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Sexuality Issues in ECUSA and The Church of England

"All communication has a moral dimension. People grow or diminish in moral stature by the words which they speak and the messages which they choose to hear." Pope John Paul II

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It is now becoming apparent that the Church of England and the Episcopal Church USA are working off the same page with regard to sexuality issues. It is no longer a matter of will the C of E hold the line for the greater good of the Anglican Communion, or even that it believes that Scripture has spoken finally and definitively on human sexuality, but rather how can we live in a culturally diverse society and say dogmatically and with clarity that there is only one form of sexual expression - namely a man and a woman united in marriage.

The latest buzzwords from Lambeth Palace are "interpretive charity", with such lines as the "debate about the interpretation of biblical texts has to be understood in the wider context of the societal shifts that have caused attitudes towards sexuality and sexual behavior to change in the modern era."

Dr Rowan Williams has attacked both sides in the fight over gay clergy in the Anglican Church, accusing them of letting their differences of opinions detract from the Church's faith and of distorting the Bible.

In a speech to the opening session of the commission looking into sexual diversity and the Church, Williams reminded members that the debate over whether actively gay clergy cannot be reduced to a simple "biblical faithfulness versus fashionable relativism .

If that is really what Rowan Williams believes, not just Richard Harries Bishop of Oxford or Robin Eames, Primate of Ireland, then schism is almost inevitable for the Anglican Communion.

The vast majority of the Anglican Communion, but mainly the Global South with pockets of resistance in Europe, North America and Australasia are totally committed to a Biblical worldview on matters sexual and they are not going to compromise for a handful of Western post-modernists like Frank Griswold, some 62 revisionists ECUSA bishops and, it would seem, Dr. Williams himself. The point is they do believe in "biblical faithfulness" and that is precisely why they will not stand idly by and watch the Communion go down this cul-de-sac. Pansexuality has produced moral outrage not only from the Anglican Communion's orthodox but also from the Islamic community and it is hurting evangelism in Africa and other parts of the globe where Islam is strong.

(Dr. Williams has not repudiated The Body's Grace, a lecture affirming homosexuality which has been republished and redistributed since it was first given several years ago.)

The Global South bishops - mainly the CAPA bishops of Africa - are eerily quiet these days, one wonders what they are thinking, plotting and planning. They meet, so Virtuosity has learned, they talk and while no press releases are being issued, it probably doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out that they too are working on a strategy that will not please the deep thinkers at Lambeth Palace. (Furthermore Nigerian primate Peter Akinola is not presently seeing the press and not returning calls from international journalists.)

Several things point in the direction that African Archbishops may well be plotting a different course. The first is there willingness to separate themselves from the North American Episcopal Church AND its money, secondly they are now willing to make forays into the US Episcopal Church (and Canada) and take parishes under their ecclesiastical protection, and thirdly they are willing to publicly condemn and separate themselves from ecclesiastical acts like Robinson's consecration knowing the financial consequences could affect their own mission outreach.

But they are doing it and their actions speak volumes. They are saying with increasing clarity and stridency that either the West (or North as it is better understood) had better shape up and get back into biblical line on sexuality or there will be a tectonic shifting of the ecclesiastical plates that will be irreversible. The Anglicanquake, when it comes will be brutal and possibly fatal, affecting the whole Communion. That we are inching in that direction is undeniable.

A SIGN OF THE MORAL SCHIZOPHRENIA in The Episcopal Church erupted in the DIOCESE OF TEXAS this past week. Bishop Don Wimberly came under fire from biblically orthodox parish priests at his diocesan convention, giving further proof that if you say you stand for one truth (the bishop opposed same-sex rites and Robinson's consecration) but would not allow four orthodox resolutions concerning sexual intimacy and doctrine to be aired on the convention floor because it was deemed "too divisive, hurtful and distracting from the mission of the church", then you set yourself up for disappointment and failure.

One orthodox parish priest walked out and you can read that story in today's digest. But the bottom line is this. There has never been a single instance where a bishop has compromised on sexuality issues that the pansexualists and theological revisionists in that parish have not ultimately won and taken over the reins of power in that diocese. None. Sooner or later the Diocese of Texas will go the way of all flesh. It is a given. And the second truth is this. Once that compromise has been made, a bishop is forced to used ecclesiastical power to keep the diocese together and in line. Mission will, in time, die, the orthodox will grow more restless, money will be withheld and Wimberly will spend the rest of his days running around putting out fires, hoping against hope that no parish (especially the wealthy) don't pull up stakes and join the AMIA or come under an African or Southern Cone Primate. He has created his own endless loop video nightmare. Compromise never works. Never.

