Thursday, October 30, 2003
Forward in Faith NA to Hold Urgent Meeting After Robinson's
FIF/NA's Executive Committee and Council will meet November 3-5 to
discuss strategy for going forward in support of orthodox Anglicanism.
The highly opposed consecration of V. Gene Robinson as Bishop Coadjutor
of New Hampshire has created this opportune moment.
The Rev'd Canon Bill Atwood, who has for years made possible the
communication and cooperation between orthodox Primates around the
world, will once again be present with his invaluable input. The Most
Rev'd Bernard Malango, Primate of Central Africa, who, along with more
than half of the Primates worldwide, strongly supports the orthodox in
North America, will participate. The Rt. Rev'd John Broadhurst,
Chairman of Forward in Faith International, will also contribute.
Recent events have brought to a head the irreconcilable situation in
ECUSA which has developed over several decades. With various orthodox
and conservative organizations cooperating, an orthodox Province in
North America must now be established, thus fulfilling of the
landscaped goal of Forward in Faith, North America.
Because of their opposition to this consecration, the Archbishop of
Canterbury and the Primates of the Anglican Communion have declared
their support of "adequate episcopal oversight" for orthodox Anglicans,
free of the control of the revisionists in ECUSA. "Adequate" episcopal
oversight means satisfactory to those who receive it.
FIF/NA is the largest and oldest orthodox Anglican organization in
North America. More than 25,000 North Americans and North American
parishes have signed "Declarations of Common Faith and Purpose."
The Rev'd Dr. David L. Moyer, President
Lay Canon Cris Fouse, National/International Field Director
IF ROBINSON IS CONSECRATED IT WILL BE A SCHISMATIC ACT SAYS ORTHODOX BISHOP
Bishop's Address to the Annual Convention of the Diocese of San Joaquin
The Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield October 28, 2003
St. James' Cathedral, Fresno, California
As we begin the 44th Annual Convention of the Diocese of San Joaquin,
I would like to thank Fr. Jim Snell who, as President of the Standing
Committee, took on the responsibility of chairing last year's
Convention. I am deeply indebted to many of you, and especially the
members of my staff, for carrying on the work of the Church during the
lengthy time of recovery following my accident in the Los Angeles
Airport. I would also like to single out for special thanks the people
of Holy Family, Fresno, who - once I was well enough - brought Holy
Communion to me daily. Some years ago with what appeared to be the
break up of the Royal Family in England, during her Christmas Day
address to the nation, Queen Elizabeth said: "This has been my ANNUS
HORIBILIS." Borrowing from her Majesty, I must say the same for this
year - both personally and for the Church! Thankfully in both spheres I
see signs of healing and hope.
I would much prefer to direct your attention - at this time - to the
exciting work in progress within this diocese and beyond to the foreign
missions field, for this has been a remarkably fruitful year for us in
ministry and in building. However, I am keenly aware that you have come
to this Convention with urgent questions which need to be answered both
for yourselves and for those you represent.
In this time of tension, there are two major questions. First, where
ARE we? And, second, where are we HEADED? I will attempt to avoid two
temptations in making an answer - namely, belaboring what is already
familiar and speculating over what the future might hold. As is true of
all our lives, we live in the "in-between-times." For Christians that
would mean in between Jesus' death on the Cross, Resurrection, and
Ascension and His coming again in great triumph. Our focus today,
however, must be on the immediate present.
First, then, where ARE we? Months before General Convention this
summer, the Presiding Bishop made it known that he did not want any
discussion of sexuality at Minneapolis nor did he want controversy. The
Diocese of New Hampshire put an end to these wishes in short order. By
electing Canon V. Gene Robinson to the Episcopate the people of New
Hampshire insured that the business of Convention - no matter what else
it included - would revolve around a man who is a non-celibate
homosexual and who divorced his wife in order to live with another man.
In fairness to the liberal members of the Church, it is very likely
that they did not believe this would stir up the controversy nor bring
about the consequences that it has. As was stated on the floor of both
houses of Convention - despite dire predictions to the contrary - the
confirmation of this election would have no more lasting effect than
the adoption of a new Book of Common Prayer or permission for women to
be ordained to the major orders of the Church.
They foresaw a storm. They expected shrill voices in opposition, but
they had no idea of what was to come!
Unlike what had happened in the past, this action plus the recognition
that same sex blessings were taking place in a surprisingly large
number of dioceses, flew directly in the face of the clear decision of
the bishops from around the world meeting at the Lambeth Conference of
1998. General Convention's actions were seen to be a clear rejection of
what has been asked of the American Church by the Anglican Communion.
And, for many of us the consecration of a non-celibate homosexual
remains a startling violation of what is required in our Prayer Book,
namely that a bishop be a wholesome example to the flock.
The reaction to this man's approval has been swift and decisive. When
20 of us bishops wrote electronically to the Archbishop of Canterbury
that he intervene in the crisis that had overtaken the Episcopal Church
in the USA, he responded within 3 hours by calling for an emergency
meeting of the 37 other Primates around the world. In all of our
history as Anglicans, this has never happened before.
At the beginning of this month of October a gathering of 2,700
concerned Episcopalians - a greater number than all the deputies and
bishops attending General Convention - assembled in Dallas, Texas.
Official news services of ECUSA described those who attended as ANGRY
EPISCOPALIANS. Nothing could have been further from the truth! Many of
you were there! You saw what happened! Adult men wept openly as 46
bishops, 807 priests, 48 deacons, and 105 seminarians marched in
procession to open this meeting where 4,000 from every state in the
Union had come to worship.
For some it had been a long time since they had encountered so many
faithful believers in church! Joy, hope, anticipation filled the Dallas
gathering as they prayed and worked together to formulate a document to
be sent to the Primates who would meet in London the following week.
That document was called "A Call to Action." There isn't a word in it
that I do not heartily endorse. And, in a moment, I shall read it to
The Primates, meeting at Lambeth Palace, London October 15 and 16
responded. At first, it appeared that they had backed away from the
very actions needed to deal with the American Church, but as the
Primates' Statement has been "unpacked" by those who were there, we
discover it is a most appropriate and strong response. In essence, the
1) The official teachings of the Anglican Communion world-wide on human
sexuality is that which was proclaimed at Lambeth 1998.
2) The Scriptures are our basis for faith and action.
3) Both the General Convention and the Diocese of New Westminster are wrong
in the recent decisions made about homosexuality.
4) If the American Church proceeds with the Consecration of Gene Robinson to
the Episcopate on November 2, 2003 that, in itself, will be a schismatic act
and will tear at the fabric of the Anglican Communion. And,
5) A study commission will be established to report back in 12 months - NOT -
as many supposed to talk about sexuality - but to discern the proper way to
realign the Anglican Communion if needs be AND to look at the legal matters
concerning the disciplining of rebellious provinces within the Communion.
What does all this mean? The Primates have stated unequivocally, that
if the American Church consecrates Robinson as Bishop, that will be a
schismatic act. That, alone, will cause a division in the Anglican
Communion! Where are WE headed? We're not the ones leaving! Did you
hear what the Primates said? If the liberals go forward with the
Consecration in New Hampshire November 2nd THEY will - by that act -
LEAVE the Church and go into schism!
Just this past week, Gene Robinson was asked to stand down as his
counterpart, Canon Jeffrey Johns, had done in England. He said he had
asked God if he should stand down, and God had not told him to do so.
My friends, when God has ALREADY spoken He does not speak again! He has
ALREADY spoken in His Word and Commandments. If, for example, He says:
"Thou shalt not steal," I can't expect Him to answer or say something
different when I ask, "But, in this instance, Lord, is it all right for
me to steal?"
Let us be clear. A slight difference in the interpretation of Scripture
does not, no - CANNOT - cause the dramatic turn of events of this month
to take place! (There are those, in the church, who - for whatever
reason - cannot see the plain meaning of Scripture.) The attempt of
General Convention to wed the Body of Christ to an immoral society in
which we live, however, must be seen for what it is - another agenda!
The Apostle Paul would call it "another Gospel!" And his advice to the
Galatians remains true today. "Not that there is another gospel, but
there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the Gospel of
Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a
gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed."
(Gal. 1:7 and 8) Those are strong words! But strong words are needed,
for what is at stake is not a simple difference of opinion but the
authority of Scripture and men's souls!
Am I being too dramatic? No! We are involved with eternal matters, and
our battle is not against Gene Robinson or flesh and blood but the
subtle wiles of a spiritual enemy.
Thank God there are enough of us remaining to stand up and stand upon
the Word of God, for it is likely that had we been few in numbers at
Minneapolis, in Plano, in Dallas, and throughout the Anglican Communion
the battle could have gone a very different way. Make no mistake, our
souls' enemy NEVER gives up! Those of us who stand with Scripture will
be smeared personally as will our motives.
I have to smile, for in the midst of all the Church is going through we
have already heard from Gene Robinson who says those who oppose his
consecration most vehemently are white males still trying to impose
Patriarchalism on everyone else. Somehow I don't think that line of
reasoning will play well in Africa, Asia, or South America!
On the contrary, if we love our brothers and sisters - no matter HOW
painful the truth may appear at first - we cannot turn away from it.
Nor can we turn away from THEM. It is the truth alone that sets us
free! If we are to be true to our calling, it is to those whose life-
styles are destructive (no matter how they protest) that we must reach
out. NO-ONE is beyond the lifegiving, transforming power of Christ. His
Cross is for EVERYONE! But, if there is no repentance, no desire for
change, neither the Lord Christ nor His Cross can do their work in ANY
Frank Tracy Griswold, Presiding Bishop of ECUSA, has signed the
Primates' Statement that points to Robinson's consecration as a
schismatic act. He has also intimated that he will be the chief
consecrator on November 2 in New Hampshire. How he can do both - if he
does - is beyond me. To commit to such an action takes the Presiding
Bishop's teaching on "pluriform truth" into duplicity itself!
