Skip to comments.Splitting church members say they will keep peace (More on Midland)
Posted on 05/09/2005 6:21:51 AM PDT by newheart
St. Nicholas' Episcopal Church parishioners peacefully worshipped together Sunday, even as the congregation is splitting over denomination politics and biblical teachings, resulting in the charter of a new Midland church.
"It was a beautiful Mother's Day service, but going in and out, it was all about stopping each other to say, 'Whatever happens, we still care about you,'" said longtime member Edna Hibbitts, who is among 31 of more than 500 members voting to stay.
Almost 90 percent of members and their pastors were ordered by the Northwest Texas Diocese to leave St. Nicholas' for dissenting with the Episcopal Church's stance on homosexuality by naming a gay bishop in New Hampshire, among other things.
"But the homosexual issue is just a small part of a greater crisis," said the Rev. Jonathan Hartzer, associate rector. "The greater crisis is cultural accommodation at the expense of biblical Christianity."
Support for the ousted Midland congregation has come from all over the world, Hartzer said, and vast numbers of believers from afar are expected travel here to attend the last service of the full congregation May 29.
A new church, Christ Church Midland, is being chartered for those leaving and the diocese will send in a new, interim priest for those staying behind at the 4000 W. Loop 250 N. location. Overhead costs are about $300,000 per year, Pastor Jon Stasney said. The property, while paid for by local church members, is vested to the diocese. Stasney said ousted church members probably will meet at Midland Classical Academy during transition.
"While there's a real spirit of excitement and enthusiasm, there's some understandable grief about losing a building that's been such a great worship place for us," Stasney said, and has cautioned people not to be resentful. "That's to be expected but that's when you have the opportunity to test your Christian faith and it's an opportunity for Christian growth."
Hartzer said people began to "vote with their feet and pocketbooks" last spring, when church attendance and tithes began to plummet to the point donations are down by 50 percent this year.
But on Sunday, church attendance was considerably higher in all services, as people gathered amongst friends and fellow believers for one of the last times. Hibbitts said she still feels her fellow church members are like a family and is saddened by what has happened.
"It all boils down to, do you really feel convicted to leave because of the controversy," Hibbitts said. "We are determined not to let this spoil our friendships."
A member of St. Nicholas' since 1970, Hibbitts said she feels the controversy will be resolved by church hierarchy in upcoming years, and is determined to be patient in the meantime.
The diocese, she said, has offered to help the local church financially for the next two years.
As most of you know, this is my church.
I am so proud of Father Stansey & Hartzer --- especially Hartzer. He's very young with an unvested retirement account and a lot of little kids. He's making a big jump.
Lots of little details to be worked out --- notably family remains buried on property, etc.
Ironically, one of the readings Sunday was about how it is a blessing to be persecuted because one actually follows Christ. Stansey stuck to the Mothers' Day message, although you could tell it was on his mind.
One of the great untold stories about this is how the various Christian denominations of Midland are helping us out --- from a place to pray (the gym of a shool associated with a Bible church), to Bibles, to vestments, to whatnot all from Roman Catholic churches, Baptist, and everything in between.
The 31 people remaining in the empty building --- with no priests ---- are by-and-large typical hateful liberals, although there are some who remain just because they can't stand to give the building up to become a bath house or whatever Bishop Ohl has planned for it.
BTW: Ohl refused to even sell the building back to the congregation. He's a bitter, little, liberal man.
It you'd like to give the Bishop (politely) a piece of your mind, do so at: Wallis Ohl 1802 Broadway Lubbock, TX 79401 Phone: (806) 763-1370 x 205 Fax: (806) 472-0641 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
A bit of trivia regarding this church, one of the key members of the church ("Skip") ran Midland Men's Community Bible Study for years.
A gentleman by the name of George W. Bush went to Skip's classes and found Christ.
It's a very serious church, for a bunch of Anglicans, that is. (HA!)
"It you'd like to give the Bishop (politely) a piece of your mind,..."
Politely indeed, keep in mind that Bishop Ohl voted AGAINST the consecration of Gene Robinson.
Ohl voted the way he voted only because of pressure, in that he knew he was not casting a deciding vote.
