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Anglican Crisis in UK...20 bishops could decide future of ECUSA...Diocesan news

"I am myself convinced that we are not really dealing simply with 'error' and 'false teaching' within ECUSA. Rather, we are dealing with something akin to madness." Rev. Ephraim Radner

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Anglican crisis came home to the Church of England this past week. The subject of homosexuality was the focus of two meetings. In meetings in London and Cheshire a senior South American clergyman, the Rev. Miguel Uchoa, related how the problems created by same-sex blessings and homosexual ordinations in North America had divided the Province of Brazil and could yet affect the Church of England.

Archdeacon Uchoa was in England as a representative of the Diocese of Recife in Brazil, whose bishop, Robinson Cavalcanti, has been the subject of a provincial investigation because of his outspoken opposition to the consecration of a practicing homosexual bishop in the Episcopal Church of the USA. The Diocese of Recife has appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury's Panel of Reference, under the chairmanship of Archbishop Peter Carnley, to deal with such intractable disputes. What he said is reported in today's digest.

But that is not the only crisis the C of E faces. Homosexual priests will be allowed to "marry" their boyfriends under a proposal drawn up by senior bishops, led by Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury. The condition is that they must stay celibate. This apparently also applies to lesbian priests and their girlfriends. The decision ensures that gay and lesbian clergy who wish to register relationships under the new "civil partnerships" law -- giving them many of the tax and inheritance advantages of married couples -- will not lose their licences to be priests.

Some if not most bishops will not actually implement the bizarre scheme proposed, says a VirtueOnline source in London. "Those who do surely cannot expect those who are already defying the House of Bishops' policy by cohabiting suddenly to abstain from sexual activity? What will happen? Will the archdeacon turn up unannounced at bedtime, to check that they are in separate rooms for the night? It is a farce worthy of Private Eye." Oh, God, where are Malcolm Muggeridge and PUNCH magazine when we need it? This decision may go down in history as being the first to render Monty Python parodies redundant, said a London-based online news service.

FORMER ARCHBISHOP GEORGE CAREY has lambasted the Church of England for appointing too few bishops with real parish experience. Lord Carey said that if the church was to reverse the decline in churchgoing, it needed leaders with proven ability to increase their congregations when they were vicars. Most of them lacked the background to understand the pressures that ordinary parish priests were under. His attack irritated many of his former colleagues, who are involved in a huge effort to reverse the long-term hemorrhage of worshippers in the church. So the C of E is being run by policy wonks, administrators, and theologians who haven't got a clue how to run the church or make it grow. Well, they should all be sent to Southeast Asia, where if you want to be a priest you have to take a course in evangelism and discipleship, go out and start a church first and when you have successfully done that, then you might be ready for seminary. That province of course is growing while the C of E is dying. Go figure.

LATE BREAKING NEWS ... Still no word who is on the Archbishop of Canterbury's Panel of Reference, though the list was promised some days ago. Peter Carnley, primate of Australia, is to head it and VirtueOnline knows of one other person, but still no complete list as yet.

DOMESTICALLY things continue to unravel.

In Tulsa, the Church of the Holy Spirit in the DIOCESE OF OKLAHOMA has decided to leave the diocese and ECUSA. The church cut its Episcopal affiliation last week, another sad victim of ECUSA's slow decline on matters theological and moral. Chalk up another departure to Vickie Gene Robinson, but not solely to him. Oklahoma Bishop Robert Moody says they can go but leave the property behind, of course. A congregational meeting was held Sunday to explain the situation to members. Steve Juett, senior warden of the Church of the Holy Spirit, said the decision to leave the Episcopal Church was not based solely on the gay bishop issue but was the culmination of many things over many years.

HEARD ON THE GRAPEVINE. Bishop J. Jon Bruno is calling together 10 revisionist bishops and 10 orthodox bishops in July to reflect on the ultimate question, which is, if the Episcopal Church cannot get along and reconciliation is not possible, how are we going to divvy up the church without millions of dollars spent in litigation costs? Has Bruno been hit by lightning? We'll keep you posted.

In a brief tete-a-tete with Bishop Charles Jenkins of the DIOCESE OF LOUISIANA by attorney Brad Drell, Bishop Jenkins had this to say about his upcoming trip to Nottingham: He told Drell that he was not changing his positions on sexuality, or his vote, and will vote the same way he voted at GC2003 at subsequent conventions. He further iterated to Drell that he would not change his positions. Drell asked him bluntly why he was going with the delegation to the ACC in Nottingham next month. Dress said Jenkins told him he is going because Griswold asked him to do so, and he believes he can help make a case for the Episcopal Church staying in the Anglican Communion. Drell said that Jenkins stated he has accepted the Windsor Report, and believes GC2006 will do so as well. Another word is that the Rev. Susan Russell, lesbian Integrity leader, is catching hell from her side of the fence for being part of this group. Ah, peace, love, inclusivity and diversity in ECUSA.