AND RATCHETING UP THE PAIN ON THE ECUSA this week, a 13th Anglican Primate has added his name in support of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes. The Archbishop of the Indian Ocean, the Most Rev Remi Rabenirina, has added his name to the list who now recognise the new Network. The others are:
1. The Most Rev. Peter Akinola - Nigeria
2. The Most Rev. Drexel Gomez - West Indies
3. The Most Rev. Greg Venables - Southern Cone
4. The Most Rev. Joseph Marona - Sudan
5. The Most Rev. Benjamin Nzimbi - Kenya
6. The Most Rev. Henry Orombi - Uganda
7. The Most Rev. Fidele Dirokpa - Congo
8. The Most Rev. Donald Mtetemela - Tanzania
9. The Most Rev. Bernard Malango - Central Africa
10. The Most Rev. K.J. Samuel - South India
11. The Most Rev. Alexander Malik - Pakistan
12. The Most Rev. Yong Ping Chung - South East Asia
13. The Most Rev. Ignacio Soliba - Philippines.

This brings the number of Anglicans out of communion with the Episcopal Church to nearly 50 million!

AND IN IRELAND the Irish bishops have issued an open letter on human sexuality. They are offering to arrange meetings and receive written submissions on human sexuality issues. In the event of the bishops being unable to accommodate every request for a meeting, they intend nonetheless to hear a broad range of opinions and experiences. Listening is the key word here. But "listening" in liberallingo means accommodating sodomy, or trying to find a middle way, or third orifice perhaps, to appease all sides in the debate. It won't work of course, but you can be sure that Archbishop Robin Eames will exercise his bounteous charm to find a way forward. On the subject of the Eames Commission set up by Dr. Williams, it seems the commission will miss its first deadline. Why are we not surprised. This commission is a minefield waiting to be walked over.

AT LAMBETH members of Forward in Faith met with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Nothing earth-shattering came from their meeting except a foto op which shows the deposed Pennsylvania priest Fr. David Moyer standing right next to Dr. Rowan Williams. A picture is certainly worth a thousand words. New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson can't get a license to preach in the CofE.

AND IN ECUSA THE BEAT GOES ON. The Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida has filed suit to keep the Episcopal Church of the New Covenant from leaving the denomination and taking its property with it over the confirmation of an openly gay man as a bishop. "Our vestry does not feel at this point that we can remain underneath the authority of an organization that we feel has departed from the historical Christian faith and order," said Scott Culp, secretary to the church's governing board.

And again the pain is precisely because the Bishop John W. Howe, who is orthodox, is feeling the backlash of last summer's General Convention decisions. So an openly orthodox parish in an orthodox diocese has a lawsuit dumped it by an orthodox bishop because a bunch of revisionists in other dioceses want to change the church's teaching with sexual innovations that would have the Apostle Paul and Church Fathers rolling over in their graves. The pain has only just begun.

AND IN THE DIOCESE OF CONNECTICUT, Bishop Seabury Church in Groton, Ct. by resolution at their annual parish Meeting, Sunday January 25, 2004 voted in total unity (250+) to request Alternative Episcopal Oversight. The letter was forwarded to Bishop Andrew D. Smith, Diocesan, who at a meeting on January 29th refused the request.

And the DIOCESE OF CENTRAL NEW YORK is being extremely tight-lipped about their finances a parish priest wrote Virtuosity. "We were told at diocesan convention that any budgetary shortfall would be made up by trust fund monies."

And the Rev. Michael Fry writes from Fresno, Ca, that the DIOCESE OF SAN JOAQUIN is also withholding funds. "At our 2003 Convention held in October, the Diocese redirected all of the funds earmarked in the proposed 2004 budget for 815 to African missions. The only money in the budget for participation in the larger ECUSA community were funds for delegates to attend future Provincial and National Conventions as well as the General Convention Assessment. The 21% National Church asking got a response of 0%."

