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ECUSA: Polarities increase...Five bishops won't meet with PB...Moody madness...

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This week the polarities in The Episcopal Church grew starker.

Five senior ECUSA bishops dubbed the "Ohio Five" wrote a letter to the Presiding Bishop of the ECUSA and his Council of Advice saying that they would not attend a meeting planned for August 13 led by the Presiding Bishop’s Council of Advice Louisiana Bishop Charles Edward Jenkins III. The bishops cancelled the meeting after the Presiding Bishop refused to allow non-participating observers to attend. (More than gay sex goes on behind closed doors apparently.)

“We feel strongly that a meeting of this importance should not be held in secret,” their letter read. “There is a history of closed door meetings in the House of Bishops. Our distrust of closed meetings on vital issues, as well as our assessment of the gravity of the current crisis in this Church, compelled us to insist that our meeting with your Council of Advice include non-participating observers.”

The five bishops included C. FitzSimons Allison, Maurice Benitez, William Cox, Alex Dickson and William Wantland know only too well what such a meeting without observers would yield, and they were not about to get ambushed. You can read the full report, plus their letter and commentary in today's digest.

This week's DUMB BISHOP AWARD (DBA) goes to Oklahoma Bishop Robert L. Moody. He managed to put both feet in his mouth, extract them and then stick them in again a second time. He is living proof that some scripts just write themselves.

Here is what he did. He wrote a letter (which Virtuosity obtained) condemning fellow bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh for something he never did and misinterpreting information he had received. And then he sent the letter to the entire House of Bishops. In the letter he berated Duncan for sending an unwelcome priest into his diocese. The letter accused Duncan of sending the Rev. Vern Caswell under the ecclesiastical authority of the Network which was plain rubbish, as the Network has no power to send anybody anywhere.

Moody, who has driven good orthodox priests from his diocese, bungled in writing the letter saying things that were blatantly wrong and canonically incorrect. He made a fool of himself and you can read all about it for yourself. Then he compounded his error by stating that St. James Anglican Church (which he drove from his diocese) and is now a parish of the Diocese of Argentina, under Primate Greg Venables is not part of the Anglican Communion. He is wrong, they are. Would the bishop please extract both feet from his mouth....again.

And in the DIOCESE OF SOUTHWEST FLORIDA a group of theologically orthodox Episcopalians has decided to strengthen ties by officially forming a chapter of the American Anglican Council there. The group, which has involved members of 20 parishes, has been meeting informally since the national church’s General Convention in 2003, said the group’s moderator, Doug Spangler, a parishioner at the Church of the Redeemer in Sarasota. “There’s been a desire to have a structure that would provide continuity,” he explained, “and there has been a feeling to do something more visible.”

Seven parishes in Southwest Florida are already affiliated with the AAC and the national group lists chapters in 23 dioceses, including Florida and Central Florida. “Most of the energy for this comes through those [affiliated] parishes,” Spangler said, so the decision to align with the AAC was a natural one.

The birth of the AAC chapter comes two months after the formation of another local group at the opposite end of the theological spectrum, Southwest Florida Via Media Episcopalians. While the orthodox group was thinking about organizing before the Via Media group appeared, “it did, perhaps, provide a catalyst for people to become more involved,” Spangler said.

LIPSCOMB BACK FROM AFRICA. Southwest Bishop John Lipscomb has returned to the diocese a month earlier than planned, after a second trip this year to East Africa. His trips raise more questions than there are answers. He went with Bishop Ted Daniels of Texas and Dr. Titus Pressler of ETSS in Texas.

The meetings were private and no information about the substance of the discussions will be released, according to Justus Waimiri, communications officer for Council of Anglican of Provinces of Africa. And Lipscomb isn't talking either. But a source told Virtuosity that he was definitely sent by Frank Griswold and 815 paid the tab. All three were greeted politely but were told by one primate that there would be no change in their policy towards the ECUSA and Griswold, in short there was no wiggle room. The three "wise men" were greeted as "individuals" and not as representatives of the Episcopal Church.

Lipscomb did admit that "we are at a crossroads as members of the Anglican Communion, and the actions in the U.S. have created a situation in which we struggle with what it means to live in strained or impaired communion with many of those who have been our partners in mission."

