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Letter from Bishop Howard to His Diocese [and response]
American Anglican Council ^ | 10/27/2005

Posted on 10/28/2005 6:35:06 PM PDT by sionnsar

The Episcopal Diocese of Florida
325 Market Street
Jacksonville, FL 32256
904-356-1328 -

The Right Rev. Samuel Johnson Howard

Information from the Office of the Bishop

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ: Much has been happening lately in our church. Congregations are responding mightily to the needs of those in Mississippi and Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Our prison ministry task force recently told me of their plans for a summer camp for children of prisoners in our diocese for next year at Camp Weed. We are close to announcing a major gift of land for a new Episcopal congregation in the eastern part of the diocese.

Many, however, seem to be overly interested these days in just one thing: our differences. It saddens me that what divides some of us is not the theological truths of our faith, but rather the identity of those with whom we are associating. Please allow me to address some of these "current" issues. I want you to have the true facts directly from me.

I. St. John's Episcopal Church, Tallahassee

First, many of you have already heard that on October 2 the rector, two clergy, and some parishioners from St. John's Episcopal Church in Tallahassee departed suddenly and without a word to most of the parish to start their own church of another denomination. While the departure was unexpected, the events of the ensuing weeks at St. John's have been encouraging. In fact, these past few weeks at St. John's have been delightfully surprising.

With the gracious cooperation of Frs. Jim Dorn and Bruce Flickinger and the congregations of St. Mark's, Palatka and Emmanuel, Welaka, I was able to rearrange my visitation schedule for that Sunday. My friend Bishop Charles Keyser visited with these congregations so I could be at St. John's. I celebrated and preached at their two principal services. At those services, the church was full to overflowing, the worship joyful, and the mood buoyant. Over the past few weeks, the congregation has continued with their usual robust parish life of mission and worship while new ministries emerge daily. St. John's remains one of the largest churches in our diocese.

II. Parishes Requesting Alternative Episcopal Oversight

Second, you may have been following the events involving the four parishes who have requested some form of alternative episcopal oversight. [For a full discussion of their request and my response, please click on the "Response Letter" link at .] I have met a number of times over the few several weeks with representatives of those four parishes and together we are making good progress in discussing ways to balance the needs of these congregations and the expectations of the other 73 congregations in the diocese. In the midst of this, I am constantly reminded that none of these congregations are unanimous in their desire for alternate oversight. Similarly, there is not unanimity of opinion on the desire to disassociate from the Episcopal Church. I want each of you to know that any episcopal visitations will only happen with my express permission. Any such visitation will be by a bishop assisting me with the pastoral and sacramental duties of my office, and a fellow member of the Episcopal House of Bishops.

III. Mission Congregations

I have also been meeting with representatives of the two mission congregations in Jacksonville and Tallahassee. While the members of the Tallahassee mission are still contemplating their place in our larger church, we have reached a decision regarding the members of Calvary Episcopal Church in Jacksonville.

Beginning next week, many members of that congregation have decided to leave with their vicar and begin a new church of another denomination at a different location. They do so with my blessings and my assistance for an orderly transition. The division at Calvary Episcopal Church is now over. Beginning soon, the Episcopal Church will again be a visible presence on San Pablo Road in Jacksonville. A copy of my letter to some of the members of that congregation follows.

IV. Parishes Continued Association with The Episcopal Church

Regarding this same issue of continued association with the Episcopal Church, I want to make some comments about the parishes you my have been hearing about.

Recently, you may have read in some of our local newspapers about possible congregational departures in our diocese. In fact, conversations have begun between me and representatives of some of these congregations. While no decisions have been reached, we are beginning to identify the issues. One of these issues, property, seems to be foremost on many minds.

