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VOL@GC'06: Woman PB to lead Church...Liberals elated, Conservatives Deflated

"It seems the Episcopal Church has lived up to the name of its great missionary and former presiding bishop, Rev. Philander Chase, who founded Trinity Episcopal Church in Columbus in 1817. Trinity was the site of the Gay Eucharist on Friday evening. Finally, Trinity has embraced the legacy of its founder by becoming the Church of Philanderers." --Hans Zeiger, VirtueOnline correspondent at GC2006.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

They elected the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Bishop of Nevada, on the fifth ballot in formal pageantry on Sunday at Trinity Church, Columbus amidst enormously tight security. She is the first ever woman to be elected presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, and her election comes at a time the ECUSA is trying to reconcile itself with the wider Anglican communion over its sexuality policies. The convention chose to elect not only a pro-gay presiding bishop but the communion's first female provincial leader.

This, when some provinces don't accept women's ordination, and only three provinces presently have them (U.S. Canada, New Zealand (retired)).

Her election was a stunning surprise. She was a dark horse candidate, a long shot from the beginning. How she got it with all the backroom politics is a story VOL managed to obtain, and it will be posted at the website as soon as it is cleared by my attorney.

If the church stands for homosexuals, what else does it stand for? According to Bishop Jefforts Schori, "As a church we have got to be better self-differentiated. We have to decide what it is we are going to stand for and be clear about it, and then say 'these are the consequences.' Yes, Anglicans don't much like to do that, but we do do it about some things: We have over the years said we don't believe in the death penalty. We have said that we don't believe that abortion is a good choice, but that it needs to be available. We stand up over and over again for social justice issues in the government. So we're able to be clear on some things even when there is a variety of opinion across the church."

So the church knows where it stands, at least according to the new P.B., on a handful of issues that are all...political. Indeed, not a single certainty listed by Bishop Jefforts Schori is theological in nature. She lists the death penalty, abortion, and government issues. As for the Virgin Birth, the Divinity of Christ, the truth of Scripture, the existence of hell, the reality of sin-there is less agreement on those things among the liberal elite of the Episcopal Church. And so the church remains without the identity and purpose that the Rev. Dr. Sachs says people desire. There you have it, the table is big enough for all of us, but for many, they won't be staying - it will damage their souls, and that is far too high a price to pay.

In an outspoken interview with The Daily Telegraph, the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, said that divisions between liberals and conservatives were so profound that a compromise was no longer possible. He is visiting the Episcopal Church General Convention at the invitation of the conservative organization, the American Anglican Council.

He increased the pressure on the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, to take firm action against the liberal American leadership.

"Anglicans are used to fudging things sometimes, but I think this is a matter of such seriousness that fudge won't do," said Bishop Nazir-Ali.

"Sometimes you have to recognize that there are two irreconcilable positions and you have to choose between them.

AT A PRESS conference today we got a glimpse of Bishop Jefforts Schori. She is very, very smooth, a female version of Frank Griswold. She never gave concrete or direct answers to questions posed to her about ECUSA's preoccupation with sexuality and V. Gene Robinson's homosexuality. All she could say was that "issues of sexuality come in the hierarchy of needs." Really.

Questioned on orthodox reaction to her election, she uttered the all too familiar mantra of Frank Griswold: "God welcomes all...people who agree and disagree including a variety of theologies and variety of opinions...all are welcome at His table."

When asked by the Florida Times Union religion writer Jeff Brumley about how she would reach out to those orthodox who feel alienated, all she could come up with was that alienation is often a function of not knowing another human being. "My witness is about good relationships, and building relationships with people who disagree with me."

When questioned by British Anglican Mainstream writer canon Dr. Chris Sugden about fundamental issues of doctrine, she morphed the question, saying that the majority of the church is concerned with more fundamental issues like inadequate housing and unclean water in poor countries. Those are the places we need to start, she said. She spoke glowingly of her roots in the Roman Catholic Church, and said she was brought into the Episcopal Church by her parents when she was nine.

When Church of England newspaperman Andrew Carey asked her about whether she would support the moratoria against the future consecrations of gay bishops, she dodged the question by saying she supported the work of the special committee legislative committee.

And so it went. Jefforts Schori dodged and weaved her way through her first press conference like an old pro, with Soutane-dressed Frank Griswold sitting next to her grinning like a Cheshire cat.

You can read a full digest of stories on Mrs. Jefforts Schori, including statements from the Network, AAC and Forward in Faith. But questions remain.

"What do these conservative statements really mean?" said one keen observer. "Are they staying in the Episcopal Church? If so, do they recognize her as the presiding bishop of their church? Do they recognize her authority under the national canons to take disciplinary action against diocesan bishops? Are they at last willing to cross diocesan lines? What, if anything, are they willing to do except issue statements and wait for retirement?

But one deputy did speak up against Jefforts Schori's election. Deputy Eddie Blue of Maryland said, "I am shocked, dismayed and saddened by the choice of the House of Bishops." Citing strains within the Anglican Communion concerning issues of gender and sexuality, he told the House that: "We are acting as imperialists, as we often do."

Finally, Trinity Episcopal Church was founded in 1817 by the Rev. Philander Chase, a frontier missionary and Ohio's first Episcopal bishop. Chase founded two religious colleges, served as presiding bishop of the U.S. Episcopal Church, and was the first Protestant to preach in the city of New Orleans. His was the classical Anglican faith of the Founding Fathers.

In a Good Friday Sermon about Isaiah 53 that Philander Chase preached as a young man, he criticized those who disregarded the truth of the Bible in his day. "If the mere assertions, (of people, who talk much but read little, and think still less,) are to be the grounds of our exploding truths, and of giving up our belief in matters of the highest importance, which have been examined and credited by the wisest of men, Where shall we end?"

Bishop Chase, if he were to return to his old Trinity Church for the gay Eucharist would find there the answer to his question. For there it seems the Episcopal Church had its end.

In the words of the prophet Jeremiah: "For the pastors have become dull-hearted, and have not sought the LORD: therefore they shall not prosper, and all their flocks shall be scattered." Jer.10:21

All Blessings,

David W. Virtue DD

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