Where do we go from here? We cannot know what will happen in New
Hampshire... nor the immediate and far reaching consequences of
whatever will take place there. What I can assure you of is this: I am
first a Bible believing Catholic Christian, and I find my place in the
great mainstream of World-wide Anglicanism. A "Call to Action" adopted
by 2700 Anglicans on October 9th this year, the 15th Anniversary of my
own consecration as bishop, sums up where I must stand, and I invite
you to stand with me.
"As Anglican Christians [we are] committed to the Lordship of Jesus
Christ, under the authority of Holy Scripture, and members of God's
one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church;
We proclaim our Lord's Great Commandment and His Great Commission to be
our life's highest calling.
We repudiate the 74th General Convention's confirmation of a non-
celibate homosexual to be a bishop of the Church, and its acceptance of
same-sex blessings as part of our common life. These actions have
broken fellowship with the larger body of Christ and have brought the
Episcopal Church under God's judgment.
We repent of our part in the sins of the Episcopal Church, and we pray
for all those who are being hurt and led astray by these actions.
We call the leadership of the Episcopal Church to repent of and reverse
the unbiblical and schismatic actions of the General Convention.
We declare our commitment to the Lord's life-giving teaching about
sexuality and marriage embraced by Christians throughout all ages, and
as armed by the 1998 Lambeth Conference. We celebrate God's
unconditional love for all people, and we proclaim God's transforming
power for everyone seeking sexual purity and wholeness.
We redirect our financial resources, to the fullest extent possible,
toward biblically orthodox mission and ministry, and away from those
structures that support the unrighteous actions of the General
Convention. We will support our partners in the Anglican Communion.
7. We appeal to the Primates of the Anglican Communion to intervene in
the Episcopal Church to:
a. Discipline those bishops in the Episcopal Church who, by their actions,
have departed from biblical faith and order;
b. Guide the realignment of Anglicanism in North America;
c. Encourage orthodox bishops as they extend episcopal oversight, pastoral
care, and apostolic mission across current diocesan boundaries; and
d. Support isolated and beleaguered parishes and individuals in their life
and witness as faithful Anglican Christians. To the glory of God. Amen"
SAN JOAQUIN DIOCESE WILL REMAIN IN ECUSA
But funds will be re-directed
By David W. Virtue
A resolution to remain in the Anglican Communion was passed with a
strong majority, at the recent Diocese of San Joaquin convention, but a
financial resolution by the Rev. Gordon Kamai to redirect monies away
from the Episcopal Church was defeated by the laity in a vote by
orders, but funds were redirected when voting on the 2004 proposed
budget was held.
The bottom line: $42,000 which was slated to support the budget of the
Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society will be directed instead toward
At a budget hearing a motion to redirect the line item of the national
asking away from the national church and for it to be given to African
ministries affected by the actions of the national church, was passed
by a strong majority.
Fr. Van McAlester moved that the "National Asking" money be diverted to
support the "African Outreach Committee". This was passed by a vote by
orders, which was approved both by the clergy, and by the lay order.
The diocesan convention made three strong statements: The people of the
Diocese strongly rebuked the actions of the 74th General Convention of
ECUSA; all moneys originally slated to support the Budget of the
national church are redirected to African Ministries in 2004 and a
change to the assessment canon was approved reducing the assessment
rate 1/2% per year until all congregations will be assessed only 10%.
THE FOLLOWING RESOLUTION TO CONTINUE IN THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION WAS
Whereas, the 74th General Convention of the Episcopal Church of the
United States of America (ECUSA), departed from the Church's historic
moral teaching by ratifying the episcopal election of the Diocese of
New Hampshire and by adopting Resolution C051, and
Whereas, the 74th General Convention, in the aforesaid actions,
departed from established norms for the authority and interpretation of
Holy Scripture, rejected the tradition of the Church, and denied the
consensus of the Anglican Communion expressed at the Lambeth Conference
of 1998, and
Whereas, the Anglican Primates have stated on October 16, 2003, that
"these actions threaten the unity of our own Communion as well as our
relationships with other parts of Christ's Church, our mission and
witness and our relations with other faiths, in a world already
confused in areas of sexuality, morality and theology, and polarised
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED
THAT it is the mind of this 44th annual convention of the Diocese of
San Joaquin that this diocese shall continue as a constituent part of
the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, upholding and
propagating Holy Scripture and the historic Faith and Order of the
Church as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer and,
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, THAT
1. We proclaim that marriage is intended by God to be the faithful
life-long union of one man and one woman, and that sexual intimacy is
to be experienced only within the framework of marriage.
2. We repudiate the 74th General Convention's confirmation of a non-
celibate homosexual to be a bishop of the Church, and its acceptance of
same-sex blessings as "within the bounds of our common life".
3. We call for Canon Gene Robinson to step aside from being
consecrated as a bishop, for the sake of the unity of the Church.
4. We appeal to the Primates of the Anglican Communion to continue
their pastoral intervention in the Episcopal Church.
The Rev. Jack Estes St. Luke's, Bakersfield
"The diocese has been re-directing most of the national asking for a
many years. The first reduction had to do with diocesan stewardship,
not as a "statement" of withholding. The next reduction, though, was a
complaint issue, which dropped us to about 20% of Asking," said Estes.
"We were asked to give around $220,000 for 2004. When the last
reduction began, we were re-directing monies to the "African
Ministries" line item, and World Missions. The extra funds were no
longer there for African Ministries, which explains why it was zero-ed
out for 2004, leaving only the asking, based on last year's %, and
World Missions," he said.
PUERTO RICO BISHOP FIRES THREE ORTHODOX PRIESTS
By David W. Virtue
SAN JUAN, PR--The Episcopal Bishop of Puerto Rico imposed disciplinary
sanctions, inhibiting three biblically orthodox priests this week,
because they criticized his stand supporting ECUSA's position on same-sex
marriages and the consecration of non-celibate Gene Robinson to the
The three priests are the Rev. Dr. Dennis Paris, who is a university
academic, the Rev. Dr. Manuel A. Rivera assistant priest of the Spanish
speaking congregation at the cathedral church of St. John Baptist and
the Rev. Pedro Balleste, a senior cleric now inactive in the diocese.
The Bishop of the Diocese of Puerto Rico, of the Episcopal Church of
the United States, is David A. Alvarez and he inhibited the three
priests, the day before the diocesan convention, last Friday, October
24. The reason given by the Bishop was that all three men had broken
their ordination vows of obedience to the Bishop.
What happened was this.
Dr. Paris had written a book (in Spanish) against the arguments
presented by revisionists for the consecration of Canon Gene Robinson.
Dr. Paris is a graduate professor at the College of Education in the
University of Puerto Rico and is an ordained priest serving as
assistant to the rector of Holy Family parish in San Justo, PR.
The book was sent to the bishop three weeks before it's presentation.
He received it and said nothing. Two days before diocesan convention
the book appeared in bookstores including Borders. Bishop Alvarez heard
about it and ordered that the book be taken out of the bookstores and
that a public presentation of the book, which was held on Thursday at
the University of Puerto Rico, be canceled.
"I did not have enough time to pull the book even if I wanted too,"
said Professor Paris, who is also an active diocesan priest. "There is
also the issue of free speech. Did the bishop really think a book could
or would be pulled on his say so?"
The panel discussion set up by the university went ahead as planned
before a huge crowd of students and faculty members. In a news
interview for local television, Dr. Paris told the island's population
that, the book was being discussed before the diocesan convention
because there was a resolution which would repudiate ECUSA's General
Convention decision regarding the Gene Robinson consent, he told
Virtuosity by phone from San Juan.
The other two priests were disciplined for participating in the panel
discussion of the book, he said.
"Before going back into ECUSA I questioned the bishop's stand. Why get
back on a boat [ECUSA] that is sinking? The bishop said those issues
would not come here to PR, that is, same-sex blessings and the
ordination of non-celibate homosexuals. Now he claims the Holy Spirit
is leading him to think differently."
Dr. Paris said that in the book he presented the bishop's pastoral
letter and critiqued it along with all the arguments supporting sex
outside of marriage. "I wrote a chapter on each issue and refuted it.
When the bishop finally read the book he said it had to be removed from
the stores or I would be in trouble. I could not even if I wanted too."
"In this diocese dissidents are not allowed to talk. The three of us
were the most vocal opponents of the bishop. The book was presented on
one day, the next day we were all inhibited and the third day the
Diocesan Convention was held. A resolution we had repudiating General
Convention's decision, was removed and we were silenced. They succeeded
in silencing the most vocal opposition," he said.
"Each priest received letters late Friday afternoon, from Bishop David
Alvarez, informing us that we could no longer function as priests in
the diocese, nor could we participate in the convention, to be held the
next day," he told Virtuosity.
"This is how Bishop Alvarez deals which those who dissent on these
issues, by censuring, book burning and persecuting those of us who have
stood up for the Faith. While the Bishop and those who hold his
position have been campaigning publicly in the media for over two
months with the liberal line, we are not allowed to do the same for the
"We [three priests] are in need of what the Primates of the Anglican
Communion called "adequate provision for episcopal oversight of
The Diocese of Puerto Rico was invited back into the Episcopal Church
at the last General Convention. They had been an extra provincial
dioceses and needed a better pension fund.
The other reason for going back is that the bishop wanted to crash land
the diocese back into the revisionist climate of ECUSA.
The following two letters were sent by Bishop Alvarez to Dr. Paris.
They are published here on Virtuosity.
Dear Father Dennis,
Having been unsuccessful in having an interview with you, I now proceed
to indicate to you the purpose of this letter.
I have received information that you have made a new printing of the
publication "The Error of the General Convention of the Episcopal
Church - Why we cannot follow it", and that this same publication is
being put on sale in Borders Bookstores.
It has also come to our attention that next Thursday you are planning a
lecture on this subject in the University of Puerto Rico.
