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GC2012 Convenes in Indianapolis*More Ecclesiastical Indictments*Its KJS's Budget

Love which stems from created things is like a small lamp whose light is sustained by being fed with olive-oil. Again, it is like a river fed by rainfall; once the supply that feeds it fails, the surge of its flow abates. But love whose cause is God is like a spring welling up from the depths. Its flow never abates, for God alone is that spring of love whose supply never fails. --- St. Isaac the Syrian (Isaac of Nineveh), 7th century

Proclaiming the Gospel. Past history and present reality. It is by preaching that God makes past history a present reality. The cross was, and will always remain, a unique historical event of the past. And there it will remain, in the past, in the books, unless God himself makes it real and relevant to men today. It is by preaching, in which he makes his appeal to men through men, that God accomplishes this miracle. He opens their eyes to see its true meaning, its eternal value, and its abiding merit. --- John R.W. Stott

"The drive for same sex marriage is not simply about same sex marriage or the moral legitimization of homosexual behavior; it is also about the de-legitimizing of Christian morality. ...But the Christian moral system is no minor part of Christianity, any more than the heart or lungs are minor parts of the human body. Overthrow the Christian moral system and you will have overthrown Christianity itself. Therefore, those who are pushing for the institution of same sex marriage are ipso facto pushing for the elimination of the Christian religion." --- David R. Carlin, Jr., Catholic sociologist and author

Dear Brothers and Sisters
www.virtueonline.org
July 6, 2012

I am in Indianapolis, the capital of the Hoosier State. It's hot. Inside the Indianapolis Convention Center, some 10,000 Episcopal delegates have gathered to debate some 300 resolutions. Foremost among them are a diminishing budget, same sex rites, who will replace House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson, transgenderism and so much more. Most of the resolutions will be sent back to committee or never see the light of day.

On Wednesday, delegates heard Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and HoD president Bonnie Anderson give opening speeches. But the big news might be the black and white checkered jacket worn by Executive Officer and Secretary Gregory S. Straub. A priest from Indy noted that the checkered flag is waved at the END of the race. The start is marked by a green flag. Perhaps the message is that it's all over before it has even started. Straub was elected secretary of the HoD. The Very Rev. H. Scott Kirby of Eau Claire was elected VP of the HoD by unanimous vote.

An indigenous priest from Navajoland offered up an opening prayer clutching a large feather to her bosom. She began the prayer "Oh Infinite One, Oh Infinite One, Oh Infinite One..." Jesus (our brother) got a mention at the end. We are supposed to walk with him, she said...but He is not apparently our Savior, Redeemer and Lord. House of Deputies president Bonnie Anderson began her prayer, "In the name of the Creator, Sanctifier and Redeemer" the new TEC trinity. In the words of the song writer Don McLean..."And the three men I admire most the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost, they caught the last train for the coast, the day the music died."

A fellow scribbler heard Virginia Bishop Shannon Johnston tell fellow bishops over breakfast that the five parishes that have fled his ecclesiastical iron grip are doing "wonderfully...fabulously." Really. Last week barely 100 showed up at The Falls Church in Falls Church, VA and met in the chapel. The sanctuary that seats over 2500 remains closed.

But the BIG news roiling around here are the Title IV charges laid at the feet of nine bishops delivered to them just days before General Convention was to begin.

I asked the Presiding Bishop directly about this at the first press conference. She naturally deflected the question by saying it was "early in the process," which, of course, can be interpreted in many ways. If the charges are serious enough, will she pursue inhibition and possible deposition? Will she issue the equivalent of an Episcopal Fatwa...or will it be a rap on the knuckles? It remains to be seen.

Late on Wednesday, another surprise emerged when it was learned that the Rev. Dr. Philip Turner, a priest, theologian and a blogger at the Anglican Communion Institute (ACI) got word that a Title IV complaint had been filed against him. Incensed, he wrote, "It is my belief that this complaint will be judged to be both without substance and frivolous." Time will tell. Now you should know that the ACI has argued that TEC is a valid player in the Anglican Communion and that the Covenant, if accepted will bind us altogether, even though Jefferts Schori herself says it is past its shelf life.