EPISCOPAL CHURCH LEADERS PRAISE NEW STEM CELL RESEARCH BILL. The Episcopal News Service reports that Episcopalians offered praise for the passage of rare bipartisan legislation expanding research of donated stem cells derived from human embryos after in vitro fertilization. The bill, H.R. 810, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005, passed by a vote of 238-194 and was co-sponsored 200 legislators, including 13 Episcopal members of Congress. Domestic policy analyst John Johnson, of the church's Office of Government Relations in Washington, D.C., praised the action by the House of Representatives. A letter signed by Maureen Shea and Dr. Cynthia B. Cohen was sent to the House in support of the measure. Shea is the director of the Office of Government Relations in Washington, D.C., and Cohen was a member of the Ethics and the New Genetics Task Force established by Executive Council after the 2000 General Convention. The Task Force reported to the 2003 General Convention a resolution (A014) titled "Support Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research," which was considered and passed. "As stewards of creation, we are called to help mend and renew the world in many ways," the letter stated. "The Episcopal Church celebrates medical research as this research expands our knowledge of God's creation and empowers us to bring potential healing to those who suffer from disease or disability. We appreciate the thorough and sensitive approach the authors and co-sponsors of this legislation have taken in crafting the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005 and urge its passage when the full House considers this important measure."

DEAR CUDDLY COLLEAGUES: The Vestry Committee on Gay Pride at St. Luke's Church in the DIOCESE OF NEW YORK wants you to attend a wonderful opportunity to spend time with Bp. Gene Robinson in a small-scale setting. The dinner will include 4 tables of 10, and Bp. Robinson will rotate to an extra chair at each table in order to have some real conversation. "Serious" money, "fun" evening -- no speeches -- to benefit an outstanding program. The cost: $400 Champagne Reception & Dinner and $100 Champagne Reception! The Joy of hearing about Sodomy is clearly growing more expensive. It used to be free. Now if the stock market would do half as well we could all be rich.

In the DIOCESE OF EASTON, which includes Maryland's Eastern Shore, a former finance administrator for the diocese has been accused of embezzlement. The Easton Star-Democrat cited police as saying that Gail Roe Swartz faces 19 counts each of forging private documents and theft over $500, and one count of a theft scheme over $500. The newspaper reported that, among other allegations, the diocesan treasurer's signature had been forged on checks and that a forensic auditor discovered alleged misuse of a diocesan credit card. Exact amounts are being tabulated.

The Bishop of the DIOCESE OF SOUTHERN OHIO, the Rt. Rev. Herbert Thompson, Jr., has written a letter to his diocese recommending that his suffragan, Kenneth J. Price, Jr., serve as the ecclesiastical authority during the interim period after Thompson retires. He doesn't want to offend the spirit of the HOB, which met in Texas recently and said no consecrations of straights or gays until we can all agree on who God wants wearing a miter. Bishop Thompson said his proposals were based on fairness toward all those who would be involved in the search and election process. Holding the election before General Convention would not honor the request for a time of "reflection and discernment" that the bishops agreed to in their covenant statement last spring, he wrote.

Now if you die of too much excitement waiting for the next revisionist bishop of Southern Ohio to be anointed, remember that fun and games will reach their apogee at GC2006 after which it really won't matter who gets a purple shirt.

THE REV. CANON F. BRIAN COX, rector of Christ the King Parish in Santa Barbara, California, is a great believer in reconciliation and peacemaking. One has to give him a lot of credit for trying to fix the Episcopal Church. God knows he tries hard enough. I have met him, and he is a genuinely good man. He recently engineered a reconciliation seminar in Massachusetts for diocesan leaders on peacemaking, where he told numerous stories about forgiveness. Earlier in April, the Diocese of Western Massachusetts worked with Cox and his colleagues from the Diocese of Los Angeles as well as with leaders in reconciliation from the Dioceses of Ohio and Northern Indiana to host a reconciliation seminar in Holyoke, Mass. Some 100 church leaders from the sponsoring dioceses and from Rhode Island, Connecticut, Minnesota, and Western North Carolina showed up. They learned about the eight principles of reconciliation, and they were given a vision of faith-based reconciliation, so, as Canon Cox said, "it can take place in their hearts and isn't just an intellectual notion."

