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A Pastoral Letter from Bishop Johnson

A Pastoral Letter from Bishop Johnson

January 15, 2004

Dear fellow Episcopalians in West Tennessee,

As the Bishop of The Diocese of West Tennessee, it is my privilege to
serve beside you in witness to Christ. In this particular circumstance, I
do so now as one who must uphold the doctrine, discipline and worship of
the Church I have sworn to defend.

No matter what one's opinions are about the more controversial decisions
reached at our last General Convention, one has to admit that they were
done publicly and above board. Using the long established means to reach
decisions as a Church gathered in Convention, the outcome and resulting
actions were literally done before the eyes of the world.

Loyal opposition and honest dissent to such actions are legitimate and
should be honored by all. I have been careful to do so. However,
deceitfulness and subversive sabotage justified in the name of serving
Christ cannot be overlooked. To this point, I direct your attention to an
article in the January 14, 2004 issue of The Commercial Appeal outlining
publicly the American Anglican Council's "confidential" game plan for the
destruction of The Episcopal Church U.S.A. by becoming a "replacement"
jurisdiction, even if it means "disobedience of canon law on a widespread
basis" as deemed "necessary." At this time I have in my possession the
full text of the "confidential" letter cited in the article. In as much
as what has been done in darkness has now been brought into the light, I
urge you to read for yourself this document that lays out the American
Anglican Council's plan of destruction.

I do not endorse, nor will I have this diocese in any way associated with
this effort, and I will use all the power of my office to see to it that
our clergy and congregations will not be in any formal membership
arrangement with this or any other such group seeking to destroy the
Episcopal Church. To this end, I am taking the following initial steps:
First, I am posting in its entirety on our diocesan web page
(www.episwtn.org) the letter from the American Anglican Council's
representative, the Rev. Geoffrey W. Chapman, who writes "on behalf of
the American Anglican Council and their Bishop's Committee on Adequate
Episcopal Oversight." It is their response letter to Episcopal
congregations across the country who have requested what they describe as
"Adequate Episcopal Oversight." Specifically, this letter refers to
oversight by a bishop who has bought into the American Anglican Council's
plan to sabotage The Episcopal Church. This secret plan is very different
from AAC's public statements to the effect that it would work within The
Episcopal Church under its Constitution and Canons to bring about change
in Church policies.

Second, I have called a special meeting of the Standing Committee. I am
asking for its advice and counsel concerning what next steps need to be
taken by my office regarding our clergy and congregations formally
affiliated with the American Anglican Council and, implicitly, with its

Third, while it may be obvious from the tone of this letter, I want to go
on record in saying that I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of the
American Anglican Council. Further, I do not endorse, support or condone
their plan to methodically create anarchy in the Church.

Fourth, until the American Anglican Council made explicit what many
already thought was their real agenda, I have spoken with respect for the
bishops, members of the clergy and lay persons who have found in this
organization a place to express their honorable dissent and loyal
opposition. It is to you that I address the following:

It is my firm belief that most of you who have associated with the
American Anglican Council did so for honorable reasons with no idea that
their avowed actual goal is to destroy The Episcopal Church as it
currently exists. However, according to their own documents, they seem to
advocate whatever means necessary to "innovatively move around, beyond or
within the canons" to do so. I know that not everyone associated with the
American Anglican Council is of one mind. However, these revelations that
have just come to light may help clarify your thinking about their
agenda. As such, I hope that you will see this as an opportunity for you
and your congregation to rethink and officially disassociate with this

I ask your prayers for our Church, our Diocese and for our clergy and lay
leaders who will be asked to help me be faithful in accomplishing this
ministry for Christ's witness and love. To that end, I remain

Faithfully yours,

The Rt. Rev. Don E. Johnson
Bishop of West Tennessee

(As provided for in Title III, Canon 24, Section 5, this Pastoral Letter
is to be read at each service on either Sunday, January 18th, 25th, or
February 1st, 2004, or announced as being available, and a sufficient
number of hard copies should be provided to those requesting them.)

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