Both are violations of the authorization that I gave you and the
agreement which we have had among the clergy that writings on this
theme would be with the purpose of internal dialogue which we have been
For that reason, I admonish you that you must withdraw the copies of
the pamphlets which are on sale in the aforementioned bookstore or
other bookstores; and that you also suspend any public lecture on the
If you do not do this, you will be under ecclesiastical discipline for
actions which imply the violation of your ordination vows and you will
be inhibited from exercising in this Diocese.
I trust in your prudence in light of the seriousness of this warning
against the undisciplined action which you have taken.
I remain, in Christ,
+David Andres Alvarez, Bishop
Esteemed Father Paris,
I am writing you as a follow-up to my letter of Oct. 21, with respect
to your violation of ecclesiastical discipline. You corroborated for me
in a telephone conversation your sale in Borders Books and also the
lecture which is to take place on Oct. 23. Furthermore, you proceeded
with both actions which are contrary to the authorization and
understanding on publications and on the handling internally of the
For that reason, according to Title IV, Canon 1, Sec. 1(e), you have
entered into the following violations of your ordination vows, since
you have not fulfilled what has been indicated in my letter and in my
The Ordination of a Deacon- (B.C.P. p. 543) Bishop: Will you be guided
by the pastoral direction and leadership of your Bishop: Answer: I
The Ordination of a Priest - (B.C.P. p. 532) Bishop: Will you respect
and be guided by the pastoral direction and leadership of your bishop?
Answer: I will.
Evidence of your acceptance of these conditions for ordination appear
in your declarations of conformity which in your ordination to the
Diaconate Oct 7, 2001 and in your ordination to the presbytery Feb. 10,
2002, which were signed by you before witnesses.
Therefore, by this letter, according to my authority under Article 3 of
the Constitution I submit you to ecclesiastical discipline and
according to Title IV, Canon 3, Sec. 1(a), I will present this
accusation (charge) before the standing committee of this Diocese.
Because of that, you are inhibited from the excersize of sacred orders
in any parish, mission, chapel, institution or program of this Diocese,
and also from participation in the assembly of the Diocese according to
Article IV section6(c).
I ask God's blessing and guidance for you and your family.
+David Andres Alvarez
PREGNANT LESBIAN PRIEST LEADS DIOCESAN YOUTH MINISTRIES
By David W. Virtue
A pregnant lesbian priest in the Diocese of New Jersey, who got herself
impregnated by artificial insemination, conducts "happening weekends"
for teenagers with the blessing of both NJ bishops David Joslin and
George E. Councell.
The Rev. M. Mantelle Bradley, aka "Mother Mantelle" is Vicar, Church of
the Holy Spirit, Bellmawr and St. Luke's, in Westville, New Jersey and
she is also part of the Timber Creek Episcopal Area Ministry.
Ms. Bradley is the diocesan coordinator for HAPPENINGS a nationwide
organization that helps youth come into a fuller relationship with
Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and is modeled after the Cursillo
dynamic, which also emphasizes sexual abstinence for teens.
Happening is a diocesan wide program for high school kids. They go on
Happening weekends, a sort of spiritual renewal - a teenage Cursillo
for teens, according to their NJ website. There are lots of kids,
usually 50 or more and they camp out at a church for a weekend program.
It ends with a celebration mass on Sunday afternoon.
But when a laywoman at St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church in Cherry Hill
NJ heard about the maternal condition of "Mother Mantelle" she became
unhappy and wrote to the two NJ bishops.
"I wrote to both Bishop Joslin and then Bishop-elect Councell,
expressing my concerns. I voiced my concerns, not about Mother
Mantelle Bradley being lesbian, but about the message her pregnancy
gives to my children regarding fathers, and making babies outside of
marriage," she told Virtuosity.
"Both bishops responded stating their positive feelings about
Mantelle's relationship with her partner and with her pregnancy, and
her ability to be a positive role model. The bishop communicated to me
that her parish was very supportive," she told Virtuosity.
Both bishops refused to respond to repeated attempts by phone and by E-
mail to solicit information as to why a non-celibate pregnant lesbian
priest could, in any sense, be viewed as a "wholesome example."
"The bishop and then bishop-elect are happy to have a pregnant, lesbian
priest serving as leader and mentor for our teenagers on Happening
weekends," said the irate mother, who was planning to register here 9th
grade son in November, but changed her mind when she learned of the
The woman and her husband discussed the situation, and her husband
asked if the commandment had been changed to, "Honor thy mother and
thy sperm bank."
When the woman confronted Bishop Joslin about how she got pregnant she
was told that Mantelle went the artificial insemination route because
adoption was too expensive.
Her partner is The Rev. Kristin Krieger, a deacon at the Episcopal
Church in Wenonah, NJ, and according to the diocesan clergy directory
they share the same address. Ms. Bradley is expecting her baby around
April, Virtuosity was told.
One of the questions VIRTUOSITY had hoped to have answered by both
bishops is how a "happening" event could possibly be a safe place for
young people who should be otherwise instructed in the Biblical way of
celibacy before marriage and sex only within marriage.
"I dislike being in the position of a gossip and causing pain to
others, but this is a fight for our church and the truth needs to be
told. If Mantelle were not a priest and not a spiritual role model for
teens, I would not pass judgment on her. We are all unworthy sinners.
But I get angry when my bishop says this is good," she said.
Some questions she never got answered were, "If we accept that God
makes us lesbian and that homosexual relationships should not be
celebrated, then wouldn't we assume that God didn't mean for her to get
pregnant? If fathers aren't essential, why did God make us male and
female and why did he feel the need to give Jesus an earthly dad in
Joseph? These questions took me back to my original concerns expressed
to the bishop(s); What does this pregnancy teach my teenage son about
being a Godly man and, someday, a Christian husband and father?"
Neither bishop nor Mantelle, apparently are willing to answer this
lady's questions, nor respond to Virtuosity.
Bishop Councell announced yesterday that he was going to New Hampshire
to participate in Gene Robinson's consecration.
GRISWOLD'S RECONCILIATION: A PORTRAIT IN FANTASY
But his pain will be for real
By David W. Virtue
In the latest issue of Episcopal Life the Presiding Bishop in his "Upon
Reflection" column, calls on his readers to pray for him.
He acknowledges when asked how he is, answers that he is just fine, but
that he doesn't want "to burden my caring questioners with more than
they may really wish to hear."
He then pleads with his hearers to pray for him to have a
"compassionate and undefended heart that can receive both the hope and
the pain of this present time."
Griswold then goes on to opine about his "suffering" his "authentic
call to ministry", the "taking up of the cross" and being "conformed to
the image of Christ."
He wants us to "rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who
He then cries out that the church "may become a community of
reconciliation, not just for ourselves, but for the sake of our world."
He wants us all to be a "sign of hope and challenge to a world of self-
interest, suspicion and hostility..."
He finally pleads, "please pray that the spirit of truth will carry us
beyond the realm of logic and of agreement and disagreement into that
deeper place of love."
For many of us who have watched, listened and written about the "deeper
place" that Griswold would love us all to go too, and which we have yet
to find unless it is a field with Sufi Rumi, we now learn that it is a
place "beyond the realm of logic".
Interestingly enough, nowhere in Scripture are we asked to go against
"logic"; Paradox is there, yes, mystery is there, yes but nowhere are
we told to violate logic. For logic determines that certain things
cannot be both true and not true at the same time. The law of non-
contradiction, for example, has never been abrogated; not even by Sufi
Rumi or Frank Griswold. When the Hindu says there is no difference
between good and evil and someone picks up a kettle of hot water and
says he will pour it over the Hindu's head, you can be assured that
evil and pain really do exist. Just ask the scalded Fakir 30 seconds
You can't, for example, sign a statement with the Primates in London
that says you will abide by the Lambeth conference resolution on
sexuality, agree not to ordain openly homosexual men to the priesthood
and then go ahead and consecrate an openly gay man to the episcopacy.
That goes against logic, and scripture, and history, and what the
Archbishop of Canterbury demanded, and his fellow Primates and most of
the Anglican Communion agree should not happen.
If the Presiding Bishop is feeling "pain" then he ought too. What he is
about to do on Nov. 2 will cause enough pain in the Anglican Communion
to split it. He should feel much pain, and the pain should go on for a
long, long time, till he sees the consequences of what he has done, or
until he retires or dies.
The truth is the Presiding Bishop has been feeling quite a lot of pain
these days. He felt pain at General Convention when he couldn't get
every bishop on board with consecrating an openly non-celibate man to
the episcopacy, and he felt pain again when a Roman Catholic Bishop in
Florida told him he was not welcome to consecrate an orthodox bishop in
the Diocese of Florida because he, Griswold voted the wrong way at
GC2003. He also felt pain when Florida Bishop Stephen Jecko told him to
stay at home and not bother coming down or they would hold the
consecration on another day in another place, and he felt more pain
when he learned that several of his bishops are about to form new
networks across geographic lines that don't include him.
The Presiding Bishop wants us to pray for him; and he is right we
should. And what we should pray for is that he will see the error of
his ways with either a Damascus Road experience before Nov. 2; or a
deep reflection on what Jesus and Paul really said without an overlay
of higher criticism or mystic paganism, and then repent.
Yes we should all pray for that, because if he doesn't see the light,
he will be feeling much more pain following Nov. 2 and that pain will
follow him wherever he goes, because wherever he goes he will be
reminded of the painful deed he participated in, as he hears anger from
Primates and bishops from around the world; as he visits empty and
dying churches, sees disillusioned priests, hears the cries of
downhearted and angry bishops who are watching their income fall, and
their people flee with or without properties into other Anglican
He will feel even greater pain when he sees income to the national
church fall, reads of dozens of court cases where priests are fighting
their bishops for properties, watch as 20/20 goes up in smoke, and find
himself unwelcome in most parts of the Anglican Communion.
It will be the most intense pain he has ever had, or will ever feel in
his life. And it will go on and on and on, till he dies or retires,
because the pain has only just begun and it will only get worse.
