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GRISWOLD faces increasing conflict...NETWORK stiffens resolve...more

"To all conservative Christians, liberals, however well meaning, appear as parasitic cosmeticians; cosmeticians because they constantly aim to remove from Christianity that which outsiders, like some inside, find intellectually unsightly and unacceptable; parasitic, because they attach themselves to the historic faith and feed off it even as they whittle it down, diminishing, distorting, and displacing major features of it to fit with what their skeptical conversation partners tout as factual truth. "Evangelicals & Catholics: The State of Play" by J.I. Packer

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Frank T. Griswold, presiding bishop of the U.S. Episcopal Church, would like you to believe that the pressing issues of the day are to combat poverty and disease and that we should not be wasting any more of our time discussing homosexuality.

He reiterated this at a recent gathering of Episcopal communicators in Salt Lake City adding that the developing world -- Africa in particular -- is far more in need of the church's attention and resources to combat poverty and disease, including the AIDS epidemic that has killed millions.

Griswold doesn't get it. If the church has no clear moral teaching on sexual behavior, then doing good works with our millions makes us no different from the Lions or Kiwanis Club or, for that matter, a major non-profit agency like World Vision International -- which, incidentally, is more demonstrably Christian than the Episcopal Church.

Griswold has been repeatedly told by archbishops like Nigerian Primate Peter Akinola that poverty is endemic -- which Jesus also acknowledged and said would always be with us -- but how we behave has life-and-death consequences for the human soul, because "fornicators, homosexuals and adulterers will not inherit the kingdom."

So Griswold's efforts to sweep this under the rug in the hope that it will go away will not succeed. Across the U.S., large and small congregations are leaving the Episcopal Church because they no longer want to be contaminated by bad morals. One revisionist bishop after another is finding himself or herself learning a bitter lesson, often with legal implications, that they cannot weasel around God's revealed will and Word on this matter and get away with it.

The departing congregations, like a majority of the primates and the Network bishops will no longer have any truck with the revisionists and will no longer play in their ecclesiastical sandbox. They will go. The Robinson consecration is the final line in the sand.

Griswold says he has spent considerable time talking to international clergy over issues relating to malaria and HIV/AIDS. With no medicines really at hand, they're seeing entire generations disappear. He says there are tensions between various religious groups, particularly a very militant Islam.

But in a public debate between Griswold and Nigerian Archbishop Joseph Fearon (who is also an Islamic scholar), the African bishop called financial support from the American Episcopal Church "bitter money" because it is rooted in evil, not good.

Fearon blasted the Episcopal Church's preoccupation with homosexuality, crying, "In my culture the subject is a waste of time -- we have better things to do. The Bible is clear about this behavior." He added that "Nigeria won't accept funds from the Episcopal Church. It is not bishops posturing; it is people who have sunk to the lowest levels ... this is about sin."

Griswold continues to say both publicly and privately that he hopes people can live with the divisions ... live with a diversity of points of view. "People can disagree, but for the sake of mission can make common cause together," he says.

He is wrong. They can't, and they won't, and no one knows that better than he does. And he knows it because he said to the communicators that he believes there is an immediate threat of a schism in the worldwide Anglican mission coming from within the U.S. church. "There are entities within my own country, this country, who are determined to make a domestic question an international question," he said.

"Certain right-wing forces within this country and the Episcopal Church are driving a lot of the active displeasure among primates in other parts of the world," Griswold said. "Doctrinal absolutists argue that the Bible unequivocally condemns 'disordered sexuality.' Liberals point out that Episcopalianism always has been inclusive and liberating. In the end, it's about context."

So he is blaming those who have consistently upheld the "faith once delivered" and has clearly sided with those who have introduced theological and moral innovations that are forcing tens of thousands of Episcopalians to search their consciences and, in many cases, flee the church. Blaming the messengers, in this case the orthodox, is a futile act that advances nothing except to highlight the polarization now visibly obvious to all.

The Network and the American Anglican Council are slowly but surely stiffening their spines for the ongoing war in the ECUSA. They are not going to be bulled by Griswold, and they are not going away. To blame it on a domestic Episcopalian dispute is a fiction. This war has been going on for 35 years, and the primates have been discussing it for the last six primatial gatherings.

CALIFORNIA Bishop William Swing is very unhappy about the Network and tried to engage Ed Salmon, bishop of South Carolina, recently. The conversation was broken off at an airport, but VirtueOnline visited the questions Bishop Swing raised, and we have answered them for you in today's digest.

A RECENT PRESS RELEASE by the archbishop of Canterbury's office contained an untrue claim. Last week, the news release announced that he was going to attend Pope Benedict XVI's inauguration. This would, it claimed, make him the first head of the Church of England to attend such an event since the Reformation. Although the claim was repeated by several national newspapers, it happens to be untrue. In fact, Dr. Donald Coggan traveled to Rome to attend John Paul II's installation in 1978.