I spoke briefly with Albany Bishop Bill Love while waiting for the opening session to begin. He said he knows nothing about the charges, who filed them, what they are about or even why. He is not a happy camper. With him was Bishop Dan Herzog.

To date, no one knows WHO filed the complaints against the bishops or even WHAT the complaints allege. Rumor has it that it was someone from the faux Diocese of Ft. Worth.

Canon lawyer Allan S. Haley has perhaps the most insightful analysis on this subject, "The timing of the complaint, and the instant notification by email to the concerned Bishops, while hinting at several weeks delay in actually looking at the sufficiency of the charges, could not be a coincidence.

It has to have been a calculated effort to intimidate -- not just this particular Bishop, but any of the nine Bishops who might be thinking of offering testimony on behalf of the Diocese of Quincy.

And now, your Curmudgeon comes to the most disturbing question: Who knew??

Who knew about the court's deadline for naming witnesses in Quincy, but at the same time knew about the filings in Fort Worth -- and also knew about how disciplinary proceedings against Bishops worked under the new Title IV?

As a reader has reminded me, there are candidates in two categories: (1) bishops involved in the litigation; and (2) attorneys involved in the litigation.

As for bishops, neither the Rt. Rev. C. Wallis Ohl, Jr., Provisional Bishop of Fort Worth, nor the Rt. Rev. John C. Buchanan, Provisional Bishop of Quincy, are involved on the ECUSA side. Of those two, Bishop Buchanan would have read the Quincy affidavits, and would also have known about each side's deadline to designate witnesses. Moreover, Bishop Buchanan is the bishop whom the Presiding Bishop has designated to sign and verify pleadings on behalf of the Episcopal Church (USA). He also serves at her pleasure as the Parliamentarian of the House of Bishops.

As for attorneys, there is only one law firm involved in both cases. And there is one attorney in that law firm who also happens to be the Presiding Bishop's Chancellor. His name is David Booth Beers.

There is also only one attorney on the Presiding Bishop's staff who also could have known about all three items as she used to work under Mr. Beers. Since then, she was hired by the Presiding Bishop as her "Special Assistant for Property Litigation" -- i.e., the Quincy case, among others. Her name is Mary E. Kostel.

So we have one Bishop and two attorneys who happened to be in the unique position of having the big picture in front of them: the Bishops who had submitted testimony in Quincy, the Bishops who had signed the amicus brief offering similar arguments in Texas, and the need for Quincy to commit itself to the expert Episcopal witnesses it would be calling at trial.

These charges, filed just days before convention, have poisoned the water in Indianapolis. Among the orthodox bishops I have seen, there is an air of gloom. Some of these bishops, including Dallas Bishop James Stanton, who have been remarkably silent over the years in the Episcopal Culture Wars may now find they will have to speak up in their own defense, if not in defense of the historic Christian Faith. What will Bishop Ed Salmon do if he is found guilty? Will he have to resign as president of Nashotah House? He played a mercurial game of episcopal hide-and-seek with the heavies in New York when he was Bishop of South Carolina. At one point, he threatened to leave TEC if the church ever accepted openly gay priests. He reneged. He is still DEPO bishop to a parish in the Diocese of Washington. Now what will he and others do when they find their backs to the wall facing possible inhibition and deposition?

If these charges are upheld, and there is no guarantee at this time that they will be, and these bishops are unceremoniously dumped from the church, the number of orthodox bishops left in TEC could be counted on two fingers of one hand - Central Florida and South Carolina. One thing is for sure the church has made martyrs out of these bishops which is a dumb thing to do at a time the church is hemorrhaging people.

The Presiding Bishop's repeated mantra is that the Episcopal Church is here to "heal the world." The bigger question is can she heal her own church.