And Frank Griswold will have no one to blame but himself.
Tuesday, October 28, 2003
Saint Simon and Saint Jude, Apostles
O ALMIGHTY God, who hast built thy Church upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the head corner-stone; Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their doctrine, that we may be made an holy temple acceptable unto thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Sunday, October 26, 2003
The End of a Church And The Triumph of Denominationalism
On How To Think About What Is Happening In The Episcopal Church
On August 5, 2003, the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA), following an initial action by the House of Deputies of ECUSA's General Convention, gave its consent (by a ratio of roughly 60/40) to the election of the Rev. Gene Robinson to become the next Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire. Gene Robinson is an outspoken gay man who has lived openly with his partner for over a decade. He is also the divorced father of two children. At a later point in the same convention, delegates gave permission for the blessing of gay unions in Dioceses that may choose to grant clergy license to perform these services.
Shortly before these events occurred, a friend, anticipating the firestorm they would precipitate, suggested I write an article that would help people think about how the likely actions of ECUSA might best be understood. As the existence of these columns makes plain, I decided to take him up on his suggestion. However, before any attempt is made at interpretation or prognostication, it is well to note that there are few if any dispassionate observers of these developments. No one looks upon them with the calm of a "view from nowhere."
My own view is that of a person who was born into a family of Episcopalians whose allegiance to that Church stretches as far back as anyone can remember. It is the view of a person who was formed as a Christian within the bosom of the Episcopal Church, who served for ten years as a missionary of that Church in East Africa, and who has taught several generations of its clergy.
From the point at which this history has placed me, it seems most clarifying to say that, by its action, ECUSA has confirmed a decision taken unconsciously some time ago to find its primary identity as a liberal but liturgical option within the spectrum of Protestant denominations that make up America's religious kaleidoscope. In making this decision, ECUSA has at one and the same time (perhaps again unconsciously) made marginal for its self-understanding the significance of its membership in a worldwide communion of churches that jointly claim to be a part of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. In fact, it has placed its membership in the Anglican Communion under threat, and, rather recklessly, brought that communion itself to the verge of a split between the churches of the global South and those of the North.
This is my point of view and the best way to make it understandable (and defensible) is first off to recount, even if all too briefly, certain key aspects of ECUSA's more recent history.
The U.S. Constitution guarantees a right to the "free exercise" but prohibits the "establishment" of any religion. The right to free exercise and the prohibition of establishment provide, in the American context, legal and social space for the birth and growth of a plethora of religious belief and practice. In America, "churches" became "denominations" - named organizations, each of which occupies a particular niche in a religious market place. Thus, when Episcopalians found "establishment" beyond reach, they presented themselves within the American religious market as a "bridge church," incorporating the best elements of both Protestantism and Catholicism. This self-presentation proved both pretentious and fatuous, and in time lost its hold on imagination. In its place came another, namely, that the Episcopal Church provides an enlightened alternative to the moral and theological rigidities of both Roman Catholicism and Evangelical Protestantism. Emboldened by this new self-image, Episcopal clergy embraced new learning and new experience. They preached an enlightened religion attuned to the latest movements of liberal culture.
The power of this new self-image over the mind of the Episcopal Church showed its strength clearly as far back as 1966, when the late Bishop James Pike was accused of heresy for stating in Look Magazine, "The Church's classical way of stating what is represented by the doctrine of the Trinity is...not essential to the Christian faith."
For reasons that will become apparent, the Presiding Bishop of ECUSA, despite pressures to the contrary, wished to avoid a heresy trial; and so managed to have the matter referred to an ad hoc committee rather than to a panel of judges. The committee concluded that a heresy trial would be widely viewed as a "throwback" to a previous century in which both church and state sought to penalize "unacceptable opinion." As such, a trial would give ECUSA an "oppressive image."
The committee did say, however, that they rejected "the tone and manner" of the Bishop's statements, and that they wished to dissociate themselves from many of the Bishop's comments. His utterances were, they said, "irresponsible" for one holding Episcopal office. The Bishops then censured Bishop Pike; but, despite the fact that he did not renounce his heresy, did nothing to inhibit him in the exercise of his Episcopal office. It would appear that the Bishop's fault was a certain degree of irresponsibility and a lack of tact rather than false doctrine. A charge of heresy in the minds of the church's leadership would represent a throw-back to a former and repressive age and so compromise ECUSA's position within the spectrum of American Christianity.
This view was certainly held by a group of Bishops who opposed Bishop Pike's censure. They wrote a minority report in which they gave voice with stark clarity to the new self-image of the Episcopal Church. "We believe it is more important to be a sympathetic and self-conscious part of God's action in the secular world than it is to defend the positions of the past, which is a past that is altered by each new discovery of truth." So the doctrine of the Trinity became a position of the past that is altered by each new discovery of truth. In the minority report, Bishop Pike was not viewed negatively as a heretic, but positively as "a casualty (martyr?) of the Christian mission in our day."
Throughout this struggle, all sides sought to present ECUSA as an enlightened denominational option on the American religious scene. In this struggle can also be seen the birth of the notion that Episcopal office is to be used as a "prophetic" lever to pry people loose from the encrusted positions of the past. This notion of Episcopal office appeared in even more pronounced form during the battle over the ordination of women that took place during the decade of the 1970s.
Before recounting this tale, I feel compelled to make it clear that I am a staunch, even fierce, supporter of the ordination of women. However, the way in which the practice was introduced into ECUSA has (sadly) served both to weaken its structures of order and authority; and to further strengthen its self-identity as an "enlightened" denominational alternative.
In 1974, after the General Convention had twice refused to approve the ordination of women to the Priesthood, three retired Bishops ordained eleven women Deacons as Priests. The reason given by the Bishops was that their act was an "obedient" and "prophetic" protest against oppression and an act of solidarity with those who are oppressed - in this case women. Once more there was an attempt to bring the offending Bishops to trial, but once again the attempt was foiled. The matter was referred at various times and in various ways both to the House of Bishops and to a special committee. The Bishops decried the action and went on at a later date to censure the Bishops involved. The special committee found that the offending Bishops were in fact guilty of canonical offenses, and that their acts involved "teaching publicly a doctrine contrary to that held by the church." Further, the committee posed in clear terms a fundamental question, namely, "whether this church's understanding of the nature of the church and the authority of the episcopate permits individual bishops, appealing solely to their consciences, to usurp the proper functions and other duly constituted authorities in this church." Another advisory committee put the point even more pointedly by saying that "a bishop is not free to appropriate the sacramental structure of the church to his own views."
Despite these admonitions, warnings and actions, however, in October of 1975, Bishop George Barrett, another Bishop without Diocese, ordained four more women Deacons to the Priesthood. The women involved stated as the reason for their action that to wait for the General Convention to give approval to women's ordination was to affirm in principle the concept that discrimination against women to the Priesthood may be practiced in the church until the majority changes its mind and votes. Once more a leading cultural trend, this time women's rights, showed itself as the dominant force within a defining moment of ECUSA's common life. Once more, a majority of ECUSA Bishops decried what had been done, but acceded to its legitimacy by failing to take effective disciplinary action.
Looking back over the history that stretched from the "Pike affair" to the struggle over the ordination of women, one can see by the end of the process certain things firmly in place - ECUSA's espousal of enlightened culture and progressive cultural trends, the use of Episcopal office to further "prophetic causes," and the inability of the governing structures and authorities of ECUSA to restrain independent action on the part of its Bishops.
All these factors revealed themselves plainly when, in 1977, just two years after Bishop Barrett's blatant defiance of his fellow Bishops, Bishop Paul Moore of the Episcopal Diocese of New York ordained a professed and practicing Lesbian to the Priesthood. In response, the House of Bishops did no more than express "disapproval" of Bishop Moore's action. The next General Convention, which met in 1979, passed a resolution that said among other things that the delegates believed "it is not appropriate for this Church to ordain a practicing homosexual or any person who is engaged in heterosexual relations outside marriage."
On the surface, it appeared as if the General Convention had legislated against the practice initiated by Bishop Moore; but surface appearances can be deceiving. The resolution that labeled these practices "inappropriate" began with the phrase, "We recommend." Twenty dissenting Bishops immediately signed a letter saying that they took the action of General Convention to be "recommendary and not prescriptive." These twenty Bishops also announced that in the name of "apostolic leadership" and "prophetic witness" they would not implement the resolution in their Diocese.
It is unlikely that the General Convention resolution was intended to do no more than recommend against a practice, but over time political forces within ECUSA have in fact managed to establish the resolution as "recommendary" rather than "prescriptive."
In 1989, 1990, and 1991, the Episcopal Dioceses of Newark and Washington D.C. ordained open and practicing homosexuals to the Priesthood. The justification for these ordinations was "new experience" and "new learning" that serves to "contextualize" the negative Biblical witness. The ordination of sexually active homosexual persons then became a "justice issue" that must be furthered by a "prophetic" Episcopate. In the face of these claims, it is perhaps not surprising that charges of heresy later brought against one of the Bishops of Newark (Walter Reighter) were turned down on the grounds that the Bishop's action was not contrary to the "core doctrine" of the Episcopal Church.
After the Reighter trial, the way was open for Bishops to ordain sexually active homosexual persons if they so chose. It was clear that no disciplinary consequences would follow. It was at this point that the policy of a Bishop or Diocese to ordain or not ordain, to bless or not to bless, came to be known within Episcopal circles as the "local option." It was asserted, quite rightly, that "local option" is the de facto practice of ECUSA. The election of Gene Robinson to succeed to the present Bishop of New Hampshire was thus only the most radical assertion of a policy that had been firmly in place in respect to ordinations and blessings since the time of the Reighter trial. Not only was it now permissible within ECUSA for clergy and Bishops to be openly gay, not only was it permissible to bless gay unions, it was also the case that these novelties were hailed by their supporters as evidence that God is "doing a new thing." The cultural recognition and integration of Gay and Lesbian people into the American mainstream was read as an act of God. The Episcopal Church, so the claim goes, is taking a lead in calling attention to the finger of God in history and giving prophetic support to divine providence.
