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AMIA Aims High in Mission...21 priests inhibited by Lee in Va...Murmurings in Md

Sharing God's mission. The call of God is to share in his own mission in the world. First, he sent his Son. Then he sent his Spirit. Now he sends his church, that is, us. He sends us out by his Spirit into his world to announce his Son's salvation. He worked through his Son to achieve it; he works through us to make it known.--From "Our Guilty Silence" by John R. W. Stott.

Dear Brothers and Sisters

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ...it is the power of God unto salvation..." For the vast majority of Episcopal bishops and priests, the gospel today IS an embarrassment. Jesus' unique relationship with the Father, his exclusive claims..."I and the Father are one", "He than hath seen me hath seen the Father", "I am THE way, THE truth and THE life," deeply offend bishops like Katharine Jefferts Schori who, in her and their naiveté, desire to stretch the boundaries to include other religions and other sexualities, and in doing so end up marginalizing those who wish only to be faithful and obedient to the church's received teaching.

Is it any wonder then that out of the maelstrom of pluriform thinking and teaching an extraordinary backlash is occurring in The Episcopal Church with fleeing parishes and priests, with some dioceses desiring no longer to stay under the ecclesiastical umbrella of a church that no longer believes the very doctrine they and its bishops swore to uphold.

The way is narrow Scripture tells us, but that "narrowness" is way too exclusive for The Episcopal Majority who would sooner walk the "broad way" that leads to inclusivity and destruction. Our God is a jealous God, and He will not tolerate sin forever, His patience is not limitless.

Is it any wonder then that new wine is being poured into new wineskins, that God's Holy Spirit is being poured out afresh; that God's Spirit is going where He is wanted, and that the morally and theologically bankrupt Episcopal Church is seeing the seeds of new faith and order springing up all around, but outside of it, even as parishes and parishioners flee its legal and ecclesiastical grip.

Last week found this writer covering the fast growing Anglican Mission in the Americas conference in Jacksonville, Florida.

With the theme "enlarge the place of your tent" (Isa. 54: 2-30) ringing in their ears, more than 1,600 Anglicans heard their leader and numerous speakers push a new generation of evangelical Anglicans to greater heights of mission endeavor, urging them to step out in faith to evangelize, disciple and plant mission churches throughout the U.S. and Canada - to tell the timeless story of God's redeeming love to 130 million unchurched Americans.

This has been the ambitious goal for seven successive annual winter conferences of the Anglican Mission in America, and now it would seem, a critical point has been reached for this fledgling gospel-driven movement that now boasts some 108 parishes, with 65 more in the pipeline; opening a new mission ministry every three weeks in some corner of North America.

It has been the ambitious goal of its founder leaders the Rev. Chuck Murphy, Dr. John Rodgers, and later a bevy of new young bishops no longer able to function inside the broken theological cisterns of The Episcopal Church - a denomination now imploding with hundreds of fleeing parishes and priests.

For those gathered here, it was a time of renewal, reformation and moving forward. With the Episcopal Church no longer hanging over them like a dark cloud, these Anglicans came to hear speakers address such issues as "intergenerational ministries", "growing up again," "strategies for making your church a dynamic evangelizing center", "giving ministries a larger net" along with spiritual formation and fostering a life of continual prayer.

With my colleagues Ms. Auburn Traycik and Canon Gary L'Hommedieu we have written a number of stories about this conference, and I have also posted an exclusive interview with Bishop Murphy that explains the new name changes and so much more. (As I am on a brief vacation with my wife it is not possible to post all the links in this VIEWPOINTS but the stories with links follow in the digest.)

For this writer at this conference it was a time to catch up with many old friends. Eight Primates were present and without exception they affirmed the ministry of VirtueOnline. Archbishops Benjamin Nzimbi (Kenya), Bernard Malango (Central Africa), Donald Mtelemela (Tanzania), Emmanuel Kolini (Rwanda), James Ernest (Indian Ocean) and retired archbishops Moses Tay and Yong Ping Chung all said how much they appreciated the "word from America" as they put it. With the exception of the two Southeast Asian archbishops I will see them all again in Dar es Salaam in a few short weeks.

Two things very clearly emerged from our discussions together. The first is this: These African Primates are now clearly in control. They will no longer be bamboozled by western liberal Anglican or Episcopal mind games or word games and they are not impressed by, nor will they be bought by American money. Those days are done.