TRANSLATION: He and the other two "wise men" got nothing.

In the DIOCESE OF SOUTHERN VIRGINIA, isolated Anglo-Catholics are treading water while the diocese tries to jump start itself with two new initiatives. A Virtuosity reader says this has about as much chance of working as proclaiming the virtues of gourmet cooking with a 10-day old dead cod. The diocese is committed to a Parish Visitation Program to take place between September 15 and November 1, in which Executive Board Members will LISTEN to the people of the Diocese and COMMUNICATE our excitement about the two new initiatives and the up-coming SUMMITS - all favorite leftist buzzwords. When in doubt listen, when you have nothing to proclaim, listen some more, till you fall asleep. No sleeping pills necessary.

And the financial news from the diocese is not good either. They are $57,000 in the hole with things only promising to get worse. The diocese also received Bishop David Bane's report on Grace Episcopal Church, Newport News, (they fled recently) and now they want to dispose of the property, hopefully to another denomination or hold on to it until land values increase.

And in the DIOCESE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE, V. Gene Robinson has sent out a letter to his entire diocese asking people to leave money in their wills to the Diocese or their own church in 2004 and letting their names be published for doing this. The idea here, said a Virtuosity reader and sister in Christ, is to instill the notion that all is well with the church. "It is not," she writes. I suppose that when the last person leaves and the diocese falls apart it is important to have the lights still on, courtesy of John Doe's will. One wonders what thousands of Episcopalians who left millions to the national church would do if they rose from the dead and saw how their money was being spent to push pansexuality!

In the DIOCESE OF QUINCY Bishop Keith Ackerman celebrated 30 years in the ministry this week, 10 years as bishop, at the same time Bishop William Swing of California celebrated 25 years in the ministry as a bishop. Virtuosity took a long hard comparative look at both men's careers and you can read the results in today's digest.

And in the DIOCESE OF FORT WORTH, the small but growing Anglo-Catholic Church of the Holy Cross in Burleson whose rector is Fr. John Cornelius, SSC, has done a little in-your-face act. He has set up a lovely new church sign announcing they are members of the "Worldwide Anglican Communion", nowhere to be found is the word "Episcopal" on the sign. This is not the first parish to do this and certainly not the last, but it is a small but rebellious act that could spread like wildfire.

MAINSTREAM AMERICA a liberal group which includes a number of Episcopalians, and monitoring what conservative churches and their pastors have to say about endorsing political candidates, is apparently running into a roadblock. In an interview with Caroline McKnight of Mainstream Coalition in Overland Park on Michael Medved's radio program she expressed frustration over the fact that the IRS has neither the resources nor the will to go after the tax-exempt status of churches for their political activism.

Mainstream Coalition which is a decidedly left-of-center organization in the mold of Americans for the Separation of Church and State insists that it is only monitoring those churches that endorse political candidates, not those churches that discuss and promote stances on various political and social issues (e.g., abortion, same-sex marriage, etc.). Of course.

IN VANCOUVER, CANADA, St. Martin's parish on the north shore, a parish this writer visited last year, saw its congregation leave the diocese this week rather than get into a dog fight with revisionist Bishop Michael Ingham over property issues. Many left in tears but truth was more important in the long run. They left a beautiful old building and a $600,000 endowment, which Ingham will undoubtedly pillage.

That's not the only problems orthodox Christians face in Canada. The Canadian Federal Revenue Agency Warned Churches to be silent during elections or lose their charitable status. This is being viewed as an extraordinary abuse of influence by the Liberal government. The legal counsel for both the Catholic Church in Canada and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada were asked to be present at a meeting with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) in early March. Legal Counsel for both the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC), and Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops were warned by revenue officials that should their churches become involved in "partisan" political activity during the then-upcoming 2004 federal election they would risk losing their tax-exempt status.

According to the federal agency, to avoid being 'partisan' means to not address issues on which the competing political parties have opposing views such as abortion or same-sex 'marriage'.

