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2003 YEAR IN REVIEW - Part One

"I sense an impending train wreck the size of which this part of the Anglican Communion has not seen." The Rt. Rev. Peter Beckwith, Bishop of Springfield


(Part 1)

By David W. Virtue

It was a cataclysmic year in the life of the Anglican Communion.

The new 104th Archbishop of the Anglican Communion was enthroned in Canterbury in March; an emergency meeting of the Primates was held at Lambeth later in the year, the consecration of a non-celibate homosexual to The Episcopal Church took place, the almost consecration of a homosexual canon theologian to The Church of England was sabotaged at the last minute; some 3,000 orthodox Episcopalians met in Dallas to plot a new direction for themselves, it all ending with the formation of a "Network of Anglican Dioceses and Congregations" that will challenge The Episcopal Church's very control of its people.

There has never been a year like it in the history of the Anglican Communion or The Episcopal Church. The entire Communion hovered on the very brink of schism, with cries of outrage from Global South Primates and bishops as they viewed their Western counterparts doing and saying things that violated the very core of Anglican doctrine and practice, in fact the very truth of what it means to be a Christian.

The newly elected Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams found himself floundering in a sea of controversy over sexuality issues that will require Solomonic wisdom to resolve if the Communion is to stay together. He would not offer a clear biblical word rejecting sex outside of marriage, preferring to set in motion an Eames Commission report he hopes by Oct. 2004 will bring all the parties together at a common table. He might well be whistling Dixie.

THE YEAR 2003 began ominously enough with word being declared that The Episcopal Church was going through a dark night of the soul with The Anglican Church in Canada also being torn apart by sin and bad theology,

In January a radical bid for alternative Episcopal oversight brought two British evangelical groups REFORM and CHURCH SOCIETY together saying they wanted pastoral care from someone other than Rowan Williams to reign over them because he had knowingly ordained a -homosexual and they called on Peter Jensen the Archbishop of Sydney to give them cover.

The Archbishop of Canterbury was not amused by the actions of these two groups.

But in the DIOCESE OF PENNSYLVANIA, the bishop Charles Bennison, was thwarted yet again after an orthodox priest he wanted out of one of his parishes went off to Africa to face trial and was promptly sent back to resume his ministry. Fr. Eddy Rix, 32, priest in charge at All Saints', Wynnewood pled guilty to functioning as a priest without a license in the Diocese of Pennsylvania, got a slap on the wrist, after being allowed to preach in the African diocese and then ordered home to pick up where he left off, much to the chagrin of Bennison.

As a sign of the times another orthodox priest, the Rev. Frederick C. Watson resigned and went off to the Russian Orthodox church fed up with the ECUSA's new found religion.

The Archbishop of Canterbury took a major hit from Mark Steyn in the Sunday Telegraph saying that his criticism of the war on Iraq as "utterly immoral" showed he was himself morally flawed. Williams spent a good part of the year making statements making nice with what he generously called moderate Islamic groups who didn’t really want to commit Jihad against the West.

THE AFRICAN ANGLICAN CHURCH, one of the last bastions of religious conservatism, reluctantly prepared for battle against Western-imposed liberalism. On a continent where homosexuality is not only morally unacceptable, but often also illegal, the possibility that Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, would want to ordain practicing homosexuals prompted undisguised horror. "As abhorrent as female circumcision is to you in the West, that is how abhorrent homosexuality is to the African mind," said one Kenyan bishop. "If they go ahead and do it [ordain homosexuals], the African Church will react, and will react negatively. Homosexuality is unbiblical and unnatural."

That was just for openers, the pressure and heat mounted ominously throughout the year.

And back in the DIOCESE OF PENNSYLVANIA, Bennison failed to dislodge Father David Moyer from the rectorship of Church of the Good Shepherd parish, or even to eliminate the parish as a vital force in the Philadelphia area, or worldwide.

Moyer became answerable to an archbishop in Africa with the feud drawing international attention after the ultra-liberal bishop officially defrocked the orthodox priest in September for defying his authority. Father Moyer and his supporters, however, worked out a plan to foil the action: Within minutes of the defrocking, he was made a priest in the Province of Central Africa, then was transferred to the oversight of the bishop of Pittsburgh. Father Moyer continued to function as pastor of the Rosemont parish, an unprecedented situation that pleased fellow traditionalists in the Anglican Communion but confounded Episcopal strategists. By year's end he was still safely ensconced in his parish with his attorney John H. Lewis, Jr., declaring that the crisis had passed.