Secondly it is utterly irrelevant if there are 18 or 22 Primates on board with the faith; the provinces that are solidly orthodox - Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Central Africa, West Africa, Congo, to name but a few, will call the shots in Tanzania and they will not be told what to do or what to believe. They may not have the money, but they have the people and the numbers. They know that the Anglican Communion is no longer White and Western, it is Black and under 30, and they live for the most part in Africa. They are totally confident in the teachings of Scripture and Scripture's authority and they are firm on biblical morality and will not move one jot from scripture that sexual relations remain exclusively between a man and a woman in marriage or celibacy. No exceptions.

What I saw and heard in Jacksonville from these men was a total confidence in their rightness on matters of faith and morals, and that they are, and will be completely in charge, and they will not be run over by Mrs. Schori or the Archbishop of Canterbury in Tanzania. I have never seen such confidence. It is not bravado. It is a total realism about the situation in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion and they will not be swayed with nice or pluriform words. And they won't allow themselves or their statements to be spun either. They will issue their own statement at the end of the Tanzanian meeting of primates and VOL will be on hand to post it directly to our website. www.virtueonline.org when they do.

VirtueOnline has also learned that a paper is being drawn up by a number of Western orthodox Anglican theologians explaining the theology of Archbishop Rowan Williams. This will be made available to all the Global South Primates on January 31st. When VOL receives it we will post it immediately to the website.

VOL would also like to pay tribute to the wives of many bishops and archbishops I meet in the course of my travels. In Jacksonville I was honored to meet the wives of Archbishops Moses Tay and Yong Ping Chung, Benjamin Nzimbi and Bernard Malango. These are powerful, spiritual ladies of whom I cannot speak too highly. It might be a cliché that behind every good man there is a good woman, but these women are partners in the gospel with prophetic ministries and powerful insights that one rarely finds in western settings. They are fearless warriors for God. They had no hesitation in both affirming me and this ministry, at the same time warning me of dangers and pitfalls, of envy and jealousy (from fellow conservatives) of temptations and fears, (real and imagined), depression and the loneliness and solitariness that comes from long hours of writing. I was deeply honored and moved by the wives of these leaders. I was also told that there are many wives of orthodox American Episcopal bishops who stand firmly behind VOL, but who cannot say anything publicly for fear it might rebound negatively on their husbands. Thank you too for your support. These are critical days indeed.


In the DIOCESE OF VIRGINIA this week, Bishop Peter James Lee and the standing committee sent a letter to 21 priests informing the group they had been inhibited for the next six months. He wrote: "Your association with a group of people that has abandoned the Communion of the Episcopal Church and rejected its authority and the authority of the Diocese of Virginia constitute your abandonment of the Communion of the Episcopal Church," stated the letter.

The Executive Board of the diocese authorized Lee to "take such steps as may be necessary to recover or secure such real and personal property" of 11 congregations where a majority of the members and leaders have left the Episcopal Church.

The Virginia leadership declared the church property of 11 parishes 'abandoned' with the bishop saying the 'spiritual abandonment' of Episcopalians is 'perhaps the greatest offense'. The Executive Board declared the property to be abandoned under the diocese's canonical definitions (Canons 15.1, 15.2, 15.3), according to a statement posted on the diocese's website (http://www.thediocese.net/press/pressroom.shtml).

Lee has not taken any immediate actions, diocesan spokesperson Patrick Getlein said, but with the push now coming from David Booth Beers, Mrs. Schori's legal pit bull, it is only a matter of time now before it all winds up in the courts. Millions of dollars worth of property is at stake here, but even if the diocese wins the properties (and that is by no means certain), they have lost thousands of parishioners forever. Bishop Lee has no gospel to bring them back or to make new converts. You can also be certain that the bishop will also inhibit and depose the priests.

One news report said that if Bishop Lee attempts to impose new vestries in any of these churches he will meet with stiff legal resistance.

"The spiritual abandonment of their Episcopal brothers and sisters of the past, the present and the future, is perhaps the greatest offense for which there is no redress under our tradition," wrote Lee. This is utter rubbish. These believing clergy have not spiritually abandoned their flocks, quite the contrary, they are rescuing their flocks from certain spiritual death by staying.

