Opening Comments 11-26-2001
DVirtue236 at AOL.COM
Mon Nov 26 01:13:24 EST 2001
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In the ongoing seismic shifts that occur almost weekly in The Episcopal
Church, it is often hard to know where the ground will shake next and
what, therefore, it is a journalist should cover.
It is a bit like a boy lost in the woods and whistling up a storm in
the hope that he won't cry and someone will hear him, find him and lead
him to safety?
Is the Episcopal Church whistling Dixie or is it, like the lost boy,
waiting to be found and brought home from the theological and sexual
wilderness, where it is presently wandering?
One group within ECUSA that knows exactly what it believes and why it
is staying is the American Anglican Council. They are not lost but they
are whistling up a storm. Ye who are (theologically and morally) weary
come home, might well be their cry.
The American Anglican Council describes itself as orthodox
Episcopalians in its mission statement. "We're missionaries called to
fulfill the Great Commission, to proclaim Biblical truth and to
transform the Episcopal Church from within. We are mainstream
And judging by some of the success stories the 30 plus Episcopal
bishops who belong to the AAC are having in their dioceses, they see no
need to go anywhere.
Dioceses like Albany, Pittsburgh, Bethlehem, Florida, Central Florida,
Quincy, San Joaquin, to name just a few, are growing and thriving
because they believe the gospel and the bishops are pushing their
priests to implement ALPHA and make things happen.
These bishops are not buying Frank Griswold's pluriform theology, and
while they are deferential towards him as ECUSA's titular head
(Griswold holds no diocesan bishopric unlike the Archbishop of
Canterbury), they cut him no quarter theologically or on moral issues.
They know what he stands for and they are not buying it. They also stay
well below the radar screen and get on with making their dioceses grow.
They want as little to do with him as possible, their primary concern
being to grow their dioceses in, with and through the power of the Holy
All of them have no problem with women's ordination and they do not
believe that that is a slippery slope to homosexual acceptance. They
are not connected. It is possible to be faithful in morals and believe
God has called women to be priests. While saying that, they have been
openly supportive of FIFNA Bishop Jack Iker (Ft. Worth) who finds one
of his priests, Fr. Sam Edwards in the Diocese of Washington currently
under siege by Jane Dixon. Bishop Iker opposes women's ordination.
The AAC strongly dislike the heavy-handed actions of liberal and
revisionist bishops like Dixon, Bennison and Shaw - and will say so -
but they will not support any call for schism or separation. They are
Frank Griswold's loyal opposition and the liberals' worst nightmare.
At the last General Convention in Denver they came up with the slogan,
"God changes lives for good" that was impressively irenic but forceful
in its opposition to the lesbigay agenda in ECUSA. They were suddenly
in the battle and posed a serious alternative voice to Louie Crew and
the pansexual brigade called Integrity.
They had a rallying cry and were immediately recognizable. They are
now, more than ever, a political force to be reckoned with.
Some of their bishops like Duncan, (Pittsburgh) and Herzog (Albany) are
today emerging as outspokenly critical of ECUSA's direction and they
are willing to take on the powers that be with strong statements of
faith and commitment to Holy Scripture.
At one point Duncan opposed Griswold in what was a Jubilee call and
took a beating from Griswold over definitions. Neither backed down, but
Duncan showed he has the stuff of which orthodox bishops are made. I
also know of another bishop who has personally (and privately)
confronted Griswold on his "lies" and emerged bloodied but unbowed.
All this would lend efficacy to the truth that while most of the
publicity and stories of ECUSA are generally about bad bishops, wayward
priests and men and women of dubious sexuality functioning in high
places, there is a strong undercurrent of orthodox faith and commitment
in ECUSA that will not go away and will not be squelched.
Springfield Bishop Peter Beckwith echoed that sentiment at the recent
annual meeting of the AAC in Ohio and it was reiterated again this past
week at the Florida chapter of the AAC. A story is posted today on what
was said there.
It is not known for sure how many bishops have signed the AAC mission
statement and how many thousands of Episcopalians they represent, but
the body is sizable and they have heavyweight bishops like James
Stanton (Dallas), John W. Howe (Central Florida), and Stephen Jecko
(Florida) among their number.
While many of the AAC bishops are sympathetic to the Anglican Mission
in America (AMIA) and fully understand why they did what they did, that
is not a route they are willing to take or pursue. They will stay and
The AAC bishops, are, in fact, more diverse and inclusive than the
liberals and revisionists who are showing themselves up to be less than
tolerant on lightning rod issues they hold dear.
As one Evangelical bishop wrote to me recently said; "I think she
(Dixon) is a god-send, showing what the zeitgeisters really mean by
"toleration", "diversity", and "pluralism."
Nothing could be truer. And this bishop is staying firmly within the
Furthermore small gains are made here and there. The new Suffragan
BISHOP OF ALABAMA is an evangelical he tells me. The Rev. Mark Andrus,
45, was elected recently for his skills to reach youth and to make
churches grow. The new Diocesan Bishop of WESTERN KANSAS is also a man
of orthodox persuasion. Gains might be few and small, but one thing is
for sure; liberals and revisionists have no way to make churches grow.
