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17 Primates in quarrel with Williams...2004 ECUSA figures show decline...more

"The first Reformation was about beliefs. This one needs to be about behavior...We've had a Reformation; what we need now is a transformation." Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church and best selling author.

By David W. Virtue

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It was another roller coaster ride in the life of the Anglican Communion, perhaps the wildest ride yet. Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola is on a rip and a tear. Following his "you're either in the ECUSA or in the Network" blast in Pittsburgh last week, (a statement that required much untangling and interpretation), he and 16 fellow orthodox Primates sent a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury telling him that his personal views on human sexuality and his public stand were inconsistent and they urged him to rethink and "embrace the Church's consensus and to act on it, based as it is on the clear witness of Scripture."

"We are troubled by your reluctance to use your moral authority to challenge the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada to call for the immediate cessation of any blessings of same sex unions and on any ordinations of those in such unions in every diocese in the Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada."

It is the most in your face poke at the leader of 80 million Anglicans to date, and it has rocked the whole communion.

The letter also said the real crisis facing the whole Communion was a crisis of Biblical authority. They also attacked head on the appointment exclusively of first-world liberals to head the Communion Secretariat and committees like the Panel of Reference," and blasted the archbishop for deferring to "process." You seem to keep saying, "My hands are tied. We urge you to untie your hands and provide the bold, inclusive leadership the Communion needs at this time of crisis and distrust."

But then the fat really hit the fan. The letter, according to several primates went out without the full approval of all the signers and the open letter to the Archbishop was immediately disowned by two of the signatories because they viewed it as an attack on the archbishop.

The Most Rev Clive Handford, President Bishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East and Bishop in Cyprus and the Gulf, issued a press release saying that his name had been added to the list of endorsers without his assent.

Archbishop Gregory Venables, Primate of the Southern Cone in South America, a leading conservative opposing gays in the church, also said that he had not been consulted before the letter was issued.

While not distancing himself from the contents, he commented: "A number of us are scandalized that a private letter should have been made public in this way." At least two other bishops involved have expressed anger that the document was published publicly before Dr Williams had a chance to read it.

Others say that it was never intended for publication, and was put up on the web without authorization by many concerned.

The ink was barely dry on their rebuttal when Archbishop Akinola weighed in with another letter blasting media reports saying one or two primates alleging wrongful inclusion of their names in a document when they were privy to its formation. (VirtueOnline was not guilty of this).

"While every person is entitled to a change of opinion, the incontrovertible and indisputable fact remain that at our meeting in El Sukhna, the first draft of the response was circulated to all present to peruse, and give us any additional input or objection. It is pertinent to say NO ONE objected. All those that responded will see that the final draft reflected their inputs," ripped Akinola.

"We find it pitiable that the media spin is drawing attention away from the deep Biblical discussions contained in our response," he wrote.

Akinola had barely got his rebuttal out when Rowan Williams weighed in with his own statement saying: "The Archbishop of Canterbury has made it clear since before the time of his enthronement that neither he nor anyone else has a mandate to change the teaching of the Church by fiat. He is committed to the process to which all the primates committed themselves and their provinces in the Primates' response to the Windsor report, contained in the communique following the meeting in Dromantine. If this letter is a contribution to that process of debate, then it is to be welcomed, however robust. If it is an attempt to foreclose that debate, it would seem to serve very little purpose indeed."

This public quarrel among the orthodox Archbishops only adds gasoline to an already incendiary situation.

The realignment of the Anglican Communion is now a ship in full sail. Boundary crossing is becoming the new sport of bishops, and the bishops who are getting their ox gored are, naturally, revisionist ones. The bishop of Maryland Robert Ihloff was none to happy about the ordination of a deacon in his diocese (and said so), the and the Bishop of Washington, John Chane got in a huff when a deacon from his diocese also got ordained in Pittsburgh this past week by Bolivian Bishop Frank Lyons. Both men will now minister under the noses of revisionist bishops and show them how to make a church grow with an authentic gospel of transformation and not a "gospel" of inclusion.