It is possible that people from outside ECUSA who oppose these measures will at this point simply throw up their hands and say, "Well what else would you expect from the Episcopalians. They've always been a little long on style and a little short on substance." A reaction of this sort might provide some self-satisfaction, but would miss the significance for the rest of the churches in America of what has happened in the Episcopal Church. The Robinson election in fact serves to highlight the primary challenge all the churches in America face; be they Catholic, Orthodox, "mainstream" Protestant, Evangelical, or Charismatic. I speak of the subversion of Christian belief and practice by the logic of autonomous individualism, and their transformation into simulacra. For one should make no mistake! What has happened in ECUSA is not the particular problem of a once (overly) proud denomination. Rather, it provides an exemplary case of the sort of subversion and transformation that, in one way or another, threatens all American's denominations.
To display this point with some clarity, I will freely borrow from the account Alasdair MacIntyre has given of the tradition of liberalism in Whose Justice? Which Rationality? The present economic and political cultures of America plainly stem from this tradition, and it is this tradition that currently is bringing all its force to bear (in a hostile way) on more traditional forms of Christian belief and practice. MacIntyre notes that the tradition of liberalism cannot allow for a single notion of good to possess "the public square." Liberal society must remain neutral in respect to the good. What one can express in public are not notions of "good, but" preferences. Of course, some way must be found to order preferences both in respect to individual life and to social policy. No rational way can be found to achieve this goal, however, because there is no common notion of good to which appeal can be made when it comes to sorting out conflicting claims.
Thus, the way in which one establishes preference in the public arena, if it cannot be done by force, is by bargaining. Everything, both in respect to private and public life becomes a "trade off." Social life becomes a sort of free trade zone for preferences. All one needs to be able to play the game is the ability to bargain.
There are two things in particular to be noted about this form of social economy. The first is that theories of justice abound. They must for the following reason. To have one's preferences excluded is to have one's rights denied. Then the question arises of how one person's right to his or her preference is to be balanced against a contrary right claimed by someone else. At this point, some theory of justice must be invoked, but in a liberal social economy of preferences, no one theory can establish itself. Theories of justice simply multiply exponentially and interminably. Given this social reality, one can see easily why supporters of Gay rights hold ordination and the blessing of Gay unions to be matters of justice. One can see also why supporters of Gene Robinson hold that his election was above all "a justice issue."
The dominance in America of a liberal social economy also provides another reason for regarding the Robinson election and the permission given for Gay blessings to be more than an Episcopalian anomaly. Within a liberal social economy there comes to be a view of moral agency that gives special significance to sexual preference and sexual satisfaction. The denizens of a social order based upon competing preferences think of themselves not as inhabitants of a pre-established moral order but as individuals who are utterly unique, as selves that have particular personal histories and needs, and as persons who have rights that allow them to express their individuality and pursue their personal well-being within the social world they inhabit.
For moral agents who think of themselves as individuals, selves, and persons, sexuality becomes, along with money, both a marker of identity and a primary way of expressing the preferences that define identity.
It is precisely this notion of moral agency and personal identity that makes the Robinson election so understandable. Here is a unique individual, who is a self with a particular history and a person with a right to express his preferences and put his talents to work in the social world he inhabits. To deny him that right on the basis of sexual preference is, at one and the same time, to deny his personal identity. This notion of moral agency also makes understandable why the issues of abortion and euthanasia take their place alongside self-chosen sexual expression as centers of moral controversy both within the churches and without. At the basis of each of these arguments lies the characterization of moral agents as individuals, selves, and persons who have the right to pursue the preferences that provide them with personal identity.
In the culture wars that rage over abortion, euthanasia, and sexuality defenders of more traditional Christian teaching and practice often miss the fact that they must confront American culture on a deeper level than any of these specific issues. If they are to be effective, they must take on the very way in which Americans think of themselves as moral agents. The "socio-logic" that stands behind ECUSA's recent action beckons thinking to an even deeper level than the sad history of this Church's search for a distinctive place on the spectrum of America's denominations. It calls Christian thought to confront a perception of moral and social life that runs counter to the very foundations of Christian thought and practice. It raises the question of whether we inhabit a moral universe with an order we are called upon to understand and to which we are required to conform, or whether the moral universe we inhabit is properly the creation of preference pursuing individuals, selves, and persons who create a social world suited to their self-defined goals through an elaborate process of moral bargaining.
The Robinson election in fact manifests the social forces that at present erode the ability of America's denominations to act like churches: that is to say, to form people in a pattern of belief and a way of life which may run against preference but nonetheless accords with what Christians have, through the ages, held to be the truth about God and his intentions for human life.
It is important to recognize these social forces, but it is important as well not to conclude that the recent actions of ECUSA can be adequately explained by the play of these forces alone. Christians through the ages have faced social forces that threaten to compromise the truth they have been given to live and proclaim, but they have not always succumbed to them. To think well about what is happening in ECUSA one must ask why the sirens of modernity have sung so sweetly in ECUSA's ears.
My belief is that a religious rather than historical or sociological answer must, in the end, be given to this question. The English theologian P. T. Forsythe once wrote, "If within us we have nothing above us we soon succumb to what is around us." The history recounted above suggests that the internal life of ECUSA may well lack a transcendent point of reference-one that can serve as a counter balance to the social forces that play upon it. A certain vacuity at the center is suggested also by an analysis of the theology that currently dominates ECUSA's pulpits. The standard sermon in outline runs something like this: "God is love, God's love is inclusive, God acts in justice to see that everyone is included, we therefore ought to be co-actors and co-creators with God to make the world over in the way he wishes."
Here is the theological projection of a society built upon preference-one in which the inclusion of preference within common life is the be all and end all of the social system. ECUSA's God has become the image of this society. Gone is the notion of divine judgment (save upon those who may wish to exclude someone), gone is the notion of radical conversion, gone is the notion of a way of life that requires dying to self and rising to newness of life in conformity with God's will. In place of the complex God revealed in Christ Jesus, a God of both judgment and mercy, a God whose law is meant to govern human life, we now have a God who is love and inclusion without remainder. The projected God of the liberal tradition is, in the end, no more than an affirmer of preferences. This view of God is, furthermore, acted upon by an increasing number of ECUSA's clergy who now regularly invite non-baptized people to share in the Holy Eucharist. It's just a matter of hospitality-of welcoming difference. An inclusive God, it would seem, requires an inclusive sacramental system.
Jews have always held, I believe, that idolatry is the greatest of all sins. In the end, the actions of ECUSA must be traced to idolatry, to the creation of a god made in our own image, rather than to the play of social forces. It is this observation that brings me to the final remark I wish to make about how to think about what is happening in the Episcopal Church. As I write, the chief Bishops of the various Provinces of the Anglican Communion are preparing to go to England in October to meet with the Archbishop of Canterbury. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss what the response of the Anglican Communion ought to be to ECUSA's action. A majority of the Bishops of the global South are of the opinion that some form of discipline must be imposed upon ECUSA if the Anglican Communion is to maintain its claim to apostolicity and catholicity. Contrary to the assertions of many liberal Episcopal clergy and Bishops, the concern of the Bishops from the global South does not stem from the fact that they have not as yet lived through the Enlightenment. It stems rather from a perception that some form of idolatry has infected ECUSA, and that this infection has led to forms of gross disobedience that compromise not only Anglican but Christian identity.
Time will tell whether ECUSA's Presiding Bishop will manage to convince these Bishops from the global South that an international "local option" is the enlightened way for the Anglican Communion as a whole. The attempt will certainly be made. It is entirely likely, however, that the Bishops of the global South will say to ECUSA that membership in the Anglican Communion requires conformity to the faith and practice of a world-wide fellowship of churches-even if that conformity runs against the grain of the culture in which Christians happen to find themselves. ECUSA will than have to decide if it wants to remain in its denominational niche or if it wants to affirm its identity as a church that is part of a worldwide communion of churches.
The Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity
O GOD, forasmuch as without thee we are not able to please thee; Mercifully grant, that thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Friday, October 24, 2003
In the real world
T H E J O H N S T O T T D A I L Y T H O U G H T
October 24, 2003
From the writings of Dr. John R. W. Stott
Morality and Holiness (cont'd.)
543. In the real world
Holiness is not a mystical condition experienced in relation to
God but in isolation from human beings. You cannot be good in a
vacuum but only in the real world of people.
--From "The Message of Ephesians" (The Bible Speaks Today
series: Leicester: IVP, 1979), p. 184.
--Excerpted from "Authentic Christianity", p. 235, by
permission of InterVarsity Press.
Sowing to the flesh
T H E J O H N S T O T T D A I L Y T H O U G H T
October 22, 2003
From the writings of Dr. John R. W. Stott
Morality and Holiness (cont'd.)
541. Sowing to the flesh
To 'sow to the flesh' is to pander to it, to cosset, cuddle and
stroke it, instead of crucifying it. The seeds we sow are
largely thoughts and deeds. Every time we allow our mind to
harbour a grudge, nurse a grievance, entertain an impure
fantasy, or wallow in self-pity, we are sowing to the flesh.
Every time we linger in bad company whose insidious influence we
know we cannot resist, every time we lie in bed when we ought to
be up and praying, every time we read pornographic literature,
every time we take a risk which strains our self-control, we are
sowing, sowing, sowing to the flesh. Some Christians sow to the
flesh every day and wonder why they do not reap holiness.
--From "The Message of Galatians" (The Bible Speaks Today
series: London and Downers Grove: IVP, 1968), p. 170.
--Excerpted from "Authentic Christianity", pp. 233-234, by
permission of InterVarsity Press.