SEMINARY CENSORSHIP. A Virtuosity reader writes to say that the BISHOP OF LEXINGTON, Ted Gulick will not permit hiring priests who graduate from Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry which was, she writes, the final blow with the Versailles congregation that departed ECUSA. The good news is that the new congregation met in a home "packed with people the Sunday after they lost their church and she had never seen a more joyful, Spirit filled worship service anywhere! "The light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it."

"Our rector is walking in the Spirit like no one I have ever seen. He has been 'beaten up and bruised' time and time again by a small group of very angry revisionists in our parish who would like to bring him down. They have been on the warpath ever since he stood up and gave a wonderful talk to the whole parish in early September clearly laying out why he could not accept the Minneapolis decisions and why they happened. They circulate hate emails, they tell the community that we are all a bunch of "right wing homophobic fundamentalists". The really sad thing is that other revisionist clergy in the diocese are buying into their ugly tactics of attack. This is a new low as far as clergy behavior goes. This is a wild ride, with much pain."

So much for the wonderful doctrine of inclusion so ballyhooed by revisionists.

BUT THE ORTHODOX ARE FIGHTING BACK. A Convocation is being held Feb 21 for all concerned Episcopalians in New England who support a biblical view of marriage and sexuality: The first meeting of the New England Convocation of the recently formed Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes will take place on February 21st from 9am to 5pm at St. Thomas Episcopal Church 111 High Street Taunton, Massachusetts 02780.

Out in the DIOCESE OF OKLAHOMA, the Oklahoma Anglican Council has been formed. This is a laity-driven, grass roots organization seeking to preserve an orthodox Anglican presence within that diocese. The Council is willing to share its experience with those outside of Oklahoma who want to establish a similar council and who wish to benefit from the experience of this Chapter. The Oklahoma Anglican Council disagrees with the actions of the 74th General Convention of ECUSA and intends to preserve the remnant of orthodox Anglicanism within the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Oklahoma. The initial and primary task of the O.A.C. is to network, throughout the diocese, with those who identify with orthodox Anglicanism, a press release said.

AND IN PHILADELPHIA a meeting of the Anglican Fellowship of the Delaware Valley (www.anglicanfellowship.com) met at St James the Less, a parish under siege by Bishop Bennison. A steering committee has been set up and representatives of 6 groups (ACC, ACA, PCK, DHC, FiF/NA & AMiA) are working together. The hope is to get traditionalist Bishop John Broadhurst (FIFUK) to come and address the upcoming Festival of Faith, with the assistance of Fr. Michael Heidt an orthodox priest from the Diocese of Washington. There are also rumblings that orthodox clergy within the DIOCESE OF PENNSYLVANIA might band together to fight the revisionist Bennison.

AND IN CANADA, the organization ESSENTIALS is holding a cross-country 2-hour television program on February 28 to discuss what is happening in the Anglican Church of Canada. Canadian Bishops Tony Burton and Lorna Dueck will introduce panelists to discuss the crisis in that province. The conference will be "beamed down" to local venues across the country.

MONEY LOSSES CONTINUE IN ECUSA. The Episcopal Church is being financially hit hard but the folks at 815 insist it is the economy stupid not the decisions to promote sodomy and approve Robinson's consecration that is the problem. IS this more spin? There is some truth in that argument, but not much. Some wealthy parishes are not only not feeling the pain they are ploughing millions into new church plants and fixing up their own parishes.

Predictions of dire fiscal consequences as a result of protests against the consecration of an openly gay priest as Bishop of New Hampshire have so far failed to materialize, according to the Episcopal Church's treasurer, Kurt Barnes.

Barnes told the Executive Council at its meeting in Tampa, Florida February 9-12 that total income from diocesan apportionment is expected to be down by 6.8 percent, a decline which he characterized as "not material." Diocesan commitments make up 61 percent of the church's anticipated revenue for 2004.

But the fact is that churches from one end of the country to the other are either running deficits or cutting back on the money they send to New York suggesting that something other than a "bad economy" is at work here.

Here is the list so far:

SOUTHERN VIRGINIA is in the red. The diocese ended its 2003 fiscal year with a $177,000 revenue shortfall, caused at least partly by parishes that withheld contributions as a way of protesting Robinson s ordination.

