INDIANAPOLIS: Waynick Inhibits Two Orthodox Clergy for "Abandoning Communion"
Long battle ends for faithful pastors caught in a web of lies and deceit
By David W. Virtue
The Rev. Dr. Tom Tirman's battle for the faith began in earnest in 2003 at a meeting of Diocesan Deans in Bloomington, Indiana following General Convention. It was a kairos moment for the orthodox priest and the realization that his voice, now a minority in the diocese, would in time, like a candle in the wind, be snuffed out, never more to be heard of, or even wanted.
The conversation was nothing less than disturbing, he recalls, and although not all the Deans took part in the labeling of conservatives as "polyester pants" or the issues as "stupid", no one stepped up to stop the hate-filled remarks as bigoted or offensive.
The 2003 General Convention had voted "yes" to the blessings of same-sex unions (C051) and had given consent to the consecration of V. Gene Robinson (C045) - two lines in the sand that tipped the orthodox priest into believing he had no future in The Episcopal Church. But he was not ready to give up. At that point, he was the Rector of St. Michael's in Noblesville where he had served since 1998.
Tirman vividly recalled the events of that day to VOL. Now, four years later he is terminated by a woman bishop (Catherine Waynick) whose understanding of the faith would barely fill a thimble, and whose name is listed as a signatory to John Shelby Spong's Koinonia statement.
"Not everyone thought of me as a misguided conservative, and although the bishop did attempt to encourage everyone to "hear all sides", the conversation should have been stopped as inappropriate. It wasn't."
When he was finally invited to speak, Tirman identified himself as a conservative and then he shared how offended he was by what had been said and the labeling of conservatives. "I said that it was apparent that even though we say we want everyone at the table, from the conversation and many other conversations I have heard around the diocese there doesn't appear to be room at the table for me or for others like me."
Suddenly, I was told that my voice was needed and Canon Paula Franck asked me to define what I meant by "conservative".
Tirman fired back saying that he felt he shouldn't have to defend himself or his beliefs amidst such bigotry. "I caused no one to say what they said, or even to intercede. Had I said nothing, this conversation as offensive as it was would have happened and continued with nobody stopping it. I knew then that my "polyester-panted stupid theology" would be put to better use elsewhere."
Tirman, who holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from McCormick Seminary in Chicago, ironically in Parish Revitalization, informed the bishop and the diocesan deans that he was resigning as Dean of the North Central Deanery. At noon, following the end of the discussion he walked out.
Now, four years later he faces expulsion from The Episcopal Church after 17 years in the priesthood - a lifetime of service - to a church he once loved, cried over, prayed for and yearned to bring the gospel too.
On Friday March 16 he and Deacon Conover were told they had been inhibited and Saturday they received their letters of inhibition via certified letter.
"Bishop Waynick tried to block me from taking the parish in Anderson, she didn't want me there and then when that failed she wanted me to sign in my Letter of Agreement that I would not lead the parish out of the Episcopal Church. I said I had no intention of doing that. I had been the rector of St. Michaels for eight years in Noblesville, Indiana. Waynick was not thrilled about him going there, but she did not block him from going there, but she was hardly supportive either. "Waynick doesn't like Evangelical or Anglo-Catholic clergy in her diocese and purposely discourages them from coming. Where's the inclusivity for us orthodox folk I'd like to know?"
But just before the issues came to a head Fr. Tirman got a call to Trinity, Anderson in 2006. "She tried to block my call to Trinity but I was a priest in good standing. The vestry decided to push it through anyway. I accepted and went there. I met with the senior warden and treasurer and signed a letter of agreement from the diocese which was approved by the vestry and sent it the diocese. It was approved by the Canon to the Ordinary. It was returned a few weeks later because it did not include the language that I would not lead a parish out of the diocese. The parish backed me. In a conversation with Bishop Waynick I said my contract should not be different from anyone else's as it was both isolating, insulting and discriminatory - a violation of the canons. I told that I had been a member of the Church my entire life and a priest for many years and that I had not violated that canons and did not intend to. If I tried to lead a parish out and violated them, there was already a process in place to take care of that and if she felt a charge was necessary, I told her she could charge me. She agreed, and backed down."
