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Nashotah House Culture Wars

Nashotah House Culture Wars

By David W. Virtue, DD
October 11, 2017

Nashotah House, the Wisconsin-based Anglo-Catholic seminary, finds itself once again embroiled in an ecclesiastical battle, as it seeks to find its place in the turbulent Episcopal culture wars. Can it continue to embrace its traditional views and expand its base even as the Church, to which it is loyal, moves further to the left and away from catholic faith and order?

The seminary has been floundering and simmering with ecclesiastical rage ever since they got rid of the Very Rev. Dr. Robert Munday as its President and Dean.

The seminary roils from crisis to crisis unable, it seems, to comprehend the damage it is doing to itself and the effect it is having on those who still believe in its mission.

Its board chairman is Episcopal Springfield Bishop Dan Martins, who embraces a Church standing in a theological and spiritual septic tank of its own making, in clear opposition to the catholic faith espoused by the 175-year old seminary.

The latest eruption involves giving liberal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry the Archbishop Ramsey award for excellence in the areas of Ecclesiology, Ecumenism and Liturgy, an act that brought a tsunami-like wave of outrage from San Joaquin ACNA Anglican Bishop Eric Menees right across Martin's bow.

In a scathing letter, Bishop Menees lit into Martins saying he was surprised and confused at the decision of Nashotah House to award Curry the Archbishop Ramsey award because he failed on all three counts.

"Regarding ecclesiology Bishop Curry has chosen to disregard the will of the primates of the Anglican Communion and continues to act willfully as one not under authority.

"Regarding ecumenism relations between TEC and the vast majority of Catholic, Orthodox and Evangelical churches are at an all-time low.

"Regarding liturgy, Bishop Curry is presiding over the creation of new rites that defy scripture, tradition, and reason. In the last few years Seabury, General and EDS have all but folded. Recently, with the abrupt transitions of the dean and several faculty members I suspect that Nashotah House will not be far behind."

Then he tore into Martins saying, while Bishop Curry preaches reconciliation at every turn he fails to practice what he preaches with his continued support for the ongoing lawsuits in Quincy, Fort Worth and South Carolina. Given this reality, Bp. Martins, can [you] give me a reason to send my men to Nashotah House? San Joaquin has had a long and positive past with Nashotah but at this point I am really shaking my head and wondering what in the world has happened?"

When VOL approached Martins for a comment all he would say is, "The letter was unfortunately leaked before I even received it...when I officially receive the letter, it is my intention to reply, but privately."

Privately or publicly it makes little difference. Whatever he says, it will not assuage Menees or the fact that Nashotah House is, to all intents and purposes, throwing away its spiritual heritage for a mess of ecumenical pottage, hoping it can play both ends against the middle, that is, keep TEC in play while trying to meet the needs of churches like ACNA. It would seem now that that option is fast disappearing.

ACNA is a member of GAFCON which has separated itself from TEC, and its leaders will have nothing to do with Curry or Fred Hiltz, Archbishop of Canada, and the Scottish Episcopal Church. As a sign of their defiance they even consecrated a GAFCON bishop for England and Europe!

Martins thinks he can hold it altogether but that is increasingly a fiction. It can't be done. Reconciliation is impossible if you believe the fabric of the communion has been torn and unrepairable. When a bishop, even an Anglican one, says that ongoing lawsuits make a mockery of reconciliation, and when you accuse the leader of the US Episcopal Church of initiating new rites that defy scripture, tradition and reason, what sort of comeback does Martins have?

The answer is none, unless he admits he is in the wrong and that Nashotah House is throwing away its legacy and tradition by compromising with an apostate and heretical church!

Reconciliation talk is ultimately about compromise, and Anglo-Catholic bishops and some Evangelical bishops will not do that. One has only to witness the fact that three African evangelical Primates refused to attend Welby's call for a summit in Canterbury this week, because they say the fabric of the communion has been torn and seemingly irreparable.


