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40,000 Episcopalians leave TEC in 2006...50 gay & lesbian CofE priests "marry"

The persecution of the true church, of Christian believers who trace their spiritual descent from Abraham, is not always by the world, who are strangers unrelated to us, but by our half-brothers, religious people, the nominal church. It has always been so. The Lord Jesus was bitterly opposed, rejected, mocked and condemned by his own nation. The fiercest opponents of the apostle Paul, who dogged his footsteps and stirred up strife against him, were the official church, the Jews. The monolithic structure of medieval papacy persecuted all Protestant minorities with ruthless, unremitting ferocity. And the greatest enemies of the evangelical faith today are not unbelievers, who when they hear the gospel often embrace it, but the church, the establishment, the hierarchy. --From "The Message of Galatians" (The Bible Speaks Today) by John R. W. Stott

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Over 40,000 faithful Episcopalians left the Episcopal Church last year. They didn't just change congregations, but left it altogether. December 2006 saw the greatest single exodus of Episcopalians in the 300-year history of the Diocese of Virginia. More than 20% of the funding and 25% of its members have either left or will leave that diocese this year.

As we move into 2007 there is the possibility of one or more dioceses leaving The Episcopal Church.

What we are now seeing, and will continue to see in 2007, is a very public, nasty protracted divorce played out in the media and the courts.

Like all divorces each side blames the other. But there is no such thing as a nice divorce.

Despite all the prayer meetings, days of discernment and nice words by orthodox priests of their liberal-but-not-quite revisionist bishops; at the end of the day, most, if not all liberal bishops are fundamentalist about property ownership.

In divorce concern by the judge is for the kids, for the bishops it is allegedly for the parishioners, but even there, the parishioners take a back to seat to property ownership.

The professed concern by liberal bishops for the handful of remaining parishioners has everything to do with the bishop's need to retain the property because ultimately it is about the survival of the institution not the nurturing of souls.

By contrast, and not to overly press the point, China has more than 100 million evangelical Christians, outdistancing 70 million card-carrying Communists, and there is no formal institution binding them together, and the number of public churches are miniscule...and the church is growing like crazy because the gospel is being preached. House churches in countries like China and India outpace almost anything institutional in the West.


IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND this past week institutionalism reared its ugly head when the Bishop of Durham tore into the Covenant put together by the country's leading evangelicals. It was a case of institutional hubris. Bishop N. T. Wright took strong exception to CofE evangelicals who wanted to function outside of church structures that did not support the gospel. The signers include such illustrious figures as evangelical patriarch the Rev. Dr. John R. W. Stott, Bishop Wallace Benn, President of the Church of England Evangelical Council, the Rev. David Phillips, (Director of Church Society and the leadership of Church Society), The Rev. David Petersen, (Principal of Oak Hill College) to name but a few. They are the crème de la crème of British evangelicalism.

He blasted the Covenant signers for bad timing (the Primates meet next month in Tanzania) for being "Congregationalists," and said the 'covenant' was not like the one envisaged by Windsor but was more "a political position-statement, a sabre-rattling call to arms, a half promise and a not-quite-veiled threat," and of having a sectarian ecclesiology. He repeatedly said the statement was either redundant or duplicitous. And then he said the document gives plenty of evidence of cultural captivity. He accused the signers of using money as a "threat" and "unbiblical," and being in a power-play. You can read the full story here or in today's digest. http://tinyurl.com/yh85xl .

BUT THE BIG news out of England is that some 50 gay or lesbian priests had "married" in civil partnership ceremonies thus guaranteeing public debate at General Synod in February. Campaigners criticized bishops for shying away from enforcing the church's policy of ensuring gay clergy are celibate before they are given authorization to enter civil partnerships, but the issue will surely hit the proverbial fan when the Primates meet next month in Tanzania.

But next month, proponents of homosexuals in the clergy will not only face challenges in their Synod, in Tanzania, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, likely will face criticism from leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion, to which the Church of England belongs.

A media release from the church lobby group Changing Attitude said a total of 87 couples, clerical and lay members of the Church of England, had responded to their survey saying they had legally registered their homosexual civil partnerships. "Twenty seven couples followed the civil ceremony with a service of blessing, either in church or in another venue," the group said.

George Curry, chairman of the Church Society, was quoted in the Times saying that he expected a "crunch moment" at the upcoming Synod.

Nigerian primate Peter Akinola released a statement saying, "The Church affirms our commitment to the total rejection of the evil of homosexuality which is a perversion of human dignity." You can read the full story here or in today's digest. http://tinyurl.com/yk4tff . More than 7,000 people have already read the story at the website.