A REPORT FROM BISHOP IKER TO THE EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF FORT WORTH
October 23, 2003
Dear Friends in Christ,
This report is being given to fulfill the commitment made in my
Pastoral Letter of August 10th to update you on important meetings that
have taken place on controversial decisions of the 74th General
Convention of the Episcopal Church. In particular, I want to say
something about the October meetings of the American Anglican Council
in Dallas and of the Primates of the Anglican Communion in London. I
ask the clergy to share this report with all parishioners by
distributing copies of it to them. Additional information is available
on our website at www.fwepiscopal.org.
The meeting in Dallas on October 7-9 was a remarkable gathering of more
than 2,600 clergy and laity from every state in the union and from all
but two dioceses of the Episcopal Church. It was an inspirational and
spiritually uplifting time together, and several very helpful and
informative presentations were made concerning the crisis that
confronts us. I am pleased to say that Fort Worth was well represented
by a large number of both clergy and lay participants from across the
Diocese. The conference took the following actions, which you will
notice are very much in concert with the resolutions adopted by our
Special Diocesan Convention on September 27th:
... Repudiated the General Convention's ratification of the election of
a non-celibate homosexual to be a bishop of the Church and its
acceptance of the blessings of same-sex unions
... Reaffirmed the resolutions of the 1998 Lambeth Conference on human
sexuality and Biblical authority
... Urged congregations and dioceses to redirect financial support away
from the General Convention Program and Budget to other ministries
... Appealed to the Primates of the Anglican Communion for intervention
in the Episcopal Church, in order to support and encourage orthodox
believers here in the U.S.A.
The Primates of the Anglican Communion took up our concerns at a
special meeting called by the Archbishop of Canterbury on October 15
and 16. At the conclusion of their deliberations, the Primates issued
a Statement that is very supportive of the positions we have taken as a
Diocese. It is available on our website. When you read it, please
remember that it was crafted in a very polite, British style of
diplomatic language, and adopted unanimously. Though some have
attempted to put a liberal spin on its meaning, its primary points are
1. The Primates reaffirmed the resolutions of the 1998 Lambeth
Conference on Biblical authority and issues of human sexuality and said
they "deeply regret the actions" of the Episcopal Church.
2. They declared that no Province "has authority unilaterally to
substitute an alternative teaching as if it were the teaching of the
entire Anglican Communion," that the recent actions of the Episcopal
Church "do not express the mind of our Communion," and that "these
decisions jeopardize our sacramental fellowship with each other."
3. They called upon all Provinces "to make adequate provision for
episcopal oversight of dissenting minoritiesÅ in consultation with the
Archbishop of Canterbury on behalf of the Primates." This means
placing traditional congregations in liberal dioceses under the care of
4. They stated: "In most of our Provinces the election of Canon Gene
Robinson would not have been possible since his chosen lifestyle would
give rise to a canonical impediment to his consecration as a bishop."
5. They went on to warn that if the consecration takes place, "the
future of the Communion itself will be put in jeopardy," as "many
Provinces are likely to consider themselves to be out of Communion with
the Episcopal Church."
6. The Primates asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to establish a
Commission to assist him and report within twelve months on how to
address "the dangers we have identified at this meeting" and how he can
"exercise an extraordinary ministry of episcope (pastoral oversight)"
in other Provinces during this crisis.
The Primates realized they could not enter into the constitutional and
legal battles of the Episcopal Church. We must work out those things
for ourselves. What they have done is to send a clear message of
rebuke to this Church, along with an ultimatum about what is to come if
we proceed in this direction.
I am saddened to say that it is apparent that the New Hampshire
consecration will go ahead as planned on November 2nd, despite the
warnings and the pleas not to do so. Both Biblical truth and the unity
of the Church will be violated when it does. The controversies before
us will not be resolved easily or quickly, and we can expect to live
with conflict and division about all of this for some time to come. As
the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, we have been strengthened and
encouraged by the message from the Primates that they stand firmly with
us in these matters. We will continue to explore ways to network with
other Dioceses, as we remain committed to upholding and propagating the
historic Faith and Order of the Church. It is hard to say at this
point what new possibilities and opportunities may emerge under the
guidance of the Holy Spirit. We must wait upon the Lord for that. I
can assure all of you that the clergy of this Diocese and I are firmly
committed to Biblical faith and practice. You can be confident that in
your congregation the Word will be faithfully preached and the
Sacraments faithfully administered.
My next report to you will be made at our Diocesan Convention on
November 7 and 8 in Fort Worth. Thank you all for your prayers and
support. They are more deeply appreciated than I can say. May the
grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you always.
Faithfully in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker
Bishop of Fort Worth
Dallas Meeting Report to Diocese of West Tennessee College of Clergy
by Joseph N. Davis
It was with some trepidation that I accepted Bishop Johnson's call to
speak about the Dallas Meeting before the College of Clergy. Some of
you went with me, and we shared a time of great joy and healing and
hope, but you will remember important parts of the meeting that I may
have missed or failed to appreciate. Many of you did not go and may
have opposed the very purpose of the meeting, and I can't imagine that
you would want to hear my impressions of what happened. Long ago when
I taught eighth grade English, I learned not to walk lightly into a
room where I have to talk to people about something they either believe
they know everything about, or want to know nothing about. I fear that
the vast majority of you may fall into one of these categories.
Therefore I beg your patience with me as I make my report. Perhaps you
can think of me as being like a parishioner of yours who has been
through a radical medical procedure and is now on the mend and excited
that you have come to visit so he can tell you everything that happened
in his surgery. If you can put on your pastorally attentive ears, we
may get through this exercise with a minimum of pain and suffering.
The way it felt to go to Dallas for me is best summed up by the term
"conversion experience." I don't know about you, but I am not the
once-in-a-lifetime conversion kind of guy. I need lots of conversion
experiences to keep me focused and get me refocused! I was fairly
hopeless about the Episcopal Church on the morning of Monday, October
6, the day we left for Dallas. I had parishioners who had quit coming
to church because they couldn't stand going to a church that had made
such morality destroying decisions as were made at General Convention
2003. I had parishioners who were not coming to church because they
did not want to run into the first set of people who weren't coming to
church. I was beginning to think that this Dallas Meeting could not do
anything anyway-it was the Primates' Meeting that mattered, for they
are the only ones who have any clout. But I went anyway, because I
find it practically impossible to give up hope on the church that I
have been a part of for 46 years and 10 months, since my baptism on
December 15, 1957. I must grab at anything that can help preserve the
faith that was given to me and pass it on to my parishioners, my
family, my friends, and those who will come after us.
And I am extremely glad that I did go, regardless of what the future
holds. The experience was a great gift to me, as I believe it was for
practically everyone who went. Originally, the meeting was to be in
Plano, and it was to be a planning meeting of 50 or 100 leaders. As it
turned out, we were over 800 priests, 46 bishops, 46 deacons, over
1,400 lay persons, and 103 seminarians from 105 dioceses in every state
in the union. We came to make a witness to the apostolic faith and
order, which had been so sadly abandoned by General Convention, to be a
part of history, and to see if we could send a strong signal to the
Primates who would meet in London just days after we concluded our
meeting. We found that we were caught up in a great family reunion,
which we believe may become the beginning of the renewal of the Great
Commission for many of us in the Episcopal Church. The Dallas Meeting
is nothing if not an event that empowers those who attended to go forth
into the world, baptizing all nations in the name of the Father, and of
the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that
Christ has commanded his disciples to teach. The Dallas Meeting was a
renewal of our sense of being a New Testament Church, a living part of
the resurrected Christ, even as we realize we have been part of an
institution that seems to be doing everything it can to become a dying
sect, a wayward province that appears now to be under the judgment of
God for our sins.
I really do not mean to be overly harsh. I mean to be purely
descriptive here. We need to face the reality that the Episcopal
Church has been dealt a deadly wound if we are going to find any kind
of healing. We have to acknowledge the death of the church we knew if
we are going to become a part of the living Church that Christ raises
from the tomb. Kevin Martin, who did an excellent workshop here a few
years ago on "Churches in Transition", spoke about how the 20/20
Initiative fared at General Convention. While I recommend you to
listen to the tape of his whole talk, I will cut to his conclusion. He
said that not even the Presiding Bishop could make the mission of the
Church the focal point of GC03. On the opening evening of convention,
the Integrity Eucharist had hundreds of people attending, and only 100
people, including 50 deputies, were present at the 20/20 Initiative
discussion held at the same time. The mission of the church was
sidetracked by the sexuality issue. Momentum for mission never
happened. Funding will not happen. What did not happen? The future
of the Episcopal Church. "And it won't", he said, "unless it happens
Bishop Duncan spoke about the last grand procession he would ever be
part of at General Convention. He embraced the Bishop of Northern
Michigan, at whose wedding he had presided, knowing that this would be
the last time he would ever walk in this procession with his friend.
He looked in the eyes of bishops from around the world "to see how
deeply we had betrayed them, yet how deeply they loved us." And yet he
felt free, knowing his church had embraced heresy and schism. He had
hope that weeping would turn to joy.
Fr. Martyn Minns told the story of a man who handed in his letter of
resignation from the parish because he cannot be part of a parish that
is linked with a church that has denied the faith. I am sure we have
all had that experience. I have.
There was also the story of the missioner from Honduras who stood up at
convention and said, "I am a servant of God in Honduras, in charge of
51 missions. Because of what this convention has done, my entire
ministry has been washed down the drain."
