jQuery Slider

You are here

The Implosion of a small group of people at a small parish - by David Thorman

A Contra Perspective

By David Thorman

I do not intend this to be an argumentative response to Bob Seitz’s case study, but I had to add a few things from where I sit. I am friends with people on both sides of the current issues at Grace Episcopal Church in Tampa, Florida. I hope by writing this I have not offended any of them. That is not my intention.

As a point of clarification, My wife and I are individual members of the AAC. I was the first of the speakers at the March Vestry meeting where the resolution to join the AAC was defeated in a 6-6 tie. I was and am still in favor of the resolution which would have made our Parish a confessing member of the AAC. Bob Seitz and I are on the same side of this issue, although I am not as well spoken or well read as he.

I have remained at Grace where some of my closest friends and brothers in Christ have left. I have been offered and accepted one of the vacated Vestry seats.

I see the Episcopal world through different eyes than most of my counterparts in this debate. I was raised Jewish and brought to Christ at Grace just over 3 years ago. It was through the efforts of a loving Rector and the Alpha course that I gave my life to Christ. To both Father Bob Cain and Nicky Gumbel, and others, I owe my salvation and my heartfelt thanks.

These teachings molded me into what I now see to be an Anglican, as I can find little similarity between what I was taught and the current position and beliefs of many ECUSA leaders. I know with all my heart and all my soul, that in the darkest moment of my life, God led me to Grace, and there he saved me from myself.

Most of the people who ended up fighting for the resolution to make our Parish a confessing member of the AAC were happy members of the blissfully unaware until the events of the General Convention of last year. I too, was oblivious to the actions and beliefs of the leadership of ECUSA before that meeting.

I was too busy running the High School Youth Group, singing in the choir, and attending Basic Anglican Discipleship classes in anticipation of my confirmation in a few weeks. What the untrained eye saw as these events developed was a small group of people meeting in private homes, although their purpose was unknown at the time. Secret whispers in private after services on Sunday.

These meetings seemed to be almost dubious until I did what most of the congregation at Grace did not do, I showed up at one. I found a group of passionate and caring individuals truly concerned about the future of our church and more importantly the faith family we had come to love.

Recently elevated to parish status, and currently starting the search for a new Rector, Grace hardly needed another issue to contend with, but the decision of the General Convention demanded action among some of our congregation.

Even after numerous pleas from the retiring Rector to wait until the new Rector was found to address this issue, this group pressed on with getting this resolution before the Vestry to be decided. It was only recently that the urgency of this decision seemed to cool in my mind. We were in such a rush to make a statement, to help the AAC to cause reform in ECUSA that we didn’t recognize what I see as two crucial things.

1. If the AAC which was formed in 1995 to give a voice to the members who spoke for orthodoxy and realignment had not in 9 years been successful in stopping the events of General Convention, what made us think that in less than 5 months we could energize the apathetic masses to this cause and get this vote passed in our own Vestry?

2. The only people showing up for the discussions were those who had clearly made a stand, not the people who needed to be informed of the issues and what they meant on a local level. The level of urgency created by this small group led to many unfortunate confrontations and misunderstandings..

So although my own common sense said, get the resolution passed now so that an incoming Rector has a clear idea of what we expect, further reflection revealed that this would not be prudent. By slamming this through we would be creating a divide now, during a transitional period, and most likely a divide again later as well when a new Rector is chosen.

If we are truly worried about what type of rector will be called to Grace I think we need not worry. If nothing else good came out of the General Convention decisions, now there is a over abundance of orthodox or conservative clergy who no longer feel as at ease serving under their revisionist leadership and seek to be in a more welcoming fold like the one we enjoy here in Southwest Florida. I would venture to guess that our new Rector, whoever he (or she) may be, will be well suited to our flock.

Overall I am saddened most by the behavior on both sides. During numerous group meetings to discuss issues in an open and loving atmosphere, anyone sharing an unpopular viewpoint was subject to crowd murmur, snickering and childish gasps of amazement.

Misspoken words, statistics based on fantasy, misinterpreted meaning and an emailing frenzy, which I must admit I helped fuel, full of insinuation, anger and frustration an fear further diluted the core issue into an annoyance to the general population of the church.

At the Vestry meeting itself I am convinced, unfortunately, that at least one vote was swayed by the inappropriate behavior in the gallery. How sad to get so close to resolving something powerful, and falling short due to emotional outburst.

I don’t know which is sadder, the discontent in the gallery or the inability of the Vestry to vote on the actual issue. Either way our runaway emotions diluted the purpose we all were so passionate about.

Did the Vestry truly vote in support of the revisionists that night? In my opinion, no. I have had numerous dialogues with some of the Vestry members since that night and I believe that if the vote were on the true issue, Biblical authority, not muddied by politics and bullying, and threats of departure if the vote doesn’t go one way or the other, that it would have been close to unanimously in favor of the resolution.

The only winner here was Satan, who managed to twist the passion of believers into anger and outrage. He managed to use the apathy of the masses to limit dialogue to a few excited individuals and swayed the debate off of the true issue and into the mire of emotional confusion and anger.

A small group of concerned, faithful believers that would have been hard pressed to imagine leaving Grace five months ago, did exactly that. A few weeks have passed now, and Grace has returned to that quiet, peaceful place it once was, almost as if the debate had never existed.

I don’t know if I am happy or sad about that. The day after the vote I found myself reading the current issue of ENCOMPASS, the AAC newsletter where I was struck by the letter from AAC President the Rev. Canon David C. Anderson.

In it he wrote, “ I implore you: Do not leave your churches, do not give up; do not lose heart. Rather, take heart in the sure and certain knowledge that God will not leave us nor forsake us, if we faithfully seek his presence. Stand firm on and for your faith and await the joy of the Resurrection!”

David Thorman attends Grace Episcopal Church Tampa, Florida. He has been a Christian for 3 years and spends his spare time trying to make up for lost time reading scripture and attending theology classes.

Get a bi-weekly summary of Anglican news from around the world.
comments powered by Disqus
Trinity School for Ministry
Go To Top