"She had tried to block me in the search process for Trinity. That was both unethical and immoral in my mind. She did some pretty icky things which the search committee chairman and former senior warden have documented. Also, in a meeting, after I had announced my retirement in the Bishops Canons' Office with two vestry members and the former search chair, (I was not there) he asked them if the people were leaving Trinity, Anderson because of all the queers. This was an outrageous accusation, I would never say anything like this, yet he, who is the bishop's right hand guy, can. It is bigoted. I was being demonized and ostracized as a conservative. I am not a bigot. Why am I judged by people who would do that? Is that their opinion? Is that their view? It was certainly not publicly, but it does point up a huge double standard."
But Tirman, 45, knew the gig was up and he and the Rev. Chuck Conover, his Deacon, retired from the parish and the denomination. "I did not resign or renounce my orders," he told VOL.
"I made it clear I would not lead a parish out of the church. I retired. But the truth is we had a large group of people after GC2006 they would not stay. I asked them to stay till the end of the year, the majority of those from Trinity did."
In early 2007 Fr. Tirman launched St. Michael the Archangel under the Bishop of Bolivia, the Rt. Rev. Frank Lyons. "The church has between 60 and 70 members at one location and we are planting two more within the next two months."
What followed was a pattern of lies and deceit by Bishop Waynick, according to Tirman.
"I was not intentionally fishing or damaging the Episcopal Church, just taking people who were going to leave anyway. Prior to January 1st, I encouraged parishioners to be patient. I didn't sell them on a new Church. We, Chuck and I, only talked about the new church after we retired. But we still didn't fish in their pond. Many of our members are people who had left the Church prior to this last year. Many who have left Trinity to come to St. Michael the Archangel have come because they have been uncomfortable with the "poison" (their word) that has been spewed about Chuck and me...particularly me. These were men and women of integrity who could no longer tolerate the bad theology of the bishop and The Episcopal Church. Furthermore I could not have stayed anyway, the remnant who stayed on, could not have paid my salary, I would have had to leave, the gospel was too strong for these who left to compromise on."
The choice was simple. A large group of people were going to leave the church and take their pledges, or stay in the old church with the remaining parishioners who could not pay me a salary. It was a no brainer."
Waynick went on a rampage. "In a letter to the Rev. Chuck Conover and me, but sent to all the Diocesan clergy (she never sent either of us any personal correspondence) she mentioned I had never been installed as a rector and never signed a contract. It was not true, I signed the contract and the vestry approved it, before I had even started there! It was a blatant attempt to defame me. Then I received a phone call from the bishop asking me if I was retiring or resigning just 48 hours after I had announced was retiring to the Vestry. We had yet to notify her but somehow she knew. This was October 25, 2006.
"I announced it to the church and left a message on her telephone recording that I had retired not resigned, nor had I renounced my orders, and I was not going to be doing any supply work. The truth is she didn't want a priest like me in the diocese any way."
Fr. Tirman said he did not hear from her till two weeks ago following his phone message to her. "She sent me an e-mail saying she hadn't heard from me. It was not true. She actually said she wanted clarification because she had not received anything from the pension fund and she didn't know what retirement for me means, but she did cite a bunch of canons and told me retired clergy are subject to them and that she was sending things to the Standing Committee. The implication was that I was not telling the truth. But I had been a spiritual director for Cursillo. I had held several posts in the diocese. I was well known, and people knew I was telling the truth."
Undeterred Waynick, whose ecclesiastical territory includes Central and Southern Indiana, issued a charge to the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Indianapolis to inhibit and depose both The Rev. Dr. Thomas G. Tirman and Deacon Charles Conover for violating Canon IV.10 "Abandoning the Communion". She says that her action stems from the recent establishment in January 2007 of St. Michael the Archangel Anglican Church in Central Indiana.
In an e-mail to VOL, Tirman said, "I am not just proud to be inhibited and deposed by her but welcome it. I was raised up out of this diocese and people here know me very well. I am a faithful and honest priest. We left with integrity, and did not take a parish out as I promised. I just wanted to retire from TEC and continue to work for the Lord as called. My character and integrity should not be called into question. But if it is going to be, let's let all the pertinent issues come into the light. I am certainly not afraid of the truth."