But I would be misleading you if I gave you the impression that this
meeting was mostly sad, or was filled with expressions of grief. This
meeting was more marked by joy than sadness, and by hope more than
grief. The joy and the hope came from strong faith in the power of God
to speak through the Scriptures and to raise up strong witnesses who
would proclaim his word and serve him in the world, and from the
knowledge that the goodness of the communion we have with one another
proceeds from unity with Christ and his Truth. We found joy in the
knowledge that so many people in America and in Canada, and so many
bishops and church leaders around the world know that Christ has the
words of eternal life, and that any institution which denies the words
of Christ can offer no unity worth having. And I must say that we
found healing in the corporate recognition of our loss. I wept when I
heard Bishop Duncan's grief over the breaking of fellowship which
occurred among bishops who were his friends; but from somewhere beyond
myself came joy in the knowledge that if he was hurt that badly, then
he is with me in my grief and pain. I am not alone, wandering in
trackless wastes, without the Good Shepherd. By his wounds, we are
healed. It was so good to have those wounds acknowledged, after having
them publicly denied and covered over in so many ways, as we learned in
the morning paper on Monday, August 18. How does our own bishop serve
as our father in God? By walking in the teachings of Christ, as he
keeps the word which was given to Christ by the Father and gives us
these words. (John 17:8) Here in Dallas were a number of bishops who
pray that we be sanctified by the Truth of Christ and who say to the
Father, "Your word is truth." (John 17:17) Like the Apostles and the
Church Fathers of long ago, like the Reformers, the Evangelicals, and
the Oxford Movement leaders, these bishops claim that the essential
truth can be known from the word of God in the Bible, and that this
truth has more authority for doctrine and morals than the experience
and feelings of the individual. I believe there were 39 priests and
laity from the Diocese of West Tennessee, and I believe I speak for all
of them when I say that we all pray for our bishop and support him in
every way that we can; but we desperately need him to lead us in
upholding and propagating the historic faith and order of the one,
holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, for this is what we are committed
to doing as members of the Episcopal Church in the very preamble to our
Constitution, and we can follow no new gospel.
The Dallas Meeting was very different from the way the press has
presented it. We were not there to express anger over growing
acceptance of homosexuals, as one paper put it. We were there to learn
from those more knowledgable and wiser than ourselves, to repent for
our own part in causing the ecclesial confusion we are now all
suffering from, and to be strengthened in our resolve to be faithful in
the hard times ahead. Kendall Harmon said, "Any sense that it is the
reappraisers who are responsible must be abandoned. The so-called
orthodox have an enormous amount to answer for."
One of my favorite parts of the whole meeting was the teaching of Fr.
Yates on the Bible. In his first talk on "Trusting the Scriptures", he
made two basic points. 1) The text of the Bible is authentic, and 2)
Jesus believed the Bible to be the Word of God. He said it is hard to
believe we should have a lower view of Scripture than Jesus did! He
spoke also of the way Jesus sent the Apostles to teach with his
authority the things that he had taught them. He did not tell the
Apostles that the Holy Spirit would come later and teach them new and
contradictory doctrines. He said the Holy Spirit would "teach you all
things and remind you of everything I have said to you." (John 14:26)
"If we claim to submit to the authority of Christ, we must submit to
the Scriptures. If we turn from the Scriptures, we turn from Christ.
If we twist and distort Scripture, we become a heresy or a cult." He
noted how 92 bishops had refused to endorse Resolution B001 at GC03
which confirmed Scripture as containing all things necessary for
salvation, along with several other basic tenets of classical Anglican
Christianity. With leaders that cannot affirm such a resolution,
where can the Episcopal Church be headed? What will the next General
Convention be like, if there is one?
In the wake of the Primates' Meeting last week, what many of us are
most interested in is the call for intervention by the Primates of the
Anglican Communion. Much of the Dallas Meeting was devoted to this
matter. Canon Bill Atwood told us a great deal about the Anglican
Communion and the Church in the southern part of the world, where the
martyrs are dying and the Church is thriving. On the question of
whether the Primates have any authority, he spoke of the authority of
Polycarp, the 84 year old bishop of Smyrna who refused to burn incense
to Caesar and was martyred for his stand. These are people who serve
Christ in poverty. When you threaten to cut off funding if they
intervene in American church affairs, they say things like, "A pile of
money? You cannot make a pile of money big enough to insulate my soul
from the flames of hell!" They believe in the reality of sin, for they
see it every day. Atwood put it this way. "Sin leads to death and
hell. The Cross leads to life. You pick: smoking, or non-smoking?"
Oh, I know, we sophisticated westerners chuckle at their naivety. But
isn't their attitude a lot like the man who came telling us to repent,
for the Kingdom of God is at hand, who came to seek and save the lost?
To them, and to us, while disagreeing is painful, this struggle is
worth it because people are worth it. Their souls hang in the balance.
False teaching that denies the reality of sin and the need for
repentance and forgiveness leads people away from Christ. The Primates
Atwood told us about cannot be in fellowship with people across the
world whose false teaching puts souls in danger. They say, "A long
time ago, the West introduced us to Jesus. Now we don't have to travel
to the West to ask what Jesus thinks. We ask him here." One African
bishop was told by an American bishop, "We're independent. Keep out!"
The answer: "No....because Christ has but one body."
Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh then spoke on what intervention
might look like. In 1999, one year after the 1998 Lambeth Conference,
four ECUSA bishops met with the Primates and reported to them that the
Episcopal Church is in a deplorable condition, cannot reform itself,
and needs intervention from outside. This report was given because
diocese after diocese had rejected and ignored the teaching of the
Lambeth Conference bishops on human sexuality. Bishop Duncan told us
that the Primates' Meeting which took place last week might be the
defining battle for the soul of the Anglican Communion. He said Rowan
Williams would need the wisdom of Solomon so the true mother of the
living child would take him away and raise him. He predicted that if
there were some kind of compromise, if there were not a firm rebuke and
call to repentance issued to ECUSA, then the compromise would rend the
baby in two pieces, and the Global South would split. This time,
muddling through will not suffice. Even Archbishop Rowan Williams will
probably have to make a choice. The last British Empire is his to
lose, said Bishop Duncan. If he sides with the new gospel, he will
probably end up being "the titular head of a moribund and declining
American, British, and Australian sect," said Bishop Duncan.
But if you are inclined to think these words of Bishop Duncan's are
schismatic, please consider his perspective, and the perspective of the
evangelicals, the catholics, and other basic Episcopalians who cannot
accept the innovations of this last General Convention. To say we are
schismatic is like a man who jumped from an airplane without a
parachute. As he plummeted to the earth, he looked up at the plane in
bewilderment and said, "Why have you left me?" I wish I knew who said
this, because it is one of the most memorable quotes of the Dallas
Meeting. I want to point out to you that much of what happens now is
out of our hands. Soon, we will all have to make a choice between
being Anglican Christians and being part of ECUSA. There is no middle
ground here. As Jeff Marx said, this is an earthquake, and we have to
jump to one side or the other as the ground falls away under our feet.
Bishop Duncan urged us all to be patient. "Do not jump off the moving
roller coaster at the peak of its highest summit." This struggle will
be messy, and it will require patience, courage, and every other New
I know I have run over my time, but I must say a word at least about
Fr. Mario Bergner, author of Setting Love in Order. He told of being
a young gay man in his 20's in a gay bar. As he looked around at the
young attractive men in one part dancing and having fun, and the older
men sitting sadly out of the way, a prayer came out of his heart. He
said, "Surely you have more for me than this." A voice answered, "You
will help me deliver these people." He finished his martini and got
another one, this time in a mug, and went over in front of a large
speaker. Again, the voice came, "You will help me deliver these
people." He left the drink and the bar. Later he prayed to Jesus for
help. He was told, "I want to heal your whole person, not just your
sexuality." There is much more to the story. He repented, lived in
celibacy for years, and then actually got married. He now has four
children. He gave us no easy answers for sexual problems. He said he
still has to live with many boundaries, such as controls on his
internet access. But he told us, "I have no anxiety about what is the
good news for homosexual persons. There is no evidence that there is
an internal map that determines our sexual behavior. No one is
ontologically homosexual." He strongly recommends Dr. Jeffrey
Satinover's Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth and Robert Gagnon's
Homosexuality and the Scriptures, as well as his own book, Setting Love
in Order. He raised questions about why the church was so little help
to him when he was trying to get help. If we are open to truth, why
not be open to what Mario Bergner has to say?
One of the most important things that happened was that the 39 lay and
clergy members of the Diocese of West Tennessee who attended the Dallas
Meeting met together and signed a letter of support to Bishop Johnson
and invited him to join us in affirming the "Call to Action". The
"Call to Action" is the statement which we all signed and assented to
at the end of the meeting. I believe you all have read it, so I am not
going to talk much about it. But it was our united testimony about
what we believe needs to be done now and what we hope for from the
Primates of the Anglican Communion.
Thank you for your patience and your ears. I pray that my words have
done more good than harm, and that you will forgive me for any errors
or sins. I have tried to be fair and respectful, but also to be as
honest as I possibly can.
The Rev. Joseph N. Davis is the rector of Saint Philip Church in the
Diocese of West Tennessee
Two Pro-Life Victories On One Day
by Michael J. McManus
October 21, 2003 was the best day for pro-life forces in three
Elected representatives in both the U.S. Congress and the Florida
State Legislature "took action to protect the sanctity of life at both
ends of the spectrum: rescuing both Terri Shiavo and countless unborn
children from American courts that had previously deemed their lives
worthless," asserted Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research
By a wide 64-34 margin, the U.S. Senate passed a ban on "partial-
birth abortion." It is the first limitation of abortion on demand
granted by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973. Paired with a 287-133 vote
in the House, the bill becomes law and President Bush will sign it.
His brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, signed a law passed the
Legislature to save the life of Terri Schiavo, a brain-damaged woman.
Her husband, Michael, had persuaded courts to remove a feeding tube and
another providing hydration on October 15. The tubes were reinserted
The Bush brothers inspired two legislative bodies to overrule
court decisions, a powerful precedent which gives hope that the
political process can reassert authority over an often runaway
judiciary which has ignored the public will on many issues.
For example, polls show a 70 percent public support for
prohibiting a doctor from delivering a premature healthy infant until
only its head remains in the womb, which is punctured with seven-inch
scissors and its brain is sucked out.
