Opening Comments 5-27-2001
DVirtue236 at AOL.COM
Sat May 26 23:04:37 EDT 2001
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I write to you on the eve of what might prove to be a turning point in
the history of The Episcopal Church USA.
You will receive this brief digest Sunday morning just as I and a
number of media, both secular and religious descend on the small parish
of St. John's, Christ Church, Accokeek, Md. to watch a drama unfold
that could mark a crossroads in the life of our Church.
Washington Suffragan Bishop Jane Dixon, with her entourage will make an
historic, unwelcome, and many believe, ill-fated attempt to take over
this small parish in the name of revisionism and a show of liberal
intolerance, against the backdrop of a godly priest, the vestry and the
vast majority of parishioners who do not want Bishop Dixon to come.
This face-off is a microcosm of a far larger impasse The Episcopal
Church faces over doctrine and discipline, and what it is The Episcopal
Church believes as it heads full tilt into the 21st Century.
What are at stake here are momentous issues.
One of the central issues is due process. Dixon claims to have the
canons on her side, though we have yet to see which canons she invokes
and what canon Edwards has, in truth, violated. On the other hand
Edwards says that he would be violating canon law, if he agreed with
her insistence on leaving the parish. He would also be violating
secular law (Maryland State law) if he tried to turn the parish
property over to her. He would also be compromising his relationship
with the vestry. Finally he would be violating his ordination vows as
a clergyman by calling on him to ignore a valid and enforceable
contract. "I would in effect be conspiring to secure the virtual
reduction of this parish to the status of a mission congregation
without such due process as may be provided for in
Civil or ecclesiastic law."
The deeper truth in all this is that the train called ECUSA is now on a
with itself, and when it collides it will tumble off the tracks into
the abyss burying itself on the Procrustean bed of Frank Griswold's
pluriformity doctrine. RIP.
If Bishop Dixon seizes the pulpit it will be a momentary triumph before
the Primates react, so I'm told. If not then she will leave knowing
that she lost, at least temporarily, and attempt to proceed to inhibit
and depose Fr. Edwards, stripping him of his ecclesiastical rights and
nullifying 22 years of ministry.
If that happens then Dixon's worst nightmare will have been realized.
She will have done what she says she does not want to happen - force
the parish out of the diocese and the Episcopal Church completely. She
will, of course, blame Fr. Edwards and the vestry for making that
happen, unwilling to take any responsibility for her part in that.
And today the crisis was compounded by more than 50 bishops who have
now come out in favor of what Bishop Dixon is doing. The list of
supporting bishops reads like revisionists a Who's Who.
I cannot recall a time, other than a General Convention, when so many
spoken out over a small, seemingly innocuous country parish priest and
his vestry's wish that he minister to them. This battle is not being
fought in a corner.
What happens here today will be the line in the sand for ECUSA's Anglo-
Catholics and traditionalists of all stripes. If they lose the battle
of Accokeek they will seriously have to consider what place now or in
the future they have in ECUSA.
Bishops like Jack Iker (Fort Worth), Keith Ackerman (Quincy) and John-
David Schofield (San Joaquin) now must ask themselves the question:
Where do we go from here? Can our priests graduating from Nashotah
House find "safe places" in non-welcoming, theologically unfriendly and
If the Anglo-Catholics are being hard-pressed to ask and answer that
question, can the church's Evangelicals be far behind?
It was reliably reported to me last week that most of ECUSA's bishops
will never give their consents to the consecration of any person who
does not agree with the ordination of women.
While Evangelicals may agree with the liberals on women's ordination
they are as opposed to the pansexual agenda of ECUSA as the Anglo-
What is at heart is the deeper issue of the church's very authority,
namely Scripture and honest truth-seeking and with that, due process.
The tragedy of Griswold's pluriform doctrine is that it rules out
honest debate in favor of pseudo dialogue, which always goes to the
person with the weakest argument. The person with the most pain wins.
At St. John's there will be more than enough pain to go around, and
today in Accokeek one small band of traditionalist Anglicans and their
rector will make a brave stand for the truth.
God bless and keep them.
David W. Virtue
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