There is a happy ending to this story. Fr. Tirman has a new parish of faithful believing former Episcopalians; oversight from a godly orthodox bishop and his wife gives birth to a child in July.
NOTICE OF INHIBITION
March 15, 2007
Dear Rev'd Dr. Tirman,
I write to inform you that the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Indianapolis has undertaken an investigation according to the provisions of Title IV.10.1 of the canons of the Episcopal Church. They have determined that by repudiating this Church, affiliating yourself with the Diocese of Bolivia, and undertaking to form a congregation in obedience to a bishop of the diocese you are in Abandonment of the Communion of this Church as described in the above cited Canon.
It falls to me to pronounce a sentence of Inhibition upon you for the period of six months until September 16th, 2007. During this time you are prohibited from the exercise of your ordained ministry in any way or place.
During this six months you may also choose to voluntarily Renounce your Orders and I will pronounce the Renunciation effective. In that case you have taken a permanent decision never to exercise any ordained ministry whatsoever.
If you choose not to take either of these options within the stated period of time, I will move to depose you, depriving you of the right to exercise any ordained ministry whatsoever.
Faithfully in Christ
+Catherine M. Waynick
Bishop of Indianapolis
ST MICHAEL THE ARCHANGEL ANGLICAN CHURCH
Post Office Box 392
Westfield, Indiana 46074
Statement by the Reverend Dr. Thomas Gregory Tirman concerning the serving of the Notice of Inhibition against him and Deacon Chuck Conover by Catherine Waynick, Bishop of Indianapolis
St. Patrick of Ireland 2007
We received word today via separate, but identical, certified letters (other than our names), that the Reverend Charles (Chuck) Conover and I have been inhibited by Catherine Waynick, Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Indianapolis effective yesterday March 16, 2007.
We wish to acknowledge the receipt of these letters, and express our thankfulness to her and the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Indianapolis for them both. And though we are quite flattered by the attention, we do wish to point out that both Deacon Conover and I retired from our active ministries in the Episcopal Church, very publicly on December 31, 2006. We are now clergy in the Diocese of Bolivia.
It should be said that our decisions to retire from the Episcopal Church did not come without a lot of thought and prayer either. Though only 45, I was a life-long member, and Deacon Conover came to the Episcopal Church close to 50 years ago. We both have been ordained a long time too. I was ordained in 1989, and Chuck in 1992.
But as Orthodox Anglican Christians, the actions of the Episcopal Church over the past few years were difficult for us, including actions here in central Indiana. The Episcopal Church has come into a state of impaired or strained Communion with the majority of the worldwide Anglican Church. That disturbed us. But rather than wage a battle of leading our parish out of the Episcopal Church, we both chose to retire instead. But we did so with dignity, publicly, and in accordance with the Canons of the Church.
Neither Deacon Conover or I have any intention of renouncing our Holy Orders, and feel strongly that we have not abandoned the faith of the Church. Like many in the Anglican Communion, we believe that the Episcopal Church has instead.
The focus and agenda of this action is but a paper tiger. It aims accusations at faithful leadership in a clear attempt to discredit us and demean our character, and we can show the well to be far deeper than this. Yet we profess that standing in faith for what we believe is far more vital for us as clergy, particularly when those who are now calling for our obedience are being called to obedience themselves in the worldwide Church. In truth, we are clergy outside their jurisdiction and should not be their concern.
Once again, we wish to thank the Bishop of Indianapolis for drawing attention to the clear distinction between her position and ours. We are certainly not afraid of the truth or of issues here that need to be brought into the light. And we welcome this opportunity to be faithful witnesses to our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is to say, in faith, we intend to continue to stand for what we believe. We are reminded of the words of Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms who was facing similar circumstances when he said, "Here I stand: I cannot do otherwise, so help me God!. Amen."
We shall do the same.
The Reverend Dr. Thomas Gregory Tirman
On the Mainline
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