Sunday, September 23, 2007

An Honest Assessment of a Dishonest Church

This would cut to the soul of the Epsicopal Church (TEC) if they had one.


By David W. Virtue in New Orleans

Orthodox Episcopalians and Anglicans around the Anglican Communion can only wonder and marvel at what they saw and heard in New Orleans this week.

Many will still be rubbing their eyes in disbelief for days and weeks to come.

What they had hoped for, at a minimum, was that the Archbishop of Canterbury would enforce the demands of the Windsor Report and perhaps take a step further and tell the Episcopal Church that their refusal to comply could effectively destroy the Anglican Communion. The scholarly poet and author of 14 books could then have stood up in their midst, like a latter day prophet, (the beard helps) and declared the Word of the Lord, announce that God's word can never be broken, that they would answer for their endorsement of pansexual sin at the Last Judgment and then turn on his heel shaking the hotel dust off of his feet as he went.

He didn't. The overpowering collegiality, the bonhomie, the quiet solicitation of "your grace", the murmurings in his ear that to include sodomy among the church's pantheon of sexual behaviors would cast him as a "prophetic" figure embracing the new religion of The Episcopal Church leading inevitably and triumphantly to a new reformation akin to Martin Luther, won the day.

What happened instead was that the homogenital Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire, pointed the finger at the Archbishop of Canterbury and accused him of "dehumanizing" gays and lesbians, telling him in no uncertain terms exactly "what was on my mind and on my heart." Dr. Williams hung his head as he listened to the browbeating bishop. At a press conference Williams expanded his views. When questioned by the pansexual Episcopal organization Integrity about what word of hope he had for the GLBT baptized, Williams replied, "I would hope that a gay or lesbian person who would want to be a Christian would want affirmation and challenge and would want to be challenged as to what is the way to live life as a follower of Christ. I hope we are clarifying the belief that is being and has been expressed in a number of conferences that violence against gay and lesbian people is inexcusable."

The issue of "violence" against gays which is miniscule, but makes headlines because of gay and liberal agit-prop, cannot be compared to the slaughter of Anglican Christians in Northern Nigeria by mad Muslim hoards which barely makes two inches of copy in the New York Times.

"Certainly gay and lesbian people have a place in the church as do all the baptized," said Williams. Orthodox Episcopalians are hanging on by their fingernails in liberal dioceses, have no place at the Episcopal table, and are daily being hounded and marginalized in one revisionist Episcopal diocese after another. Is it any wonder they are leaving The Episcopal Church by the thousands every week, said Williams, is how far the traditional theology of the church lets us move in that direction. The answer of course is that it won't and it can't, and 2,000 years of Christian teaching on sexuality will not be erased or updated simply because Williams and a revisionist Episcopal House of Bishops say so.

On the Dar es Salaam communique, there was even more rewriting of history. The Sept. 30 date, we are now told was never a fixed deadline, an omega point for the Episcopal Church, rather it was an alpha point, the beginning of "conversation" around which it is hoped the Episcopal Church will fudge the Primates findings and thus carry on doing what it has always done - act defiantly and thus tear the fabric of the Communion into shreds while claiming the moral high ground of inclusion and diversity.

Williams and Australian Archbishop Phillip Aspinall, among the Anglican representatives at the meeting, would later say, "We had misread the communique" and "expressed a sense of regret" over how it was written.

That is not how the evangelical Archbishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East saw it. Bishop Mouneer Anis put it bluntly, "My friends, you may believe you have discovered a very different truth from that of the majority in the Anglican Communion. It is not just about sexuality, but also about your views of Christ, the Gospel, and the authority of the Bible. Please forgive me when I relay that some say you are a different church, others even think that you are a different religion." Mouneer went on to conclude, "For the first time in centuries, the fabric of our communion is torn."

Then Williams turned the screws on the church's true believers suggesting that the Global South (the newer churches) should learn from the TEC and the CofE (the older churches), even as their churches empty, unable to convince their own cultural elites of the truth of Christianity, while African and Asian churches grow by the million, many in the face of intense persecution, joyfully proclaiming the gospel as they go. What exactly did Williams think the Global South had to learn from post-modern Western Anglicans most of whom wouldn't know how to lead a person to Christ if their lives depended on it!

A parishioner of Truro Episcopal Church, Mary Ailes asked the archbishop why it is that the one thing we have heard often is that we are free to go, but we have to leave the buildings behind. Some hear that as: "We have no need of you but we need your buildings." What would you say to those who want to be Anglican, but cannot in good conscience remain Episcopalian?

