Bladensburg's Call to ECUSA: Come Home to Your Authentic Catholic Roots
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Sun May 13 22:21:47 EDT 2001
Bladensburg's Call to the Episcopal Church:
Come Home to Your Authentic Catholic Roots
By Robert Stowe England News and Analysis
BLADENSBURG, Maryland -- As 300 faithful Anglican Catholics gathered
Saturday in the heart of a diocese that has persecuted and sought to
drive them away, a repeated admonition marked the day's festivities and
Eucharistic celebration: stay in the Episcopal Church to be a witness
and to call the rest of the church home to its authentic Catholic
The call to stay and witness came at an all-day celebration of the
faith, "Christ is Risen!" which was sponsored and hosted by St. Luke's
Episcopal Church in Bladensburg, whose rector is Fr. Michael Heidt.
Fr. Geoffrey Kirk, General Secretary of Forward in Faith / United
Kingdom, made the central plea of the day direct from the pulpit at the
conclusion of his sermon just before noon: "Stay where you are. Be
reviled by all, rejected, trampled upon by authority. Nothing -- I
repeat, nothing -- you could do would be more pleasing to Him," he pled
"When the days seem long, and the nights lonely, and the bishops of
Hell are barking at the door, take down your Bibles and read how it was
with Paul," Fr. Kirk admonished
Quoting St. Paul, Fr. Kirk stated: "We do nothing that people might
object to, so as not to bring discredit on our faction as servants of
God. Instead we prove that we are servants of God by great fortitude in
times of suffering, in times of hardship and distress, when we are
flogged or sent to prison, or mobbed; laboring, sleepless, starving."
Fr. Kirk recalled the stamina and fortitude of the persecuted in the
early church, as revealed in St. Paul's writings, to inspire today's
Anglo-Catholics for the struggle against their oppressors within the
Episcopal Church here and within other Anglican bodies abroad.
Again, reading St. Paul, Fr. Kirk stated that we prove we are God's
servants when are "taken for impostors while we are genuine; obscure
yet famous; said to be dying; and behold we live; rumored to have been
executed before we are sentenced; thought most miserable, yet always
rejoicing; taken for paupers, we make others rich, thought to own
nothing and yet possessing all things."
A High Pontifical Mass
A stately and resplendent high pontifical mass was celebrated at 10:30
am by Bishop Jack Iker of Fort Worth, with Fr. Michael Heidt as the
deacon. Fr. Samuel Edwards, rector of Christ Church, Accokeek, was the
subdeacon, and Fr. Edwin Barnett, curate of St. Paul's K Street, was
Bishop Iker's chaplain.
They were joined in the procession by three bishops from U.S.
continuing churches: Archbishop Louis Falk, Primate of the Anglican
Church in American, based in Des Moines, Iowa, and also Primate of the
Traditional Anglican Communion, an international body; Bishop Louis
Compese of the Diocese of the Eastern U.S. of the Anglican Church in
America, and Bishop Peter Compton-Caputo, of the Anglican Independent
Communion, based in Crownsville, Md.
The procession also featured Rev. Dr. Earle Fox, who heads
Transformation Ministries in Alexandria, Va., and Fr. John Heidt, the
father of the rector of St. Luke's, who was visiting from Texas. Fr.
Fox and Fr. John Heidt were bishop's deacons for the visiting bishops
from the continuing churches.
The bishops, deacons and chaplains were attired in resplendent gold
vestments, that were on loan from David Smith, and which an informed
observer estimated to be worth $100,000. (Note to thieves: they have
since been returned.) They are believed to be vintage vestments from
the early 19th century, France, with elaborate embroidery featuring a
lamb in the center and embellished with bullion fringe.
The altar was graced with four reliquaries, including one of the true
cross. Three others contained bone fragments of several saints. One
reliquary contained pieces of bone said to be those of St. Augustine,
St. Francis and St. Clare; another contained St. Stephen, the first
martyr, and the fourth, St. Cabrini.
The procession was led by acolytes bearing a cross and followed by two
banners, each depicting the Virgin Mary, including one in Spanish for
the Reina de Mexico. The Bladensburg parish, located in a blue collar
suburb of Washington, D.C. has a diverse body of parishioners,
including many from the Caribbean, Africa and Mexico. There is a
separate Spanish mass each Sunday.
The faithful came from throughout the region, with notable delegations
from Ascension & St. Agnes in Washington, D.C., Mount Calvary in
Baltimore, St. Paul's on K Street in Washington, D.C., and Christ
Church in Accokeek, Maryland -- scene of a dispute that has made it the
focus of the entire Anglican Communion. The parish's legal call of a
rector, Fr. Sam Edwards, has been rejected by the extreme revisionist
Suffragan Bishop of Washington, Jane Dixon.
