Episcopal Clergy: Is This Any Longer a Church One Wants To Join?

A Plea to the Leaders of the Episcopal Church.
The Episcopal Church (TEC) is experiencing a precipitous decline in Sunday morning attendance. Without addressing some of its institutional pathologies, TEC will render itself evermore irrelevant. Yet the current proposals to restructure the church ignore its basic problems. [1]

The present practices, or likely outcomes in the very near future, of TEC raise a number of questions. Here is a sample:
● A proposed modification of the Book of Common Prayer Marriage Rite wherein the rubrics are malleable and the Biblical and canonical warrants [2] are ignored or abandoned;
● The BCP definition of marriage is subverted without constitutional procedure; [3]
● Tens of millions of dollars, perhaps over $40 million, have been spent on litigation without any budget line accountability; [4]
● The rewriting of the Title IV canon gives the Presiding Bishop metropolitical authority vis-à-vis fellow Bishops, against the Constitution’s plain sense; [5]
● Bishops are disciplined for filing an amicus brief while other bishops and leaders file them with impunity with SCOTUS; [6]
● Bishops are declared to have renounced their Orders without ever doing so in the manner called for by canon; [7]
● The ”˜National Church,’ when it is urged by GC to move its offices, simply ignores the recommendation; [8] and
● Mandatory Diocesan giving is called for without any constitutional authority; [9]

This list is incomplete, but it is sufficient to indicate the state of lawlessness into which the church has moved , and to pose the questions: Is TEC any longer a church of constitutional and canonical order? Is this Church acting decently and in order? How can there be a hope of restoring a level of trust across differences of theological conviction when the good order that this Church constitutionally and canonically expects is simply ignored? [10]

”  If the BCP is to be changed, let it be done in accordance with the rules established to do that.
”  If money is being spent on litigation, let there be a public accounting of that.
”  If the Presiding Bishop is to be given new authorities, let the Constitution be altered in the manner required.
”  If it is not proper to file an amicus brief in one case, then it is not proper to file one in another case.
”  If Bishops are declared to have renounced their Orders, let it happen in the manner called for by the Constitution and Canons.
”  If we are uncertain, we cannot provide assurance to the members of the church and those who are seeking a church home?

It seems that these are reasonable and fair requests to put before the leaders of this church as they prepare to meet in General Convention this summer.

The Rev’d Dr. Chuck Alley, Richmond, Virginia
The Rev’d Frank Fuller, Corpus Christi, Texas
The Rev’d John Newton, St. Paul, Minnesota
The Rev’d Paul Minor, Belmont, Massachusetts
The Rev’d Cheryl Minor, Belmont, Massachusetts
The Rev’d Dr. Ephraim Radner, Diocese of Colorado, Professor at Wycliffe, Toronto
The Rev’d Canon Dr. Chris Seitz, Dallas, Texas
The Rev’d John Sheehan, Aldie, Virginia
The Rev’d Dr. Philip Turner , Austin, Texas
The Rev’d Stockton Williams, Kerrville, Texas

[1] The Task Force For Reimagining the Episcopal Church has produced a long report that is simply silent about theological conflict and its sources, that has so drained the church; or the litigation of the past decade or more, that has drained resources and the structural issues around this; or the need to reconcile with Evangelical members and ex-members, whose loss and alienation has so limited the church’s outreach.
[2] E.g., Genesis 1-2, Matthew 19, Ephesians 5; BCP pp. 422, 423, 861; Canon I.18.Sec. 2(b)
[3] The first proposed resolution by the Convention’s Marriage Taskforce seeks a change in canon that renders the actual language and context of the BCP’s marriage service both semantically incoherent and without authority.
[4] Figures are hard to come by. A reputable, even if partisan, incomplete list of lawsuits can be found at http://accurmudgeon.blogspot.ca/2015/02/annual-litigation-survey-for-episcopal.html; Haley’s estimate is over $40 million, carefully detailed at http://accurmudgeon.blogspot.ca/2014/02/how-much-has-ecusa-spent-on-lawsuits.html.
[5] A full analysis of these changes, which was never properly rebutted, is given at http://www.anglicancommunioninstitute.com/2010/09/title-iv-revisions-unmasked/.
[6] The recent example is found at http://freemarry.3cdn.net/75b9529745f68b3d38_6xm6b3xfz.pdf; earlier, of course, http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-4th-circuit/1355788.html.
[7] See http://www.episcopalcafe.com/confusion_about_bishop_scriven_and_renunciation/; http://www.anglicancommunioninstitute.com/2009/01/is-the-renunciation-of-orders-routine/; An interesting commentary on the novel approach, can be found in the blog of AKM Adams, and in the comments.
[8] See http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2012/07/06/deputies-vote-to-sell-the-church-center-headquarters-in-new-york/; yet other resolutions enacted are treated as law.
[9] Cf. The TREC proposed Resolution A002.
[10] Bishop Sisk of New York: “Where then does that leave us? We are left with a situation in which the mind of this recent Convention appears to be to allow such services. However, The Constitution and The Book of Common Prayer still say something else …. It is my interpretation that the actions of this 2012 General Convention permit, perhaps even encourage, those of us who live in jurisdictions such as New York, to act on that conviction” (bold added). See http://www.livingchurch.org/full-marriage-equality

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Polity & Canons

19 comments on “Episcopal Clergy: Is This Any Longer a Church One Wants To Join?