In our denomination, it is clear that all property used by congregations is ultimately owned by the diocese. Our own diocese made that clear in its founding documents in 1838 and has reaffirmed the principle for almost two centuries. We are blessed to be in a state where the law on property has been crystal clear for a long, long time. Finally, all the deeds to churches are in the name of the diocese. In short, the diocese owns all real and personal property. So, while there may be many things to differ on within our church these days, we are able to live completely within scriptural bounds by avoiding any litigation over property because the issue is well settled. I am pleased this is not a "gray area" to which any time need be devoted to argument.

All that said, let me say one more thing. It is the very clarity of the status of church property which permits us to address, with care, the needs of the departing members of these congregations. It is my intention to do all that I can to assist those who want to leave our denomination while at the same time ever protecting the Episcopal heritage and legacy in north Florida which has been entrusted to us by those who came before. As we continue to meet with these congregations, I am aware of our unique responsibility and ministry in making Jesus Christ known by the "doctrine, discipline and worship" of the Episcopal Church from the Atlantic Ocean to the Apalachicola River, and from the Georgia boarder to Palm Coast and over to Cedar Key. I do not intend to shrink our ministry nor shy from my pastoral responsibilities to each congregation in our diocese.

I look forward to sending you letters in the future of our ongoing mission and ministry, and on these "current" issues. As always, please remember me, my staff, and our entire diocese in your prayers.

Blessings, my friends.


TOPICS: Mainline Protestant
From the Florida Six: Public Response to Bishop Howard's Letter

The Rev. Neil G. Lebhar for "The Florida Six"
October 27, 2005

We are grateful for Bishop Howard's willingness to negotiate with our congregations. But we do find his statements about property somewhat pre-emptive and therefore troubling at this stage of our discussions. We also have the bishop's verbal agreement that property is on the table for negotiation, something that does not seem clear in the bishop's letter. We believe property is indeed a gray area for us, one we are open to negotiating. We and the bishop are all in agreement that negotiation is preferable to litigation.

Likewise, while obviously no congregation is unanimous in its decisions, the ninety-eight percent of Calvary who are leaving is very close to unanimity. The percentages of those willing to leave ECUSA in the other congregations are also very high. Of course we do agree that all parishioners deserve appropriate pastoral care in this process.

1 posted on 10/28/2005 6:35:06 PM PDT by sionnsar
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To: ahadams2; Fractal Trader; Zero Sum; anselmcantuar; Agrarian; coffeecup; Paridel; keilimon; ...
Traditional Anglican ping, continued in memory of its founder Arlin Adams.

FReepmail sionnsar if you want on or off this moderately high-volume ping list (typically 3-9 pings/day).
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Speak the truth in love. Eph 4:15

2 posted on 10/28/2005 6:36:27 PM PDT by sionnsar (†† || (To Libs:) You are failing to celebrate MY diversity! || Iran Azadi)
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To: sionnsar

The Bishop needs to get someone to proofread his letters. I spotted two typos on a quick read. 'My' for may, and 'boarder' for 'border'.

3 posted on 10/28/2005 11:10:02 PM PDT by PAR35
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To: sionnsar

In th eDiocese of Central Florida, where the Bishop, John W. Howe, has let several congregations "leave" but I never knew if that was WITH property or not. I doubt it.

When the Bishop of Central Flordia was at Truro (of interest to ahadams2), The Rev. Neil Lebhar was an assistant there.

Most of the other former Assistants at Truro while the Bishop was a Rector there, are now in Pittsburgh, taking on a different kind of fight.

And so it goes.

The major splits are starting to show up, across the map of the US.

The cracks are only going to get bigger and wider. Those of who have been "hiding out" in orthodox, conservative congregations are going to get a dose of reality with GC2006, when the House of Bishops will make the schism even wider. The gays already have a plan for taking over the broader Church. I hope there are enough folks around to keep them from getting the property and the endowments, but that's what they are aiming for.

At that point, lying low won't work any more.

4 posted on 10/30/2005 6:25:42 PM PST by TruthNtegrity ("I regret that by Saturday I didn't realize that LA was dysfunctional." Michael Brown, 9/27/05)
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