Skip to comments.2007 - THE YEAR IN REVIEW (ANGLICAN)
Posted on 12/30/2007 2:28:36 PM PST by Huber
TIME Magazine placed it No. 5 on its top 10 biggest religion stories of the year - The Slow-Motion Episcopal/Anglican Train Wreck. Time did not mince words.
The article said the Episcopal Bishops' meeting in New Orleans failed to stem either the ongoing defection of conservatives over the church's position on homosexuals, or the likelihood of a worldwide Anglican split over the same issue.
The story was voted 5th following Pope Benedict XVI lifting the ban requiring a bishop's permission to celebrate mass in old-school Latin, but ahead of a story about Green Evangelicals, a group concerned about global warming, along with poverty and torture, becoming hot issues to a maturing conservative Christian movement.
By any estimate, it was a bad year for The Episcopal Church (TEC). Growing talk of schism in the wider Anglican Communion only heightened the tensions that continued throughout the year.
There were more consecrations by overseas Anglican provinces, more fleeing Episcopal parishes, and increasing legal dogfights from coast to coast over property ownership with a million or more dollars being spent in 2007 on legal fees.
The year had an inauspicious start when the Diocese of Virginia announced they were issuing lawsuits against 11 of its 15 departing congregations, continuing the scorched earth policy begun in 2006 against dissident congregations. The eleven announced they were leaving TEC and joining the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), a missionary outpost of the Church of Nigeria.
Lawsuits continued throughout the year with Virginia Bishop Peter James Lee inhibiting 21 clergy from the seceding congregations after litigation was initiated against them in order to evict them from their places of worship.
By year's end, there was still no legal resolution and, with some $30 million dollars in real estate at stake ,emotions were running high. An answer from the judge is expected sometime in January 2008.
2007 saw the continued realignment of the Anglican Communion, now in full swing, and gathering momentum almost weekly. Before the year ended, the evangelical Archbishop of the Southern Cone, the Most Rev. Gregory Venables, had stepped up to the plate announcing he would offer a safe "haven" to any diocese or bishop who wanted to flee either the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Church in Canada.
Two retired Canadian bishops immediately transferred their licenses to the Southern Cone Primate. A political uproar ensued in the Canadian Anglican Church with threats and more coming from both the new Archbishop of Canada Fred Hiltz and New Westminster Bishop Michael Ingham. Undeterred, Bishop Donald Harvey, Network Moderator for Canada, and Bishop Malcolm Harding, retired Bishop of Brandon, announced that they would minister under Archbishop Gregory Venables.
Both were distressed by the seismic shift in the theology and practice of the Anglican Church of Canada. Five former American Episcopal priests were consecrated as bishops to African provinces this year including Canon David C. Anderson, president of the American Anglican Council, and the Rev. Canon Roger Ames for CANA; The Rev. John Guernsey for Uganda and the Revs William Murdoch and Bill Atwood for Kenya.
The Rt. Rev. William Cox, former assisting bishop of Oklahoma and retired suffragan of Maryland, set sail for the Province of the Southern Cone, avoiding a possible trial for ordaining former TEC priests into another Anglican jurisdiction. Hell hath no fury like liberal bishops scorned.
In March, The Rt. Rev. Dr. David J. Bena, Suffragan Bishop of Albany retired and joined CANA to serve under CANA's aggressive Missionary Bishop Martyn Minns. CANA moved into high gear and began swallowing parishes left right and center, ending the year with more than 60 congregations under its wing.
The only missionary movement bigger was the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA) which saw their flock of parishes increase to 132. The Rt. Rev. Andrew Fairfield, retired Bishop of North Dakota, joined the Church of Uganda.
The highlight event of the year, as far the Episcopal Church was concerned, which TIME magazine noted, was the meeting of the House of Bishops in New Orleans.
This occasion saw the Archbishop of Canterbury (and members of the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council) make cameo appearances to listen to the US bishops express themselves on the pressing issue of conformity to the Windsor Report.
It was an indecisive occasion marked by a good deal of uncertainty over whether TEC had conformed to the Windsor Report, and, if not, would it be disciplined by the ABC for its refusal to adhere to the Dar es Salaam statement.
The inconclusive draft version of a proposed Anglican Covenant offered little for orthodox Anglicans to believe that the TEC would ever conform to Scripture over faith and morals.
