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An exclusive interview with the Rev. Geoffrey Chapman, rector of St. Stephen's parish in Sewickley, PA. His parish has 2,000 members and is the largest in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

By David W. Virtue

VIRTUOSITY: A document that you had a hand in writing was leaked to three media this past week - the Washington Post, the Religious News Service and The Guardian. What happened?

CHAPMAN: I was leading a Special Projects team to provide Alternative Episcopal Oversight to churches at risk, as recommended by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates late last year. I came alongside the AAC to pioneer this urgent project, though I am not an AAC board member.

I had prepared a strategy paper in consultation with a group to guide churches who are seeking AEO, and in working with these churches at risk I tried to listen to two sets of voices - one was the orthodox leadership in the Anglican Communion and the other was the voice of churches who are being systematically repressed because they oppose the Robinson consecration.

VIRTUOSITY: Was it a final copy or simply a draft?

CHAPMAN: It was a 7-page draft.

VIRTUOSITY: Why was the draft prepared?

CHAPMAN: The draft was prepared for two reasons. The first was to provide encouragement and guidance to oversight churches (churches that applied for oversight) and secondly to bring that draft to the Network gathering at Plano for their consideration, adaptation and response.

VIRTUOSITY: When was this completed?

CHAPMAN: It was completed and released to oversight churches on December 28, 2003.

VIRTUOSITY: How many was it released to?

CHAPMAN: It was released to under 100.

VIRTUOSITY: To whom did it go?

CHAPMAN: It went to leaders we had been in contact with about oversight issues. Some went to rectors, others to members of the vestry.

VIRTUOSITY: When did it hit the three media?

CHAPMAN: I got a call on January 12th from Allen Cooperman of the Washington Post who would not say where he got it from. Within an hour I got a call from the Religious News Service (RNS) who also had a copy. I then got a call from the Guardian newspaper in England the next day and five other media in quick order like the Associated Press. I did not talk to the Guardian, but I did talk to the local Pittsburgh newspaper and Focus on the Family. I soon stopped responding to the calls and referred them to the AAC.

VIRTUOSITY: Did it surprise you that the document had been leaked?

CHAPMAN: Yes it was a surprise and discouraging to realize that people who had been entrusted with an important confidential strategy would put churches at risk by leaking the document.

VIRTUOSITY: It is being floated across the Internet that there was nothing essentially new in the document. Is that true?

CHAPMAN: Everything in the document had been floated at one time or another. But what was startling about the document was that it laid out a definite strategy for moving churches through the oversight/realignment process. What was also startling about the paper was that it set out a replacement jurisdiction as a possible preferred solution, if measures of international discipline failed, and a readiness, under certain extreme conditions, to engage "faithful disobedience" to canon law as a measure of last resort. Not all the orthodox agrees with these strategies. The national church takes great offense at them.

VIRTUOSITY: Do you know who leaked it?

CHAPMAN: I don’t know. My guess is it went to a circle of churches who shared it with insiders who shared it with a friend who turned out not to be a friend. I do wonder about the timing of the release and to whom it was sent. It was clearly designed to disrupt the formation of the new Network in Plano, Texas. It failed.

VIRTUOSITY: Do you think 815, the church's national headquarters might have gotten a copy and leaked it?

CHAPMAN: Because of the timing, I have wondered. But I don't know.

VIRTUOSITY: What of the memo itself?

CHAPMAN: The memo was a work in progress under discussion and not yet seen or affirmed by any of our bishops, though it implied otherwise. That implication was a mistake, premature, and I regret it. It had only provisional status within the AAC, as it was the work of a sub-committee, and had not been seen by the board. It had no status within the Network, as the Network had not yet even been formed.

VIRTUOSITY: What is your objective?

CHAPMAN: We are working to protect hundreds of orthodox churches in revisionist dioceses whose witness is being extinguished by those charged to uphold and spread the faith. With surprising and troubling frequency bishops who ironically have championed tolerance and diversity in past decades are proving decidedly intolerant of those who hold to the historic faith and the values of the bible and the Anglican Communion.

VIRTUOSITY: How serious is the problem?

CHAPMAN: Clergy are being threatened, vows of allegiance to the Episcopal Church are being exacted (even while international excommunications are rising), and canons are being misused to take over dissenting biblically orthodox churches. It is religious persecution, widespread, and it must be opposed. I am heartened to see at the end of the week that the Network is determined to work for Adequate Episcopal Oversight, as is the American Anglican council, under the guidance of the Primates and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

VIRTUOSITY: Thank you Rev. Chapman.

NOTE: If you are not receiving this from VIRTUOSITY, the Anglican Communion's largest biblically orthodox Episcopal/Anglican Online News Service, then you may subscribe FREE by going to: www.virtuosityonline.org. Virtuosity's website has been accessed by more than 700,000 readers in 45 countries on six continents. This story is copyrighted but may be forwarded electronically with reference to VIRTUOSITY and the author. No changes are permitted in the text.


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