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New Georgia Bishop says he has 'A different way of being Christian'. Does he?

New Georgia Bishop says he has 'A different way of being Christian'. Does he?
Benhase blames Fundamentalists for church divide

News Analysis

By David W. Virtue

The Rev. Scott Benhase, bishop-elect of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia who replaces retiring Bishop. Henry I. Louttit, blames fundamentalists for the church’s problems.

In an essay written during his nomination process, Benhase described what "may be the most important call God is giving us as a church right now: To stand between the virulent fundamentalists (no matter their religious stripe) and the cultured despisers of religion by witnessing to the reconciling love of Jesus."

"My hunch is there are a lot of Georgians who think they have only two choices: adopt the fundamentalist agenda hook, line and sinker or reject Christianity as being irrelevant. Wouldn't it be compelling to show them a different way of following Jesus?"

Benhase does not tell us who these “fundamentalists” are, but, like alleged homophobes in the church they are easy targets and must be stamped out and replaced with people richly overflowing with diversity, inclusivity and pluriformity. They must also breathe the free air of pansexuality because Benhase says the consecration of Gene Robinson is a good thing that the church approached with “humility and faith.”

Never mind that Robinson’s consecration has seen the church plunge in parishioners, plate and parishes to a mere shadow of its former self. God is clearly doing a “new thing” and Benhase is on the cutting edge of the Omniscient One’s mindset. That ACNA might be the “new thing” is clearly not on Benhase’s radar screen. Perhaps they are the fundamentalists foretold by John Shelby Spong, the baptizer of all things post-modern. The truth is there are no fundamentalists in Anglicanism. There are evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics, progressives, moderates, liberals and revisionists, but there are no fundamentalists. This is a straw man raised up to tear down and Benhase does a good job doing that.

Modus Operandi

Benhase believes he has the answer to the tensions in the church and his modus operandi, allegedly supported by God and the Holy Spirit can bridge the spiritual divide.

"When we're in dilemmas, the worst thing we can do is try to force a resolution before one appears," Benhase said. "I think God's m.o. (modus operandi) and the Holy Spirit's m.o. is that if we remain faithful and stay together and bare one another's burdens long enough, the Holy Spirit almost always has a tendency to provide a way forward."

"We have the opportunity to be witnesses to a different way of being Christian: one that takes discipleship in Jesus seriously, but also one that is open to the new things the Holy Spirit is up to in the world.”

The Ohio native will have an opportunity to prove that and apply his “different way” on a larger scale starting January 23,when he takes the reins of the diocese in legal turmoil over who owns the 277-year-old “mother church," - Christ Church - in historic downtown Savannah.

Christ Church

In 2007, the diocese, the national church and a local Episcopal parish sued Christ Church Savannah after it severed ties with the denomination but remained on the church property. Christ Church leaders accused TEC of consecrating a non-celibate homosexual to the episcopacy and diluting the authority of Holy Scripture.

In October 2009, Christ Church appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court after a Chatham County judge ruled that the property belongs to the diocese and The Episcopal Church. The ownership issue still remains unresolved.

The new bishop has three options. Firstly, he can let them go to “love and serve the Lord” allowing them to keep their property and worship as Anglicans. Secondly, he could extract fair market value for the property, take the money, and end the litigation with everyone still speaking to each other and to him.

Now he has historic precedence for this. Both the bishops of Central Florida (John W. Howe) and Dallas (Jim Stanton), both orthodox men, did this with minimal heartache and zero legal fees. Will Benhase follow their lead?

The third option is to continue fighting for the property, in all likelihood winning it back, but in so doing lose 90% of the parish, which he will then reduce to mission status, put in a retired non-stipendary vicar and watch it gather moss. The portraits of Wesley and Whitfield (who ministered there) will be removed and replaced with portraits of Jefferts Schori and David Booth Beers.

All the bets are that he will go for option three. After all, he is a team player with Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and the rest of the liberal and revisionist House of Bishops several of whom are spending millions of dollars litigating to retain parishes they believe belong to them. Four dioceses are in deep litigation as we write.

Gays and Lesbians

Benhase has voiced support of the national church's decision to allow gays and lesbians to be ordained as deacons and priests. "Our church has acted with humility in faith, and I believe that the church has acted rightly," he said in an August sermon to members of St. Alban's Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. one of five parishes where he has been rector.

One local resident, Jamie Maury, a member of the local chapter of Integrity USA, the openly Episcopal pansexual organization, praised the election of Benhase. “This is an encouraging sign for Episcopalians who support gay and lesbian clergy. We're very excited, very happy," he said.

An endorsement by the Integrity organization should send loud signals to orthodox clergy in the diocese that they might be the “fundamentalists” of whom Benhase is speaking. They might want to consider their options as he takes the helm.

In other sermon revelations, Benhase compares Jesus to a Zen master. In a sermon delivered at St. Alban’s in Washington DC he said, “The reason Jesus sounds like Zen Master in today’s Gospel is that too many people don’t understand what Jesus is up to.” Really.

That he accepts such non-biblical and unholy sexual positions and calls the church’s actions filled with “humility in faith” shows that he is not in touch with Biblical revelation and totally ignores the “humility” Jefferts Schori has demonstrated litigating and deposing more bishops than any other bishop in modern history, in fact more than all presiding bishops’ in the Twentieth Century. Significant humility was required to do this.

He also cannot ignore the fact that many now believe true Anglicanism in North America resides in the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) and not in TEC, except for perhaps a half dozen dioceses and scattered parishes across the country. The vast majority of Global South archbishops who make up GAFCON actually believe ACNA is the future and TEC is the past!

That he obtained consents so easily further demonstrates that he is and will be a team player with Jefferts Schori, Gene Robinson et al and will, in all likelihood give consents to Nancy Glasspool an avowed lesbian to be the next Suffragan Bishop of Los Angeles.

So then what exactly is Bishop Benhase’s “different way of being a Christian”?

The answer is that it doesn’t exist, except in his mind.

When he was at St. Philip's in Durham, NC this is what he said about the church's mission.

"St Philip's is a holy place where we worship God. Our worship forms us into a community of Christians. By prayer, sacrament, and fellowship, we nourish and sustain one another in our individual lives and ministries. We obey the Gospel call to bring the light of hope in Jesus Christ to all people. We offer welcome, support, food, and shelter to all in need without pride, prejudice, or judgment. We have responsibility to the entire Durham community, especially our downtown neighborhood."

Note there is no mention of the gospel as a place where one would hear the Good News of God's grace, where repentance, confession and faith in Jesus Christ is preached and newness of life in Him is found.

He will say and do nothing to give gospel-driven Georgian Episcopalians any hope or comfort. They have no future in his diocese. He will, over time, squash them like bugs, all in the name of “humility in faith” of course, not to mention inclusivity, diversity, pluriformity and any all other Episcopal shibboleths.

The die has been cast it is only a matter of time. You will conform or else. Benhase has spoken.

On January 23, Benhase will be consecrated the 10th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia in a formal ceremony taking place at the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center. It will be his beginning; for orthodox clergy and laity in the diocese it will be their end.


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