In the DIOCESE OF COLORADO, the anger is being ratcheted up on Bishop Rob O'Neill to explain why he is going after the Rev. Don Armstrong, the evangelical rector of the largest parish on what appears to be very flimsy grounds that Armstrong allegedly "misapplied" parish funds. "To date, the diocese has refused to supply any supporting facts whatsoever. That's not just odd - it reeks to high heaven!" said parishioner Ed Montgomery, urging the crowd to support a petition accusing O'Neill of "an unconscionable and cruel act against our parish and its principal priest." Jean Torkelson of the Rocky Mountain News has done a fine story about this which you can read in today's digest.

In the DIOCESE OF CONNECTICUT the Director of Music at Christ Church, Greenwich, CT. Mr. Robert Tate pleaded guilty this week to possession of child pornography. He faces 10 years in prison. Tate, 64, of Greenwich, admitted possessing between 150-300 pornographic images of children, some engaging in sexually explicit conduct, according to the AP. Prosecutors said some children in the images were younger than 12 years old.

MURMURINGS IN MARYLAND - an indeterminate number of Maryland congregations are apparently reviewing their options about leaving The Episcopal Church, continuing a momentum that is going on nationwide. The Midwest Conservative Journal http://mcj.bloghorn.com/2875 reports that the Episcopal rebellion may have spread to the DIOCESE OF MARYLAND. In the wake of two more Virginia Episcopalian congregations severing ties with the Episcopal Church (U.S.A.) over interpretive issues of sexual morality and scriptural authority, it appears that at least two parishes are ready to drop out of this diocese. "We're waiting to see what the Episcopal Church's final response is to remaining in this same position," said Fr. David Stenner, rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Reisterstown, one of a group of dissenting parishes that agrees with the worldwide communion's concerns in the matter.

"The churches in Maryland [diocese] are meeting with our bishop, but we're not planning anything at this time like what Virginia has done. We wish to remain a constituent member of the Anglican Communion [and] we're hoping that the Episcopal Church will respond to [that communion's call to] remain true to the traditional teaching of the church," Stenner said.

Stenner made it clear, however, that his group's ongoing talks - which he considers encouraging - with the Rt. Rev. John Rabb, bishop suffragan of the diocese of Maryland, were all that were on the table at the moment. "Maryland state law is not clear," Stenner said of the property dispute matter, "so we're not ready to go that far yet." Nothing is being ruled out.

But while encouraged by Rabb's openness to dissent, Father Terry Sweeney, rector of St. Timothy's Episcopal Church in Catonsville, said he hopes Rabb - who may not succeed diocesan Bishop Robert Ihloff - will eventually "embrace" the dissenting position.

"We have come to the end," Sweeney lamented, "inasmuch as we have elected a noncelibate, openly gay man. ... There's really not much more that can happen. We've recently consecrated a bishop that's been married three times. We've done it all. I'm not sure how much more can break."

Given the fact that Robert Ihloff is a solid TEC liberal, the fact that there is apparently a significant amount of dissent in his diocese is encouraging. One wonders, though, just what these parishes are waiting for. Given the resolutions they passed and given who they elected as Presiding Bishop, "the Episcopal Church's final response...to remaining in this same position" was settled at last June's General Convention.

In the DIOCESE OF PENNSYLVANIA arguments were recently heard in two cases of Moyer vs. Bennison: one for intentional infliction of emotional distress and other claims arising out of the inhibition of Fr. David Moyer and the other based on fraud, bad faith and denial of due process-relating to the so-called "deposition" of Fr. Moyer by Bennison.

After all parties had taken discovery, Bennison moved for summary judgment, claiming that the First Amendment to the US Constitution prevented a civil court from taking the case and also claiming that there was insufficient evidence to submit the case to a jury. In response, Fr Moyer's attorneys referred to such matters as: 1) Bennison's concealing from the Diocesan Standing Committee a letter from the Presiding Bishop telling him to stop the proceedings against Fr. Moyer 2) Bennison telling jokes and having his picture taken as he signed the "deposition" that was intended to deprive Fr. Moyer of his right to be a priest 3) the fact that the Standing Committee stated that Bennison had concealed a document from them in the Moyer proceedings 4) Bennison using the name of a Canon lawyer to persuade the standing committee to deny Fr. Moyer of a trial, knowing that the canon lawyer had written a letter opposing Bennison's plan to deny Fr. Moyer a church trial.