It was an occasion that saw Bishop Gene Robinson publicly berate Archbishop Williams over the ABC's refusal to issue an open invitation to the homogenital prelate to next years' Lambeth conference.
By year's end, most provinces agreed that the Episcopal Church had not adequately addressed the Tanzanian accord of archbishops. Turmoil reined. There was no peace in the valley, at the cathedral, at 815 2nd Ave., or in Lambeth Palace.
Prior to his coming to New Orleans, Archbishop Williams sent out invitations to next years' Lambeth conference thus cutting off speculation as to who would or would not be invited.
Not invited were Robinson, (at least officially, though he will come to offer private lectures on the joys of sodomy) or Bishop Robinson Cavilcanti (Recife) and the offshore American-African bishops, prompting the Archbishop of Rwanda Emmanuel Kolini to declare that he would not come if his AMiA bishops were not invited. Ugandan Primate Henry Luke Orombi uttered a similar "nyet" with the Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, making similar threats if his CANA bishops were not extended an invitation.
By years' end, it was clear Dr. Williams would not widen the circle of bishops. With the threat came word that an alternative Lambeth conference was in the air, setting the Communion's leaders teeth on edge with cries that that it would send a "negative message" to Anglicans worldwide.
A kairos moment did occur at the HOB meeting in New Orleans when the Bishop of the Diocese of the Rio Grande, the Rt. Rev. Jeffrey N. Steenson, announced he was resigning from TEC and going to Rome.
A few months later, he was followed by the Bishop of Southwest Florida, John B. Lipscomb, who retired and announced his intention to also go to Rome. In all, four bishops, including Bishop Dan Herzog and Clarence Pope, crossed the Tiber to enter the embrace of the Mother Church. (Meantime, the Traditional Anglican Communion, with its 400,000 members and Australian-based Archbishop John Hepworth, also reached out to Rome in the hope that it, too. would be accepted under Rome's umbrella, albeit with an Anglican Use Rite.)
With Bishop David Bena going to the super evangelical Province of Nigeria and four bishops going to Rome, the great Protestant divide begun by Martin Luther 500 years ago seemed as alive as ever, despite major attempts over the years to bridge the Great and Historic Christian Divide. "They all might be one" is seemingly a distant vision, fulfilled perhaps only at the Second Coming, but certainly not before.
What did emerge was the reality that in the boxing ring of the Anglican Communion, two Titans (Rowan Williams, the Affirming Catholic, and Peter Akinola, the evangelical) are set on 16 rounds, as the rest of the communion watches with baited breath to see who will still be standing at the end of the fight.
It was a year which saws dozens of evangelical and Anglo-Catholic parishes fleeing the Episcopal Church with the cry that TEC is no longer able to affirm the authority of Holy Scripture. There were cries that the church's innovations such as sodomy and same-sex unions were the offending causes and besetting issues.
Large cardinal parishes, mainly on the East and West coasts, led the way with notable departures including the pro-cathedral of St. Clement in El Paso, Texas; the historic Christ Church, Savannah where John Wesley once preached; and the majority of Grace and St. Stephens in Colorado Springs.
The Diocese of Western Michigan lost its cathedral of Christ the King, Portage, in a fire sale (it was sold for less than the cost of building it) to a non-denominational Evangelical mega church. The cathedral was the product of the massively ego-driven Bishop Charles E. Bennison Sr. whose two sons were later unceremoniously dumped by their respective dioceses for sexual crimes and diocesan mismanagement.
In the Diocese of Los Angeles, four congregations continued protracted litigation as the year drew to a close. Decisions about who owned church properties were continually being overturned by one court or another. A lower court ruled that church properties belonged to the congregations, but an appellate court later overturned that ruling saying the church properties belonged to the diocese.
In the end, the California Supreme Court will decide the ownership of these parish properties. Perhaps the most incisive comment on the departures came from the Rev. Canon Filmore Strunk, rector of St. Margaret's Episcopal Church in Waxhaw, NC, who took 50% of his parish out of TEC saying the church had abandoned the historic Christian faith, practiced unbiblical sex, and embraced Gnosticism. "The Episcopal Church is not going to repent. I knew I was going to have to leave this building I had worked in for so many years to build. I was in tremendous sorrow, but I was not prepared to trade a beautiful building against my eternal soul."
For the Episcopal Church, the discussion was never over "the faith once delivered to the saints". It was, and is, all about properties and who owns them for future generations that won't be there. (Half the congregations can barely muster 70 people. The average age is 66.)
