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Civil War in Diocese of Pennsylvania...SC ruling favors AMIA...DEPO in Ohio...

"We have to say to church leaders, bishops, archbishops and others, that whatever their position of influence in the Church, that they have no authority to disagree with Jesus Christ. Is the Church the Lord of Jesus Christ so that it can edit and twist and manipulate his teachings and reject what it doesn't happen to like? Or is Jesus Christ the Lord of the Church where we sit humbly at his feet listening to his voice with a view to obeying it." The Rev. John R. W. Stott, Anglican author, teacher and peripatetic preacher

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

What it all boils down to is this: The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates have raised the ante on The Episcopal Church to an extremely high level. When (not if) ECUSA demonstrates that it will not do what we have been told we must do...they cannot simply ignore it.

They MUST declare that ECUSA and the Diocese of New Westminster, and anybody else who so thoroughly violates our common understanding of theology, anthropology, ethics and being "in communion", has made the decision to "walk apart."

Dr. Williams does NOT want to do this. His answer to one orthodox Episcopal bishop to his very direct and insistent question, on the very day he became Archbishop, was: "I want to remain in communion with those who want to remain in communion with me."

"The truth is he cannot do otherwise? One cannot, for a moment, imagine Archbishops Akinola, Gomez, Venables and company allowing him to NOT make such a declaration. And one cannot imagine him choosing in favor of two million Episcopalians at the cost of losing 77 million Anglicans," said an orthodox bishop.

This is the kairos moment we are facing as the Episcopal Church heads towards General Convention in June. And all the signals and intimations are that the Episcopal Church will not change direction...that it will fudge, prevaricate, parse language, demand "listening" to make it seem that all is well, when in fact it is not.

They will vote to stay in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury while being willfully disobedient to the Windsor Report demands, and they will openly pursue future consecrations of homoerotic bishops (after California will it be Newark?) because, Frank Griswold will argue, that diocesan decisions are passed by Standing Committees and he cannot interfere with what a diocese does. The moratoria will come to an end, maybe, but even if it doesn't, local option will continue and things will keep on as they are. There is no turning back for the Episcopal Church.

But the big drama unfolding in the Episcopal Church is taking place in the DIOCESE OF PENNSYLVANIA where the push is on to get rid of Bishop Charles E. Bennison.

A civil war has broken out between Bennison and the Standing Committee with the bishop using the Diocesan website to accuse Bishop Clayton Matthews and the Standing Committee of being unfair in their treatment of him, and the Standing Committee has been forced to build their own website to present the Matthews Report in defense of their actions. It's enough to make your hair curl. What Bishop Matthews, Griswold's consigliore for bad boy bishops said was that he and the Standing Committee came to the conclusion that reconciliation is out of the question and all that now needs to be done is to mediate an end to Bennison's contract with a terminal date of March 31. Bennison is toast.

But does he get it? Apparently not. In an interview with a local newspaper Bennison bizarrely at first insisted the report recommended a reconciliation process! Bennison is quoted as saying everything is okay and that he will not resign. When confronted with the report here is what he told a local newspaper: "I reject that. It is based on people to whom Bishop Matthews talked but he didn't talk to that many people. I think his assessment is based on presumptions that are neither valid nor fair to our situation in the diocese at this time. I think I have a fairly accurate understanding of diocese's strengths and weaknesses at this time. The diocese in terms of congregational vitality is doing very well. The congregations are growing, the clergy is doing well, and we are doing good work in the city and the five county area." Said Bennison, "I have no intention what-so-ever of resigning." You can read two stories I have written about this man and his diocese in today's digest.

Bennison recently lost his much beloved chancellor Bill Bullitt, who had brilliantly kept Bennison in office. The Standing Committee refused to confirm him for another term. He was gone. Another chancellor has been chosen, a Mr. Francis Helminski. The Diocesan canons say the Chancellor is the lawyer for the bishop and the Standing Committee. There needs to be some change in the Canons so that the Standing Committee can have independent advice in the event of a conflict with the bishop. Just replacing Bullitt with Helminski doesn't remove the conflict problem. Under the canons, he is both Bennison's attorney and the Standing Committee's attorney. The conflict remains.

It is time for Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold to take action. Four years ago, Griswold told Bennison to back off from his persecution of Fr. David Moyer, Church of the Good Shepherd in Rosemont, and said he would take action if he refused. Bennison not only refused-he concealed Griswold's letter from the Standing Committee (one of the reasons now cited by the Standing Committee for finally getting rid of Bennison). But Griswold failed to take the action he promised. Now Griswold has a second chance. He should immediately inhibit Bennison from performing any duties as a Bishop and begin procedures to depose him.