In recent months Bolivian Bishop Frank Lyons has picked up more than a dozen American parishes, while the Anglican Mission in America keeps scooping up parishes here and there, even and including a whole group in Western Canada. What price can you put on spiritual freedom?

Clearly no one is taking the Windsor Report seriously on this issue, and the revisionists are not obeying the Windsor Report's demands to abstain from homosexual behavior either. The Windsor Report is becoming a bad joke. On top of all this is the absolute impotence of the Panel of Reference to do anything to help the Diocese of Recife in its desire to bring justice to their situation with their liberal Brazilian Archbishop and sycophant of Frank Griswold, so, of course they are now under the authority of the Archbishop of the Southern Cone.

And to cap it all off, the Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola snubbed Griswold by announcing that he was in a covenant relationship with the REC and the APA and plans to stick it to Frank Griswold by legalizing CANA - the Convocation of Anglican Nigerians in America - in order to offer what he calls a "safe harbour" for orthodox Anglican, mainly Nigerians but not exclusively so, who cannot stomach ECUSA's revisionist thinking in the area of theology and morals.

Local covenants are not new. The Diocese of Sydney in Australia has had close ties with the Church of England in South Africa - a body not in communion with Canterbury.

But what is unusual about this is that it is the first time that a province in the communion (Nigeria) has entered into a formal concordat with an Anglican body (the REC and APA) not in communion with Canterbury. However there are close parallels with the Call to Common Mission (CCM) between the ECUSA and ELCA and also the Porvoo Agreement which saw the Church of England and the Lutheran Churches in Norway in concordat. You can read about the concordat in today's digest.

IN THE ECUSA it was more madness, mayhem, confusion and decline.

The EPISCOPAL CHURCH CENTER let it drop that statistics revealed the Episcopal Church membership had dropped below the magical 800,000 to about 795,000 in 2004. But you ain't seen nothin' yet. Wait till the 2005 figures come! Of course the liberals are saying that all "mainline" churches are losing membership and there is some truth to that. But the real reason of course is V. Gene Robinson. Not only are liberal Episcopal churches losing people, a number of conservative Episcopal churches say they are losing members as well because of Robinson and their parishioners are drifting off to independent evangelical churches. They don't want their families going to a church that endorses a behavior that threatens their children.

THE VIA MEDIA, caught with their plans exposed, are now singing a different tune. The Via Media in Ft. Worth wrote a harsh letter to Bishop Jack Iker and cited yours truly as a fomenter of evil in the ECUSA. Well apparently their plans, now fully exposed, brought a counter response. This is what they told Iker: "I must inform you of the true facts concerning that meeting. Via Media has no intention of overthrowing the canonically chosen authorities in this or any other diocese." Of course the Via Media could be lying in their revisionist teeth, but if it's the case then Bishop Bob Duncan can rest easy. He'll have his job after the next General Convention and won't face presentment after all.

The moral in all this is to keep finding out the truth and shining a light on it and exposing it, thus destroying the opposition's plans.

The DIOCESE OF WASHINGTON came in for a full basting this week. The first round came when two groups of Episcopalians, including 20 liberal clergy and a large number of orthodox laity in the Diocese of Washington, declared war on each other over sexuality issues, with each side blasting the other over the findings of the Windsor Report in their diocesan newspaper. Gay and pro-gay clergy wrote in a 900-word epistle on the Opinion page of the October 2005 issue of the Washington Window, accusing the orthodox laity of a "cynical blasphemy to distract the church" over sexuality issues and said the conservatives demonstrated a "smallness in this debate over sexuality" blaming them for the "unhappy wounds that the body of Christ continues to receive." You can read the full story in today's digest.