Lambeth Palace eventually retracted the incorrect press release, but not before it had intrigued religious observers. They see it as evidence of a hasty -- and botched -- attempt to "muscle in" on the recent coverage of papal affairs.

"There has been an air of desperation, as if Lambeth Palace must remind people it exists," one church correspondent reported. "Rowan Williams was not involved, but he'll be furious about this. It makes him look stupid, as if he's tried to take credit where it isn't due."

THE ANGLICAN CHURCH OF CANADA has come under fire for allowing same-sex union blessing ceremonies. But Canadian bishops last week agreed to put a two-year hold on blessing such unions. The unanimous vote came during a meeting of Canadian bishops in Windsor, Ontario. "We have effectively said there is a moratorium," Archbishop Andrew Hutchinson said. The archbishop of Canterbury welcomed the statement by the Canadian bishops. "Their constructive approach provides a positive basis for further engagement with the questions facing our Communion," he said.

But in other news both, the U.S. and Canadian delegations who have been asked to withdraw their representatives from the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in June in Nottingham because of the issue and Robinson's consecration have both have said they will stay on at the meeting for consultation purposes after they have given theological justifications for their acts. This will not sit well with primates like Peter Akinola. Watch for the sparks to fly.

THE ANGLICAN CHURCH IN SOUTH AFRICA, officially the Church of the Province of Southern Africa, is due for a name change later this year. This tops the agenda of the 31st Session of Provincial Synod, taking place from July 2 to 9 under the presidency of Archbishop of Cape Town Njongonkulu Ndungane in Pinetown, KwaZulu-Natal. Robert Butterworth, provincial executive of the church, said it was felt that a name change was necessary because "Church of the Province of Southern Africa" was confusing. "Nothing in the name says we are Anglican," he said. He said the word "province" was even more confusing because there were nine in the country. "The name may be changed to the Anglican Church of Southern Africa."

IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND clergy have been warned about Internet temptations. New technologies could lead the clergy into some of the oldest temptations, according to a new guide for vicars. The Vicar's Guide, published by the Church of England, warns against the temptations that exist in an increasingly secular and material world and advises how the clergy can avoid being led into sexual indiscretions with their parishioners. Clergy of both sexes are urged to guard against the danger of inappropriate relationships by openly recording their meetings.

THE ANGLO-CATHOLIC rector of St. Paul's parish in Washington, D.C., waxed ecstatic over Frank Griswold in his latest letter to the parish, posted on the churches Web site despite VirtueOnline's expose from an observer that Griswold virtually mocked the whole thing. "I write this letter to you immediately following certainly the most powerful and spectacular Holy Week I have ever experienced!" the rector wrote. "It was a thrill to have our Presiding Bishop with us, and I must say that he celebrated and preached beautifully throughout the Triduum. Let me tell you that there are not many bishops who could so easily cope with our liturgical ways at such complicated liturgies with as much ease as Bishop Griswold."

If you believe this you'll believe anything. Anglo-Catholicism is dead in this parish. If you are looking for an alternative, go to The Companions of St. Peter the Apostle, which will have its first visit from a bishop on June 5th, when the Rt. Rev. William Wantland will travel there from his retirement home in Oklahoma to preach and celebrate Holy Communion at its regular 10:30 a.m. service. The service will be held in the Upper Chapel of Church of the Holy City in the heart of Washington at 1611 16th Street, N.W.

Bishop Wantland is the former bishop of the Diocese of Eau Clare, Wisconsin. He is also the Episcopal Overseer for the Forward in Faith Convocation within the Anglican Communion Network, a group of traditionalist and conservative bishops, priests, and congregations within the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA). Bishop Wantland will also be speaking to the Ascension & St. Agnes Chapter of Forward in Faith / North America at a meeting at 1 p.m. in the Upper Chapel of Church of the Holy City on June 5th. The chapter is the official sponsor of the mission.

A RECENT GATHERING OF SOME 120 ORTHODOX FOLK calling themselves the Communion Laity and Clergy of Colorado met at Christ Church in Denver and heard a priest say, "It seems our church is like a ship that has been taken over by pirates. How do we take back the ship in a nonviolent way?" The Rev. Ephraim Radner, a headline speaker, answered that "for now it is out of our hands, but we keep in mind that God is sovereign. The next 12-16 months will present us with some wrenching choices. He asked us to pray for a miracle." Retired Colorado bishop William Frey counseled them to have patience, and to regard working on our differences as we would as family. There was discussion by both Bishop Frey and current diocesan Bishop O'Neill to exercise self-control, and recognize it as fruit of the Spirit in guiding our actions over the next months. The recent difficulties of six Connecticut clergy facing inhibition by their bishop were discussed. Bishop O'Neill stated that "Colorado is not Connecticut," leaving us to believe that this diocese would not be faced with similar difficulties. Bishop O'Neill told the gathering that the intent of the House of Bishops was to stay in the Anglican Communion. The challenge at the present time is for them to figure out how to do that.