IN other news Brokeback Bishop V. Gene Robinson of the DIOCESE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE, the Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop has returned from the alcoholic dead, triumphant in his new found sobriety. Apparently he had been holed up at the Caron Foundation center in Wernersville, Pa for the duration but has returned to spread the Good News. "I return to you in a very good place indeed -- refreshed, focused, clear-headed and happy," he wrote. "The unimaginable grace given to me by God fuels my passion for bringing that Good News to all who are desperate to hear it.

Now just to be clear that's NOT the Good News about God's redeeming love at the cross and forgiveness of sin, it is about the Good News of staying dry. Not quite the same thing. Robinson said he would be "taking steps to continue my own recovery over the next weeks, months and years," including attending Alcohol Anonymous meetings and working with an "addiction coach."

In the DIOCESE OF SOUTH CAROLINA the courts ruled in the case of the diocese verses All Saints, Pawleys Island. It was a complicated ruling. But here is what it means courtesy of a couple of attorneys. It means members of the Episcopal Church of Rwanda and any other church in communion with the Church of England (there are 55 of them) can remain on the property of All Saints' indefinitely. The AMiA is a missionary outreach of the Episcopal Church of Rwanda. It will be up to the newly appointed trustees of the 1745 trust whether they wish to continue renting space to the AMiA headquarters. New trustees will be appointed within 90 days if the Diocese and National Church do not appeal. If they appeal, it will probably be 18 months. Normally, the status quo is preserved during an appeal, so everyone stays in place. The ECUSA group can continue to worship in the Old Church on Sunday mornings and we will continue to use, control, and maintain the facilities. The decision about the trustees has been handed to the probate court for a decision.

Technically, the Episcopal Church group does get the name, All Saints Parish, Waccamaw, and anything that was not nailed down on the property as of the date in 2004 that the vast majority of the congregation voted to go with Rwanda. In other words the Diocese gets the old corporation.

The diocese put its spin on the ruling saying, "The Diocese is pleased that the congregation and officers who remained loyal to the Diocese and the Episcopal Church were recognized by the court as the true congregation and vestry of All Saints Parish, Waccamaw, a parish of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese."

With respect to the court's decision to uphold the 1745 trust deed, the Diocese and the parish are considering whether to appeal or to assert their interests in Probate Court, which has jurisdiction to interpret trust instruments and appoint successor trustees. The trust states that the property is to be used as a chapel or church of the Church of England established by law, and the Diocese is the successor to the established Church of England in South Carolina. However, the position of the Diocese and the loyal vestry has always been that the property has been owned by the church since colonial times, and that the creditworthiness of the parish is impaired by title being in separate trustees." You can read the full story and the diocese's take in today's digest.

In the DIOCESE OF OHIO, the vestry of the Church of the Advent in Westlake, the Rev. Joe Maiocco, its rector, and Bishop Mark Hollingsworth of Ohio have agreed on a plan for Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO). They have engaged Bishop Edward S. Little II of Northern Indiana for the DEPO arrangement. After more than two years of discernment on the part of the congregation, the vestry asked Hollingsworth for the pastoral oversight of a bishop who is more theologically aligned with a majority of their communicants, specifically on issues relating to scriptural interpretation and human sexuality. Little and Hollingsworth have worked together as close colleagues, particularly on matters of reconciliation in the Episcopal Church, and are both very supportive of DEPO as a means of serving the people of their dioceses.

A NEW REPORT ON CHURCH STATISTICS reveals continuing decline. While trying to put an optimistic face on things, Fr. Cheney, chairman of the House of Deputies' Committee on the State of the Church, recently distributed a page of "Episcopal Fast Facts: 2002-2004" that showed the church's membership at 2,247,819 as of 2004. That figure represents a 2 percent decrease from 2,284,233 members in 2003, a 4 percent drop over five years and a 7 percent drop in 10 years. Decreases in ASA are similar. In 2004 ASA was 795,765, a decrease of 3 percent from 823,017 in 2003. It has decreased 5 percent in five years and 4 percent in ten years.

According to a report in The Living Church, an all-out effort is being made to reverse the numerical decline. "The Episcopal Church's accelerating numerical decline can only be reversed through an organized, broad-reaching effort, according to the Standing Commission on Domestic Mission and Evangelism. In a draft version of its report to the 75th General Convention, the commission is requesting that bishops and deputies reaffirm the Church's commitment to doubling average Sunday attendance by the year 2020, the so-called 20/20 initiative. "We are very disappointed that after all this time, all this passion and concern, in the face of continuing decline, so many diocesan bishops have not even begun to have these conversations about mission, evangelism, new starts and new opportunities," the report said. "Bishops, please turn your attention to mission, and turn away from distractions like ongoing disputes and looming international meetings."

