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Bonfire of the Episcopal Vanities

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Bonfire of the Episcopal Vanities continues.

Wait-and-see mode. That's how the Rev. Don Hickman, rector at St. Matthias' Episcopal Church in Athens, Georgia, describes the attitudes of his congregants lately.

But the fallout continues from the national church's consecration of an active homoerotic bishop. Talk of split and schism, of creating a "church within a church" and more are all signs of growing orthodox opposition to The Episcopal Church's hostility to the 'faith once' delivered and to biblical morality.

As a small symbol of that fallout, money is now being used or withheld as a protest to the ECUSA's growing apostasy. One example, (and there are dozens more like it), St. Phillip's Cathedral in Atlanta is having all kinds of financial problems since General Convention 2003. A Virtuosity reader sent their 12/22/2003 church bulletin, which revealed they were down $500,000 on pledges for 2003 and down a $1 million for 2004!

But cathedrals are generally having a hard time staying financially afloat. Multiply it all out and the picture is not good. Downtown parishes in most major cities are generally having a tough time staying afloat. There are always exceptions to test that rule.

But money and the threat to withhold it lies at the heart of revisionist fears to perceived orthodox action. Witness what happened with St. John's parish in Versailles, Kentucky when the bishop grabbed the parish and its endowment because Stacy Sauls and his executive council feared that St. John's vestry would leave the Episcopal Church and attempt to take property and bank accounts worth nearly $1.9 million.

But Tom Thornbury, the vestry's top-elected official, said there was never any plan to take the property away. And he noted that he had written a letter promising that the property would be left "entirely intact" if he and others departed to form a new church.

So paranoia lies at the root of revisionist bishops like Sauls, paranoia and fears that property might be taken and their power diminished or lost. None of this has anything to do with reality or the gospel. Nothing.

But the pain is also being felt in biblically orthodox parishes. Trinity Church, Vero Beach, Florida, the second largest parish in the Diocese of Central Florida with 1,600 members, and strongly evangelical is going through tough times. The Rev. Lorne Coyle told Virtuosity that they ended the year with a $150,000 deficit for the first time in 12 years and are $200,000 short for 2004. "We are going back to the parish to ask them to revise their pledges or face cutbacks. I was shocked when we ended the year with that deficit. It's the first time in my 28 years as a parish priest that I have experienced a deficit."

And you also see it in statements made by Kevin Jones on Every Voice Network, a liberal Episcopal online spin machine. He said this:

"The AAC [American Anglican Council] does not have the power. It has no access to the billions in the pension fund or the property and is just as foreign to the Anglican culture. This is an attempt at conquest that seems doomed to fail."

Such language begs many questions, wrote one thoughtful layman. "Is Kevin Jones simply the first to voice a new revisionist strategy to threaten the pensions of those who support the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, the AAC or the Orthodox in ECUSA? Could it be that active clergy who do not support the Revisionists agenda will have their Pensions threatened or confiscated? Does the new make up of the Pension Fund Board, now including Gene Robinson, seeking to use the Pension Fund to further its agenda?"

There can be little doubt that with billions of dollars of property at stake and American Anglicanism deeply divided over the ordination of V. Gene Robinson's consecration, it is guaranteed that there will be further face-offs in the church and in the courts.

IN THE DIOCESE OF CENTRAL FLORIDA the 35th convention of the Diocese meeting in Winter Park, Florida, voting overwhelmingly to affiliate itself with the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes. But it wasn't without a fight. At the request of revisionist members of the diocese, a roll call vote was conducted on an amended resolution to refer the question of membership to the Diocesan board (council). By Clergy Order the (unofficial) vote in favor of affiliation was 101 to 42. By Lay Order the (unofficial) vote in favor of affiliation was 166 to 66. Both the bishop, the Rt. Rev. John W. Howe and his Canon to the Ordinary, the Very Rev. Ernest L. Bennett abstained from the vote.

Questioned on why he voted in favor of joining the NACDP, Bishop Howe "clarified" his position saying that his signature on the NACDP Charter was as an individual and not on behalf of the Diocese.

At one point Bishop Howe requested that the Rev. H. David Wilson, Rector of All Saints' Winter Park, revise his resolution calling for Diocesan affiliation with NACDP to, instead, refer the question to the Diocesan Board. While the Board would have met on February 19 and, presumably, considered the question, revisionists within the Diocese were urging further study and parish approval and would have wanted the issue deferred to the 36th convention on January 28 and 29, 2005. It never happened.