CULTURAL RACISM reared its ugly head recently when Louie Crew mouthed off about Peter Akinola, the primate of Nigeria, over remarks the archbishop has made about ECUSA and its waywardness. In his message titled "A Word to Nigerian Anglicans in North America" the African leader offers an alternative Anglican presence where traditionalists can feel safe.

But Crew opines on the tribal background of Akinola, arguing that if a member of the Yoruba tribe says, "I am going to kill you," he is most likely bluffing, but if an Ibo says, "I am going to kill you," you'd better watch out, because he will do it if he possibly can.

"Archbishop Peter Akinola is a Yoruban. Yorubans are famous for their shakara, a Yoruban term for bluffing. ['Shah' rhymes with 'ah', as do the other two syllables; the accent is on the first and third.] Most of the Nigerians in The Episcopal Church (TEC) are Ibo. Yorubans don't have lots of standing with the Ibo. While Ibo in TEC as Nigerians would be reluctant to stand up to the Archbishop, they won't likely commit the resources required to fund the convocation ++Akinola promotes," says Crew.

Really. To use tribalism to explain Akinola's actions is racist and insensitive and mocks the growth of the church in Nigeria and the theology that supports it. If Crew thinks Akinola is bluffing, he will find out all too soon. One thing, however, that Crew can't spin or bluff is the decline of his own diocese -- Newark -- which might have as its motto "shakyabooty," a position which has caused that diocese to go into major decline.

IN PHOENIX, ARIZONA, last Sunday some 90 people gathered in the fellowship hall of a local church for the organizational meeting of a new Anglican Mission in America (AMiA) fellowship in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area. The fellowship combined young and old, with teenagers, toddlers, and the elderly all much in evidence. Those assembled revealed a highly-diverse mix of Anglo-Americans, members of the Hopi and Hualapai Native American tribes, and others from backgrounds ranging from Hispanic to Russian. Leading this new work was the Rev. John Dyson. Dyson is an Anglican priest under the authority of Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini of the Anglican Communion's Province of Rwanda. Interested persons can contact John Dyson at: jdyson12 at cox.net

The greater Phoenix metropolitan area is one of the 10 largest in the country, and one of the fastest-growing, with a population greater than that of Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Detroit, Pittsburgh, or Seattle, and spread over a land area considerably larger than Rhode Island. The new fellowship -- which has yet to choose a name -- will be the second fellowship established as an AMiA group in the Phoenix area. Five weeks ago, the solidly-evangelical parish of St. James the Apostle in the southeastern suburb of Tempe voted to leave the Episcopal Church U.S.A. and affiliate with AMiA. The majority of St. James' 300 members followed their rector, Keith Andrews, in realigning with AMiA. In doing so, they sacrificed their buildings and other material assets, which the Episcopal Church's bishop of Arizona, Kirk Stevan Smith, insisted on keeping. The departing church members have reorganized under the name of Living Faith Anglican Church and are meeting in a local high school. Their website is www.livingfaithanglican.org .

HEALTHY VERSUS UNHEALTHY. Wherever I went in Southeast Asia I saw young and old with well-worn Bibles. They read them, exegeted the Word, and stayed firmly rooted in Scripture. This is what helps them to remain faithful in the face of Islam, animism, paganism, ancestor worship and much more. A VirtueOnline reader wrote about why the homosexuality just doesn't compute to believers in Malaysia. Here is what he said: "I too have found the incredulous looks on the face of Christians outside the U.S. when our 'issues' are mentioned. It just doesn't compute to them. Then I remember being at Virginia Theological Seminary in the mid 70's and only having to take a 3 hr. OT survey and 3 hr NT survey in my junior year. These courses were a study in redaction theology. There was no talk of encounter with the living Lord or living an overtly Christian Life. I remember in my senior year after being saved through a conversion experience I was greeted with scorn by the majority of the VTS community."

And you wonder why the Africans won't send their seminarians to the U.S. This is why.

CORRECTION. In a previous post I identified a number of members of the Inter Anglican Standing Committee on Ecumenical Relations (IASCER) as being either orthodox or liberal. A bishop wrote to me say that I had grievously erred in identifying Geoffrey Rowell (very prominent in Forward in Faith UK) as liberal. He is not; neither is Jonathan Goodall, his chaplain. Also, Andrew Norman is thoroughly orthodox and evangelical. "I ordained him to the priesthood in St Michael's, Paris which is thoroughly evangelical, orthodox and charismatic," wrote the bishop. VirtueOnline apologizes for any harm caused in this mistake.

