Harvey and any priests he laid hands on his diocese that he would visit them with his ecclesiastical wrath.

Undeterred a group of conservative Anglicans said they would start pulling out of the Canadian church with Bishop Harvey announcing that 18 to 20 Canadian congregations were considering joining the Southern Cone.

Anglican Church leaders tut tutted, sharply protesting the actions of Bishop Harvey and said such intrusions onto North American territory were unwelcome. "We cannot recognize the legitimacy of recent actions by the (Anglican) Province of the Southern Cone in purporting to extend its jurisdiction beyond its own borders," sniffed the leaders. "We call upon the archbishop of Canterbury (the head of the Church of England) to make clear that such actions are not a valid expression of Anglicanism."

*****

Another seismic shift in the way Canadian Anglicans are treating same-sex blessings made its way to the DIOCESE OF NIAGARA. In a historic weekend vote, Anglicans in the diocese moved overwhelmingly to adopt the so-called local option, allowing clergy "whose conscience permits" to bless the marriages of gays and lesbians. The Right Rev. Ralph Spence said he will allow same-sex blessings in the Niagara diocese, which includes Hamilton, Burlington and Guelph as well as the Niagara Region, once a protocol has been worked out.

Spence, who had refused to implement a similar vote three years ago, this time gave his assent, making Niagara the third diocese since the June General Synod convention to accept same-sex blessings. The dioceses of Ottawa and Montreal recently passed similar motions and their bishops have said they will consult widely before deciding whether to implement the decisions. (The Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster has offered blessings since 2002.) Civil marriage has been legal for homosexual couples since 2003.

Clergy and lay representatives from conservative parishes who view homosexuality as contrary to Scripture and traditional Christian teaching said they were not surprised at the decision, but greeted it with dismay. "Our diocese has taken a momentous step away from the (worldwide) Anglican Communion and the request of the primates (national archbishops). I grieve this as a member of this diocese and someone who is standing with other biblically-faithful members of the diocese," said Canon Charles Masters.

*****

Another Episcopal orthodox parish in Charlotte, in the DIOCESE OF NORTH CAROLINA defected this week with some 300 members and announced they had come under the ecclesiastical authority of the Province of West Africa. You can read VOL's exclusive story here or in today's digest http://tinyurl.com/2ajw5y. This parish and rector has come under the ecclesiastical authority of The Church of the Province of West Africa and the Most Rev. Justice Akrofi. Strunk has been licensed by the African Primate. Their visiting missionary bishop is the Rt. Rev. John Guernsey who was recently consecrated by the Most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi of Uganda.

*****

The Rev. Canon David C. Anderson, President of The American Anglican Council and Suffragan Bishop-elect CANA took a swipe at Mrs. Jefferts Schori this week, saying that the Presiding Bishop would rather have a nightclub in a vacant TEC church than negotiate.

"She is afraid that if TEC is forced to compete for the souls of men and women, they will lose badly because they have no life-giving Gospel. The orthodox Episcopal Churches that do preach the true Gospel are under persecution and are endangered, and if she has her way, she will drive the people and priest out and keep the building. Although both CANA (Convocation of Anglicans in North America) and AMiA (Anglican Mission in America) have US infrastructure and bishops, Schori seems to be focusing her rage on CANA for the moment. One of the realities of the realignment is that CANA, which is relatively young in its growth spurt, has expanded to 61 congregations and 12,000 baptized members, 10,000 of whom are former Episcopalians. The average Sunday attendance (ASA) is currently estimated at 9,600 which is a high ratio compared with TEC where less than 50% ASA would be expected. When people decide to leave and are mistreated and sued, they have a higher incentive to attend and support their local church. At 9,600 average Sunday attendance, CANA's ASA is higher than 70% of TEC's domestic dioceses."

*****

The trial phase of the case involving 11 Virginia congregations where the majority voted to leave The Episcopal Church last year ended Nov. 20, a day ahead of schedule, after lawyers for both sides agreed not to call an expert witness on Wednesday. A decision is unlikely before late January, however. Yesterday Fairfax Circuit Judge Randy I. Bellows requested submission of all closing arguments in writing no later Jan. 17. The schedule calls for lawyers for the 11 congregations to submit their closing brief by Dec. 21. The diocese and national church then have until Jan. 11 to respond, with lawyers for 11 congregations required to submit their reply no later than Jan. 17. In an article by Julia Duin of the Washington Times, Schori admitted that she forced Virginia Bishop Peter Lee to renege on his agreed Protocol with the departing congregations and instead, hit them with law suits.

*****

IRELAND seems to be heading for schism. The new bishop of Cashel and Ossory Michael Burrows is on the theologically liberal wing of the Church of Ireland and says he supports same-sex unions. According to Irish News Burrows regularly gives Holy Communion to parishioners in long-standing homosexual relationships. He claims that it is possible for the church to exist with two integrities on the subject of sexuality. As one of the Irish representatives on the Anglican Consultative Council, he stated in 2005 that the Church of Ireland "did not intend to break or impair communion" on the issue of 'same-sex affection'. This was challenged by Reform Ireland, who wondered "Who gave Canon Burrows such authority to speak for the whole of the Church of Ireland?"