Lewis has said that Bennison had become a "prisoner" of his own wrongful actions. Since he claims to have "deposed" Father Moyer, he cannot bring any new church proceedings against Father Moyer since that would require him to admit that Father Moyer remains a priest in good standing, an admission that would also require Bishop Bennison to admit that his "deposition" was wrongful and invalid. QED

Later in January, America's premier theologian Robert Jensen bluntly declared at a conference of Ecumenical scholars in Charleston, SC that included a goodly number of Episcopalians and Anglicans that "men and women who indulge in homoerotic relationships should not be ordained." Frank Griswold was not amused.

A position paper signed by four theologians arguing that General Convention had no authority to approve of blessings for same-sex couples provoked a firestorm of opinion from across the Internet. Virtuosity wrote at the time, "no single issue outside the ongoing struggle with homosexuality in ECUSA has caused so much discussion to erupt in recent memory. Should orthodox and evangelical Episcopalians stay or leave ECUSA? "We would recognize such an exceptional action as being unconstitutional," declared Dr. Paul Zahl, Dean of the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham.

It was also a year in which the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church Frank Griswold took more hits than a Mafia foot soldier in a Sopranos sitcom.

His Soutane attire was splattered with the blood of betrayal, broken promises, outright lies, distortions and venality, taken to a level unheard of and unprecedented in the entire history of The Episcopal Church.

In the first of many missteps Griswold told Bishop Bennison that his going after Fr. Moyer was "utterly unacceptable" and to help his theologically pluriform mind he invoked the thoroughly deceased Sufi poet Rumi inviting all parties, including the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Pennsylvania to a field beyond wrongdoing and rightdoing for a pow wow. There was no meeting. Absolute, non-pluriform right and wrong continued to haunt the Presiding Bishop throughout the year.

Also haunting The Episcopal Church was the Anglican Mission in America (AMIA) whose numbers only increased throughout the year as they slowly gobbled up ripe Episcopal churches fed up with ECUSA's theological and moral drift. Some 600 met in Pawley's Island, South Carolina for what has now become one of the most significant gatherings of Anglicans on this continent. A few short years ago the Anglican Mission in America (AMIA) was but an idea in the minds of its founders, a group of men grown disenchanted by the growing apostasy in The Episcopal Church USA. Today, all that has changed. With some 12,000 followers in more than 100 parishes, the AMIA has become a significant witness in the worldwide Anglican Communion to which they have a formal relationship, and a challenge to liberal and orthodox bishops in the ECUSA.

January was also the month that saw two bishops, one a Canadian and the other an American lashing out at Anglican INTERNET communication; with one bishop, Michael Ingham (New Westminster) recently calling it a "medium of abuse." The other bishop, Charles E. Bennison (Pennsylvania) filed a motion to prevent an Anglo-Catholic priest and his attorney from revealing to VIRTUOSITY what is in the "secret" documents about the inhibition of Fr. David Moyer that Bennison had been ordered to produce. Bennison
cited VIRTUOSITY as a primary source of his irritation over revealing what really happened in the Bennison attack on Fr. Moyer. The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church also denounced Internet stories as full of "distortion and untrue" and berated this journalist for using the Internet to reveal information about ECUSA he would prefer to have been kept secret. Virtuosity became the focus of their wrath throughout the year, as news of the church's venality filtered out unspun around the Communion.

In other news it was declared that the last line in the sand had been drawn and Frank Griswold and ECUSA would be declared "out of Communion" if same-sex unions got passed GC2003. It was also the month that Dr. Louie Crew, ECUSA's First Sodomite announced that he would seek the presidency of the House of Deputies in an attempt to unseat George Werner in an open vote at GC2003. As events turned out his attempt failed. But it did have the effect of keeping Werner's feet to the revisionist fire, if he should suddenly decide to weaken and make nice with ECUSA's orthodox. Crew was not without his strategy.

In the DIOCESE OF NEWYORK, the former Bishop of New York, Richard Grein suffered a set back in his legal fight with the Rev. Janet Kraft for throwing her out of Grace Church in Manhattan and placing his "very close" female friend Anne Richards in her place. The judge told Grein and his lawyers to settle the case because he had little chance of winning. Grein also got divorced. He was one of the most hateful bishops in ECUSA towards orthodox priests in his diocese. The Kraft case still remains unresolved.

In another sign of theological insanity, the DIOCESE OF NEW YORK sent a number of Episcopalians to rebuild a mosque in Kabul rather than preach the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ or to build a church so people could worship Jesus. Making nice with the enemy was more important than telling them the Good News about Jesus.

FORWARD IN FAITH, NORTH AMERICA, the traditionalist Anglo-Catholic arm of The ECUSA said they wanted to remain a part of the Episcopal Church. "Be it resolved that the purpose of Forward in Faith, North America, is to uphold the historic Faith, Practice and Order of the Church Biblical, Apostolic and Catholic, and to resist all efforts to deviate from it. To this end, Forward in Faith, North America, seeks to minister pastorally and sacramentally to all who are faithful to the Anglican Way, both within the Episcopal Church and outside it, while working internationally and cooperatively for the creation of an orthodox Province of the Anglican Communion."