The initial crisis began when the retired, (now deceased) Bishop of South Carolina, Ed Salmon was installed in 2011 as the seminary's new dean and president, succeeding the Very Rev. Dr. Robert Munday, who had served in that position since 2001 and who led the House during his deanship to its largest enrollment in thirty years.

Salmon had served as the Chairman of the Nashotah House Board of Trustees for 13 years prior to ousting Munday as Dean and assuming the deanship himself. This unusual move drew the attention of the Association of Theological Schools, which slapped the seminary with Notation N8.3: "The governing board exercises its authority or discharges its responsibilities ineffectively or inappropriately." Salmon alleged that Munday had gotten the House into trouble with the Episcopal Church by building relationships with ACNA dioceses and aiding the establishment of a local congregation (St. Michael's, Delafield) that began on the Nashotah campus and which eventually affiliated with the ACNA.

Then in February 24, 2014 Salmon did something that was seemingly inexplicable for an Anglo-Catholic bishop who had led one of the most respected and growing dioceses in TEC. He announced that he had invited then Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to address the student body there.

Her theological views had been well documented. She had, over the course of seven years, made un-Biblical statements about the person of Jesus Christ, the authority of the Bible, heaven and hell, the Resurrection, attributing a demon to St. Paul, and made the statement from the 2009 General Convention that the "great heresy of Western Christianity" is the belief that one can have a personal saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

That he acquiesced to the request of three students to invite Jefferts Schori to "come and see" and then attempted to wash his hands of the event has been typical of the history of this bishop. He once famously said to his clergy, when he was bishop of South Carolina, that if TEC ever allowed the gay agenda to take hold he would take the diocese out of the Episcopal Church. He didn't and later denied saying that he ever said it. It was up to his successor Bishop Mark Lawrence to take that action.

Outrage followed. Salmon revealed himself to be a prevaricator, a fence sitter and useful idiot for the episcopal administration. There were calls for his resignation.

He was called out for his action by his predecessor Dean Robert Munday who said at that time that what Salmon did was totally contrary to the faith we are called to believe and teach.

"One of the things that saddens me most about this whole affair," Munday wrote, "is what it models for students at the House. These students are no longer being taught to be valiant for truth and to take risks for the sake of the Gospel, they are being led by example to 'go along to get along,' and that dialogue with heretics and even having them in your pulpit is a good thing if it promotes better relationships."

Them's fightin' words.

Salmon responded saying, "The name of leadership is relationships - people connecting with each other and working together. Our broken relationships in the Church are a testimony against the Gospel."

Not true, wrote back Munday. "The heterodoxy of the Episcopal Church, in general, and of Katharine Jefferts Schori, in particular, is a testimony against the Gospel. We are called to separate ourselves from false teachers; and a shepherd, whether of a diocese, a parish, or a seminary, is called to protect his flock from wolves. In the words of the ordination vows Bishop Salmon took: 'Are you ready, with all faithful diligence, to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to God's Word; and both privately and openly to call upon and encourage others to do the same?' To lead a seminary like Nashotah House in these days, and to fail to keep that ordination vow, is to see your seminary turn into another Seabury-Western, or General, or worse."

What is doubly ironic is that Jefferts Schori had spoken vigorously against students wanting to study at Nashotah House. She specifically told one of her Executive Council members not to seek his theological education at Nashotah House. This negative advice was also delivered to two other co-ed students while they were in discernment about their seminary training at The House.

And now the battle has heated up again, this time between the chairman of the board and an Anglican bishop even as a new acting dean, one Garwood P. Anderson, takes the place of Dr. Steven A. Peay who recently stepped down.

If Nashotah House cannot appeal to future Anglo-Catholic ordinands from bishops like Menees, Jack Iker, Keith Ackerman, William Wantland and Juan Alberto Morales, then who will it appeal to? What future does Nashotah House have?


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