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The Episcopal Church has redefined not only marriage, but what it is to be a bishop, said John Howe

By David W. Virtue, DD
July 16, 2020

The former Bishop of Central Florida, the Rt. Rev. John W. Howe, has left The Episcopal Church, and has been received into the ordained ministry of the Anglican Church in North America as a bishop in good standing. Howe was ordained and had served in TEC for 53 years. His wife, Karen, a Deacon in TEC, has also been received into the ACNA.

"This has been a long time coming," he told VOL, but said the tipping point was the "hearing" (read: trial) of Albany Bishop William Love. "I watched it in its entirety. It was very respectful, but the bottom line was that - whatever the verdict for +Bill is - TEC has now clearly redefined not only marriage, but what it is to be a Bishop, and what it is to be a Diocese."

The scriptures and the whole catholic and Anglican tradition have understood Christian marriage to be a union of a man and a woman in Christ. The Episcopal Church has always said that The Book of Common Prayer is the authority for our doctrine, discipline and worship.

The very first sentence "Concerning the Service" of the Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage says, "Christian marriage is a solemn and public covenant between a man and a woman in the presence of God."

But the actions of the most recent General Convention have redefined marriage to be something that must now be available to same-sex partners. In 2018, TEC's General Convention decreed that a diocesan bishop who will not authorize same-sex marriages within his/her diocese must make provisions for them by transferring the oversight of clergy wanting to perform them to another bishop who will so authorize. This dramatically changes the role of a bishop in relation to the clergy and the people of a diocese. It also changes the definition of the diocese itself.

The only bishop who said, "No, this will not happen in my diocese," was Bishop Love. He told his clergy he will not authorize any marriages except those that are in accord with the BCP.

So, for upholding the rubrics and liturgy of The Book of Common Prayer, Bishop Love is accused of violating the discipline of The Episcopal Church.

Even though these new definitions do not affect me directly - because I have no current diocesan responsibilities - I could not function as a bishop under them.

So, it is with great sadness, that I requested release and removal from the ordained ministry of TEC.

I grieve that this decision was unavoidable. But it was, finally, unavoidable.

Howe said that Presiding Bishop Michael Curry could not have been more gracious. "The letters I have received from other bishops have been deeply touching, supportive, and understanding. This is not a celebration."

"I am, however, extremely grateful for the warm reception I have received from Archbishop Foley Beach and the other bishops of ACNA."

Since his retirement, Howe has served for the past five years as Senior Pastor of the multi-denominational Lake of the Woods Church in Locust Grove, Virginia, with the permission and blessing of the Bishop of Virginia and the Presiding Bishop of TEC. "I will continue in this role with the permission and blessing of the Archbishop and the Bishop of the Mid-Atlantic Diocese of ACNA."


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