Now what are the odds this is going to happen? For a change to occur the following "innovations" would have to be made: 1. Lead people to Jesus Christ in a firm commitment. 2. Teach people the scriptures and that they are mandatory in growing faith. 3. Adhere to the "faith once given" and to "no other Gods".

AT A RECENT MEETING of the Executive Council in Philadelphia, ACC Chairman John Paterson doubted there would be a full attendance at the next Lambeth Conference. Paterson, who acts as a shill for the liberals in the Anglican Communion and a lap dog for Frank Griswold said, "A lot depends on who is invited." He told the International Committee of the Episcopal Church's Executive Council. "If the bishop of New Hampshire is invited, we've been told many bishops will not come. If he's not invited, how many of you will come? How many of us will come?" Earlier, Bishop Paterson apologized to members of Executive Council for how delegates from the Episcopal Church were treated during the 13th meeting of the ACC at Nottingham, England, in June 2005.

But Nassau Archbishop Drexel Gomez told this reporter in Pittsburgh that the conservatives would show if for no other reason than that they do not want to see Resolution 1:10 overthrown by liberals. So it will be a full ship if Rowan Williams invites everybody.

WHILE at this executive council I happened on meeting Frank Griswold's chancellor David Booth Beers at the Warwick Hotel and I asked him about the civil and ecclesiastical lawsuits against Griswold and Smith from priests in the DIOCESE OF CONNECTICUT. Here is what he said: "It is a matter of public record, that Briefs and Motions to dismiss the civil complaints against Ct. Bishop Smith and PB Griswold have been filed." He said the ecclesiastical charges were in the hands of the Title IV Review Committee and he had no comment.

A CONVICTED MURDERER turned Episcopal priest got paroled by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently. James Tramel, 38, was convicted in 1986 of killing a homeless man in Santa Barbara. He was ordained in prison where he was serving a sentence of 15 years to life. He was present when David Kurtz stabbed Michael Stephenson to death in a park in Santa Barbara, California. Tramel was 17 at the time of the murder and was attending Northwestern Preparatory School in Santa Barbara.

Edward Stephenson, Michael Stephenson's father, said last week that he believes Tramel's so-called conversion was a clever way to secure his freedom. "Twenty years doesn't fit the crime," he said. "It was a very brutal and heinous crime. It was his idea. If it wasn't for him, there's a good chance it wouldn't have taken place." One of the church's pastors, the Rev. Jay E. Johnson, said he understands that many people are concerned about Tramel, but he encouraged them to think instead about faith and redemption.

A UGANDAN BISHOP visiting the DIOCESE OF LEXINGTON sparked off an uproar last week after declaring that he was there "to rescue Anglicans" from gay influences. Bishop Jonathan Kyamanywa was visiting the Kentucky State Diocese where he confirmed 30 people, many of them ex-Episcopalians at Apostles Anglican Church and St. Andrew's Anglican Church where Kyamanywa preached. Both are affiliated to the Church of Uganda. In an interview with the Herald Leader newspaper, Kyamanywa said his diocese was in Kentucky not to fight, but to "rescue" Anglicans who have been abandoned. "Our coming is not causing any division. Actually our coming is nursing and providing care for the people who are hurt," he said. Asked whether the Episcopal Church is still a Christian church, Kyamanywa said, "I don't know." Lexington Bishop Stacy Sauls, who has clashed with leaders of the breakaway churches in Central Kentucky, did not authorize Kyamanywa's visit, according to the Herald Leader. "They have systematically divorced themselves from the Episcopal Church. To have another bishop come in and to participate -- I don't hesitate to use the word schism," Kyamanywa said, adding that, "But false teachings are even more damaging than division. Unity is important, but it doesn't supersede correct doctrine."

BISHOP STACY SAULS made it official and threw his hat in the ring last week to become the fifth candidate to be nominated to succeed Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold. If he should win, don't see any change of direction for the Episcopal Church.

Now if you want to know what Sauls really believes, here is an excerpt from an interview I ran earlier this year. Shelley Gaffney is a member of St. Andrew's Anglican Church, formerly of St. John's Episcopal, Versailles, Kentucky.

GAFFNEY: Do you believe the Bible is the inspired word of God?

SAULS: I believe the Bible is a book of poetry with a lot of history in it. I believe the Prayer Book has all that one needs for salvation.

GAFFNEY: Do you believe there is a Satan?

SAULS: Not metaphorically speaking, no. (He was laughing at me.)

MAN BECOMES WICCAN AFTER LEAVING THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH. The man said he was not raised in any church, but began attending and eventually joined St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Plainwell in my senior year in high school. He later joined St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Battle Creek while I was a student at Olivet College. Then I went to seminary at Virginia Theological Seminary to become an Episcopal priest and served for almost five years in New Hampshire and Michigan."