Bishop Ohl has spoken in favor of Robinson since then --- saying he case he vote not because homosexuality was "bad" but because he felt the church was not "ready" for that step yet.
Don't be fooled, Ohl is very liberal and weak.
Thanks for the info. I guess that is why my own Bishop could refer to Ohl as someone who voted against VGR to bolster his case that St. Nicholas' was working to destroy the unity of Christ's church . Propaganda is always more persuasive when it is true.
Yeah, Ohl is very pro-Robinson.
We had a HEATED church meeting last year when we joined the American Anglican Council.
When asked, directly, the question, "Why did you vote against Robinson?" Ohl's response was, "Well, I did not think the church was READY for that step, YET." He then mumbled on that (paraphrasing now) "it might soon be, depending on the revelation of the Holy Spirit."
Couldn't explain how the HS would "reveal" something contrary to scripture.
Ohl then spouted, "Well, I was born Episcopalian and will die Episcopalian."
From the mid-pew area came the response, "Well, I was born and sinner and re-born a Christian. I will never die."
The entire congregation (less 31, I guess) started clapping --- eventually standing.
Ohl basically slunk out.
Sounds like a terrific church. I expect the Lord will bless you with an equally terrific new facility very soon.
"I expect the Lord will bless you with an equally terrific new facility very soon."
I hope so.
Kneeling, sitting, standing in a gym brings a whole new meaning to the word "Epsicaerobics."
What we saw when our church split was that a number of folks who voted to leave ended up staying with the building. In that case, however, the pastors and the staff were among those who stayed. Those who left quickly attracted a number of new members, however, and 15 years out, while both groups claim about the same membership, those who left have about twice the average weekly attendance of those who remained.
So, a year from now, don't be surprised to look around and see a lot of new faces, and to not see a few folks you expected. May the Lord bless what you all are doing in Midland.
One of the great untold stories about this is how the various Christian denominations of Midland are helping us out
I have noticed in other stories that those who help out in these situations cover quite a large theological range.
"I have noticed in other stories that those who help out in these situations cover quite a large theological range."
Part of it in our circumstance is that it is very easy to be a Christian in Midland. Indeed, the churches have set out to support non-denominational Bible study by-and-among church members (e.g., Midland Men's Community Bible Study --- where George Bush became a Christian).
While you would not think it, given the acrimony one see in FR, Baptists (to use a random example) agree about 95% with Roman Catholics (equally random) and vice versa.
There is 100% agreement on the essentials --- basically Jesus was the Christ/sinless/died for sins/reborn --- accept it or don't.
We study together --- and when odd, difficult, issues come up (e.g., predestination, birth control, whatnot) everyone gets their say, and that's it. Very few over-heated discussions and NO HATE among believers.
It is very refreshing compared to here.
And herein lies the real problem with todays Christian. People can disagree on theology but everyone can still on being friends; even though you know what is being taught is a lie. Christians cannot blame society for the way things are going if were not willing to stand up to other professing Christians who teaches distortions of the truth. Unfortunately our accommodations are more often with those in the church. If its wrong we are to have nothing to do with it-including getting back together for pot lucks.
Part of it is probably the anonymity here. The religion mod has done a good job of calming things down on this board in recent months.
I personally have more problem with a fellow Presbyterian who is teaching improper ideas than I do with a Mormon down the street teaching his fellow Mormons his incorrect theology. I occasionally discuss theology with a Mormon friend. Neither of us is going to change the other's mind, but it helps both of us to know where we agree and where we disagree. There is no reason for either of us to be unpleasant about it.
I live in South Texas, and we are governed by the West Texas Diocese, most of whom are against this homosexual agenda stuff and support the biblical types.
I continue to be appalled at the behavior of these pro-homo, anti-Bible bishops that cling to the stuff espoused by Griswold & company. I plan to stay with the church here, but should things change, I'll be ready to bail.
May God bless you, your congregation, and your priests in your witness for the Gospel!!!!
I remember that lesson about being blessed to be persecuted, too, and I connected it to what we orthodox Christians in the ELCA are going through.
Where would one send a contribution to help Christ Church Midland?
Christ Church Midland
Midland, TX 79702
is the temporary mailing address.
Thank you very, very much.
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