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Numbers don't lie, ECUSA will be down 100,000 this year. Pledging also drops

"It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife. 2And you are arrogant! Should you not rather have mourned, so that he who has done this would have been removed from among you? 3For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present I have already pronounced judgment 4in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my spirit is present with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5you are to hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. 6Your boasting is not a good thing. Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7 Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. 8Therefore, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." I CORINTHIANS 5.1-8

V. Gene Robinson was installed as bishop on Sunday and today's daily office epistle was the reading from 1 Cor.5: 1-8:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Rev. Kevin Martin, executive director of Vital Church Ministries says the Episcopal Church will lose around 100,000 persons in the coming year.

And he says the Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School, Steven Charleston is talking nonsense when he says that the actions of General Convention will open the doors of the Episcopal Church to thousands of new people because it declares that we are an open and inclusive church.

"The Chancellor of the Episcopal Church (David Booth Beers) has it all wrong and is spinning the wrong numbers. I am most concerned about how all this will effect the 840,000 members who regularly attend and give around 70% of our stewardship," said Martin.

Martin said that extreme statements by one conservative leader that ECUSA could lose 50 percent of its membership over the next few years was inaccurate. But, he says, the most interesting spin and potentially most dangerous for our community comes from the Chancellor and represents the “official line” of 815. "The chancellor is assuring Episcopal leaders that we have lost people before over the issue of prayer book revision and women’s ordination, but the denomination “recovered from this and went on.”

Martin says that ECUSA has not been able to demonstrate a sustainable place in society for the past 40 years, and there is no reason to believe the present situation will do anything but accentuate the decline. Turning around is not on the horizon, he says.

"Secondly these numbers are a clear indication of ECUSA’s continuing failure. If these trends continue for just five more years, our status will be reduced to such fringe religious groups as Christian Scientists or Unitarians." (Full story in today's digest.)

His statistics coincide with an earlier report issued by the Church Pension Group and reported extensively by Virtuosity, expressing alarm that not enough young people are being attracted into the ordained ministry, and that on any given Sunday, 17.5 percent of the people in the pews are attending 3.3 percent of Episcopal churches.

That study, done by Canon Keith Brown for the CPG gave alarming statistics revealing that 50 percent of ECUSA's churches have an average Sunday attendance of one to 64 people. "For some 3,465 churches the actual Sunday attendance is 37, a startlingly low number," he reported.

Most of these are mission churches being supported by the diocese, and now that the money pool is drying up (except where the diocese has large endowments) they will be out of business in the next five years. The Concordat with the ELCA will only briefly
stem the tide in the ongoing decline.

Martin travels three weeks of every month to Episcopal churches around the country and says the crisis brought on by Robinson's consecration still hasn't fully hit home. Martin told Virtuosity that he believes the national church will stonewall parochial reports on church attendance because they don't want everyone to know how bad the situation has become.

The other truth is, and which Virtuosity documenting is that those young people presenting themselves for ministry who are doctrinally conservative in faith and morals, will not be picked up by revisionist diocesan bishops. And if they graduate from TESM and/or Nashotah House they will not be welcome in revisionist dioceses. So revisionist bishops are cutting off the head, and they wonder why the body is dying.

Bishops like Charles Bennison (PA) and Tom Shaw (Mass) will not allow Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics to come into their dioceses because they have a gospel they regard as too narrow and uninclusive.

The Episcopal Church is clearly bent on destroying itself, no outside help is necessary.

V. GENE ROBINSON WAS OFFICIALLY WELCOMED as the first openly homoerotic bishop of the Episcopal Church in New Hampshire on Sunday at St. Paul's in Concord, NH. He succeeds Douglas Theuner. The outgoing bishop uttered the words, "may the Lord stir up in you the flame of holy charity and the power of faith that overcomes the world…" Robinson will need it. Already some 50 million Anglicans and a dozen Primates are out of communion with he and Frank Griswold. He has an uphill battle. He will not succeed.

ON CBS 60 MINUTES ROBINSON tried to make his case, that he was just a normal guy and please give me a chance to prove myself. One astute observer noted that Bradley posed some tough questions--and stayed with them from beginning to end--but he avoided the religious/ecclesiastical/canonical issues that lie at the bottom of this most serious controversy.

"If intense questioning on such matters had been the goal, CBS would have had to include statements by orthodox clergy, professional theologians, and psychologists," said the viewer.

"Instead, Robinson was allowed to display his considerable personal charm, his candor in describing his affliction, and his no-nonsense businesslike approach to acceptance. There were homey scenes, hugs and kisses, pomp and circumstance, even criticism and outright objections delivered in various ways. But the overall effect was that of approval and the assurance that one day admitted homosexual clergy will be fully accepted in the Anglican Communion, if not everywhere else."

"This message of acceptance of homosexuality was delivered fully and openly, but also subliminally, through the choice and position of scenes and segments. But most of all, it was delivered by Robinson himself in league with God. There was no mention, except by one cleric who was pinch-hitting in a resistant parish church, of illegality of action, of unbelievable arrogance, and of focused self-concern on the part of Robinson."