IN OTHER UK NEWS, a group of Christian lawyers plan to ask Britain's Queen Elizabeth to intervene in the introduction of new gay rights laws. They say that proposed Sexual Orientation Regulations discriminate against Christians. And that while the laws are being introduced to attempt to prevent discrimination against homosexual people, CofE priests could be sued for refusing to bless same-sex civil partnerships under the new regulations. You can read that story here or in today's digest. http://tinyurl.com/y9smwo

IN THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH this past week, the all consuming issue was the funeral of President Gerald Ford. Ford was an Episcopalian and got full burial honors in three locations with Episcopal services.

But his funeral was seriously marred when sodomy reared its ugly head at the National Cathedral State Funeral in Washington, DC. The Rev. Robert Certain, a liberal ECUSA priest just had to drag the whole homosexual issue into a sermon about the late president. His self serving comments were gratuitous and worse. The man has no shame.

Certain used the eulogy, not just to praise Ford, but to use the former president to advance the homosexual agenda in The Episcopal Church.

He did two significant things.

First he truncated John 14:1-6 down to John 14:1-6a, deliberately leaving out "No man comes to the father but by me." Heaven forbid that Ford, an Evangelical Christian, would have wanted a significant portion of the biblical text left out at his funeral. It might satisfy the pluriform mind of Mr. Certain, but it was a gross distortion of what Ford believed.

Secondly, Certain said that he spoke to Ford about the potential schism in the Episcopal Church, and claimed that Ford saw nothing in the revisionists' actions that any Christian should have a problem with given the Great Commandments and the Great Commission. According to Certain he then asked him to work for reconciliation within the Church "which I assured him I would, just as he had worked for reconciliation within the nation thirty years ago."

A highly placed source told VOL that it is possible that the Rev. Certain deliberately twisted Ford's words to fit his [Certain's] and The Episcopal Church's pro gay agenda.

THE WINDSOR BISHOPS met for a second time this week in Camp Allen, Texas under the leadership of Texas Bishop Don Wimberly. In a jab at the meeting, the Episcopal News Service called it a meeting of self-styled 'Windsor Bishops'. Also joining them were Primates from West India, Archbishop Drexel Gomez and Tanzania Archbishop Donald Mtetemela. According to Wimberly the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams "encouraged" him to hold the second gathering.

Wimberly is quoted in a newspaper report as saying "the purpose of the gathering is not to form another 'group' or to issue proclamations, but to continue the conversation as requested in the Windsor Report. Network Bishop Robert Duncan was also present VOL was told, but little news has so far emerged. Bishop Jack Iker (Diocese of Fort Worth) wrote in a statement (http://www.fwepiscopal.org/bishop/bishop.html) on the diocesan website that the meeting will include presentations on next month's Primates Meeting (http://www.aco.org/primates/index.cfm) and on the work of the Anglican Covenant Design Group.

Iker noted that Wimberly's invitation to the January meeting said that, "We are approaching a critical junction in the life of our church and the life of our Communion. Our discussions are both timely and of extraordinary importance."

But one person who is present there told VOL that while Camp Allen is not issuing a statement, "something structural is in the air. They are clear that if something is not done at their meeting everyone is bailing ship. Also if Mrs. Schori is left undiminished they will have established her agenda as within proper bounds and we will truly be the church where you can believe anything you want and then we will no longer be a church worth joining."

THE BISHOP OF QUINCY, the Rt. Rev. Keith Ackerman noted that Mrs. Schori's Christmas address celebrating anew Jesus' birth among us seemed to miss certain words. There was no mention of Lord, Savior, Messiah, Christ, Nativity, Christmas. He also noted a number of missing truths: Trinity, Uniqueness of Christ. "This appears to be a Mission Statement that begins with an ecclesial body's hope," but it apparently has very little to do with historic Christianity.

Here are two paragraphs from Mrs. Schori's message: "The Episcopal Church continues to focus on its mission of reconciling the world, particularly as it cares for the least, the lost, and the left out. We participate in God's mission to heal the world as we feed the hungry, house the homeless, educate children, heal the sick, and seek to change the systems that perpetuate injustice. We also seek reconciliation with those within and beyond this church who differ from us theologically. While we regret the recently publicized departures of individuals from churches in Virginia and elsewhere in this Church, and the rejection of this Church's elected leadership by various bishops here and across the world, we continue to seek reconciliation."