SOUTHWESTERN VIRGINIA diocesan annual council, meeting at the Hotel Roanoke was presented a budget almost 9 percent smaller than last year. The $976,000 spending plan represents reductions or stagnation in all but three of the diocese's 28 expense categories. "Deep cuts had to be made," said finance committee chairman Bud Hooss.

DIOCESE OF MISSISSIPPI will cut its donations to the national church by 6 percent because of financial difficulties. Its budget had to be cut by $640,000 this year, can be attributed to the anger of members who oppose gay clergy and same-sex unions.

DIOCESE OF VIRGINIA took a $900,000 hit caused by the decision of some conservative parishes to withhold their annual contributions.

DIOCESE OF ALABAMA. Bishop Henry N. Parsley said the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama expects a $260,000 shortfall in its 2004 budget as churches reduce contributions because of dissatisfaction with the denomination's approving its first openly gay bishop.

And the DIOCESE OF WEST TEXAS will keep its money home. With emotions running high among parishioners, the San Antonio-based Episcopal Diocese of West Texas will begin considering today whether to cut off funds to the national church because of its approval of an openly gay bishop last year.

But a report from the Episcopal News Service states that less than half of ECUSA dioceses will meet or exceed their pledges. Barnes told the council that of 84 dioceses that have so far made commitments, 40 pledged or exceeded the 21 percent of diocesan budget sought according to the formula established by General Convention. While half will either just miss it or won't even come close. Another 42 dioceses, some of which historically have given less than 21 percent, indicated they would give between 3 and 20 percent. Pittsburgh and Dallas have cut New York off entirely.

But all this, is "not material" says deputy director Jan Nunley. "With 9 million unemployed Americans, 4.7 million who have given up looking for work altogether and 80,000 unemployed who exhaust their benefits every week, I have a question: How many of those folks are Episcopalians?" No one knows of course, but as Episcopalians are generally among the richest groups in the US it is unlikely that that is a contributing factor.

And in the DIOCESE OF PENNSYLVANIA, an historic parish in downtown Philadelphia, St. Stephen's is selling off its treasures to pay the bills. To be auctioned off is a 1902 marble sculpture by Augustus Saint Gaudens, Angel of Purity. Other artistic pieces up for sale are Tiffany windows and furnishings, innumerable artworks that have graced its interior since 1822. Once monied Episcopalians are not in love with revisionist thinking. Some 15 Episcopal parishes are in financial trouble in Philadelphia and Bishop Bennison has no gospel to lift them out of their inevitable slide.

ONE SHREWD OBSERVER asked is Pittsburgh Bishop Bob Duncan in agreement with Virginia Bishop Peter James Lee that Heresy is better than Schism? They are both coming to the same conclusion - i.e. "we're not leaving the church". Interesting.

A story floating around the Internet that TRINITY EPISCOPAL SCHOOL FOR MINISTRY, a conservative seminary situated within the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, might change its name, is not true, writes Dr. Peter Moore, TESM's president. "There is nothing new. We discussed the possible name change (dropping the Episcopal); but the Board decided that this was not the time to do it. The new Network is claiming, rightly I think, to be the true Episcopal Church in the USA. So, we'll use the word Episcopal bearing this in mind. Most of the other Episcopal seminaries don't have the word Episcopal in their name. We do, and still will."

IN WHAT MUST TRULY BE A SIGN OF THE THEOLOGICAL TIMES, only half of America's ministers hold to a biblical worldview, but even many who do aren't imparting it to their congregations. According to a new study by the Barna Research Group, 49 percent of Protestant pastors reject core biblical beliefs. You can read that story today. The collapse of theological literacy and the rise of out-and-out unbelief among Americans who consider themselves to be "born again Christians" is on the rise.

A NEW POLL SHOWS A MAJORITY OF AMERICANS do not want state laws that would make same-sex marriage legal. The survey was taken after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court said last Wednesday in an advisory opinion same-sex couples are entitled to marriage and not an alternative, such as Vermont-style civil unions. Only full and equal marriage rights will fulfill its November ruling, four of the seven judges said, paving the way for the nation's first "gay" weddings in mid-May.

VIRTUOSITY'S WEBSITE. The new website has now been up for six weeks. We have in excess of 300 stories in the database and that number is growing on a daily basis. If the news that you are looking for does not show up on the front page, use the search facility to locate the information you are looking for. We are fast approaching the one millionth "hit" at the website.

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All blessings,

David W. Virtue DD

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