"What I objected to most of all is a man who wields the authority to throw out his clergy, and simultaneously the people who disagree with him, on the basis of their having failed to adhere to canon law, when he himself by his selfish actions flouted Biblical and canon law from the start," said the viewer.

Another viewer noted that Pittsburgh Bishop Bob Duncan did not appear in the segment devoted to Robinson. The "lowlight" of the program was a videotape of Robinson and his daughters in a gay bar. The highlight was an interview of a priest who had been dismissed because he would not recognize Robinson. When asked about his oath, the priest replied that his first obligation was to Scripture and then to banish false doctrines.

Two churches, Church of the Redeemer in Rochester and St. Mark's in Ashland, have voted to affiliate with the new Network of conservative churches, much to Robinson's anger.

IN THE WORLD OF THE SEXUALLY PERVERSE WHICH ECUSA is embracing with open arms and legs comes this from England. The CofE is catching up to ECUSA faster than one would have thought possible. This week there was a row over sex-change weddings. The BBC reported that some Anglican priests would rather be sued than allow people who have changed their sex to marry in their churches. The Gender Recognition Bill, soon to become law, will oblige marriage registrars to give equal rights to transsexual people. A conscience clause will allow clergy to refuse to carry out such weddings.

So here is how it goes (tongue in cheek). Stage One: A homosexual couple apply for a marriage license. Stage Two: Three heterosexuals apply for a marriage license. Stage Three: Four bisexuals apply for a marriage license. Stage Four: One "transgender" applies for a marriage license. The Rev. Paula (nee Paul) Schonauer (Diocese of Oklahoma) applies for a marriage license to marry a man or woman or possibly himself. As he is now technically a woman he can, with the church's blessing, go both ways in a committed lifelong relationship. They will all "marry" using the official ECUSA Visigoth rite written by Pennsylvania Bishop Charles E. Bennison.

And if you think all this is a bit far-fetched an article in the New York Times on Sunday said that "transgender students declare themselves, colleges are pressed to consider their particular needs" ran the headline. Transgendered students are kids uncomfortable in the gender of their birth. No one is suggesting apparently that these poor kids may actually need psychiatric and spiritual help. You can rest assured that an Episcopal College chaplain can't wait to feel his/her pain and offer said student a full scholarship to study for the ministry at Episcopal Divinity School. I am never wrong about these things.

AN ASTUTE OBSERVER OF THE WORLDWIDE ANGLICAN SCENE wrote Virtuosity this. "Right now the Archbishop of Canterbury knows that if he deserts the Global South there will be no more Anglican Communion. That is why he is encouraging the orthodox "Network" in the US to follow the Constitution of the ECUSA but not its Canons, so that it can be identified and affirmed as the "real" ECUSA in communion with Canterbury after the Eames report fallout in October. He fears a great breakaway of orthodox Anglicans worldwide that will centrally locate to Nairobi or somewhere that the Romans will be more interested in for unification purposes than Canterbury could be."

In a note of historical irony, it was Henry VIII's multiple marriages that jump-started the Anglican Communion, and it will be Robinson's sexual deviancy that will sink it. At least Henry had the good sense to know what gender to pursue. "We started with bad sex and we will end it with bad sex," noted one wag. In the world of Episcopal chess one can no longer tell the difference between a queen and a bishop.

WORD ON THE STREET has it that EL CAMINO REAL Bishop Richard Schimpfky has been offered a resignation package and enough evidence to force him out of office. This saga has been ongoing for some time now, but the stars are apparently aligned enough for the wretched revisionist bishop to get the heave-ho. It won’t be the same outrageous package ($1.5 million) that Jo Mo Doss (Bishop of NJ) got; this western diocese with its present financial problems doesn't have the mullah.

AND IN WHAT COULD BE A LESSON TO THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH on Alternative Episcopal Oversight. The Rev. James A. Basinger had a meeting with the Rt. Rev. Mark L. MacDonald, Bishop of Alaska, about alternative episcopal oversight (AEO) for his congregation. Terms were worked out between Bishop MacDonald and Fr. Basinger, allowing the Rt . Rev. Terry Buckle, Bishop of the Canadian Diocese of the Yukon, but under Bishop MacDonald's direction to provide episcopal oversight to All Saints' for at least the next year. The members and rector of All Saints' will continue to participate fully in the life of the diocese.

AND THE GENERAL SYNOD OF THE ANGLICAN CHURCH OF CANADA in a special Episcopal committee formed to find a way through the same sex blessing problem has determined, in their great mercy and wisdom, to recommend alternative oversight to dissenting parishes in Canada -- at least until the heat's off. It will not be a permanent thing. I wonder if the ECUSA House of Bishops could learn from this.

AND IN A MOOD OF COMPROMISE THE BISHOP OF INDIANAPOLIS, Catherine M. Waynick issued a temporary license for Springfield priest the Rev. Robert Todd Giffin to offer pastoral care to Episcopalians within Bishop Waynick's diocese who no longer recognized her as their spiritual leader. Giffin said the 30-minute conversation was anti-climactic and after the nuances were explained, Bishop Waynick granted Fr. Giffin a license to officiate in her diocese for the next 12 months.