IN PHILADELPHIA a defrocked lesbian Methodist clergyperson who had been reinstated called for an end to discrimination against gays in a speech to hundreds of supporters Sunday.

"Other faith traditions out there have tried to shut us down and tell us we're not worthy," said the Rev. Irene Elizabeth Stroud, who spoke at an interfaith service to celebrate the 40th anniversary of a historic gay rights rally. "I pray for a day when no one will experience discrimination."

Stroud, who was defrocked after she told her Philadelphia congregation that she was in a relationship with another woman, was reinstated by a Methodist court last week. The decision could be overturned if leaders with the United Methodist Church decide to appeal.

Also present for the occasion was Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson who preached at Christ Church and said in a sermon that God loves and accepts gays and lesbians just the way they are. "We hear God's voice, and it says you are my beloved," said Robinson, who was consecrated as bishop of the New Hampshire Diocese in 2003. "We have tasted God's liberation, and that toothpaste is not going to go back in the tube."

Outside the church, about 25 protesters, including members of the conservative Christian group Repent America, protested Sunday's day-long celebration of gay rights.

Earlier in the day, police estimated that between 2,000 and 3,000 gay-rights supporters converged on Independence Hall to celebrate the 40th anniversary of what some have called the first gay rights demonstration.

MEANWHILE, in Colorado Springs, Colo., about 500 people protested outside the headquarters of Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian group led by James Dobson that has vigorously opposed gay rights and same-sex marriages.

"We are here to say, Jim, we love you enough to stop you from doing the damage you are doing to families across the nation," said Mel White, executive director of Soulforce, a national interfaith organization that supports gay rights.

Thomas Minnery, Focus on the Family's director of public policy, denied that the organization delivers a message of hate but reiterated its belief that homosexuality violates Scripture.

"There are thousands of people who have left homosexuality, including some on our staff," Minnery said. "To say that one is born that way obviously flies in the face of facts."

And in the DIOCESE OF SOUTHEAST FLORIDA, Bishop Leo Frade reiterated to the diocesan Executive Board that his policies regarding the blessing of same-sex unions and ordination of homosexual persons. He said the request for a moratorium on same-sex blessings "does not apply" in our diocese, because he has never authorized the blessing of same-sex unions. He told the board that he voted to approve the consecration of Bishop V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire, because he felt there was "no canonical impediment" to Robinson's election. He has decided to refrain from consent to any bishop elected between now and the next Lambeth meeting of Anglican bishops in 2008.

"If I cannot give consent to one bishop, I cannot give consent to any bishop" Bishop Frade said. After the March meeting of the House of Bishops, he amended this statement to reflect the bishops' decision to postpone consents to episcopal elections only until General Convention 2006. The bishop said that he will not ordain any openly gay person and added that he has instructed the archdeacon for deployment that he will not accept into this diocese any priest or deacon who is openly gay. However, he does not intend to suspend any homosexual clergy already in the diocese. He said that he recognizes this as a discriminatory policy, but it is one he has chosen on a temporary basis in the hope of preserving the unity in the Anglican Communion.

VirtueOnline hereby awards Bishop Frade the Annual Flip Flop Award for being as clear as mud on the issue.

AND this just in from a postulant for ordination in the DIOCESE OF CHICAGO. ECUSA is oppressing orthodox candidates for ordination in numerous dioceses across the country, he writes. "The church is stacking 'discernment committees' with openly gay members who are vetting the candidates. If one is orthodox, one cannot be admitted to candidacy. They think that this will prevent the next generation of orthodox priests from emerging -- but instead they are creating priesthood candidates for orthodox Anglican churches."

We at VirtueOnline are not surprised that orthodoxy is being proscribed at all levels of the church. Stay tuned.

For comic relief - Vickie Gene Robinson on EBay. A former ECUSA lady came across her official delegate kit from being an alternate at VGR's election, and thought about selling it on EBay. "There just might be someone stupid enough to buy it," she told VirtueOnline. "But when I did a search on EBay for "Gene Robinson," I only found one thing - someone in Australia was trying to sell the Advocate magazine with VGR on the cover. He had no bidders! I might still list the delegate kit."

Three churches in the DIOCESE OF NEW YORK have pledged to be "animal friendly," which requires a promise to support and uphold members engaged in animal welfare ministries; hold an "Animal Blessing" service annually; provide pastoral care and prayer for members grieving the loss or illness of a pet; serve vegetarian fare during Lent and provide vegetarian options at community meals; and agree not to hold fundraisers that center upon the killing of animals, such as pig roasts, sport hunting and lobster boils.

Now wouldn't it be nice to find three parishes in the Diocese of New York that were orthodox friendly. Perhaps it could be the beginning of peace in the Episcopal Church.

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