*****

The ANGLICAN MISSION IN AMERICA will hold an "Anglican Studies seminar" in January 2008. The Fellows of the Anglican Mission invite anyone to join in the short course, "Introduction to Anglican Studies" at Pawley's Island, SC. The Course features excellence in lecture and discussion, resort accommodations, great meals, and three memorable days together. Speakers include:

Introduction to Anglican History and Polity by The Rt. Rev. C. FitzSimons Allison Introduction to Anglican Liturgy by The Rev. Chip Edgar Introduction to Anglican Theology by The Rt. Rev. Thomas Johnston and The Rev. Allen C. Hughes

Total Cost: $400.00. This fee includes the Course, accommodations at the beautiful Litchfield Beach and Golf Resort, lunch daily, and dinner on Monday and Tuesday. Transportation is not included. Reasonably priced flights serve nearby Myrtle Beach Airport via U.S.Airways. (A reduced fee of $250 applies to local residents).

To Register, please contact:
Ray Seigler
Fellows of the Anglican Mission in America
Call: (919) 349-5603 or
email: rayseigler@aol.com.

*****

Captains and Courts, a book demonstrating a Biblical Defense of Episcopal Government has been written by the Rt. Rev. Dr. Ray R. Sutton Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of Mid-America in the Reformed Episcopal Church and an active participant in the Common Cause Partnership. In this book, Dr. Sutton offers helpful ideas about the priesthood of all believers, the Lord's Supper, as well as a number of other topics. The central theme of his book is a positive Biblical defense for the Episcopalian form of Church government. Whether you are Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, or Independent, this book certainly deserves a thoughtful read. The book is available for free download from this website. http://www.biblelighthouse.com/govt/captains_and_courts.htm

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The EPISCOPAL CHURCH IN LIBERIA recently elected a new Bishop to succeed its current resident Bishop, Rev. Edward Neufville. The Rev. Jonathan Hart was elected at a special convention of the church on the campus of the Cuttington University College in Suacoco, Bong County. Hart was elected Dean of the Trinity Cathedral by the Cathedral Chapter of the Diocese and was subsequently installed on August 19, 2001 following his appointment. He holds a Master of Divinity Degree from the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, so there is little to suggest that he is theologically orthodox. When VOL finds out more about this person we will let you know.

*****

ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU one of the leading demolishers of apartheid continues to make the news. Once labeled "a rabble-rouser for peace", he recently gave vent to his feelings of shame for a worldwide Church which - as he sees it - is homophobic and "obsessed" with human sexuality. This is tragic, he says "in the context of a world suffering from war, poverty and disease". God must be weeping, he says, to see a Church with priorities so different from those of its Founder who first and foremost loved, welcomed and embraced all humanity.

Tutu does have his critics including former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, and US conservative Pittsburgh Bishop, Robert Duncan who accuse Tutu of engaging in caricature, special pleading and false theology.

Gavin Mitchell of Anglican Mainstream Southern Africa went on record with his disappointment of recent statements made by the retired Archbishop of Cape Town. "His statements indicate a failure to understand the nature of the crisis, which faces the Anglican Communion, a crisis that is inhibiting our ability to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to all. The present crisis in the Anglican Church is about the centrality of the Bible to what members of our church believe (our doctrine) and how we live out that belief in our daily lives (our moral standards). Sexuality is merely the presenting issue."

In fact the decisions by Anglicans in the USA to distance themselves from the official province of that country has to do with the conscious vote at the convention of 2003 not to affirm basic Anglican Articles of religion. One of which states: "However, it is not lawful for the church to order anything contrary to God's written Word."

*****

The "legendary meanderings" of the CofE Bishop of Southwark, Tom Butler, who after a reception at the Irish Embassy last December climbed into the back of someone else's car and then blamed amnesia not booze on his behavior is now being "honored" by a pub pilgrimage in honor of the besotted Bishop. Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent of The Times reports that a group of "merry" Christian gentlefolk are planning a pub-hopping Christmas pilgrimage to mark the first anniversary of The pilgrimage. It is being organized by the satirical Christian website ShipofFools as a fundraiser for Kids for Kids, the Sudan children's charity supported by the Bishop of Southwark. Butler, 67, is one of the most senior bishops in the Church of England and has consistently denied he was drunk on the night in question. During the events of the evening, he lost his briefcase, crucifix, mobile phone and memory. He turned up at his episcopal residence with a black eye, convinced he had been mugged. Right.

*****

ARDF Helping Cyclone Survivors. The Pittsburgh-based Anglican Relief and Development Fund is helping victims of the most devastating cyclone to hit Bangladesh in years. Cyclone Sidr ripped through the south of the country, killing thousands and leaving a trail of destruction. Anglican Relief and Development Fund is partnering with World Relief and Christian Service Society on the ground in Bangladesh to help deliver critical relief supplies to 6,900 families - approximately 34,500 people - in the worst hit Khuna and Dhaka regions.

*****

You can read all these stories and more in today's digest or click on any of the links provided to go straight to the story at the website.

VIRTUEONLINE WISHES ALL ITS U.S. READERS A VERY HAPPY THANKSGIVING.

*****

We are in the final weeks of the year and many of you will be considering donations to your favorite charities. Please consider a tax-deductible donation to VOL. We will need funds as we approach the expected costs of much travel in the New Year, at least two new computers (one a laptop), staff to pay and much more. Please consider how you might support VOL on an ongoing basis.

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All Blessings,

David W. Virtue DD

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