*****

It's official. The alternative "template" (but not necessarily its figures) that will guide budget work at General Convention is that of Katharine Jefferts Schori. She won over the PB&F and Executive Council. Not a big surprise, but it does indicate that the big Enchilada rules. The fight over this has been well documented by Mary Ann Mueller (and other bloggers) in one of her stories. It is worth the read.

Committee members said, in their discussion and vote during their first meeting here on the morning of July 4 that they were choosing the "template" of the presiding bishop's budget proposal, but not necessarily its figures.

PBF issued a statement later in the day saying the budget was chosen because "it provides a clear missionary framework for budgeting and is based on updated information regarding income" and that the decision came "without commitment to any of the specific line items" in the budget.

The alternative budget has a different structure than the draft proposed budget approved in January by the church's Executive Council and given to PBF as required by church canon (in Canon I.4.6) and the General Convention's Joint Rules (in II.10 10 (a)). It is structured around the Anglican Communion's Five Marks of Mission, which the General Convention endorsed in 2009 (via Resolution D027) and said the church's 2013-2015 budget ought to center on the marks as "strategic priorities."

*****

Transgenderism is going to be high on the list of things to whine about at this convention. Transgender inclusion will be on our "to-do" list, says lesbian priest Susan Russell. "The last time we met, in Anaheim in 2009, we adopted some important resolutions supporting trans-inclusive federal ENDA and hate-crimes bills, adding gender identity and expression to nondiscrimination canons for lay employees and calling for church data forms to provide for inclusive self-identification. Not a bad start.

"What we failed to accomplish was adding gender identity and expression to our nondiscrimination canons for ordained ministry -- and that's the work we'll be about in Indianapolis from July 5-12."

They will be helped along in a documentary film project Voices of Witness: Out of the Box.

Not to be left out: I found a GENDER NEUTRAL RESTROOM just outside where the House of Bishops are meeting. I kid you not. You can see it here: One wag observed you can walk into one door of the restroom one gender and come out the other door another.

*****

The Committee on the Consecration of Bishops of the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church recommended the approval of 8 bishops-elect. This really comes as no surprise as nearly all of them are liberals and will play along with Team Jefferts Schori.

Only one bishop-elect, Dorsey McConnell, Diocese of Pittsburgh, is moderately orthodox -- a smart move in a diocese decimated by the departure of most of its parishes to the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) headed up by Archbishop Robert Duncan.

In presenting McConnell to the committee, the Very Rev. George Werner, former president of the House of Deputies and president of the diocesan standing committee, said the diocese is still in the process of healing after the 2008 split.

He said that McConnell's election has been unifying, adding that "concern is being rightfully asked by this committee about property issues, about doctrine, discipline and worship and the bishop-elect is a leader already in the diocese and is definitely going to have no problems" adhering to church doctrine.

Werner was referring to a request from bishops and deputies in the Diocese of Fort Worth, joined by the dioceses of San Joaquin and Quincy, "that none of these bishops-elect harbors the views expressed in the amicus brief recently filed against Fort Worth by seven bishops and three priests of this church ... specifically whether he or she contends that dioceses have the unilateral and autonomous authority to leave the Church and take church property with them; and those views be published or otherwise communicated to both houses."

*****

For more Episcopal nonsense, consider this: On page 328 of the Episcopal Blue Book (the little book of business for Deputies and Bishops attending GC 2012), one can find the proposed "Litany for the Planet", which contains prayers for everything including, "On eukaryotes and prokaryotes, archaea* and viruses; on microbes of endless variety, the complex and the simple, Creator, have mercy."

If they can find a faculty lounge litany for viruses, can a generic litany for same-sex couples be far behind?

I have to confess to you, it is hard to out satirize The Episcopal Church. They do well all by themselves.

*****

A UK VOL reader noted that it looks as though the devil's moment has dawned simultaneously in Indianapolis and York: General Convention and General Synod. TEC is focusing on same sex rites and Synod will consider women bishops, which, if it passes, will further alienate Anglo-Catholics and perhaps rupture the church that is supported by its Evangelicals.