Then seventeen orthodox laypersons from seven parishes in the Diocese of Washington sent a letter to Bishop John Chane criticizing him for the letter he wrote to his clergy and wardens following the installation of a deacon in the diocese ordained by Bishop Frank Lyons from the Diocese of Bolivia.

But a truly startling development was the announcement that St. Peter's, a mission started a year ago in the diocese was being recognized as a 'full member' of the Anglican Communion.

The mission's status was clarified at the National Assembly of Forward in Faith, held November 13 to 15, 2005 in Pittsburgh. At the assembly's morning session November 14th, the deputies of the assembly voted unanimously to make all Forward in Faith parishes, organizations and bodies part of the Forward in Faith Convocation.

The FIF Convocation is the Anglo-Catholic deanery of the Anglican Communion Network. The vote by the assembly, thereby, makes all Forward in Faith parishes, organizations and bodies constituent bodies in the Anglican Communion Network.

The significance of the vote was magnified by statements made by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who has made it clear that he considers all members of the Anglican Communion Network "full members of the Anglican Communion."

Bishop Bob Duncan, who addressed the Forward in Faith session last Monday morning, reported that in his conversations with Williams, he made it clear to him that this included bodies outside of the Episcopal Church in the United States (ECUSA) that are within the Network.

Does this mean that the AMiA and REC are constituent members of the Anglican Communion? Not necessarily. A couple of things would need to happen. Rowan Williams would have to make a formal statement to that affect and he has not, as yet, done so, and secondly they would need to receive invitations to the next Lambeth Conference. We shall see.

This, however, did not stop Quincy Bishop Keith Ackerman coming out with the following statements: "The Network has an ever increasing number of people that are not in the Episcopal Church. What this means is that ECUSA's exclusive franchise of the Anglican Communion within the United States is over. People have been waiting for dawn, but dawn is already breaking for us while the Episcopal Church and the Anglican church in Canada have reached an end."

Bishop Ackerman said that the leaders of the Episcopal Church are in denial and clinging to the canons to control a crisis they started that has spun out of their control. "People near death cling to anything they can control," Bishop Ackerman said. ECUSA's leaders are clinging to the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church, he added, which have become "irrelevant."

Bishop Ackerman compared the current situation in the ECUSA to "an uprising in a penitentiary where the wardens and reading the inmates all the rules." The effort will do nothing to stop the uprising or help regain control.

Hard hitting words indeed. You can read the full story in today's digest.

In the DIOCESE OF VIRGINIA the South Riding Church in Fairfax, Va., withdrew from the Diocese of Virginia and transferred to the episcopal oversight of Bishop Kisembo in the Diocese of Rwenzori, Anglican Province of Uganda. Bishops Peter Lee and Bishop Suffragan David Colin Jones tried to put a good face on it with the usual hand-wringing about haw sad they were to see them leave, but the bishops asserted their right to the property of course. Leaders of an informal coalition of biblically committed congregations in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia reacted to the announcement by saying that it is an example of how strongly many Episcopalians feel about the theological issues confronting their Diocese and the broader Episcopal Church today." Said John Yates, rector of The Falls Church in the city of Falls Church, this is an example of why it's so important that we be in constructive conversation with our Bishop. "Fortunately such a process is now underway in the Diocese of Virginia. We earnestly hope we will be able to find a positive way for biblically faithful congregations to get on with their mission."

Another sign of the increasing pressure to find a creative way forward was the ordination by Frank Lyons, Bishop of Bolivia, of William Haley as a deacon to serve a congregation among the poor in North East Washington.

"These are unprecedented times that call for 'out-of-the box' thinking," said John Guernsey, Rector of All Saints, Dale City.

The DIOCESE OF SOUTHERN OHIO commended the Windsor Report as an appropriate first step in a continuing discussion of ecclesiology and discipline as they are understood and practiced in the Anglican Communion and as the Anglican Communion seeks to further live into the concept of "autonomy in communion".