Will this change anybody's minds? No. But we can all feel better about ourselves and perhaps a little more self-righteous that we are right and the other side is wrong. Some of the participants plan to gather to discuss how to apply reconciliation to the proceedings of General Convention. Sorry, this won't work either. You can't have reconciliation unless you have everybody working off of the same page on morals and theology and we don't, and we never will. The church is coming apart at the seams and it is impossible to talk about reconciliation when thousands are leaving ECUSA and almost every week a large church is leaving ECUSA and smaller ones are closing down.

And at TRINITY WALL STREET in New York City, the Rev. James Cooper, rector of the celebrated Episcopal sanctuary at Broadway and Wall St., (also the single richest church in the world) greeted worshipers last Sunday in some highly unorthodox vestments -- a checked red-and-white clown suit, red fright wig, rubber nose and large floppy shoes. Then, in what was almost surely the most unusual church service most parishioners ever experienced, he presided at a "Clown Eucharist" that included circus music during the opening procession, a mimed sermon, jugglers and outlandishly dressed ushers blowing soap bubbles at worshipers.

To encourage people to get in the mood, ushers handed out noisemakers and big red noses to everybody, but only a few of the 450 or so worshipers, among them several dozen tourists, wore any clownish accoutrements. "I'm self-conscious about doing that kind of thing in church," one woman said. "We are fools for Christ's sake," said the rector. Sorry rector, you are just plain fools. In his previous church, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., he fired up chain saws and rode motorcycles down the aisle to make sermon points. Oh, God.

THE RT. REV. CRAIG ANDERSON former bishop of South Dakota and until recently rector of St. Paul's, an elite New Hampshire Boarding School, will step down two years early from his job which paid him over half a million dollars a year. The New York Times reported that the school is under investigation by tax authorities and for falling short of its fund-raising goals, Anderson, who became rector eight years ago, has been criticized by a vocal group of alumni over his compensation, handling of the school's money, and other matters. The state's attorney general and, more recently, the Internal Revenue Service have stepped up their scrutiny of the school.

The Wall Street Journal exposed the fact that Anderson was getting paid over half a million dollars a year in salary with his wife collecting some $32,000 for her efforts in supporting her husband at the school.

For several weeks, critics had been discussing the fortunes of Bishop Anderson, who has put his waterfront house in Boothbay, Maine, on the market for $2.7 million. The house was only recently completed, and faculty and students were surprised to see it for sale. The IRS showed up in December to start an audit of the school's 2001-02 fiscal year, an audit that has since expanded, said alumni who have been informed by board members.

When Anderson was dean of General Theological Seminary in New York he began officially to permit same-sex cohabitation in the resident halls.

VIRTUEONLINE reported last September of hazing at the school, which prompted numerous responses, mainly from men who experienced similar hazing experiences, some still in pain from what happened to them years ago. A story about hazing by girls on girls caused one couple to write and tell of their daughter's experience when she was at the school in the 90's. At that time the school had a lesbian for a chaplain and there were seven reported attempted suicides.

The WASHINGTON NATIONAL CATHEDRAL'S installed its new dean, one Samuel Lloyd, formerly of Trinity Church, Copley Square, Boston. The first reading (this was not billed as an ecumenical service) was from the Holy Koran! Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.

The following day, Sunday April 24, The Rev. Lloyd started his tenure as Dean of "America's Church" with a bang. At Lloyd's invitation, the homily was given by The Rev. Dr. George F. Regas, Rector Emeritus of All Saints Church in Pasadena, California. The service included readings from the Koran and Hebrew scriptures, and open communion. You can read what Regas had to say in his sermon. Hint. He says that Jesus is not the only way of salvation and he has some pluralistic ideas that will fire you up for sure. You can read his thoughts in today's digest.

And to round things off at the Washington National Cathedral, VirtueOnline has learned that the moderator of America's official gay church - the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) will install its new moderator at the Episcopal cathedral Oct. 29-30. The announcement was made by Troy D. Perry, the present moderator of the MCC.

The bishop of the DIOCESE OF CONNECTICUT, Andrew Smith, says the six Episcopal priests in Connecticut rebelling against his support for gay clergy members have presented themselves as defenders of the faith, loyal Episcopalians who were facing suspension from their pulpits because they stood up for their beliefs.