And Griswold told us all how embarrassed he was being an American because the nation wanted to go to war with Iraq. Many Episcopalians retorted that they felt embarrassed having Griswold as their Presiding Bishop. Former U. S. President George Herbert Bush, an Episcopalian, hammered Griswold for his recent anti-American comments. Griswold said he was ashamed of being an American and was tired of apologizing for being from the U.S. and for wanting war with Iraq, while Bush was not doing enough about the world's starving. Bush senior lit into Griswold saying that he found Griswold's "rhetoric highly offensive" and said "Americans were among the most kind and generous, fairest nation in the world."

The Archbishop of Canterbury also took it on the chin from one of the Anglican Church's senior Australian leaders. The archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, on a preaching tour of England, called on Dr Williams, the leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, to "espouse the teaching of scripture" and end his personal sympathy for homosexual couples. The Australian archbishop was the first senior bishop to voice concerns about Dr. Williams, after both the Church Society and Reform called on Dr Williams to step down even before his appointment as archbishop was confirmed.

In Southern Africa, Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, called on Southern Africa's 10 million baptized Anglicans to take a pro-homosexual line putting him at odds with the rest of the continent's African bishops. Archbishop Ndungane circulated an eight-page discussion document on human sexuality. The document warned that, besides threatening the unity of the Anglican Communion, the matter of homosexuality was causing deep pain on both sides of the debate. The first step was to find common foundations. The rest of the African bishops did not agree. They didn’t like his foundations one little bit.

In yet another bit of singular madness, Bishop Bennison cited Hitler in criticizing African church growth. He told a reporter on National Public Radio that when it comes to the faith, millions of conservative African Christians are wrong. He likened their growth to Hitler and the Nazis. Bennison tried to backpedal but the damage was done. A Jewish lady who had worked for Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini in the Province of Rwanda, wrote saying she was so outraged she just couldn't find the words to say how she felt. "The statement he [Bennison] made is unbelievable no matter how he tries to correct himself, and he said it on national radio no less. Does he know that I, a Jew, have been serving alongside Archbishop Kolini for more then 15 years! The comparison between Hitler and Kolini is so far fetched it is not even worth this email..." Perhaps Bennison should read "The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party," 4th edition, she wrote. Bennison spent a good deal of the year putting his foot in his mouth. By years' end he was tasting leather.

Dr. Pam Darling, a leading Episcopal Church historian, and a member of the Pennsylvania Standing Committee, said in a Memorandum that, "Forward in Faith was manipulating past and present Archbishops of Canterbury over Fr. David Moyer, The Episcopal Church's leading Anglo-Catholic cleric in his battle with Bishop Bennison. It was another attempt by a revisionist historian to spin the truth and shut down orthodoxy. Bennison had, in September 2002, fraudulently "deposed" Fr. Moyer after concealing from his Standing Committee a letter from Frank Griswold top back off. Fr. Moyer's attorney's filed a complaint in the civil court and the part and present Archbishops of Canterbury (as well as numerous other bishops) refused to recognize the "deposition". Moyer was received into an African Diocese and then received by Bishop Robert Duncan of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. In 2003, he and his curate became canonically resident in African Dioceses.

But not to be entirely outdone, the former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. George Carey got into an embarrassing contest of wills with US Secretary of State Colin Powell, in Switzerland. Following a speech by Powell on US foreign policy he took a question from the former Archbishop of Canterbury. Carey was diplomatically rude and insulting to the United States, bringing up the difference between "soft" (diplomatic/economic) and "hard" (military) power with an implied question as to whether the United States is capable of understanding the difference in today's middle-eastern world. In the most diplomatic terms and manner, the good General skewered the former ABC, reminding him that United States has a clear understanding of "hard" and "soft" power since it has been militarily successful across the 20th Century and NEVER asked for anything from the countries that it liberated or conquered "except for enough ground to bury its dead."

And in the DIOCESE OF MASSACHUSETTS pluriformity reigned supreme. A diversity in faith, unity in peace rally was held at which Quakers, Buddhists, and Muslim muezzin, swayed to the jazz arrangement of a Christian spiritual. Members of Massachusetts' religious community gathered in the landmark Trinity Church where Episcopal Bishop Thomas Shaw ticked off a list of concerns he said the assembly fears more than Hussein, including the damage wrought by AIDS in Africa, environmental destruction, a deteriorating economy, and ''how hated we are by so many of our brothers and sisters around the globe.'' He echoed sentiments expressed by his close personal friend Frank Griswold.

Three dioceses held conventions in January, in which two, Newark and Washington upheld sodomite practices while Central Florida bucked the trend and called for more evangelism and mission outreach.


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