In his order the judge denied the motion for summary judgment. The case will now be listed for a jury trial. Among the witnesses called will be Bishop Charles E. Bennison and former TEC Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold.

And if you were wondering what happens to former Episcopal churches. Here's what the New York Post published this week: SHOPPING 'CLUB' -- The former Episcopal church in the DIOCESE OF NEW YORK that once housed the sacrilegious Limelight nightclub will be born again - as a retail mini-mall. Now known as the Avalon nightclub, the legendary 12,000-square-foot venue on Sixth Avenue at West 20th Street will shutter its doors in early 2007. "The landlord has decided that he doesn't want to go forward with another nightclub," said broker Frank Terzulli, of Winnick Realty Group. "He's going to cut it up for retail tenants and a restaurant with patio seating."

In Attleboro in the DIOCESE OF MASSACHUSETTS parishioners of All Saints church have been ordered by Episcopal Bishop Thomas Shaw to vacate the church property on North Main Street by Jan. 31 because of their decision to separate from the national Episcopal Church and to align with orthodox Anglicans.

The Rev. Lance Giuffrida, rector of All Saints, said parishioners will abide by the order and hold their last service at the church at 9 a.m. Sunday, then meet to decide where they will worship in the future. "This is our last Sunday," said Giuffrida, who plans to later turn over the keys and all the parish property and assets to Shaw as head of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. The order, he said, was not a surprise, and the parish was already preparing to leave.

IN IRELAND, the new primate of the Church of Ireland has called for an end to the established state religion. He told the Irish Times that this is a step that the Anglican communion would "not only get over, but would be the better for it." He also called for an end to the ban on Catholics in the British royalty.

BRITISH AIRWAYS has changed its uniform policy on faith symbols, after much public outcry. BA announced a change in their uniform policy and will now allow staff to wear visibly a "symbol of faith" as a lapel pin. According to BA there will be "some flexibility for individuals to wear a symbol of faith on a chain". However this has not yet helped Nadia Eweida, who has been in a dispute with BA since September over the issue of visibly wearing a cross around her neck while working at the Heathrow Airport check-in. The policy change comes after Miss Eweida was banned last September from displaying a small silver cross. BA at that time had insisted that she conceal the cross under a BA cravat, while nevertheless allowing Muslim workers to wear the hijab headscarf and Sikh workers to wear turbans and bangles. Miss Eweida, a Christian from an Egyptian background, was not prepared to hide her faith and has faced a number of internal disciplinary procedures over the issue. Her next meeting with BA on these issues will be on Tuesday 30th January.

IS Purple Fever hitting former TEC priests with a vengeance? From AMIA to CAPA, with the Rev. Martyn Minns now the voice of Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola in the US comes word that former TEC priest and Ekklesia head Bill Atwood might be getting a purple shirt from his pal Archbishop Greg Venables of the Southern Cone. In an interesting sidebar Bishop Frank Lyons of Bolivia, who is under Venables told VOL that he is preparing to hand over his North American parishes to the AMIA because he wants to return to his first love - being a missionary bishop. The Anglican Province of the Southern Cone is tiny by comparison to the rest of the communion. It's largest single constituency is the orthodox Diocese of Recife which it took under its wing when the revisionist Archbishop of Brazil declared it anathema and set up his own liberal bishop in that diocese.

I have posted a number of stories from the AMIA conference in Florida, as well as stories from around the U.S. and the world.

In a few short weeks I and my colleague, Canon Gary L'Hommedieu will be heading out the door to Tanzania for the Primates meeting. We value your prayers and financial support to make this happen. What happens in Dar es Salaam may determine what will happen in Lambeth 2008.

If you can spare an extra gift to cover the costs for two people at this event it would be much appreciated.

You can send a donation by credit card or through your bank by going to the PAYPAL link at www.virtueonline.org or you can send a donation by snail mail to:

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Thank you for your support

All Blessings,

David W. Virtue DD

PS. While at the AMIA conference a leader in the Anglican Coalition in Canada, the Rev. Paul Carter (50) suffered a major heart attack and presently lies in a coma in a Baptist hospital there. Paul is a godly priest who has suffered much at the hands of revisionist Canadian Bishop Michael Ingham of Vancouver and I ask your prayers for him, his wife and children and for all the orthodox Canadian brothers and sisters who are rallying around him, his two churches and family. Please pray earnestly for our brother and his family.

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