But as the bishop of Connecticut prepares to suspend the priests, he told the New York Times that they were local troops in a nationwide strategy by conservative Episcopalians to secede and then establish a "replacement" church that would take the place of the Episcopal Church USA in the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Wrote Robert England, a Washington-based Anglo-Catholic journalist; "Poor Andrew Smith. Like Ronald Haines, (former Bishop of Washington) he has succumbed to fantasies of a vast international orthodox conspiracy. Remember VIOC? And, of course, the disreputable New York Times is happy to propagate this nonsense. This illustrates again that to a revisionist, the opposition can never take a principled stand. It also illustrates a mind incapable of clear, rational thought. When confronted with an idea they cannot countenance, they succumb to paranoia and then try to rationalize their own paranoia." Ouch.

ROBINSON REFLECTS ... taking stock of two years as the ninth bishop of New Hampshire, he made this comment, "I must tell you that I have been warmly and graciously welcomed into the House of Bishops –- including those who opposed, for whatever reasons, my election and consent. Most of the conservative bishops have decided that the mission of the church is more important than any one contentious issue, and that it is time to move on with that mission."

This is a patent falsehood. If it was true, then the Network bishops would have made an announcement of reconciliation with Robinson, which they have not done. Furthermore more parishes are leaving the Episcopal Church in unprecedented numbers in almost every diocese. His consecration is proving a lightning rod of discontent across the nation, with the single truth that the Episcopal Church is more divided now than ever, and after GC2006 it may cease to be a recognizable denomination in any meaningful terms.

The bishop also blames the Internet, and by implication VirtueOnline, for his woes. Robinson told the Canadian Anglican newspaper Anglican Journal that looking back on his election he had "had no doubt" that it would be controversial, but did not think it would be "as wide or deep" or of "international proportions." One difference between his consecration and that of Barbara Harris (the first woman bishop in the American church) in 1989 is the presence of the Internet. The ability to communicate worldwide instantaneously "mitigates against thoughtful reflection," he said.

Now how much "deep thought" and "reflection" do we need to know that sodomy has never been approved in either the Old and New Testaments, 2,000 years of church history, St. Paul, Origen, Athanasius, a slew of popes, Calvin, Luther, Wesley, Billy Graham, George Carey, to name but a few? Reflection over.

MARY: GRACE AND HOPE IN CHRIST: Forward in Faith UK and Forward in Faith North America welcomed the recent statement of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) on Marian doctrine and devotion. "We believe that it expresses, in terms acceptable to most Anglicans, the faith of the Church Universal with regard to the Mother of God, and would, if it received the necessary approvals of synods throughout the Communion, heal divisions which have continued since the Protestant Reformation. We reflect with sadness, however, that agreement on doctrinal matters is difficult to achieve among Anglicans, as recent disputes have demonstrated; nor has experience shown an ability to deliver on ecumenical undertakings when given." Signers were:+ Keith Ackerman President, Forward in Faith North America and Geoffrey Kirk Secretary, Forward in Faith UK.

ACTRESS JANE FONDA, whose conversion to Christianity was reported in 2000, distanced herself from "fundamentalists" in a recent interview, saying she regards the Bible as a metaphor, reads extra-biblical gospels, and is still searching for a church. Fonda explained to New York Post columnist Liz Smith that she's a "feminist Christian," distinguished from fundamentalists. "I don't want to offend anyone," Fonda said. "But I believe people have different ways of approaching The Word. For me, it's metaphor, written by people a long time after Christ died, and interpreted by specific groups. I read the gospels that aren't included in the Bible. These make me feel good about calling myself a Christian. What we are seeing today are policymakers who say they're Christians." Quick, would someone send Jane an application to join ECUSA? No baptism necessary, Open Communion now available on demand. She can also bring along anyone of her ex-husbands. No exclusion, please.

Marriage and family are indispensable to the growth of society and the transmission of the faith, says Pope Benedict XVI. In a letter addressed to Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Benedict XVI affirms that, "in keeping with God's plans, the Church cannot fail to proclaim that marriage and the family are irreplaceable and admit no other alternatives."

So is anyone at Lambeth Palace or 815 2nd Avenue in New York listening? The pope says "no other alternatives." This does not bode well for Vickie Gene and his spouse, or whatever you call him and future talks of unity between the two churches. ARCIC has been a joke for years.