At pre-trial hearings in Fairfax, Virginia, Mrs. Katharine Jefferts Schori disclosed that parishes could be sold to saloons and other Christian groups, but not to other Anglican churches who desire a foothold for Anglican orthodoxy on US soil.
Her attorney, David Booth Beers, confirmed that even if the National Church adopted a non-Christian faith and declared holy war on the United States, the Diocese did not have the authority to withdraw from the denomination.
Undaunted by a realignment that seemed to be going against orthodox Episcopalians, seven diocesan bishops and 43 other Anglican bishops met as Common Cause Partners to build, what in time will become a new North American Anglican Province for a new Anglican future. At their first meeting in September in Pittsburgh, they announced the creation of a new ecclesial structure "to build a federation of orthodox Anglicans in North America."
They met in Orlando in December to take the process to the next level. The Council unanimously elected Bishop Bob Duncan as Moderator, and Canon Charlie Masters of the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) as General Secretary, making this a trans-provincial structure designed in part to force Rowan Williams to recognize them.
By the end of the year, he had made no such guarantees. In his Advent sermon he questioned the legitimacy of bishops in the AMiA, CANA, Kenya and Uganda USA and deemed them unworthy to sit with him at Lambeth in 2008. In one quote he said, "And while ... I understand and respect the good faith of those who have felt called to provide additional episcopal oversight in the USA, there can be no doubt that these ordinations have not been encouraged or legitimized by the Communion overall."
The end result of it all is that Williams steadfastly refuses to pin down The Episcopal Church or place on probation those who violated doctrine while accommodating those whose moral actions were deemed non-normative to structure and discipline.
Many now believe that Anglicanism, as it is now constructed, has failed. The cry of many is "do we need to go through Canterbury to get to Jesus?"
In his Advent Letter, there was no call for The Episcopal Church to repent, but to realize that we are, for better or worse, locked into TEC's pansexual agenda. A bad marriage for sure, but divorce will not be permitted.
Soon after the September Pittsburgh meeting, Mrs. Jefferts Schori announced that 12 bishops (were they modeled on the 12 Apostles?) had been nominated as "episcopal visitors". They will be made available to parishes and dioceses at odds with the innovations of the Episcopal Church.
Ironically, no such visits have been announced, largely because the orthodox are leaving in droves and believe that compromise of any sort is no longer on the table. Mrs. Jefferts Schori announced a new organizational plan for the staff at the Episcopal Church, relocating staff members to four regional offices in the U.S. including Los Angeles.
General Theological Seminary underwent a makeover incorporating a $27 million conference center dedicated to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, all part of an $88 million makeover. However, no change was announced concerning the seminary's theological direction which pushes inclusivity and diversity rather than the exclusive claims of our Lord. The former disgraced homosexual Governor of New Jersey announced, while divorcing his wife in a bitter struggle over child custody, that he wanted to be a candidate for Holy Orders and entered the seminary to begin his studies. (His male partner will continue to practice law.)
Trinity (Episcopal) School for Ministry in Ambridge PA., saw the resignation of the Very Rev. Paul Zahl who has taken the rectorship of All Saints parish in the revisionist Diocese of Washington, but he will be under the protection of the former Bishop of South Carolina, Ed Salmon. The Rev. Ian Markham became the dean and president of Virginia Theological seminary, but no change in the seminary's liberal direction is expected. He got Virginia Bishop Peter James Lee's imprimatur which speaks volumes. The Very Rev. Doug Travis became the dean and president of the Episcopal Theological seminary of the Southwest, replacing the temporary leadership of Dr. Philip Turner.
The Bishop of Pennsylvania, Charles E. Bennison, was inhibited (finally) by the Presiding Bishop after years of financial mismanagement, but the charges were "conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy". In this instance, it was for a sexual abuse case involving his brother, John Bennison, who was dumped from the priesthood after it was revealed he had sexual relations with a 14-year old girl in Charles' home, when Charles was a priest in California. Bennison has mounted a public relations offensive, but with a presentment by the Standing Committee still in the works and an ecclesiastical trial more than six months away, it is generally accepted that Bennison is history, as far as reclaiming his see is concerned.
