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DALLAS: Orthodox Bishop Drops Ball in "Debate" with Episcopal Presiding Bishop

DALLAS: Orthodox Bishop Drops Ball in "Debate" with Episcopal Presiding Bishop

News Analysis

By David W. Virtue

Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori tailored her message to a mostly conservative audience in a public "debate" with orthodox Episcopal Bishop William Frey declawing public criticism of her heretical utterances that saw questions restricted to the immediate context.

Jefferts Schori and William Frey, retired bishop of the Diocese of Colorado who is serving as the interim bishop of the Diocese of Rio Grande, addressed more than 700 people attending a Dec. 12 forum, "Who is Christ?" hosted by St. Michael and All Angels Church in the orthodox diocese of Dallas and its rector, the Rev. Bob Dannals.

Dallas diocesan Bishop James Stanton and Suffragan Bishop Paul Lambert attended the gathering, but did not make a public comment or attend the media briefing after the session ended, according to an ENS report. Jefferts Schori painted a compelling picture of social justice focusing on joy rather than hot button issues, catching her audience unawares. She carefully calibrated her message to a mostly conservative audience and, by all accounts, won the day.

Bishop Frey in his remarks was more anecdotal, focused on personal experience, occasionally touching on social justice and help for the poor and marginalized.

Sam Hodges, reporting for "The Dallas Morning Herald", said there were no fireworks at the Episcopal bishops' debate in North Dallas. In point of fact, there was no debate at all.

One bishop spoke deliberately, professorially, with flashes of droll humor and poetic phrasing. The other told stories from his long ministerial career, rounding them off with insights into Christian faith and practice, wrote Hodges.

What had been billed as a debate between the two yielded much common ground and no outright conflict on the identity and meaning of Jesus.

"I heard a great deal of convergence," Frey said afterward.

What a sad indictment of a golden opportunity missed to face down a woman who has:

* Refused to say that belief in Jesus is the only way to heaven.
* That personal salvation is a Western heresy.
* That she would never push Christianity on a Muslim because their religion is as good as ours.
* Asked during a question and answer if she believed in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ - "Well, his apostles sure thought so," she said. So she can't, but the apostles can.
* She has deposed more bishops in her still young term of office than have been deposed in all previous years put together.
* She would sooner sell an Episcopal parish to a saloon keeper than allow it to be sold to another Anglican jurisdiction.

Had the Apostle Paul been present, he would have ripped her wide open for the nonsense she is selling around the Anglican Communion. Frey played nice and talked about "convergence". He let her off the hook.

The truth is the "orthodox" have consistently, and to their enormous loss, engaged in politeness rather than risk being seen as intolerant or offensive for the sake of their belief. These were more than adequately captured in the responses of Bishop Frey.

At least one local Episcopal priest got angry enough that he and five colleagues wrote a letter to Bishop James Stanton of the Diocese of Dallas, protesting his decision to allow Jefferts Schori's visit. (Under Episcopal law, a diocesan bishop must give permission for a working visit by another bishop.)

"She hasn't guarded the faith. She has attacked the faith," said the Rev. Canon H.W. Herrmann, rector of the Church of St. David of Wales in Denton.

At times on Saturday, Jefferts Schori sounded like the pitch-perfect voice of orthodoxy, according to Hodges.

"Jesus is the ultimate sacrament of God in human flesh - that's what we're getting at when we say he's the only son of God. He's the unique demonstration of divinity in human flesh," she said.

Other times, Jefferts Schori took risks, including referring to Jesus as the "green savior" who requires that Christians protect the environment as part of God's creation.

She also wasn't afraid to get topical.

"The challenges of our current age include the ancient human desire to find a scapegoat, with the familiar targets in this society right now being Muslims and immigrants and gay people," she said. "Jesus' own witness is to continually reject that kind of response, for it always ends in violence and diminution of life."

Frey, much more anecdotal, also noted the requirements of Christians to work for justice and help the poor and marginalized.

He also stressed fidelity to the Bible, the personal transformation offered by faith in Christ and the importance of sharing the gospel.

"The church that doesn't evangelize will be evangelized by the culture in which it finds itself," he said.

During questions and answers, the bishops took on abortion, the role of faith in healing and whether non-Christians can get to heaven.

"It's not up to us to say this person's out" of heaven, Jefferts Schori said. "It's up to God."

At the event's conclusion, the bishops embraced and drew a standing ovation. Among those who were pleased was Stanton - the Dallas bishop and a well-known conservative who has differed with Jefferts Schori on church issues, said an observer.

So the question that must be asked is why did he embrace a heretic? Why didn't he challenge Jefferts Schori on her public statements that deny "the faith once delivered for all to the saints"? How could he look a fellow orthodox bishop in the eye like Bishop Robert Duncan and say, "Hey, Bob, we are all on the same side."

Frey lost it. He practiced the time-honored shibboleth of Episcopal niceness. He lost an apologetics moment to call Mrs. Jefferts Schori on her heresies and face her down publicly before 700 nice Episcopalians with the truth that the Presiding Bishop is an apostate, a woman who is not even a Christian by the simplest of biblical standards.

Even Stanton praised her saying, "I thought it was a very constructive dialogue. It was nourishing to everyone, I think."

She tailored her remarks to her audience and didn't once utter any of the revisionist clap-trap so reminiscent at GC2009, said an observer. She won the day. The orthodox just got blind-sided one more time. Dwindling orthodox Episcopalians deserve to lose the church. No guts no glory.

The Rev. Bob Dannals, the rector, who put on this dog and pony show got himself into hot water before Jefferts Schori showed up. He invited the Presiding Bishop some seven months earlier to celebrate without informing Bishop Stanton. The Dallas bishop did not know about this until recently and had a tough decision to make. Stanton is on record as saying she would never be allowed to celebrate in his diocese. Dannals publicized that she would celebrate on Sunday, without again informing the bishop prior to the event. According to a source, he was fuming earlier in the week and also on Saturday.

An orthodox rector who was present told VOL, "The sad thing is that I think she won converts in this diocese. Those who have been unsure about her or suspicious of her leadership are in her camp now. That won't help us in maintaining orthodoxy."


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