"I now serve as the minister of the Sacred Birch Society, a legally incorporated Wiccan group of nearly 40 men, women and children in the Lapeer area. I say 'minister' because that is a term people can relate to, but any Wiccan is his or her own priest. I am often the group's 'ritual leader' - maybe that's a better name for my role. I have had several teachers and have been ordained by the people of Sacred Birch. As a result, I can legally marry people and conduct funerals. And I can get into hospitals more easily to visit the sick."

Wrote one wag, "I don't think Virginia Theological Seminary's going to feature this VTS graduate in the newsletter any time soon."

The moral of this story is that if you go to a liberal seminary you never know where you will finally end up. Wiccans do not graduate from TESM or Nashotah House. Last year two Wiccan priests declared themselves in the DIOCESE OF PENNSYLVANIA. Bishop Bennison did nothing about it.

BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN HAS DIED AT THE BOX OFFICE but Narnia is still powering the International Box Office. In Japan, "Narnia" retained the No. 1 spot with a $5.1 estimate, down just 24% from its opening smash weekend. Its Japan market total is a mighty $18.7 million. "Narnia's" global total, more than $690 million ($401.2 million international), now surpasses that of 1994's "Forrest Gump" in the all-time box office sweepstakes.

AND FROM RECIFE-USA comes news that the Archdeaconry will participate in the Anglican Communion Network 7th Convocation with 70 other North-American congregations under overseas Episcopal Authorities, as an expression of fellowship and partnership. The congregations are: St. Charles, Poulsbo, WA; St. Stephen, Oak-Harbor, WA; Anglican Fellowship, High Springs, FLA; Christ the King, Spokane, WA; Fellowship of the Living Word, Eugene, Oregon; and Light-of-Christ, S. Milwaukee, WI; with 11 clergy. "Those tentative new ecclesiastical structures are part of the unity of orthodox Anglicans worldwide during the uncertain transition and realignment of the Anglican Communion" said the Revd. Estevão Chiappetta - Press Officer and Secretary for International Relations.

IN OTHER NEWS FROM THE DIOCESE OF RECIFE comes word that The Bishop of Recife Robinson Cavalcanti received a phone call and a letter from the Rt. Revd. Maternus Kapinga, Bishop of the Diocese of Ruvuma, Tanzania, expressing his support and solidarity. Said Bishop Kapinga: "During these troubled times in the Church of God which the betrayers of orthodox biblical Christianity who are the followers of the revisionist liberal religion are bent on wrecking; Father, you and I are among those orthodox leaders of the Church who are called upon by Our Lord to strengthen our brethren in the Faith. We have to work together. We ourselves need to strengthen each other."

THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY took a hammering in the British Press following his tour of Darfur in the Sudan. While there he censured Israel but failed to talk about the genocide that is continuing in Darfur!

In an article titled: "Arson, rape, massacres ... and the strange silence of the archbishop" Nick Cohen of The Observer ripped Williams saying that while the crimes of American, British, European and Israeli democracy are dissected and denounced, there is an intellectual blockage - a Chinese wall in the mind - that prevents critics applying universal principles to far greater outrages. He cited the Archbishop of Canterbury's strange silence to mention Islamist murderers and those who torch Sudanese embassies. "In the name of inter-faith solidarity, Dr Williams might have found the words of reproach they lacked. If he didn't want to talk about Darfur, there was the decades-long civil war, which has seen the enslavement of the Christian Dinka tribe in the south and two million dead, more than in Bosnia, Rwanda and Kosovo combined," wrote Cohen.

UNCONFIRMED RUMORS ABOUND THAT Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali will resign as Bishop of Rochester and head up an alternative church to the C of E. Anglican Mainstream is also involved. Apparently Church of England evangelicals are fed up to the back teeth with endless talk of sodomy, women bishops, civil partnerships and want out. Forward in Faith is trying to secure a Third Province but have been unsuccessful so far. Perhaps a real rupture in the old C of E might just get the ball rolling for a new realignment over there. At least they wouldn't be alone. Next week representatives of all the orthodox in North American Anglicanism meet in Kansas City, Kansas to inaugurate a "Seventh Convocation." We shall see how it all unfolds then.

WELCOME TO VIRTUEONLINE. Please take a moment to visit our website at www.virtueonline.org the Anglican Communion's largest most widely read Online News Service with two million readers in 45 countries. You will find some 77 stories in six categories rotating on a daily basis. You might want to buy your books from Amazon.Com from my website and check out the Prayer Book Society website as well.

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