  1. Undergroundpewster says:

    Oh fig, call me a pessimist, but they are barking up the wrong tree. This one is particularly unfruitful, and barking at it all day long won’t produce any results.

  2. Br. Michael says:

    Oh it’s more than reasonable, but it would be a waste of time. TEC is not going to deviate from its path away from Christianity.

  3. CSeitz-ACI says:

    The point of these exercises is not predicated on ‘success’ (however one would measure that) but to have in the record that TEC wants to create a new version of TEC but doesn’t want to do the work necessary to do that properly.

    The expert testimony who appeared in all cases up to and including Quincy was not even put on the stand in SC, because he really had no case to make any longer that could persuade anybody. He was trying to describe a TEC that was not consistent with history or polity.

  4. MichaelA says:

    I don’t see what the problem is. Every Christian is called to witness in the place where they are. Sure, TEC is a tough gig. So are a few other places in the world, Afghanistan, Iran etc, but Christians still witness in them.

    The points made by the Communion Partners are cogent and sensible. They aren’t stated in a strident or offensive manner, but respectfully and soberly. There are still a great many people in TEC and it is right that they should be given the opportunity to hear these things.

    As for prospects of seeing any practical result in the foreseeable future, sure they look low, but here is a reading from non-holy scripture, Murphy’s 15th Law of Combat:

    “When both sides are convinced they are about to lose, they are both right.”

    So carry on the good fight, ladies and gents.

  5. Jim the Puritan says:

    The Episcopal Church needs to focus on more important things, like “climate change.” In fact, not to focus on it would be immoral. All thinking people know this.

  6. profpk says:

    As General Convention nears, the issue of millions spent on fruitless litigation may lead to a wholesale change in TEC strategy.

  7. The Rev. Father Brian Vander Wel says:

    I breath a sign of great relief when I read such documents. Thank you, ACI, et al!

  8. The Rev. Father Brian Vander Wel says:

    “sign” should have been “sigh”, sorry.

  9. Archer_of_the_Forest says:

    As a former Episcopal priest, I can say definitively, “No, it is no longer a church I wanted to be a part of.”

  10. tjmcmahon says:

    Login problems solved, so I can now say what I intended back when this article was published.

    It is a great pity that only 10 priests of TEC signed this. One can imagine more would like to but either did not have the opportunity, or, more disheartening, many no doubt lack the courage. But thanks to those that did. One cannot imagine that those several from revisionist dioceses are going to gain any favor from their bishop for their signature. Another splendid job by the ACI, doing what they can to hold TEC’s leadership accountable.

    That no bishop signed it is indicative of just how effective the “conciliation” process has been for stifling dissent and enforcing conformity.


  11. CSeitz-ACI says:

    #10–we thought the message was more important than number of signatories, so we settled on a round number 10. Others–clergy and laity–can of course join in support by putting the matter before their colleagues and bishops headed to GC.

  12. Luke says:

    Agree w 10.

    Make a show of numbers.

  13. tjmcmahon says:

    Dr. Seitz,
    I agree completely- the message is more important than the number of signers. Sometimes, defense of the truth is in the hands of a very few. I admire everyone who signed it for their willingness to do so, as I am sure it makes them targets. Had only one of you signed it, the truth of it would be just as true.

    #12- I think you misunderstand me. I very much doubt there are any “numbers” to show. While I am sure that Dr. Seitz is correct, and they have many supporters, support for any sort of accountability or theological consistency has faded in TEC. My lament is that only 8 or 10 years ago, this document would have been openly supported by 3 dozen bishops, many of them diocesans, and hundreds of clergy. No longer. Now so few witness to the truth, and I fear those few will be ignored at GC, and even if they manage to get any part of this to the floor, will be ruled out of order by a wave of the hand from KJS or Gay Jennings.

  14. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    #10 TJ – I too am glad to be able to log in again, although whether the absence of my verbal cogitations has been any loss, I do not know.

    One of the signs that an institution or state is in terminal decline is when its rulers cease to follow their own laws and descend to the use of force to enforce their own group’s will by dictatorship and the elimination of all checks and balances on power. Gibbon noted it in the decline of the Roman Empire.

    #13 Ten years ago TEC was a larger organisation, with 5 more dioceses, considerably more pew-sitters, and [Canterbury excepted] more Communion credability, it was also before the shovelling of all assets into the greedy mouth of Mr Booth Beers and his colleagues, considerably richer. Now we have the position that even the Canterbury stooge, CAPA, has rejected the way of TEC notwithstanding the bribery from Trinity Wall Street, and in many ways TEC is being by-passed as an Anglican presence in North America.