Yet the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision, that a Nebraska
law prohibiting partial birth abortion, was unconstitutional. Abortion
advocates hope the court will also overturn the new federal law. The
issue will be "Does the Constitution really guarantee a right to
deliver a premature infant to within inches of complete birth and then
kill her?" asks Douglas Johnson of National Right to Life. Hopefully, a
more conservative court will say no.
Michael Schiavo's motives in seeking a court order to kill his
wife are shamelessly transparent. First, he stands to inherit whatever
is left of a $1.6 million fund to give her medical care. He won two
malpractice lawsuits over her medical treatment which led to her
During one trial he testified that he became a nurse so that he
"could learn more how to take care of Terri." He added, "I believe in
the vows I took with my wife, through sickness, in health, for richer
or poor. I married my wife because I love her and I want to spend the
rest of my life with her. I'm going to do that."
However, less than a year after getting the award, he began legal
action to end her life. By the end of 2001 he had spent $440,226 of her
trust fund set aside for her care, in legal fees.
Michael's second motive for wanting to pull the plug is that he
is living with a woman, who has given birth to their child, and who is
pregnant again. If Terri were to die, he could marry the woman and
inherit what's left of the trust fund.
He now claims "she wouldn't want to live this way." But that's
not what he said when he was seeking funds in a malpractice suit. Nor
is there any documentation she had a desire to be starved to death and
deprived of water.
By contrast, Terri's parents want to care for her. Why? They
truly love her. And, contrary to what some media stories have alleged,
Terri is NOT comatose, in a persistent vegetative state, or near death.
Her brain is damaged. However, videos show her eyes are open and
follow people around the room. She smiles at her mother and has called
"If they are successful in killing Terri, there are tens of
thousands who would qualify for the same treatment," said Joni
Eareackson Tada, the quadriplegic injured in a diving accident, on
Wednesday's "Focus on the Family" radio program.
I have a mentally retarded sister. Would she be next on some
court's starvation list?
This nation was founded to preserve "life, liberty and the
pursuit of happiness." Not life of the rich and powerful at the
expense of the vulnerable. There are such countries, such as Iraq
under Saddam Hussein.
America bears a higher torch, a vision that all of God's people
are precious. It is a vision of Scripture: "Speak up for those who
cannot defend themselves." Proverbs 31:8.
Gay Lifestyle Bishops - It's no big deal ... ?
by Peter Moore
Anyone who has picked up a newspaper recently knows that the House of
Bishops of the Episcopal Church has confirmed the election of the Rev.
V. Gene Robinson as a bishop by the Diocese of New Hampshire. Robinson
is an "openly gay" man who left his wife and now lives in a sexual
relationship with a male partner.
As the furor over his election became an international incident, Canon
Robinson justified his decision not to step down saying, "The Church
has been ordaining gay bishops and clergy for years. It's just that one
finally has had the honesty to say that he is gay. Why shouldn't this
be something the Church celebrates?"
Well, Bishop Robinson, I don't believe this is something for the church
to celebrate, and here's why:
"The Church has been ordaining gay bishops and clergy for years." Okay.
But it has also been ordaining sinners of every type for years. It's
been ordaining sinners because no other type of human being is
available or, I should add, suitable. The Church has never thought that
sexual orientation toward one's own sex should automatically prevent
the ordination of people who are clearly called and gifted - if they
The issue before us is not one of sexual orientation. Rather, it's a
matter of practice. Even more, it is about what bishops teach, preach,
and practice. Robinson, by focusing on sexual orientation, wants us to
think that, as long as he is honest about his practice, it should be
accepted. But a lot more than honesty is at stake. The majority of
bishops of the Episcopal Church have made a decision that radically
changes the church's relationship to Scripture, the universal church,
and the global Anglican Church. It enshrines the assumptions of secular
culture, siding with a small liberal elite against the majority of the
First and foremost, they have decided to act against the clear teaching
of Holy Scripture. Article XX of the Thirty-Nine Articles says that the
Church "ought not to decree any thing against (the Scripture)," nor can
the Church "expound one place of Scripture (in a way that is) repugnant
to another." The bishops have done just that. Many would like us to
think that they are merely doing what the Church has already done in
the matters of divorce, women's ordination, and slavery - that is, that
they have simply amended earlier misunderstandings of Scripture. But
there is no comparison. On these issues, as many have shown, the
overall witness of Scripture moves in the direction in which the Church
has moved. However, the witness of Scripture on homosexuality is
straightforward condemnation. Homosexual behavior is wrong; plain and
simple. It violates the order of creation and conflicts with the
biblical teaching that sex belongs within the covenant of marriage. Nor
can Jesus' silence on homosexual sin be taken as a reason to believe
that He would accept it. His teaching was shaped by the Old Testament,
and by a conviction that marriage between a man and a woman was God's
plan from the beginning.
Second, they have decided to ignore the teaching of the universal
church. Ever since the Jews brought the unruly sex drive of fallen
humanity into the framework of marriage, the "church" of the Old
Testament and the church of the New Testament, as well as the church of
subsequent history, has believed that homosexual behavior is a sin. The
bishops of the Anglican Communion declared as recently as 1998, in a
vote of 526 to 70, that "homosexuality is contrary to Scripture." The
Primates of all the Anglican Churches met this past spring in Brazil
and reaffirmed that same-sex blessings were not acceptable. However, in
a stunning reversal, the bishops of the American Episcopal Church have
decided to go their own way. In doing so, the bishops have acted more
like a sect or a cult than the representatives of the church catholic
that they claim to be.
**Third, they have shown their contempt for the most vibrant part of
the Anglican Communion - the Global South.** Diocese after diocese,
Province after Province around the world, but especially in the Global
South where the Church is growing at a furious pace, has now declared
itself "out of communion" with New Hampshire and with those dioceses
that voted to affirm Robinson. More will undoubtedly do so in the
coming months. Is this no big deal? These are the missionary-minded
parts of our Communion who live out their discipleship in often hostile
surroundings. For them, and for those of us who are in communion and in
sympathy with them, this is a very big deal. Vast sections of our
Communion now find our Episcopal Church to be a profound embarrassment.
Is a fractured, divided Communion worth the price of one "openly gay"
bishop? Fortunately, the Archbishop of Canterbury thought not. Last
month he asked the Rev. Jeffrey John, another openly gay advocate of
homosexual partnerships, to step down from election as suffragan bishop
in Oxford. But the American Episcopal bishops thought they knew better
Fourth, they have enshrined the dubious assumptions of a secularized
and sensualized culture. Contrary to all the evidence, many of these
bishops believe that homosexuality is an innate, natural, manageable,
and healthy alternative to heterosexual marriage. It is important to
state some truths here, at the risk of offending sensitive parties. Not
one study has confirmed a genetic source for homosexuality. Even
studies done by homosexuals seeking support from science for this view
have not confirmed it. This is not surprising; modern human genetics no
longer even looks for a single gene that controls a complex behavior
pattern. The natural arrangement of human sex organs makes it clear
that neither the anus nor the mouth were made for penetration. The
duration of homosexual liaisons - contrary to the myth of "long-term"
relationships - is much shorter than advocates would like us to
believe. At any time 75% of all practicing homosexuals carry a sexually
transmitted disease, and 40% get sick in a given year.
The bishops have chosen to believe that the unruly sex drive that, in
one way or another, both blesses and besets us all can be domesticated
without lifelong commitment, procreation, and the responsibilities of
family. They hope that the gay lifestyle can somehow be finessed into
the suburban world of private schools, Volvo station wagons, and
champagne cocktails over brunch at the club.
Fifth, they have chosen to side with a small liberal element in their
dioceses against the vast majority of lay people who pay the bills
through parochial assessments. To understand why they would make such a
choice, we must consider the fear in which they live. The wrath of an
aroused liberal can be devastating. Imagine newspaper articles decrying
the homophobia, fundamentalism, exclusivity, and oppressiveness of
their local Episcopal bishop, if he is faithful to Scriptures and the
universal church. Episcopal bishops are not used to negative publicity.
Roman Catholic bishops, by contrast, are used to it. This is not just
because of the recent bad press they have received over their poor
handling of sexual abuse by clergy, but also because they have
consistently affirmed a "pro-life" stance against the liberal cultural
consensus for abortion and euthanasia.
Most Episcopal bishops want to be welcome at the Christmas parties of
their affluent members. They want the approval of the local university
president. And they fear an angry, aroused media. So, rather than take
the moral high road and stand with Holy Scripture and their fellow
Christians throughout the centuries, they have sided with those who
have the power to make their lives miserable. I have seen what the
media can do to a bishop who dares to stand against the homosexual
lobby. It was not pretty, and in the case I have in mind, the bishop
succumbed. Clearly, in the Episcopal Church we have "two churches under
one roof." These two churches think differently, feel differently,
believe differently, and come to very different conclusions. Is it time
to face these facts, and find a way to walk separately, rather than
prolong an ugly family fight?
As we consider our alternatives, our special concern should be the
homosexuals caught in the middle. Many have lived quiet, mostly
celibate lives, but are now identified and pressured to "come out."
Some have sought counseling, only to be told by liberal clerics that
they should "accept the inevitable" and find a same-sex partner. Others
have been mistreated by promoters of rigorous self-discipline, or even
exorcism, as a quick fix. Who will love these people with the love of
Christ, and walk with them in hope for a future in Christ, as fellow
sinners redeemed by grace?
For those clergy and laity in dioceses where opposition to the
homosexual agenda means social ostracism, there can be only one
response: courage. Consider the implications the homosexual agenda will
have for the teaching of your children at the hands of youth leaders,
clergy, diocesan officials, and bishops. Future clergy must now pledge
obedience to bishops whose views are at variance with the Bible and the
entire Christian tradition. Can they in good conscience do so? We must
all find a way to be Christian that does not compromise our witness to
the truths of salvation, and that will allow us to bring our children
up to be disciples of Jesus Christ. Let us pray for one another.
The Rev. Dr. Peter Moore is President of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry