Skip to comments.To The Members of St. John’s Episcopal Church
Posted on 10/02/2005 2:23:30 PM PDT by hiho hiho
To The Members of St. Johns Episcopal Church (Tallahassee, FL)
From: Fr. Eric D. Dudley
As you may know by now, I resigned as Rector of St. Johns Church this past Sunday morning. Over the past two years it has become increasingly difficult for my family and me to remain a part of the Episcopal Church. After two years of prayerful struggling as well as thousands of conversations with fellow priests and bishops, I have come to realize that the roots of heresy are so deep in the Episcopal Church (in seminaries, among priests and bishops) that there really is no possibility of changing the fabric of this Church. I have arrived at a place where I do not feel comfortable using Episcopal literature, sending youth and college students to Episcopal conferences (even in the Diocese of Florida), or affirming my vows as a priest (to the Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of the Episcopal Church). When, last Spring, I had a lengthy conversation in my office with a young man who is just beginning to believe in Christ, I felt sick that I was leading him to new faith in a church that has turned its back on the very foundations of faith. I cannot do that ever again!
No truly orthodox rector or bishop I know has any hope for the future of the Episcopal Church. One priest suggested to me that even though he saw no chance of change in my lifetime, or my childrens, that if I would stand steadfast, and teach my children to do the same, that MAYBE my grandchildren would benefit from a healthy Episcopal Church. This would mean that for the remaining twenty years of my ministry I would have to fight this negative battle and hope that my children would be willing to give their lives to do the same, in the feeble hope that some fragment of orthodoxy might survive. I would much rather pour my life and ministry into building a strong Anglicanism in America based on the solid Gospel of Jesus Christ. From my perspective, the Episcopal Church is a Church that has lost its moorings and has left the fleet (the larger Anglican Communion), cut free from its anchor (Christ), and is being tossed about by all the whims of modern-day secularism. I am not called to stay in that boat. I will instead remain solidly anchored to Christ with the larger fleet of Anglicanism.
I do want you to know how very thankful I am for the ten years of ministry I have enjoyed as rector of St. Johns Parish. Together, by Gods grace, we have done many wonderful things to shape hearts and minds for Jesus Christ, and I will treasure the memories of my time in this parish. However, for me faithfulness requires a willingness to let go of buildings, and money, and even relationships for the sake of the truth of Scripture and the person of Jesus. Several people have been to see me to suggest that I wage a legal battle for the property of St. Johns. I have made clear many times over that I would never do this, not because such a battle could not be won legally, but because to enter such a battle is not only unscriptural, but would leave us all losers spiritually. t is my hearts desire to leave St. Johns respectfully, lovingly, peacefully.
I want to thank the many vestry members who, over the last ten years, have worked to make St. Johns strong, creating many assets that did not exist ten years ago: 1) a completely renovated church building 2) a new pipe organ 3) a renovated parish hall 4) a bookstore 5) a café 6) a college ministry 7) the Marshall House property St. Johns Foundation. I especially want to extend my appreciation to the current wardens, Major Harding and Rob Langford; to the Chair of the Finance Committee, Jack Buford; the Treasurer, Paul Sullivan; and, our Chancellor, Frank Shaw, III who have all worked very hard to make certain St. Johns has a sound future. Normally this time of year we are thousands of dollars in the red (as a result of low summer contributions), but this year we find ourselves solidly in the black, and with a new organ which has been paid in full without the need to borrow additional funds. While we do still have a $450,000 line of credit to pay down, I inherited ten years ago more than $200,000 in debt from the previous building program (a much smaller program) which we paid down in a very short period. St. Johns has many assets and can certainly build a strong future should it so choose.
I cannot neglect telling you how greatly disillusioned I have been by the actions of the present Bishop of Florida and by some of the members of our parish who call themselves Parishioners For Hopeful Reconciliation. While the actions of some of these people have been deeply distressing to me, my family, and the staff of St. Johns, ultimately I do not make the choice I make because of those actions. The real rift in our Church, while brought to the fore by sexuality, exists because we have allowed this church for forty years to move away from Scripture as the foundation for our life together.
I realize that I said at our Annual Parish Meeting I would wait until after General Convention in June to take this step. However, I choose to take it now for the following reasons: 1) Neither I nor my family can walk through another year of the emotional upheaval and turmoil we have withstood for the last two. I find myself becoming a cynical and resentful priest, something I would never want to be. 2) I think we all realize clearly that General Convention cannot and will not change the ultimate direction of this Church (especially after the Nottingham report offered by ECUSA to the Anglican Communion this past summer. Michael Petty reviewed the report for us in the last Proclamation!, pointing out that the Episcopal Church has made a very strident commitment to move ahead with what ECUSA sees as a prophetic call, leading the Church to a new truth).3) Knowing in my heart that I would be leaving at least by June, I could not in good conscience go through a stewardship process this fall calling on you to give sacrificially for 2006 when I myself am not committed to 2006. 4) Orthodox people at St. Johns have begun to leave, and others to tell me they are on the verge of leaving. I could not sit around and watch solidly orthodox people continue to leave with no strong Anglican place to go. Numerous members of the parish have come to me asking me to consider this move, and I do so as much for their sake as for my own convictions.
I have, therefore, resigned as Rector of St. Johns and have placed myself under the authority of an Archbishop in the Anglican Communion, thereby remaining true to the larger witness and tradition of Anglicanism. Beginning this Sunday, October 9 at 10:00 a.m., I will establish St. Peters Anglican Church. A group of people have purchased the old Church of Christ building immediately adjacent to Kool Beanz restaurant on Thomasville Road and have made it available to me freely, for 3-5 years, as a transition space while we grow a congregation, buy property, and build other buildings. Fr. Petty and Fr. Page have chosen to come with me, sacrificing their own security for what they too believe to be the call of Christ.
I leave you deeply saddened for the Episcopal Church, but filled with excitement and hope for the future of a strongly orthodox Anglicanism in America. I leave, not with words of condemnation on my lips for St. Johns, but with genuine thanksgiving for what we have shared, and with prayers as you walk the direction you believe you must go, and I walk the direction I believe I must go. St. Johns has been a vital parish in the downtown community for 175 years, and will weather this storm as it has many before. My family and I will miss doing ministry in the life of this parish and will always wish for you only the best.
May the peace of God be with you,
Rector, St. Johns Parish
God bless him.
What an amazing letter. Thank you for posting it. Here is a man who is true to his convictions. It is heart-warming to see it.
The female priest of one of the Episcopal churches here in Columbus MS resigned her position immediately after the church's decision a couple years ago. The Fr of the other one retired. Both of the churches here have seen their numbers plummet. The leaders at the national level are failing their flock big time.
On the other hand, there are a number of ECUSA churches in my area with an Anglican bent that are trying to fight the good fight with joy and hope in the faithfulness of Christ and His Word to persevere. I sense no bitterness or resentment in the priests of these churches -- only determination.
This is a devasting blow to the Diocese of Florida. St Johns in Tallahassee is not only one of the top parishes in the diocese, it was one of the diocese's original parishes (along with parishes in Jacksonville, St Augustine, Key West and Pensacola). In fact, when the diocese was created, it was the rector of St Johns, Francis Rutledge, who was made the first bishop.
Furthermore, much of the leadership in the various diocesan ministries has come from St Johns. That leadership will be hard to replace as some reports indicate as much as 60% of the congregation is leaving.
The fact that so many from such a historic and well heeled church that has been home to governors and senators are willing to walk away should serve as a wake up call to Bishop Howard.
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