"All this in a church that is dying by degree; one that is preparing to sacrifice its children upon the altar of Moloch as it gets ready to authorize rites for same sex couples. All these things have the expected effect on those of us opposed to the death march of Jefferts Schori and GC2012. We cry at the loss of the innocents, we shake our fists at the apostates, but in the end we are forced to deal with the ashes left in her wake. The other is the Church of England willing to sacrifice its orthodox wing for theologically questionable consecrations."

*****

One blogger observed that The Episcopal Church has made the argument in court that it is a hierarchal church and, therefore, the courts should stay out of any property disputes in TEC. Some courts have bought this argument; others (the Supreme Court of South Carolina) have not.

In a hierarchal church, when bad things happen, the buck has to stop at the top. The PB might argue that General Convention is the top, but she is not acting that way.

If she is going to act like the head of the church, let her take the heat from the new movement that I am announcing today, the Occupy 815 movement. This movement, in keeping with the precedent set by the other Occupy group, does not really need a mission statement or a clear listing of its beliefs. All we need is a T-shirt and a good folk song.

*****

An Anglican species becomes extinct next month. Wallace Benn, the Suffragan Bishop of Lewes in the Diocese of Chichester, the only surviving Conservative Evangelical bishop in England who takes the traditionalist line on the ordination and consecration of women, goes into retirement.

In fact, Benn was the last such to be appointed, when he took up his present post in 1997. Since then, there has been not a single appointment of an evangelical with his views.

John Richardson of the Ugley Vicar Blog noted that "those of us watching the debate on the consecration of women cannot help but take note of this fact. Much has been made by its opponents of what they see as the defects of the 1993 Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod. But as anyone reading the accounts in Hansard will know, the Act of Synod was an essential provision in persuading parliament at the time (and the House of Lord's in particular) that traditionalist views were genuinely being safeguarded.

"And the first provision of the Act was that, 'There will be no discrimination against candidates either for ordination or for appointment to senior office in the Church of England on the grounds of their views about the ordination of women to the priesthood.'

"Of course, the Act of Synod (as we have often been reminded) is not 'law'. But it was a commitment in writing. Yet it has clearly, emphatically, been ignored. Indeed in the case of the appointment of the current Bishop of Salisbury, the diocesan Statement of Needs was actually overtly 'discriminatory' in this regard - something which I still believe should have been the subject of a Judicial Review.

"Yet we - those of us who still have our reservations about women bishops - have been told that graciousness will be enough to safeguard our position and that we ought to accept the assurances we have been given.

"Meanwhile, there have been hints, such as when the latest Provincial Episcopal Visitors were being appointed, that 'something will be done for Conservative Evangelicals'. Now there will be no one of that theology who is a serving bishop in the Church of England to pass that along.

"This is one of the reasons why I continue to urge evangelicals to pass Resolution C and why, if and when the new legislation is introduced, I will urge them to petition for whatever alternative provisions are made available.

"Whatever happens next weekend, it is time that the Church of England honored those who belong to its Conservative Evangelical tradition, and demonstrated its own trustworthiness by righting this evident wrong. All it needs is a diocesan bishop out there with the guts to act."

*****

REFORM is encouraging its members to vote against women bishops legislation. They issued a media statement last week encouraging its members on Synod to vote against the women bishops legislation as it stands. The legislation is due to be discussed at the General Synod meeting in York from Friday 6th - Tuesday 10th July.

Reform Chairman Rev'd Rod Thomas said that "Reform deeply regrets that we have reached such an impasse on women bishops" with the current House of Bishops' amendments not satisfying the conservative evangelical network's concerns over their future in the Church of England.