From the DIOCESE OF LOS ANGELES comes this from a VOL reader: Approximately four years ago, the vestry hired a transplanted homosexual Welshman Anglican priest from London's All Saints Margaret Street by the name of Ian Davies to be the priest at St. Thomas the Apostle parish is in the diocese of Los Angeles. This parish is known as the 'gay' Episcopal church that is chock full of 'smells and bells.' Even V. Gene Robinson paid a visit last year and briefly spoke after receiving a standing ovation (during the mass). It appears that the parish is in significant financial distress. Pledging is substantially below expectations. Both clergy are unchaste homosexual men, with a recently-ordained homosexual deacon added to the staff. In fact, the rector Davies lives conjugally with another man in the church rectory." What is significant is the fact that a predominately-homosexual parish, presumably drawing significant numbers of disaffected homosexual Catholics (not to mention other high-church Protestant wannabes), would fail to hit their pro forma budgetary targets. The church principally draws from the Hollywood and West Hollywood homosexual communities. Bishop J. Jon Bruno (as well as his homosexual 'assisting bishop' Sergio Carranza) are big boosters of this parish.

The Rev. John Bennison is back in the public with a business venture following his humiliating firing from his parish following revelations that he seduced a 14-year old girl that was covered up by his brother, PA Bishop Charles E. Bennison. He's into transforming residential properties, but not apparently himself. At one of two website he lists several testimonials by Episcopal Bishop's on his "Reviews" page. Wrote a VOL reader, "Isn't it amazing how he has re-packaged/re-branded himself using his "Words and Ways" www.wordsnways.com. Clearly it worked for him in the past..."

PENNSYLVANIA BISHOP CHARLES BENNISON who faces charges that he covered up his brother's child sexual abuse, also faces possible expulsion by the national church's Title IV Review Committee on a series of charges that he mismanaged the diocese. Now, VOL has received papers this week showing that the Standing Committee knew long before they asked for Bennison's resignation that the financial reporting was non-existent. As early as June 2003 a financial Report by Chandler Joyner revealed that they knew three years before charges were filed that the diocese was in a financial mess. So the question must be asked why did they wait so long? Whatever happens, Bennison's days seem numbered. Once Fr. Moyer's attorney has done with him, Bennison will face attorney Michael Rehill who has been hired by the Standing Committee to defend their charges before the Review Committee.

In the DIOCESE OF COLORADO, Bishop Rob O'Neill has gone after the evangelical rector of the largest parish in the diocese, the Rev. Don Armstrong of Grace and St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Colorado Springs. He has been placed on 90-day paid administrative leave last week by O'Neill. As a result he is not permitted to step on church property or wear his habit during that time, and "will not exercise any functions or pastoral responsibilities as a priest," according to a diocesan release. Armstrong has been with the church for 19 years.

Armstrong is being investigated for misusing funds. According to news reports Grace has been the subject of a nine-month financial investigation by the diocese. The diocese cautions the investigation is ongoing: Armstrong has been cooperative, according to O'Neill, and he is still presumed to be innocent. O'Neill has had it in for Armstrong ever since he referred to O'Neill's theology as neo-pagan when O'Neill was first elected bishop.

Armstrong is not permitted to say anything, but sources told VOL that this looks like a set-up job. Armstrong has been an outspoken opponent of the bishop and his pro-gay liberal positions.

It is ironic that this inhibition according to canons is reserved for sex offenders, but clearly it is being done by a liberal bishop beating up a conservative priest, which also happens to the home of the Anglican Communion Institute ACI (which was mentioned as divisive in Griswold's last letter to the HOB). Could it be that O'Neill is afraid that Grace Church will leave for Nigerian Primate Peter Akinola's, CANA. O'Neill is way over the top on this one. The ACI has repeatedly said it wants reform of the TEC and can in no way be construed as schismatic. The vestry, which is 100% behind Armstrong, has told O'Neill that the church is not trying to leave, but he persists in trying to curry favor with Mrs. Schori. O'Neill said he had enough money to cover the short fall due to his absence. Now you should know that O'Neill has a gay son which puts him squarely in the revisionist camp on sexuality issues alongside another Bishop John Croneberger of Newark who has two gay children.

Late today the AMERICAN ANGLICAN COUNCIL responded to O'Neill's actions expressing its support for the Rev. Donald Armstrong III, calling him a respected orthodox Anglican leader saying that even to the church vestry is unaware of the charges.

"Fr. Armstrong is well known for his orthodox stance and serves as the executive director for the Anglican Communion Institute. Grace and St. Stephen's has, as a church, also taken a consistent stand for orthodoxy, especially evident in their statement released following General Convention 2006 in which they distanced themselves from the national Episcopal Church leadership and expressed their desire to remain connected with the Anglican Communion," said Canon David Anderson, AAC president.