Now the question for this and orthodox dioceses will be what does that mean to say they will stay in communion with the Anglican Communion after GC2006 if the Windsor Report is not upheld by the Episcopal Church. It is being understood to mean that a number of dioceses will change their constitutions to read as such, while staying in the ECUSA but not attending any ECUSA HOB meetings. Still confused? Try this analogy.

Last year when four primates visited Philadelphia in connection with the opening of the Anglican Relief and Development Fund, they met later at a country club for dinner. Pennsylvania Bishop Charles Bennison showed up. The two groups never met. They partied in different rooms and a guard was placed at the door so Bennison could not barge in. The signal they sent was this. The one big tent remains, but, like a couple who are no longer in love, they will remain married, but they will never sleep together, never eat together (have Eucharistic fellowship), never have koinonia, but occasionally have polite conversation, that much beloved word of Frank Griswold. Listening is over. To all intents and purposes the marriage is dead. There you have it.

In the DIOCESE OF ATLANTA their convention voted for a mandatory assessment by revising their funding canons. The revision of Canon 20, which outlines how the parishes fund diocesan ministries, provides for an assessment review board for parishes having difficulties meeting a 10-percent commitment. The change will take effect in 2007. In short, this is another liberal diocese in financial trouble. Delegates approved a $3.5 million budget and, in principal, a proviso asking parishes not giving 10 percent to raise their pledges by one percent for 2006. If successful, this would ward off dramatic diocesan program and staff cuts for next year.

In his address, Bishop J. Neil Alexander said he does not expect the General Convention, meeting in 2006, to accept all the provisions of the Windsor Report "as though we have received a new law that must be followed in every detail. The very thought of such a thing is contrary to the spirit of classical Anglicanism. The Windsor Report is not a piece of legislation passed by an authoritative body. It is a report of immense importance in the spirit of which the Anglican Communion can find a way forward together."

This is another way of saying we don't give a damn what the rest of the Anglican Communion says we will do exactly what we, in ECUSA, like and to hell with you.

And in the DIOCESE OF ROCHESTER the Bishop Jack M. McKelvey and a majority of the 250 delegates at the Episcopal Diocesan Convention, voted Saturday to dissolve All Saints Church in Irondequoit. "We've just been declared as a parish extinct," said Rev. David Harnish of All Saints Church. The decision came after two years of discussion and no agreement between the diocese and All Saints church. The church refused to make its annual payment to the diocese of more than $16,000. But the debate is much deeper than money. All Saints Church refused to pay because in 2003 the General Convention confirmed the election of the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire. I spoke to the parish's rectors' warden who told VirtueOnline that since the Robinson convention the orthodox parish had shrunk when parents learned of that decision taking their families and children to independent evangelical churches. The church which had over 300 members had now shrunk to below 70. Sin comes with a big price tag.

And in the DIOCESE OF QUINCY another fire, the second in that diocese, struck the parish of Holy Trinity Church in Geneseo, Illinois. Writes Bishop Keith Ackerman: "It has been a long and painful day at Holy Trinity Church in Geneseo, Illinois. Fire was discovered shooting out of the Sacristy window, and in just a brief period of time, the fire destroyed the Sacristy, portions of the Sanctuary and Chancel and portions of the roof. When Archdeacon Steele and I arrived much of the fire had been extinguished by the three fire departments and I was able to walk past the charred Altar to carry the Blessed Sacrament outside. In addition we were able to recover some vessels, but the combination of fire, heat and water damage is quite extensive. It is much too early to determine the cause and also what the extent of the damage is. Church Insurance responded immediately, and various members of the diocese offered assistance including Canon Herrmann of St. John's Church in Quincy that is currently rebuilding after the fire there three years ago."

The DIOCESE OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA meeting in Convention November 11-12, defeated a resolution that would have allowed the diocese to use escrowed money, held by parishes where members had directed that no apportionment payments be forwarded to the diocese, for the payment of health insurance premiums and benefits for retired clergy and their surviving spouses.