AND IN THE DIOCESE OF SOUTHWEST FLORIDA, the Rev. Jim Murphy has resigned as rector of the Church of the Nativity in Sarasota, FL. one of the fastest growing congregations in the Diocese and probably the fastest growing in attendance, (double-digit growth for the four out of the past 5 years). It was Murphy who wrote the recently published open letter to Bishop Lipscomb asking him not to have Frank Griswold visit the diocese and more. More on this story in the coming days.

AND IN THE DIOCESE OF THE RIO GRANDE TENSIONS HAVE LOWERED between the Bishop, Terence Kelshaw and the Via Media people and not a few orthodox laity. The Via Media are out of the picture with regard to the election of a new bishop. The committee to elect a new bishop is now in place and it is all orthodox much to the anger and chagrin of the revisionists. The Standing Committee is absolutely 100 percent for an orthodox bishop. They have designated 12 people to be on the Search Committee, Virtuosity was told. Kelshaw knows that the person to replace him will now be an orthodox bishop like unto himself. I am posting a couple of stories from that diocese in today's digest but look for more in the days to come. This story is ongoing.

THE COURTS HAVE RULED IN THE CASE OF THE DIOCESE OF SOUTH CAROLINA verses All Saints Pawleys Island. It is a very complicated ruling, but sources say the ruling is for the diocese in almost every particular and a remand because it was a summary judgment. What this means is that there will be a full trial. The trial judge had granted summary judgment to the parish without any trial. The Court of Appeals said that there had to be a trial. It is not a slam-dunk for either side…yet.

IN A PREVIOUS DIGEST reference was made to the Archbishop of Canterbury allegedly criticizing Mel Gibson's "The Passion" as being "overtly pro-Christian." This has been misinterpreted by many of you. Let me say that it was intended as satire and was so noted by the statement's full inclusion in the ICONOCLAST piece, Virtuosity ran.

TODAY'S STORIES include an expose of the Via Media organization and its spin. I have re-written the ACNS story, which said the African bishops would not discuss the crisis in the Communion. When they meet they will discuss the crisis, it will the centerpiece of their talks. There are stories from various ECUSA dioceses and from the wider Communion. I close as usual with a devotional. Ted Schroder who writes most of the devotionals is an Episcopal priest pastoring and writing on Amelia Island Plantation, Florida, where he serves a thriving independent parish. His new book "Inward Light" is a fine devotional. Evangelical guru John R. W. Stott writes, "he has a profound understanding of the human heart." If you would like to buy the book you can do so by sending a check for $24.95 plus $2.45 S & H to Amelia Island Publishing, P.O. Box 8014, Amelia Island, FL 32035. The book is refreshing my soul.

IN A STORY WRITTEN BY VETERAN EPISCOPAL WRITER AND HISTORIAN Dr. David Sumner, "The 'Lone Ranger' or Lonely Prophet" there is some interesting background. This story was first offered to Episcopal Life in January as a response to Bishop Christopher Epting's commentary, which condoned the election of Gene Robinson. Sumner wrote in his lead paragraph, "How ironic that the ecumenical officer of the Episcopal Church has written an article condoning an action that has done more to damage ecumenical relations than any other action in its history." Sumner goes on the outline specific ways in which Robinson's election has damaged ecumenical relations. The article was first accepted by Nan Cobbey, the associate editor, who wrote to Sumner saying, "This is great. I have scheduled it for the March issue." When it didn't appear in the March issue, Dr. Sumner inquired and found that someone above Cobbey had suppressed the article, apparently because "it will make too many people at 815 unhappy," according to Sumner. Jerry Hames didn't answer Dr. Sumner's e-mail about why he refused to print it. So much for an "independently edited" publication, which Episcopal Life often brags about being.

MORE GOOD NEWS FROM THE TRADITONAL ANGLICAN COMMUNION. TAC Primate and Archbishop John Hepworth told a fellow bishop, who passed it along to VIRTUOSITY, that "We have just reached the 400,000 mark and we are on our way to our first half million in 14 years in 16 countries - and that's not 'preacher's count!'"

PLEASE SUPPORT VIRTUOSITY. Without your financial support and encouragement the long hours often times doesn't seem worth it. This is a crucial and critical year in the life of the Anglican Communion and VIRTUOSITY is pulling out all the stops to keep you informed on a daily basis.

Stories are posted every few hours at the website. Go there: www.virtuosityonline.org.

AND PASS THE WORD AROUND. Invite people to read and join Virtuosity. You have nothing to lose. Nothing. There is no copyright on truth. And it comes to you free.

Please be generous and make a donation through PAYPAL at my website or send a check by snail mail to VIRTUOSITY, 1236 Waterford Rd., West Chester, PA 19380. Thank you.

All blessings,

David W. Virtue DD

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