ALASKA bishop named Canadian National Indigenous Bishop. [ENS] reports that Mark L. MacDonald, the seventh Episcopal bishop of the Diocese of Alaska, hopes that his new ministry as the Anglican Church of Canada's first National Indigenous Bishop will both transform the way people think about the church and move Anglicans into deeper communion with each other. Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, announced his appointment of MacDonald at a news conference in the Church's headquarters. McDonald, 52, becomes a rarity in Anglican tradition -- a bishop who is pastor to a group of people irrespective of where they live, rather than to residents of a geographic diocese. As well as crossing Canadian diocesan jurisdictions, MacDonald, in his new position, will straddle national and ecclesiastical boundaries as well. Although he has resigned as Bishop of Alaska, he is due to remain assisting bishop of Navajoland Area Mission with the Episcopal Church.

"It's important to remember that we elect bishops for the church," Hutchison said at the news conference. "We don't elect bishops for national jurisdictions."

Interesting comment by Apb. Hutchison. If it is okay for McDonald to cross boundaries, why is not okay for overseas Primates to cross boundaries and come to the US or Canada? After all we don't elect bishops for "national jurisdictions" we elect bishops for the church, said Hutchison. VOL is in full agreement.

IF YOU HAD any doubts about the liberal bent of the DIOCESE OF JERUSALEM, the bishops of Los Angeles and Jerusalem will ordain a number of priests on Saturday, Jan. 6, at St. John's Church, Los Angeles.

Bishop Diocesan J. Jon Bruno of Los Angeles and Bishop Coadjutor Suheil Dawani of Jerusalem will preside at the ordination of the LA eight where the preacher will be uber-revisionist Bishop Michael Ingham of the Diocese of New Westminster, Canada!

THE BISHOP OF SPRINGFIELD, the Rt. Rev. Peter H. Beckwith is asking every member of his diocese to participate in an Octave of Prayer from February 12 through February 19, 2007. "These are times of challenge but also times of hope in the life of our beloved Church. The particular difficulties of the past three years have served to increase our awareness of our utter dependence upon God and our need to come to Him regularly in corporate and individual prayer. In February of 2007, the Primates of the Anglican Communion will gather for their biennial meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. At this meeting, the leaders of the Anglican Communion will meet to consider a variety of important issues in the life of the Anglican Communion. Among those issues will be the appropriateness and sufficiency of the response of The Episcopal Church to the Windsor Report and possible responses to the requests of several dioceses, including our own, for Alternative Primatial Oversight. As this time draws closer, prayer should be a paramount priority. For this reason, I am calling the clergy and laity in this Diocese to an Octave of Prayer for the Church, beginning Monday, February 12, and concluding Monday, February 19, 2007. I ask your prayers for the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates of the Anglican Communion, the Bishops of The Episcopal Church, the work of this Diocese and your Bishop."

UNITY SERVICE HITS SNAG IN CANADA. For a second year in a row, Anglicans, Lutherans and Roman Catholics did not gather to renew their baptismal vows during December's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity; differences over the thorny issue of homosexuality were cited as the reason. Bishop Ralph Spence of the Anglican diocese of Niagara said, however, that gatherings of clergy and bishops from the three churches in the area are ongoing. Last year, the Roman Catholic diocese of Hamilton in southern Ontario opted not to take part in an annual gathering of Christian churches in the area following a decision by the diocese of Niagara's synod to approve same-sex blessings. (Despite the vote, however, diocesan policy regarding same-sex blessings did not change since Bishop Spence did not endorse the decision.) A report from the Hamilton Spectator said Catholic leaders had expressed concern that having the joint worship service might sow confusion among Catholics regarding the issue of gay unions.

TANZANIA: Prediction by a knowledgeable insider: "The official communique will announce the Primates have agreed to let "the Windsor Process" go on until Lambeth 2008. There will NOT be a list of attendees issued, however. Full text of Rowan's addresses will be published in cyberspace." We will see.

THE ANGLICAN MISSION IN AMERICA holds its annual convention January 17- 20 in Jacksonville, Florida. Your scribe will be there to cover this event. Each year they draw more bishops and archbishops and this year will be no exception. If you haven't booked click here: http://www.theamia.org/

MERE ANGLICANISM meets later in the month, January 25-27 in Charleston, SC. Click here: http://www.mereanglicanism.com/ VOL urges its readers who can to attend this outstanding event with internationally renowned speakers.

For the New Year 2007 we offer this prayer: "Eternal God, who makest all things new, and abidest for ever the same; Grant us to begin this year in thy faith, and to continue it in thy favor; that, being guided in all our doings, and guarded all our days, we may spend our lives in thy service, and finally, by thy grace, attain the glory of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

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All Blessings,

David W. Virtue DD

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