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ATLANTA: New Anglican Parish opens with a Bolivian Bang


By David W. Virtue

ATLANTA--The split was amicable. There were no hard feelings or fights, just a sense of sadness and loss that it had reached the point that long time friends must now part.

"It was like a death in the family. Most of the congregation was on the same side, making the parting just that much sadder and harder," a departing member said after seeing the devastating moral blunder committed by the Episcopal Church in consecrating a self-proclaimed homosexual to the episcopacy.

"It was sheer madness, and now we are seeing the consequences in busted churches and broken relationships," said Lee Buck a former lay Episcopal evangelist.

St. Jude's in Marietta, an Episcopal Church parish suddenly shrank overnight and down the road, The Light of Christ Anglican Church was born, coming under the ecclesiastical authority of the Bishop of Bolivia, the Rt. Rev. Frank Lyons.

Bishop Lyons spent a week with the new parish encouraging them and to receive into ordination as a Bolivian Anglican priest the Rev. Bill DeArtega. However, Lyons made it clear that it was a temporary rescue, "and we don’t know what the future holds."

He said he would not desert the orthodox bible-believing people in the US, and specifically at this time in Atlanta. During his stay Bishop Lyons reiterated his criticism of ECUSA for its action in consecrating a non-celibate homosexual priest to the episcopacy.

The action in bringing the parish under his ecclesiastical protection was at the instigation of his boss the Most Rev. Gregory Venables, Primate of the Southern Cone.

The Rev. Frank Baltz, one of a handful of Evangelical Episcopal rectors in the revisionist Diocese of Atlanta weighed his options and decided to stay on at St. Jude's.

"He did not come with us," said former Episcopal lay evangelist Lee Buck, who left the Episcopal Church after more than half a century, to join the new congregation. "We thought he was coming, but he decided he couldn’t. The parting was sad but amicable," he told Virtuosity.

About 100 have joined the new church. This does not include some 70 Hispanic Anglicans who will worship at the 'Light of Christ' with the Rev. Bill DeArtega who also left St. Jude's.

The new church has temporary headquarters in a former bank now called Everett Manor in Smyrna. They already have an office and a secretary. The Rev. DeArtega was ordained an Anglican priest by Bishop Frank Lyons of Bolivia a week ago. He recognized and validated DeArtega's ecclesiastical orders of the CEEC - the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches.

"I am the temporary rector till they find a full time one," DeArtega told Virtuosity, by phone from Atlanta. "I will serve the Hispanic community here. It will be a multi-racial, Bible-believing, liturgical fellowship of Anglican believers."

The church has committed itself to a budget of $270,000 in its first year, said Buck. "Money is not the primary issue, growing the church is." Buck, 80, a former Insurance executive, has been an evangelist for more than 40 years, says he plans to pull out all the stops to make the new church plant grow. "You are only as old as you feel. I believe God has got a few good years left in me to preach His word right here in Atlanta, particularly Cobb county," he told this reporter.

DeArtega says he feels comfortable with whomever they pick. "They want an Anglo priest and that's fine by me. I will be the Hispanic rector and serve as the church's celebrant till a new priest is found."

DeArtega, the author of several books on church renewal says he wants to appropriate Wesleyan revival into the new church. "The original sin was separating the Wesleyan revivalist tradition from Anglicanism."

Wesleyan Methodism was a convergent church and they are themes DeArtega has written about in his book "Forgotten Power."

"The church of Wesley's time was deeply evangelical and deeply sacramental to the point that they recovered the love feast in Wesley Methodism. They empowered the lay people unknown in Anglicanism today." He has also authored "Quenching the Spirit" on spiritual growth.

"It has been enormously liberating separating from ECUSA and we have a felt a lightness of the spirit and joy in really forming a convergent church."

This church will bring revival to Atlanta, he said. "This church will be self consciously a convergent church, with a strong charismatic element. I want to be self consciously not high church. I want to see a joyous and joyful congregation with the aim of bringing revival to Atlanta." Wesley wrote a book of Eucharistic hymns, which the church has forgotten about, said DeArtega.

DeArtega said the unusual split resulting in them coming under the Southern Cone Primate Greg Venables through one of his bishops Frank Lyons got the interest of TIME magazine. "They are writing a story about us," he told Virtuosity.

"It's going to be the church of Jesus Christ, first and foremost," said Buck.

In response the Rev. Baltz said their departure was a matter of timing. "We are still an orthodox Anglican parish, and we are still within the Episcopal Church attempting to work through this process," he told Virtuosity.

"People in good conscience could not stay in ECUSA and they needed to leave. The timing was one thing. The timing of the rest of the people was another and they decided to leave sooner."

Baltz who is a trustee of the American Anglican Council said the process would take longer. "We are on the same page but not the same timing page."

Baltz said the numbers were not as bad as first thought. "We had an average attendance of 450 (200 on the Anglo-African side and on Sunday afternoon 250 Hispanics). We have now dropped from 450 to 350. We have lost $125,000 or about a third of our budget."

"For the moment we have put the issues on the backburner. On the front burner we are focusing on worship, fellowship and ministry. The School is still functioning, and breaking even and we have some 218 in our Hispanic ministries."

Baltz had nothing but good things to say about those who departed. "We love them and hope they are successful in picking up unchurched people."


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