They have no message and their dioceses are shrinking and withering.
The DIOCESE OF CHICAGO recently closed down its only start up mission
and dioceses like NEWARK are rapidly tanking. By contrast the DIOCESE
OF ALBANY grew nine percent last year.
It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out why. Does anyone think
for a moment that Jack Spong's "new reformation" would have people
pounding the doors of Episcopal churches begging to get in to hear the
latest 'thesis' from Spong? Of course not. According to Dave Barrett
author of the World Christian Encyclopedia there are upwards of 70
million evangelicals in America, and none of them would cross the road
to hear anything Spong had to say.
For the folk at AAC, Christian mission is rooted in unchanging biblical
revelation. They believe in the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, the
Sanctity of life and a "true Inclusivity" in whom there is neither Jew
nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, and will extend the welcome
of the Church to every person, regardless of race, sex, social or
economic status, sexual orientation, or past behavior. They oppose
prejudice in themselves and others and renounce any false notion of
inclusivity that denies that all are sinners who need to repent.
They argue that sexuality is inherent in God's creation of every human
person in his image as male and female. All Christians are called to
chastity: husbands and wives by exclusive sexual fidelity to one
another and single persons by abstinence from sexual intercourse. God
intends and enables all people to live within these boundaries, with
the help and in the fellowship of the Church. That's not the position
ECUSA's liberal and revisionist bishops take, but it is where the
rubber meets the road. And everyone knows it.
The AAC desire to be supportive of congregations, dioceses, provinces,
and the national structures of the Episcopal Church and the worldwide
Anglican Communion. "However, when there arises within the Church at
any level tendencies, pronouncements, and practices contrary to
biblical, classical Anglican doctrinal and moral standards, we will not
support them. Councils can err and have erred, and the Church has no
authority to ordain anything contrary to God's Word written (Articles
of Religion XIX, XX - BCP p. 871). When teachings and practices contrary
to Scripture and to this orthodox Anglican perspective are permitted
within the Church - or even authorized by the General Convention - in
obedience to God, we will disassociate ourselves from those specific
teachings and practices and will resist them in every way possible."
There can be little doubt that as parishes empty with retiring priests,
seminary graduates from TESM and Nashotah House and new ordinands from
orthodox dioceses emerge, that they could simply win by staying put.
It's not a bad strategy.
Someone said recently that the Episcopal Church is like the stock
market. There are very few short-term gains. If you stay in it for the
long haul you will win. Time alone will tell.
Recent figures show the burnout rate of clergy to be very high. Most
cast about for new jobs after five years. Those committed to the gospel
have less recidivism. Ultimately the race might not be to the swiftest,
but to those who last, and the AAC it appears, will be in this race to
the very end.
IN THE LEAD STORY today we take a long, hard theological look at
statements made by Frank Griswold to a recent gathering of Cursillo
leaders in Texas. Dissembling Griswold is important. His mystic mind
obscures and interprets Scripture in odd ways. There is a universalism
about everything that comes out of his mouth. It's as though he were
firing a gun with blanks and watching the deer as they skip away, while
the family goes hungry for another night, and then turning to the
family says, "Bless you my children, your needs will be met at a deeper
place." Or, it's watching two towers crumble and fall to the ground and
5,000 people die and Frank says he wants to "wage reconciliation."
There is a deep disconnect in the man.
I am posting a number of stories today from around the world that will
hopefully be of interest. I am delighted to announce that Sarah Tippit
of REUTERS news service will be an occasional contributor to
Virtuosity. She has written a splendid piece on Harry Potter. So, too,
has Virtuosity's regular columnist Terry Mattingly.
It will probably come as no surprise to learn that former Scottish
Primus Richard Holloway admits that he has now lost his faith. The only
question is when will most of ECUSA's bishops make the same
announcement. Spong lost his faith a long time ago and New Westminster
(Canadian) Bishop Michael Ingham should be honest enough to make the
On a higher note the New York Times Book Review mentions Stephen L.
Carter's new book GOD'S NAME IN VAIN: The Wrongs and Rights of Religion
in Politics. The Yale Law professor and Evangelical Episcopalian argues
that a religious voice should be welcome in American politics, but
warns that religion can lose its integrity and moral bearings when it
strays too far into civic affairs. Who could argue with this? Liberal
Protestants learned a profound lesson from the errors they made going
too far. Carter is a Virtuosity subscriber.
CORRECTION: In my last Opening Comments I wrote that St. Hugh of
Lincoln, Elgin Illinois was a small Hispanic congregation. That is in
fact not correct. "We have approximately 150 members with about 90
pledging units comprised most of middle to upper middle class
families," writes Danny Lee. "We are the first mission church to become
a full parish is about 12 years in the Chicago diocese. We are an
Evangelical Church adhering to the word of God. The ALPHA program is
our primary evangelism mechanism." The parish does have a small
Hispanic Outreach program. There is a new Hispanic mission church that
has been started on the South Side of Chicago but it is not affiliated
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David W. Virtue
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