AND IN AUSTRALIA the Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne spoke out on abortion, and in an opinion piece in The Age wrote, “The church can no longer ignore this difficult issue in our congregations” – on the issue of abortion. Are we not moved by the 100,000 pregnancies that are terminated each year in Australia? Do we think this is unimportant? Have we bought the line that this is just an individual private decision for women to make? Are we intimidated by the feminist rhetoric that links any opposition to abortion with misogynist, oppressive attitudes to women?”

In an opposing opinion piece in The Age, Melbourne laywoman Muriel Porter criticized Archbishop Watson saying that she is “tired of hierarchical male church leaders presuming to tell women how they should behave”.

In the DIOCESE OF SYDNEY, the lay administration of the Lord's Supper has been an issue as they see no prohibition or restriction in the holy Scriptures, or in Christian doctrine opposing the idea. But not wanting to rock the boat and perhaps realizing there are bigger issues at stake, they are not intending to promote any legislation in the form of an ordinance. But the Standing Committee will ask synod to consider a resolution, which will come before the Sydney synod when it meets in October. Instead of attempting to legalize lay presidency, the motion simply proposes that "no disciplinary or other action" should be taken against any person who permits a deacon or lay person to "administer the Lord’s Supper", or who is involved in such a service. The Sydney diocese prefers the term "administration" to "presidency".

And from England comes this word on STEPHEN HAWKING. The brilliant scientist whose studies in general relativity and cosmology has made him a household name and who suffers from ALS, a motor neuron disease, occasionally gets wheeled into an evangelical Anglican church in Cambridge for a family service, said a source. He is often quoted as saying that nothing in the laws of physics is inconsistent with the idea of God. I suppose there are no atheists in black holes.

And in IRAQ Christians warily returned to bombed churches after a series of bombings at Christian parishes, said the Barnabas Fund who monitors these things. Attendance was unusually light at Christian churches in Baghdad, particularly those that had been hit by the previous week's bombings, in which 11 people were killed about more than 50 wounded. At a Syrian Catholic parish in Baghdad, where the liturgy was celebrated in a parish hall because the church was still under repairs after a deadly explosion last week, Father Raphael Kutaimi told the Reuters news service, "They won't come as they used to before." The terrorist bombers were obviously trying to discourage Christians from worship, he observe, and "of course this will affect our members." However, Christian leaders vowed that they would not succumb to the pressure from Islamic fundamentalists by leaving Iraq. The country's Christian community makes up about 3 percent of the total population. Iraq's largest Christian churches-- the Chaldean Catholic and Assyrian churches-- have an ancient lineage, having been linked with Iraqi culture and history since the 1st century.

Perhaps the moral of this story is that ECUSA's orthodox should not willingly give up the church to its theological infidels until the last trump has sounded....which might be next February.

The Anglican Mission in America added three new churches recently and seems to grow even as the fallout from ECUSA continues. You can read that story in today's digest.

AMIA Bishop John Rodgers has named the first recipients of the John and Blanche Rodgers Scholarship. The two students are preparing for ordained ministry in the Anglican Mission in America and will share a scholarship of $10,000 as they continue in their studies and involvement in mission oriented ministry. The two are Jonathan M. Holland of Winter Springs, FL and Benjamin C. Reed of Minneapolis. Both are actively involved in Anglican Mission congregations and were selected by a committee from a strong pool of applicants in this the first year of the scholarship.

Bishop John and Blanche Rodgers have influenced generations of pastors and theological students through their gifted, warm and godly mentoring.

ON CANON KEARON the newly anointed Anglican Communion Office general secretary comes this word from a Virtuosity source in England. "Canon Kearon, according to Crockford's, has somewhere acquired an MPhil in addition to his undergraduate degree at Trinity College Dublin, but there is no information about what class of degree he obtained. He is very small beer, it seems, compared to some of those who might have been appointed. But when the interviewers included Archbishop Robin Eames, and the Welsh primate Barry Morgan, it is unsurprising that someone so close to home should get the job. Jobs for the "boys" is an unbroken tradition in such places."

THE BRITISH BIBLE SOCIETY is distancing itself from the new Contemporary English Version (CEV) of the Bible for youth because of some of its radical views on sexuality. The Youth Bible is a CEV with notes produced by Collins. The Bible Society supports the way Collins is helping young people understand how the Bible can speak into their lives today," but Philip Poole, Deputy Chief Executive Collins have put out a press release in which it claims it had no editorial role. The Lord's Day Observance Society and the Catholic Mass Society are not at all happy with the new Bible.