Williams responded by saying that they should start looking for arrangements and situations within what exists because grace is given even in hopeless places. "Isn't God's grace still given sacramentally in the Episcopal Church? I would be slow to look for solutions elsewhere." What about those faithful Episcopalians who simply want to proclaim the gospel in buildings they, not the diocese or national church built; a gospel that liberals are too ashamed to proclaim preferring to talk about inclusion and diversity even as their parishes empty and are being sold to upstart Evangelical churches that fill them by the thousand. Perhaps the archbishop might reflect on what happened in the diocese of Western Michigan where the cathedral in Kalamazoo was sold by the diocese at a financial loss and bought by a church of 2500 evangelicals, what "grace" had been given "sacramentally" to that diocese to keep the cathedral open. Even the bishop cut his losses and got out. And what would the archbishop say to dozens of liberal bishops like Charles E. Bennison who are selling empty and dying parishes because no one crosses their threshold to hear sermons about how inclusive the Episcopal Church is. Williams is living in a dream world. The Episcopal Church has less than 800,000 attending weekly services and within a decade, at the present rate of departures (now over 700 a week) that figure will be down to 300,000 "sacramental" persons. Ichabod is written all over the church.

Williams said it was distressing to see the levels of litigation going on in The Episcopal Church. "I would hope and pray that there is a possibility of stopping this from being dragged through the courts interminably." He said that with Mrs. Schori sitting right next him. She never said a word. Do you think for a moment that she would suddenly call off her legal beagle, David Booth Beers whose law firm is being paid enormous sum of money to sue parishes all over the country? Not a prayer. Last week Beers crawled all over and threatened Bishop Jeffrey Steenson (Rio Grande) for settling with the pro-cathedral in El Paso after the diocese came out ahead with $2 million! Beers wanted a fight instead, but Steenson told VOL he didn't have the money for lawsuits and he was glad to settle. Beers ground his teeth. Where was Mrs. Schori in all this? Why didn't she tell Beers to back off? Where is the "sacramental" presence here? Why didn't Williams tell Mrs. Schori to put a leash on Beers? It will never happen. The Episcopal Church props up the Anglican Consultative Council and he won't bite the hand that feeds it.

We were told that there were moments of tension in the closed-door discussions. Williams got an earful from both sides of the room. Some bishops told VOL that he had to make some concessions for the sake of Anglican unity. It never happened. That is clear from what everything we heard at the press conference.

The Archbishop of Canterbury's inability to act decisively may well have cost him the Anglican Communion. He is gone now. All that remains is for the liberal leadership of the TEC and ACC to mop up the scraps. The brainy Gregory Cameron of ACC will schmooze a paper saying everything and nothing. The TEC leadership will agree with it. It will be a paper of monumental fudge. The Windsor bishops have rolled over. The Network (ACN) bishops have mostly gone, their voices all but made irrelevant. Lambeth is still on. Akinola was rebuffed in asking for a cooling off and postponement of Lambeth, but reports out of London say that he has made it clear that he and his Nigerian bishops are unlikely to be going to Lambeth 2008. Instead, with the other Global South partners, they could even be at a "Fourth Trumpet" GS meeting, in other words, a rival Lambeth. Akinola is apparently adamant. He told Ruth Gledhill of the London Times that this was not schism. Yes, Communion was broken, but Nigeria was remaining in the Anglican Church. It was not they who had moved.

Williams has issued his invitations to Lambeth and he will not withdraw them. Even if he reduces TEC to an observer status at Lambeth as a gesture to the orthodox next year it will be meaningless because there will be no resolutions like Lambeth 1:10 to vote on. It is the Global South's play as to what they will do now. The ball is in their court.

Next week in Pittsburgh, Common Cause Partners will meet and decide how to respond to what happened here in New Orleans. They too will continue the "conversation", but from an orthodox perspective. No significant announcements can be expected until all the dioceses represented have their conventions, but by the years' end the gig will be up.

In the meantime, orthodox Episcopalians in the Episcopal Church will continue to leave in ever increasing numbers. Bishops like John W. Howe (Central Florida) and Bill Love (Albany) will go back to dioceses with parishes screaming to leave. Mrs. Schori, our Lady of Litigation, will have her man Beers ready to fire off lawsuits at bishops and parishes alike if they dare attempt to leave with their properties. Nothing will change, the beat will go on and the Episcopal Church will slowly wither and die. That is the judgment of history; it is also the judgment of God.

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