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DIOCESE OF TEXAS: Clergy Conference Yields Bitter Fruit

DIOCESE OF TEXAS CLERGY CONFERENCE YIELDS BITTER FRUIT

By David W. Virtue

CAMP ALLEN, TX. (10/15/2004)--A recent Diocese of Texas clergy conference revealed deep tensions between those who are orthodox in faith and morals and those who are revisionist, with the keynote speaker - a NT scholar - delivering what one believing priest called "a 5000-pound bunker busting revisionist bomb on historic biblical Christianity" with the full approval of Texas Bishop Don Wimberly.

Wimberly, who positions himself as orthodox, has two sides, the kind public face, but behind the scenes he is ruthless, demanding, brooks no opposition and will run over any priest who dare oppose him, say a number of his priests.

Six orthodox priests who attended the clergy conference spoke to Virtuosity on the grounds of anonymity, fearing for their jobs if they went public.

"The clergy conference was a disaster," said one of the priests. "This diocese is headed down the tubes."

"In times past, these conferences were occasions to meet, to network and to spend time with others who know what it's like to live 'in the fishbowl'. Giving mutual support was one of the hallmarks of these conferences. We could be ourselves with each other. But this clergy conference was different. There was a marked paradigm shift in the way the DOT interacts with its clergy. It seemed as if we (the clergy) had all assembled at the foot of Mount Olympus and the pantheon of gods (diocesan hierarchs and assorted other popinjays) rolled orders, supposed wisdom and implied threats coming down the mountain at us."

"We all seemed to get along (probably because of the anxious expectations of the Eames Report). There were no resolutions at the clergy conference, but I suspect we will have some at Diocesan Council in February," said another priest.

The priests said the clergy conference was a set up for teaching from a liberal, revisionist historian and attending workshops for continuing education units. "Clergy had to sit through two sessions of an hour each listening to Dr. L. Michael White who is the chair of the department of religion at the University of Texas and a PBS consultant. Workshops followed a pattern of calling for more tolerance. The ones I attended echoed the process set forth by many revisionists in seeking to find the truth through dialogue. One workshop leader said that the church is not about conversion any longer but about service. The same leader said we must embrace culture for if we do not embrace culture we turn our backs on Christ. Never once was the notion of salvation taught. It all seemed to be about 'relationships.' It was very bad," he said.

The following were some of White's soundbites:

* St. Paul was not a Christian; did not consider himself a Christian. He was of a certain Jewish sect that followed the Messiah. Peter led another sect and they were at odds with one another and taught different things, often counter to each other.

* The Pastoral Epistles were not written by Paul. The authors are unknown. They were written somewhere between A.D. 130 - 140 as counter teachings to what Paul had written in Romans and even Corinthians. The Pastoral Epistles are, what he called, the domestication of Paul. In essence he pitted Scripture against Scripture by attempting to show the discontinuity and inconsistencies found in the New Testament.

* We should listen to the heretics because sometimes they were right and the church was wrong.

* Time has shown that those who are against the ordination of women have failed to read Holy Scripture the right way.

* Those who hold to a fundamental understanding of the Bible are modern-day heretics.

* Paul was, in fact, not the author of II Timothy.

"White only quoted revisionist authors. He never quoted theologians like N.T. Wright or any other significant biblical scholars," said one of the priests.

"White presented a critical view of conflict in the New Testament and how that was dealt with, which, of course was basically about tolerance. It took me back to seminary days when the Bible was taken apart piece by piece by the professors, but never put back together again." It was the humpty dumpty principle, said another.

"Sadly, most of the clergy sheep in attendance appeared to eat it all up with gusto and barely-contained relish. I, and the other very small minority of clergy who tend to believe the Word written, got up and walked out."

Asked why he invited Dr. White, Wimberly said it was to get them to think about other options and to stretch their minds. "He said he was not going to tell us what to believe, we have to come to that ourselves."

Said another priest, "I thought bishops were defenders of the faith?"

The bishop praised the lecture, said another priest. "The rest of the workshops were less than helpful. Don Wimberly may say he is "with us" i.e. evangelical - but that is far from fact. The truth is if it talks like a liberal, walks like a liberal...Because I stood up to the bishop at council and took my delegation with me when I left early - the bishop sent me a nasty letter and I had a few "office" discussions about my churchmanship, loyalty and ability. I expect this diocese to be totally liberal within one to two years except for pockets of "truth" here and there."

The priest said he planned to retire and do ministry, "where I do not have to be beat up by the church I serve. I will tell the bishop in November and retire in January. I will gladly get beat up for Jesus Christ - but I don't need the church to pound on top of that with their heretical agenda."

Each priest was given a new clergy manual with guidelines for different policies which would certainly fall within the expectations of the institutional Episcopal Church.

"If I had to put a word to the central theme I would have to say it was "sex". More than once, a DOT official would say "the lawyers have told us that we have to do this", 'this', being whatever new rule or order that was being promulgated. Each of us was issued two new manuals: a clergy manual and a manual concerning the sexual environment of our workplaces. The first manual contained precise dictations as to matters that had, previously, been subject to the discretion of the individual priest. It was accompanied by a CD version that is to be enshrined on our hard drives. It also contained several receipts to be signed and faxed back to the DOT pledging fealty to the imperial bishop and to his dictates."