The theological and moral breakdown in the church continued apace with a female Episcopal priest, the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding, on the staff of St. Mark's Cathedral in Seattle, Washington, announcing that she was now a practicing Muslim and saw no contradiction in remaining an Episcopal priest. The Rt. Rev. Geralyn Wolf, Bishop of Rhode Island, saw differently and promptly inhibited her for a year asking her to reflect on her faith, if any, that she might have.
The Executive Council of the National church met in three different locations of the U.S. and only succeeded in rejecting any notion of primatial oversight, a pastoral plan proposed by Anglican primates in Tanzania earlier in the year. Episcopal bishops consistently rejected any notion of primatial "interference" in TEC affairs including a commonly sought Constitutions and Canons, arguing that it violated their independence while, at the same time, strenuously demanding a place at the Anglican table on its terms. Few saw the contradiction.
A slew of liberal bishops were elected to various liberal and revisionist dioceses with little fanfare in 2007. The one notable exception was in the Diocese of South Carolina, where the orthodox Rev. Mark Lawrence finally got consents during a second round of balloting, adroitly fudging the language of "will I or will I not take the diocese out of TEC when I am elected."
He will succeed Bishop Ed Salmon in January 2008 when he is consecrated. Saying he will remain faithful to the Anglican Communion doesn't necessarily mean he will stay faithful to TEC. Lawrence has endorsed separating the Diocese of South Carolina from the Episcopal Church and has advocated that the authority of the General Convention be surrendered to the primates of the Anglican Communion. We will know more ere long.
One of the oddest elections to the episcopacy was the boy bishop of Northwestern Pennsylvania, Sean Rowe. At 32, he is one of the youngest bishop ever appointed. (William Gordon of Alaska was 29 1/2 and had to wait 6 months to be ordained - Lyman Ogilby of the Philippines and later PA was about 31.) The resignation of the 44-year old bishop of Oregon, Johncy Itty, raised eyebrows after only 36 months on the job. The Diocese of Chicago narrowly avoided a constitutional crisis by not electing a lesbian, Tracey Lind, to replace the outgoing William Persell. The diocese elected the liberal Jeffrey Lee, Rector of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Medina, Washington. Bishop Mark MacDonald resigned as the diocesan leader of Alaska to become National Indigenous Bishop in the Anglican Church of Canada, while remaining Bishop of Navajoland with no one questioning the issue of boundary crossing except when it is done by overseas primates rescuing orthodox parishes from revisionist Episcopal bishops.
Eight retired bishops died, the most notable being the evangelical Stephen Jecko, former Bishop of Florida. He was assisting the Bishop of Dallas James Stanton when he went to be with our Lord.
Early in December, VOL revealed that the National Church spent close to $1 million in lawsuits in 2007, while the denomination continued its slow but steady decline in numbers throughout the year as tens of thousands of orthodox Episcopalians exit the church for safer spiritual climes under African primates and a Southern Cone archbishop.
The Office of Congregational Development revealed that membership in the church declined by more than a 1,000 a week, a total of 50,000 during 2006 with average Sunday attendance dropping by just under 22,000. Only a small handful of dioceses, mostly conservative, showed any growth in 2007.
At its annual convention in December, the Diocese of San Joaquin took an historic step and voted to disassociate from The Episcopal Church. The convention also accepted an invitation from Archbishop Gregory Venables and the bishops of the Province of the Southern Cone of South America to be welcomed into their membership.
According to San Joaquin Bishop John-David Schofield this was the first time in American Anglican history that a diocese had realigned with a like-minded province. He said the vote was a resounding affirmation by his clergy and laity to remain within the worldwide Anglican Communion with its heritage and universally accepted teaching based on the word of God.
Numerous African and Latin bishops made forays onto US soil and into liberal Episcopal dioceses in 2007 drawing down the wrath of liberal Episcopal bishops, but there was little they could do about it. There seemingly will be no let up in 2008.
The hemorrhaging of The Episcopal Church is expected to pick up dramatically in 2008 when other dioceses, including Pittsburgh, Ft. Worth and Quincy, and perhaps three or four more, are expected to vote to leave TEC.
The realignment in The Episcopal Church is now firmly underway. Schism, it would appear, is inevitable.
Nice year end summary. I wonder if Lee was smart enough to get an indemnification agreement out of Beers before he agreed to play the puppet.
Definition from a National Review article some years ago -
The Episcopal church: A dating service for gays and lesbians financed primarily by large real estate holdings in New York City.
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