THE NIGERIAN ANGLICAN CHURCH is making HIV test mandatory for couples, comes a report out of Lagos. The HIV/AIDS pandemic, which has resulted in the infection of more than three million people in Nigeria, has led the country's Anglican Church to join other denominations in demanding that church members intending to wed must undertake HIV tests to qualify to marry in church.

The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) said its decision to make it mandatory for intending couples to be screened for HIV was to contain the spread of the disease, and came in advance of a statement on Monday from the Interfaith HIV/AIDS Coalition of Nigeria, that the pandemic had affected every community in the nation.

Anglican Archbishop Ephraim Ademowo of Lagos said the AIDS pandemic had reached such an alarming level that the church needed to do everything to contain its spread. "Priests in our churches must take the responsibility of preaching chastity," as a contingency he told Ecumenical News International. The archbishop also cautioned Nigerians and Christians especially against the stigmatization of people living with HIV/AIDS, adding "infected people should not be ostracized but rather embraced."

PET-OWNERS should pray with their pets each day, so that the animals behave well when they come to church, an Oxfordshire priest has told her flock. The Revd Elizabeth Lakey, an Ordained Local Minister in the benefice of Nettlebed with Bix, Highmoor, Pishill and Rotherfield Greys, has asked parishioners to start training their pets with prayers to get them used to religion. She reckons their owners should be able to get them ready by the time of the annual pet service in September. "If people get into the habit of praying with their pets, then they won’t think it strange when they bring them to church," she said. Mrs. Lakey has been praying with her dog, Shane, for five years. "I say evening prayer on Wednesdays in church, and Shane started sitting on a kneeler beside me. I would pat him to reassure him that he only had to be still for another few minutes while I said my prayers. Now he finds his own place in church."

Last year, Shane nearly got into trouble when he took too much interest in some hamsters at the pet service. "I had to hold on tight to his lead. We all went up into a beautiful Noah’s ark we had built at one end of the church. I prayed that Shane would do what he was told. Then I blessed the animals as they came out through the door of the ark," said Mrs. Lakey. She advised keeping a dustpan, brush and some sawdust handy, in case some of the pets’ house-training had not been 100-per-cent effective.

Do you pray with your pet? Answer on the Forum. The bigger question is, just how tightly wrapped is this woman, how many cards short of a full deck is she playing with? But then, of course, this is the C of E where almost anything goes.

ESSENTIALS CANADA will hold its "The Way Forward Conference" August 30 - Sept 1 in Ottawa this year. Virtuosity will be in attendance. The annual event will be held at Bethel Pentecostal Church, 500 Viewmount Dr., Ottawa, Ontario. Those interested in attending can drop a note to: essentials@cogeco.ca. Doug McKenzie, coordinator says that more than 500 have signed up but there's still room for more. This group represents the orthodox wing of the Anglican Church in Canada.

I am delighted to announce today that Virtuosity's very own cyber theologian the Rev. Dr. Robert Sanders has completed his first novel, Face To Face. It is a profound and beautiful book. Writes Sanders, "All my theology and hopes are poured into this book, the theology of Trinity and Incarnation." I hope you will buy it. Read the review.

VIRTUOSITY ON VACATION. Dear friends, I am taking a much needed break for the next ten days. My wife threatens to take away my laptop if I don't stop writing for a few days. No stories will be written, but stories from around the Anglican Communion will be posted to the website as they emerge.

WEBSITE: Virtuosity's website is in the process of a makeover which will make it even easier to read with better type faces and more when we switch officially from Virtuosity to VirtueOnLine before the end of the year. Thousands of you go to the website each day, hundreds of you write comments, and we want to make it even more user friendly. I am grateful for Mr. Robert Turner for making this possible.

I hope you will take a few moments to read URGENT APPEAL at the website. It says far more about what Virtuosity is doing and trying to do than anything I could say. It was written by a long time Virtuosity clergyman reader with no axe to grind except to say how much he both enjoys and NEEDS virtuosity. www.virtuosityonline.org.

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All blessings,

David W. Virtue DD

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