Said the priest, "I guess that our original oath that we took upon ourselves at ordination has somehow faded into nothingness. If we refuse to sign and fax the papers back in, I imagine that we would be conducting a de facto self-disfellowship with DOT."

The second manual was concerned with dictating the exact manner we are to insulate our parish work environments from all manner of sex (homosex could only be inferred by the reader) the chief bugaboo being pedophilia," he said.

"I departed the affair knowing that I had been insulted and stultified by a gaggle of pecksniffs who exist only to shine the shoes of their own Theoliberal masters," he told Virtuosity.

"The bishop spoke at the last hour of the conference on the Eames Report and the Anglican Communion. He presented the view that the HOB finally sees that it is in a serious and grave situation. He said we (the HOB) finally seem to be giving up its 'superior' attitude toward the rest of the Communion."

Wimberly said it was his dream that the Diocese of Texas (DOT) stay united through all of this, but that his dream might not come true. "He mentioned that there would be Provincial meetings shortly after the Report in order to report back to the HOB in January at a specially called meeting. The bishop mentioned that he would call the DOT clergy together sometime after the report to discuss it together. He said he did not know what kind of resolutions would be presented to the Diocesan Council in February until the report was out."

"The bishop said he would be hosting the meeting at the Intercontinental Airport in Houston at the end of November, for all those bishops who voted 'No' for the consecration of Gene Robinson to determine a course of action. That probably sounded somewhat threatening to the revisionists in the diocese, whose mantra is 'Let's all just get along."

With regard to the coming pronouncement from England and the HOB meeting, he simply reiterated Griswold's letter and said he as a bishop would wait until the findings were released. "He refused to condemn the actions of those bishops who consecrated Robinson and was adopting a wait and see policy."

One priest sent Virtuosity a note he sent to the president of the coalition of like-minded clergy and laity. "I was not pleased with what the bishop said regarding the Anglican principal of territory. There are examples of "shared" Anglican territory in the world with France being one example, especially in Paris. It also appears that the ABC with his agreement with the Bishop of London and the Archbishop of Uganda that Sandy Miller can be consecrated as a Ugandan missionary bishop operating in London is another movement to non-geographical dioceses. I think this move by the HOB was a pre-emptive strike at the future. When our bishop talks about a "big tent" in this diocese, I have to ask, can't the tent be large enough for a creative solution to our differences such as that being worked out in London? To quote Rodney King, "Why can't we just get along" without having to have so much control and so many rules? It seems to me the HOB is operating and legislating out of fear rather than out of a spirit of moving ahead with the "reality" in which we find ourselves."

Bishop Wimberly seems to be moving into Griswoldian bishop-speak, said another priest. He used the word "reality" over and over again. He kept on talking about "my reality, your reality, our realities." I would not be surprised if he used the word reality 100 times in 30 minutes. He also stated that it is completely stupid to have an Anglican priest under the Diocese of Rwanda operating within the territory of the Diocese of Texas. That was the only time I saw him passionate about anything."

"The depressing aspect of our clergy conference is that the conservatives were silent. They look defeated, especially the clergy of small congregations. The bishop is hammering them behind our backs; holding private meetings of a "pastoral nature" in which they are told to get into line. The rectors of the larger conservative congregations--which Wimberly is much more reticent to discipline--seem to be in a better place, but I believe that is because Wimberly meets with them and reminds them of his vote at GC2003. But when you get the bishop to explain his vote, it is all about unity. There is no theological position on sexuality offered."

"Wimberly is always cordial in public and claims to want to talk with all his clergy and get to know them. But he does not reach out to us with more than a handshake and pat on the back. His message of a big tent in the diocese is a tent that he owns and one in which he determines the size. What he means by big tent, of course, is for huge theological differences. The most telling thing about the clergy conference, however, is that in the last session, in which Wimberly spoke for about 10 minutes on the Eames Report. Only the liberal clergy spoke afterwards, even starting a standing ovation for him. The rest of us followed out of embarrassment."

Said one priest, "Can you believe that with such a huge issue as the Eames Report that Wimberly gave it 10 minutes? What he talked about was how we were going to have to study the report for another year. He talked about how those bishops who voted against Robinson's confirmation will meet in Houston at the end of November because they are all so impressed by the way the Diocese of Texas has handled the fall-out of the Robinson affair. All Wimberly did was stifle the conservatives. He let people speak on the floor of council last February, but it was so poorly planned and organized, that it was embarrassing. The result of Diocesan Council is that one congregation of 200 worshippers left the Episcopal Church and orthodox clergy are moving out. But the problem with this is that it only makes it easier for Wimberly to move the diocese to the left."

"Things look really bad. Wimberly has surrounded himself with revisionists; he brings revisionist teachings into our clergy conference, and ooohs and aaahs at what the revisionists do. I expect that we will be, within 3 to 4 years, the largest revisionist diocese in ECUSA."

"It used to be that the Diocese of Texas was a safe and relatively conservative diocese, now it is not. It is now liberal and no longer a safe place for orthodox followers of Jesus Christ."

END

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