Somewhere down the line the new pope is going to have to make up his mind what he is going to do with Anglicanism and who he will do business with. Will he opt for Rowan Williams and the Anglican Communion or will it be John Hepworth and the Traditional Anglican Communion? My money is on the TAC. Even if Hepworth has to stand down because he has been married, divorced (though annulled), and remarried, the TAC could be run by the squeaky-clean new bishop (resident in Pennsylvania) Fr. David Moyer of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Rosemont. If I ever get an audience with the pope, I'll ask him.

And in an interview with Canadian Primate Andrew Hutchison at the DIOCESE OF NEW WESTMINSTER Synod 2005 last week this is what he said: "I stand with your bishop (Michael Ingham)." Now the primate says he is genuinely hopeful concerning the outcome of the ACC meeting in Nottingham, though he will not personally attend. Instead the Canadian group will be led by the prolocutor of General Synod, who is New Westminster's openly homosexual dean, the Very Rev. Peter Elliott. Hutchison expects Canada's reinstatement to full participation afterward.

Hutchison said he thought the 103rd synod was one of the best he had ever been to in Canada. He observed that the same-sex issue has clearly not hijacked the Diocese of New Westminster's ministry, which he thought was one of the strongest in Canada, and promised that the same-sex issue will not hijack his primacy either. We'll see what the ESSENTIALS crowd think of that on June 16 when they gather in Toronto.

SOME LIGHT HUMOR: CantuAir formally announces opening.

(Lambeth Palace) - In a press conference held yesterday at Lambeth Palace, Jonathan Jennings, press secretary for the archbishop of Canterbury, announced the latest strategy for keeping the 77-million-member Anglican Communion afloat. Concerns were raised earlier this month that a newly appointed group whose job it is to oversee the delegation of episcopal duties in dissenting dioceses would run the church into the ground amid spiraling travel costs.

In the new plan, the Church of England -- in conjunction with the Braniff group of companies -- will launch its own in-house discount airline to transport "flying bishops" to and from their would-be dioceses. The new airline, called "CantuAir" -- following in the footsteps of other discount airlines -- will ferry its episcopal cargo around the world and make a tidy profit in doing so.

CantuAir's maiden voyage will take place July 6, 2005, as a non-stop flight from London to Atlanta. The "all first class" airliners, built by French Airbus Industries, will serve vodka, martinis, and chicken dinners to its mitred clients in an effort to bolster international unification. Ecclesiastical forecasters are calling it the boldest move by Canterbury since formally endorsing "Father Ted" as the official britcom of the Church of England. Sources: RAFwN Files, X-Files, Deleted-Files, Nail Files

NIGERIA. Poised to meet the social needs of the society, the Anglican Province of Nigeria will establish social welfare departments in its 91 dioceses. The Ven. Christian Ebisike said that widows, widowers, destitute, homeless, and nomads are being targeted in the reinvigorated welfare policy of the church. The director of social welfare said the department will also be responsible for caring, health, youth evangelism and the education program of the church. It will also fashion polices and programmes related to social services while working out modalities of health care delivery to members and non-members of the church, he said. Local congregations operate care groups that run food banks and provide financial support to needy members of the society, he said. Archbishop Peter Akinola, primate of Nigeria, has also expressed concern over the "migration" of members to other denominations. He is also keen on mustering education on the doctrine of the Anglican Communion to both young and old.

CORRECTION. In a story I wrote about the departure of the Church of the Holy Spirit in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I said that St. James in Oklahoma City had also departed ECUSA and had come under the bishop of Recife, the Rt. Rev. Robinson Cavilcanti. That was inaccurate. This parish is under the jurisdiction of Archbishop Gregory Venables, bishop of the diocese of Argentina and primate of the Southern Cone. We regret any harm caused by this inaccuracy.

IN TODAY'S STORIES you can read about how canon law and civil law increasingly dominate ECUSA news. I have posted a number of stories for your edification and I invite you to go to the Web site for more: www.virtueonline.org. Some 70 stories are posted to the front page and revolve in and out on a daily basis. Stay informed.

PLEASE SUPPORT VIRTUEONLINE WITH A TAX DEDUCTIBLE DONATION. It takes serious dollars to travel these days especially to England where the ACC/Windsor Report road show takes place later this month in Nottingham. The dollar is so devalued a cup of coffee costs $4.00! So please help defray the costs of travel. I'll happily work the hours if you can help with hotel and airfares. There is also my webmaster to pay and my trusty office worker Beryl. So please be generous.

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PS. Please note the new PHOTO GALLERY at the website. Pictures of my recent trip to Southeast Asia and photographs of my time in Connecticut with the "Connectict Six" rectors and the special service in Groton and later in Hartford are posted for your pleasure.

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