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I'll Talk My Stand
Midwest Conservative Journal ^ | 4/11/2005 | Christopher Johnson

Posted on 04/12/2005 8:39:03 AM PDT by sionnsar

The third largest Episcopal church in the Diocese of Alabama has finally had enough:

For approximately 35 years the Episcopal Church of the United States of America, ECUSA, has struggled with the truth of the Scriptures of the Bible as they relate to human sexuality and the centrality of Jesus of Nazareth as Lord and Savior. Debates and repercussions of those struggles have ricocheted throughout the United States and around the world until the Episcopal Church has pushed it and its parent, the international Anglican Communion, to the teetering brink of schism--a formal and willful separation from the unity of the Church.

This morning, those struggles struck at the heart of the third largest Episcopal Church in the Alabama Diocese -- the 1,600-member Church of the Ascension in Montgomery’s historic Garden District. After the 10:15 service, a thus-far uncounted, but large number of parishioners walked away from the Episcopal Church to form a new parish in the Anglican Communion’s soon-to-be launched North American Province.

The new parish will be called “Christchurch”, and will hold its first service next Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at Trinity Presbyterian Church, 1728 South Hull Street in Montgomery. A permanent location is being sought.

The group has recruited the bulk of the Ascension staff and vestry. Turning in their resignations to Ascension this week are two of the three priests, including the rector -- The Reverend John-Michael van Dyke, and the associate rector for discipleship, The Rev. Robert L. DeMoss II. Others making the move are: Jeanne Dean, director of parish ministries; Madeliene Wilder, director of the children’s ministry; Mara Holden, assistant director of children’s ministries; D.J. Holden, youth minister; and, at the latest count, 11 of the 15 vestry members.

Christchurch will be under the jurisdiction of an international Anglican archbishop, at the direction of an American bishop and will be a part of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Many speculate that ECUSA will not be a part of the Communion in a few short years.

Ascension is not the first Episcopal Church in Alabama to split over the controversy. The oldest Episcopal Church in the state, Christ Church in Mobile, though not a part of the same diocese, split in 2000. Earlier this year parishioners at Christ the Redeemer, another Montgomery Episcopal Church, also left to form Legacy Anglican Church.

This seems to have been the last straw for most Ascensionites.

"The threat of further punitive action has made it increasingly difficult for clergy to proclaim the Gospel without provoking disciplinary charges and other punitive action," George Madre, one of those who resigned from the Ascension vestry to help form the new Christchurch. "We currently are constrained by our Bishop in what adult education we can offer on Sunday mornings."

For many that was the final straw. A post card went to Ascension parishioners two weeks ago announcing a new study class: "Much has happened these past few months, with regard to the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion," it read. "Before everyone breaks for the summer, we will offer a month long adult class in Ascension Hall, led by John-Michael van Dyke, beginning this Sunday, April 3: ’Where do we go from here?’ We ask that everyone be present to keep abreast of these development and implications for our future."

When Diocesan Bishop Henry Nutt Parsley Jr., learned of the class, he relayed a message through a third party to van Dyke the day before the class was meet insisting that the series on the state of the church not be held. Van Dyke, constrained by his ordination vows to obey his bishop, complied.

But the standing-room only crowd that showed up to hear what their rector had to say was not amused by the bishop’s action. For many, it was the last straw in a year darkened with bishop’s warnings, pastoral letters and intense pressure on the orthodox parish.

Two churches in the same diocese in the same year, one of them the third largest. 

Not bad.  I suppose Henry Parsley will just have to step up the number of meetings he has around his diocese.  Maybe he could appoint a reconciliation commission which would study the issue and report back to him in a year.  Or maybe a special "Living With Our Differences 2005!" retreat in Birmingham would be in order.

So ECUSA drops another one as AMiA gets even stronger.  But the organization that really needs to take note of this event is the Anglican Communion Network.  Their "remain within ECUSA" stance gets weaker with every parish that walks away.  Sooner or later, ACN is going to have to begin to put a whole lot more than just rhertorial distance between itself and ECUSA.  If it doesn't, there may not be much left when the split does come; AMiA may end up with the Anglican recognition that ACN desires.

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant
KEYWORDS: angpost4
[Interesting speculation at the end... --sionnsar]
1 posted on 04/12/2005 8:39:03 AM PDT by sionnsar
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2 posted on 04/12/2005 8:39:32 AM PDT by sionnsar (†† || Iran Azadi || Where are we going, and why are we in this handbasket?)
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