The diocese voted to join and affiliate with the NACDP.

When the deal in Plano was struck, Howe had asked the delegation going to Plano to support him in deferring action until after the convention had met and to report at the diocesan board meeting Feb. 19th.

"We knew we had the votes to win the diocesan board election and we were confident that the board would choose to affiliate. The numbers were 2 to 1 (70/30 percent)", a source told Virtuosity.

Something called "The Joshua Team" a group of a dozen orthodox rectors had been formed during last year's General Convention. This group's goal was to support the bishop in leading the diocese in an orthodox direction.

"We had to make that happen at the special Convention in Sept. 2003 and again in Jan. 2004. Some of the liberals wanted to go with the bishop's recommendation and defer the action."

"What happened that night was that we had a meeting of all the AAC clergy and lay Leadership after the convention was open and we went through the legislative strategy. In the end it was the lay leadership who said "no, we want to vote tomorrow."

The diocese's reaction to the American Anglican Council is also mixed, a source told Virtuosity. Three days ago Karen Howe (the wife of the bishop) joined the AAC, and two days later the bishop himself asked to be the on the mailing list. The diocese generally supports the AAC, said the source.

But a vocal revisionist minority calling themselves, Episcopal Voices of Central Florida, and taking orders from Louie Crew, the church's First Sodomite, tried to derail the whole thing. They sent out a petition to every rector in the diocese and asked people to sign it. "They called a roll call vote twice, all 400 people had to be polled. As it turned out it gave us a perfect list of who supports the bishop and the direction some would like to see the diocese go," said the source.

Diocesan membership in the AAC was not discussed at this convention.

BUT THE BIG NEWS IN CENTRAL FLORIDA, is that one parish is ready to defect to the AMIA; St. John's in Melbourne a 600-member orthodox parish has had it with the ECUSA and is moving over to the Anglican Mission.

The question is how will Bishop Howe react to this? Can he show a more excellent way? Will he tell them to "go in peace to love and serve the Lord" or will he fight them for the properties, endowment and then depose the three clergy? If he lets them go it would send a clear signal that Evangelicals like himself will not follow in the footsteps of revisionist bishops who have taken a scorched earth policy with those who depart the church. This is a Kairos moment in which he could take the high road. We shall see.

Virtuosity has learned that at least two other parishes, both large, in Central Florida are ready to pull the plug on the diocese and ECUSA and go to the AMIA.

Meanwhile, in the DIOCESE OF ROCHESTER, a small group of Episcopalians in Friendship, NY (where else) gathered to worship together in the traditional way. A letter was sent out inviting others to join them. Probably not a smart idea. A recipient of that letter alerted Bishop Jack McKelvey, who put the ki-bosh on that very quickly. Apparently the bishop has a different understanding of the meaning of the word "friendship". It will come as no surprise that McKelvey served as Suffragan Bishop in Newark under Jack Spong before going to Rochester. Need we say more!

Reflecting on the recent consecration of V. Gene Robinson, one wag observed, "the next "Robinson" will not divorce his wife. Instead he will bring home his male lover and declare himself a bisexual."

THE LAST DIGEST you received contained only half the stories I posted and they arrived in a jumbled format with two parts of one story not following the other. There was a cyber glitch at the LISTSERV. My apologies. I am posting the balance of those stories plus some new ones in today's digest.

THE NEWS IS BREAKING SO FAST THAT IT IS BEING POSTED DIRECTLY TO THE WEBSITE. If you want up to the minute breaking news it can all be found at www.virtuosityonline.org. Past digests can be reached by going to the DIGESTS and ARCHIVES.

PLEASE SUPPORT THIS MINISTRY. Virtuosity needs your support. January is a low month. Without your support Virtuosity would not exist. There is no one in the Anglican Communion that brings you the news in a more timely, accurate way as Virtuosity. No one. There are two ways you can help. You can make a donation through PAYPAL at the website, or you can send a check by snail mail to David W. Virtue, VIRTUOSITY, 1236 Waterford Road, West Chester, PA 19380. Please be generous. Thank you.

All Blessings,

David W. Virtue DD

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