Speaking at a prayer meeting attended by almost 200 Reform members in central London, Thomas said: "We thank the House of Bishops for their work. They have tried to find a way through. But their amendments have not succeeded in persuading our members that there is a secure future for those who cannot in conscience accept the oversight of women as bishops. In light of that we will be encouraging our members on General Synod to vote against the legislation as it stands."

He added: "The furor created by some in response to these small amendments reveals most clearly the reason why those who hold to our biblical position need legislative clarity, not just a code of practice if we are to continue to encourage young people to come forward for ordination.

*****

The Venerable Dr Daniel Silvanus Mensah Torto was ordained the ninth Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of Accra this weekend, but the Church of the Province of West Africa has yet to elect a new Primate.

Commenting on erroneous media reports that Bishop Torto would automatically become Primate on the current Archbishop's retirement, the Provincial Secretary the Rev. Canon Fr. Anthony Eiwuley told ACNS that the election of a new Archbishop would take place in September.

"The reports were incorrect. The journalists just assumed that whoever is Bishop of Accra also becomes the new Primate. We are yet to elect an Archbishop," he said. "We will meet in September to do this and the Primate steps down in October."

Canon Eiwuley explained that the Province has an electoral college comprising all active bishops, and one clergy and one lay representative from each diocese. These vote for which bishop they would like to see become Archbishop and then the group votes on the two people with the most nominations.

*****

The Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks of England is being attacked over his opposition to gay marriage. A group of prominent community figures have admonished Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks for opposing plans to allow civil marriage for gays and lesbians.

In a letter 22 lawyers, academics and other individuals, including actor Stephen Fry, declared that it was "a matter of great regret that Lord Sacks has chosen to make a statement in his official capacity opposing the right of gay and lesbian men and women to marry".

They wrote, "Even if same-sex marriage is contrary to Jewish law, it does not compromise the position of Orthodox Jews to let others marry as they wish."

Jewish law, they said, should "play no part in a modern secular society in restricting the lives of non-Jews - and Jews - who do not accept its restraints".

Arguing that the Chief Rabbi should have refrained from public comment, they said, "Speaking when silence is required is no virtue."

But the Chief Rabbi, in a joint response from his rabbinical court, the London Beth Din and the United Synagogue rabbinate to a government consultation, contended that marriage is a sacred union between a man and a woman and any redefinition would undermine it.

The deeper question here in the US is how 1.7% of the population has managed to emotionally and legally strangle an entire population of 300 million mostly sane Americans into believing that their behavior is good and right in the eyes of God?

*****

The ratio of evangelicals in Brazil jumped 44% in 10 years. The number of evangelical Christians in Brazil, the world's largest Catholic country, has soared over the last decade, from 15% of the population in 2000 to 22% of the population in 2010, according to a report issued on Friday.

Over the same period, the proportion of Catholic Brazilians fell from 74% of the population to 65%, Brazil's National Statistics Institute reported.

In overall terms, the percentage of evangelicals rose 44%, as evangelical churches won over the faithful, especially women and people in poorer communities.

The rise of evangelical Christianity is a growing trend across Latin America.

Forty years ago, 93% of Brazilians considered themselves Catholic, compared with just 4% who identified as evangelical. In the same period, those who say they aren't religious have grown to 8%, up from less than 1%.

The evangelical Anglican Diocese of Recife is experiencing an uptick in new members in keeping with the overall rise in national statistics. By contrast, the ultra-liberal Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil, a clone of TEC, is heading downhill.

*****

The Diocese of Dallas announced the formation of two new parishes this week, a sign that in one or two TEC dioceses hope springs eternal.

*****

One final note. There are no crosses in either the House of Bishops or the House of Deputies just 18 flags are visible. TEC is now the Church International but not the Church of the Cross of Christ.

*****

Dear VOL readers. VOL's team of three onsite and two offsite reporters is in full swing, researching and reporting to you from Indianapolis. We are writing, researching and posting several times a day here at the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church. We are seeing the history of TEC unfold in ways unimaginable years ago. Future historians will marvel at what TEC will do during this convention.

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