The Catholic faithful also came from parishes throughout the Diocese of
Washington, as well as the dioceses of Virginia, Maryland, Easton, and
Delaware. There was also a scattering of visitors from Texas,
Wisconsin, Florida, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina.
The Bladensburg Call to Catholic Faith and Order
The bishops and priests in the procession, as well as other clerics and
faithful Christians seated among the congregation, were invited to
sign a document prepared especially for the occasion.
The document, titled "The Bladensburg Call to Catholic Faith and
Order," called on the entire Episcopal Church to return to its
authentic roots, which are Catholic, and called on faithful Catholics
to defend the historic faith, regardless of the cost in persecution.
"Celebrating the risen Christ . . . we bear witness to the historic
faith and order of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Our
Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," the statement begins.
It continues: "We call upon all loyal Anglicans to join us in
supporting one another in the defense of our Catholic inheritance, no
matter what opposition we may encounter from official bodies or
appointed leaders within our churches, at whatever personal cost may be
required of us."
The call affirms the statement of Archbishop of Canterbury Geoffrey
Fisher, who stated in the early twentieth century that the Anglican
Church has no doctrines or orders of its own other than those of the
undivided Church. The call states that the chief standard of faith is
the Vincentian Canon, which is what has been believed by Catholic
Christians "everywhere, always, and by everyone."
The Bladensburg Call also declares that Anglican churches have "neither
the authority nor the power to change the commonly accepted faith and
order of the Church."
The statement takes to task those who have deviated from traditional
faith and order. "By acting and teaching in ways that are heretical and
schismatic, no matter what their particularly ecclesiastical allegiance
may happen to be, they create a state of impaired communion with other
The calls ends with a prayer for "a renewed Anglican participation in
restoring the visible unity of the Catholic Church," noting the hopeful
signs of a closer relationship between Eastern and Western Christians.
In the afternoon session, Bishop Iker described the central role played
by apostolic teaching and fellowship in sustaining Catholic
Christianity. His address is discussed in further detail in a separate
Ms. Cris Fouse, national field director of Forward in Faith / North
America, spoke of the call of all Christians to evangelize, a theme
echoed by an address by Fr. David Moyer, President of Forward in Faith
/ North America and rector of Good Shepherd, Rosemont, Pa.
During his talk Fr. Moyer told the gathering that God had answered the
prayers of Anglo-Catholics in the Diocese of Washington by sending Fr.
Edwards into their midst as rector of Christ Church Accokeek. "He's the
right man at the right time and tight place," he said. He received an
extended standing ovation after that comment.
In an interview after the day's events, Fr. Kirk commented on the
conflict over the call of Fr. Edwards to be rector of Christ Church,
Accokeek. He took particular exception to the statements by Presiding
Bishop Frank Griswold and Jane Dixon that Fr. Edwards is schismatic.
"We are in wonderland here. It's a mirror vision of reality. Frank
Griswold calls Sam Edwards a schismatic. The truth is, however, that
Frank Griswold is a schismatic. Fr. Edwards isn't," said Fr. Kirk.
Furthermore, notes Fr. Kirk, Bishop Dixon is also a schismatic even
though she, too, has called Fr. Edwards schismatic.
"If the Bishop of Washington is not prepared to accept the letters
dimissory of a priest in the Diocese of Fort Worth, then this is an act
of schism by Jane Dixon against the Diocese of Fort Worth," Fr. Kirk
said. "It's a statement of war against the Diocese of Fort Worth and
it's absolutely outrageous."
"Either the Diocese of Fort Worth is a diocese in good standing in the
Episcopal Church -- in which case the letters dimissory are accepted --
or it is not," Fr. Kirk said.
Furthermore, Fr. Kirk said, Dixon engages in more "wonderland" use of
language over the issue of whether or not Christ Church might leave the
diocese. "She says she's worried the parish will leave the diocese, but
the truth is the parish wants to stay. She wants the people to leave so
she can have their nice little country church for herself."
In his sermon, Fr. Kirk got in another quip against Griswold. "We are
seeking to be faithful in a church which has self-consciously embraced
infidelity. We supposed, by now, that it must have dawned on almost
everybody else as it has dawned on us, that the patron saint of the
Presiding Bishop is St. Pandora of the Box, that well-known non-virgin
and non-martyr. But it hasn't."
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