ARCHBISHOP EMMANUEL KOLINI Archbishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church of Rwanda made a visit to Brockton, Mass. last week where he participated in a Festival Dedication at the Anglican Parish of St. Paul in Brockton. The Archbishop later spoke on the state of the global Anglican Church.

In the Nov-Dec. issue of Seed and Harvest the TRINITY EPISCOPAL SCHOOL FOR MINISTRY'S official publication, Dean and President, Dr. Paul Zahl writes, "whether the Episcopal Church in the USA is gong to open its heart to our theological minority is still an open question...I am not seeing evidence that the managers of the institution are really open to us. Moreover there is a "group think" denial among English Anglicans that seems to render them almost wholly unable to see themselves as counter-cultural. So our wide context is not providing much in the way of institutional comfort."

WERE YOU AT THE HOPE AND FUTURE Conference, if so did you see the 'Choose This Day' video which was shown? Here is the link for the video which was shown. It includes other interviews, the original Anglican Decision video (done by the church I currently attend and another one in the diocese which have pulled out and are now affiliated with Recife). It also has information on where and how it can be ordered by people for them to show to their friends and fence sitters. The actual video has discussion questions for small groups or for individual to reflect on and the original music on the video. Shortcut to: http://www.anglicandecision.org/

KOREAN REDS TARGETING CHRISTIANS screamed a headline in a Washington newspaper. A woman in her 20s executed by a firing squad after being caught with a Bible. Five Christian church leaders punished by being run over by a steamroller before a crowd of spectators who "cried, screamed out, or fainted when the skulls made a popping sound as they were crushed." These and other "horrifying" violations of human rights and religious freedom in North Korea are reported in a new study by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, titled "'Thank You, Father Kim Il Sung': Eyewitness Accounts of Severe Violations of Freedom of Thought, Conscience, and Religion in North Korea.". Recently Frank Griswold, making a Nixonian like tour of Asia arguing that we should refrain from the demonization of the DPRK in favor of supporting the building of relations between the north and south which hold the promise of peace and reunification ... make every effort to invite the DPRK into the international community as a full member so that the country can develop and pursue internationally recognized norms and standards for its people to enjoy..." in other words bring Kim Il Sung in out of the rain, kiss him on both pluriform cheeks and make nice while he murders Christians. The Rev. Dr. George Naff Gray, Jr. an orthodox rector in South Carolina rightly called it right when he said that when Richard Nixon's presidency swirled with domestic troubles, Nixon successfully shifted America's attention towards foreign policy initiatives. Frank Griswold has been acting like Richard Nixon by traveling overseas to shift attention away from his failed leadership of ECUSA.

MERE ANGLICANISM. A conference featuring some of the best Anglican minds in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion will be held in Charleston, SC January 19-21. Among the featured speakers will Rev. Professor Stephen Noll, Dr. Os Guinness and Bishop C. FitzSimons Allison. This is the first event of its kind and it will held in the historic city of Charleston at the Episcopal cathedral of the Diocese of South Carolina. The conference will feature "Interactions" panel discussions, "Connections" groups [for Track II participants], and wonderful worship opportunities. Guinness's lecture title is "Third Mission to the West: Opportunities & Challenges in Winning Back our Civilization". Stephen's lecture title is "Global Anglicanism: A Blueprint".

You can download the attached MS Word registration form, fill out, and e-mail it back. Or you may fax your registration to Kester Heaton at 843-722-2105. Please note the Mere Anglicanism Conference on your check. I cannot recommend this conference too highly. Your correspondent will be there. Here is their website: http://mereanglicanism.com/

BEWARE BOGUS FUND-RAISING SCAMS. There are a number of fund raising scams that claim to be raising money for the Church in Uganda and Nigeria. They mention by name Archbishop Akinola and Bishop Jackson Matovu of the Central Uganda Diocese, Church of Uganda? Do not respond. Do not send money.

All blessings,

David W. Virtue DD

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