    But I am glad that a faithful remnant remains in TEC. Perhaps there are 7,000 and God will rebuild from them. God bless them, their faithfulness and their courage, and they have my prayers.

  15. MichaelA says:

    I don’t think CAPA is a Canterbury stooge.

    It has been at the forefront of the battle for orthodoxy over the past decade, and therefore many orthodox felt great concern over recent comments by the current president, the Primate of Burundi. But it appears to me that he and others in CAPA have taken a number of steps to clarify that they remain committed to orthodoxy. That is very heartening to see.

  16. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    #15 “It has been at the forefront of the battle for orthodoxy over the past decade”

    That used to be true of CAPA, Michael A, but then after +Akinola, there was a change of leadership to a Canterbury direction. CAPA officials had to issue an apology to some of the GAFCON provinces for accepting funding from TEC sources. Perhaps we are seeing a shift back somewhat in the opposite direction. The latest GAFCON criticism seems to have stung.

  17. WestJ says:

    I wish you well with your protest, even though you may be as “one crying in the wilderness”. I thank God that the Diocese of South Carolina is no longer part of TEC. You will always be welcome here Chris, even though you may have “renounced your orders” with such a bold statement.

  18. CSeitz-ACI says:

    Thank you WestJ. So long as the struggle is not over for conservatives inside TEC, I will bear witness. If the time comes that we cease being a diocesan church and become a general convention church, and Bishops’ hands are tied, it will be difficult to recognize the TEC of my upbringing and professional service, as defined by its own constitution.

    Good Friday blessings to you!

  19. MichaelA says:

    Pageantmaster at #16, I must respectfully but firmly disagree that CAPA became “a stooge of Canterbury” after ++Akinola ceased to be president.

    Firstly, the incident you cite in 2010 does not show lack of orthodoxy. On the contrary, it is about as good a commitment to orthodoxy as you can get – on finding that TEC had made a covert donation to a CAPA meeting via an apparently unrelated organisation, ++Ernest publicly repudiated the gift and apologised to the host of the meeting, ++Orombi. If he had not been orthodox, ++Ernest wouldn’t have said anything about it.

    Secondly, 2010 was the very year in which CAPA invited ++Duncan of ACNA to its All Africa Bishops Conference, and placed him on the head table. The four on the head table were ++Ernest (President of CAPA), ++Orombi (hosting primate), ++Williams (ABC) and ++Duncan (ACNA). ++Duncan later presided over Holy Communion. He was also invited, along with ++Chew of South East Asia, to sit with the CAPA primates meeting. TEC was not invited to any aspect of the meeting.

    Given the situation at that time, these actions were the complete opposite of being “a stooge for Canterbury”. They certainly were not what ++Williams wanted, but he was given no choice – accept it or don’t attend the meeting.

    You may also recall that ++Ernest as President of CAPA wrote to ++Duncan in August 2008 to tell him that the bishops of Africa continued to recognise his orders despite deposition by TEC. He described TEC’s actions as a totalitarian abuse of power – rather different to Canterbury’s attitude.

    CAPA has always had issues with attempts by western churches to exercise influence via their money. After all, it was Lambeth that set up CAPA in the first place. That is nothing new, and it was just as much a factor in ++Akinola’s day. But by and large, his successor ++Earnest has been just as forthright.

    I think what you may be referring to is the election of ++Ntahoturi of Burundi as president of CAPA in 2012. He has been known as one of the more liberal primates in Africa. On 4 December 2014, the Gafcon primates wrote an open letter to ++Ntahoturi rebuking CAPA for certain liberalising statements: http://gafcon.org/news/a-letter-from-gafcon-primates. This could not have been easy for Dr Ntahoturi to receive, but he has apparently done so with grace and understanding.

    We must be careful to give praise where it is due also. On 10 March 2014, a group of CAPA primates, including ++Ntahoturi and ++Makgoba of South Africa, released a communique which I think is hardly what TEC or Canterbury would have wanted. See http://anglicanink.com/article/capa-cape-town-communique.

    They reaffirmed Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1.10, and they emphasized “the importance of following through the recommendations of the previous Primates meetings”. They also stated:

    “We are deeply concerned about the divisions within our beloved Anglican Communion. These divisions emerged when some Churches in the west allowed the worldly cultures, to reshape the message of church to the society especially in the area of marriage and human sexuality. These issues not only contradict the traditional teaching of the scripture but also impede our witness to the Gospel, which is the reason of our presence in this world.”

    Apart from Sudan, I don’ think any Gafcon primate was at that meeting.

    There are certainly dissensions and issues with CAPA, but at the moment I don’t think even the most liberal primates there could be called stooges of Canterbury.