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Special Commission Report...Laity want 35 bishops brought to trial...more

"Would you want to worship a God who would not purge The Episcopal Church?" - Rt. Rev. Dr. C. FitzSimons Allison, Bishop of South Carolina (ret.)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

A leadership panel in the Episcopal Church issued its commission study this past week on how it would respond to the Windsor Report, more particularly on how it will grapple over electing future bishops with same-sex partners.

Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold and the Rev. George Werner, president of the House of Deputies, said in a joint letter this was "theological document" focusing on how the ECUSA can still participate as members of the Anglican Communion while plowing full steam ahead with its own revisionist agenda.

VirtueOnline looked at the 11 proposals of the Special Commission Report and concluded that is was a carefully nuanced fudge that when examined closely, offers nothing about returning to the 'faith once delivered to the saints' and therefore poses no threat to the ongoing revisionism of the Episcopal Church. It also offers nothing to orthodox Episcopalians who had hoped that some relief or reprieve might be possible in this the church's 11th hour.

The report offered "caution" but no moratorium on sexually immoral ordinations and consecrations. Apologies and repentance were so nuanced as to not be credible, in the estimation of this writer. General Convention, which can revise or reject the proposals, but the outcome of the debate will forever shape not only the future of the American church, but also its role as the U.S. representative of world Anglicanism. It may well be time for the formal introduction of a new orthodox American Episcopal Church.

The Special Commission included 11 resolutions that will be debated by the 75th General Convention at its meeting June 13-21 in Columbus, Ohio and the 14 folk who worked on them were either out and out liberals or openly revisionist. You can read my full analysis of these resolutions in today's digest or click here: http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/modules/news/article.php?storyid=3866

You can also read what one orthodox ECUSA theologian the Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner, has to say in reaction to these proposals. He sees two possible outcomes to the crisis. "One is that the Episcopal Church will have to be disciplined in some way - their bishops will not be invited to the Lambeth Conference in 2008, and there are some legal implications of that which are unclear," he said. "This would cause chaos in the American church." The other possibility? That the worldwide church would accept the American response.

The "moment of truth" is fast approaching for the ECUSA, and this summer in Columbus, American Anglicanism will face a moment as theologically significant as Nicaea or Chalcedon. This convention will decide whether it will walk permanently apart from the rest of the Anglican Communion with censure from Dr. Rowan Williams that will leave the American Episcopal Church high and dry at Lambeth 2008.

If you read the leftist British broad sheets like the Guardian newspaper you might get the impression that this is a war between "fundamentalist" Global South Primates led by Nigerian Primate Peter Akinola and sexually "advanced" bishops and leaders of the Western Church like Frank Griswold.

Nothing could be further from the truth. This is a struggle about the authority of Holy Scripture, our understanding of the orders of creation, who God is, and the definition of sin, a word now largely associated in the Episcopal Church with racism and homophobia.

This is not a North South or East West struggle, it is a struggle about how truth is to be understood in a post-modern context; it is about absolute truth versus pluriform truths, and it is a struggle that will see a Christian world capable of facing an increasingly militant Islamism or being defeated by it.

One can only imagine what Martin Luther, who struggled over how we are made right with God, would assess global Christianity today arguing, as it is doing, over pansexual behavior. One imagines his wrath would be unstoppable.

On May 6, the Diocese of California is scheduled to elect a new bishop and three of the seven candidates for the post have same-sex partners. While the winner of that election cannot be consecrated without approval from the General Convention, which has a long history of deferring to dioceses' choice of leader, Griswold said it would create "definite difficulty" between the denomination and Anglicans if the California Diocese elects an openly gay bishop. This will be a lightning rod time for the ECUSA, and one can't imagine Dr. Williams not taking a firm stand if the ECUSA continues in open disobedience to the findings of the Windsor Report.

Things will shake out by the end of the summer.

IN A SIGN that all is really not well among liberals, revisionists and pansexualists, House of Deputies president Dean George Werner has written a "Dear colleagues in ministry letter" appealing to owners of the House of Bishops/Deputies list to pull the plug and close it down because of all the invective, personal attacks and more that goes on there. At a Province 3 meeting recently Werner strongly appealed to the assembled deputies to seek the kind of Christian community needed for us to remain united as we wrestle with the difficult issues facing GC2006.

The funny thing here is that the HOB/D is NOT an official ECUSA list and is not funded by 815, the national church. It is basically an ad hoc group of one or two bishops (mainly Walter Righter) and a lot of liberal pro-gay Deputies who scream, whine and yell at each other, (and at the occasional orthodox person who dares to rear their head,) when they feel even the teensiest bit of criticism about sodomy and liberal theology. The attacks are positively fearsome. Werner, who is basically a lackey of Frank Griswold and is not very bright, is clearly under pressure to turn off the spigot and present, at least on the surface, a state of pseudo calm before the bombs go off at GC2006. VOL receives the HOB/D daily. The liberals were deeply offended by his request, briefly shattering their notions of diversity. VOL will keep you posted as more news becomes available.

Following in the same vein, the latest issue of The Living Church has an editorial titled "Blood Sport" which noted that "a widely read website publishes personal attacks on bishops nearly every day." Assuming for a moment that it is VOL, then these so-called "attacks" are perfectly legitimate when you think what bishops like John Howard, Charles Bennison, "Skip" Adams, Drew Smith, J. Jon Bruno and a whole lot more revisionist bishops are doing almost daily to orthodox Episcopalians! The truth is VOL attacks because they (revisionist bishops) attack faithful orthodox priests! What TLC call "attacks" are revealing the truth-something The Living Church wants to hide or gloss over.

Perhaps we need to remind ourselves that there is a battle going on for the very soul of the Episcopal Church, with many orthodox folk feeling it has been lost and what many orthodox are searching desperately for now is a new spiritual home. Just ask Fr. David Ousley who lost his church after 22 years to Bennison in the Diocese of Pennsylvania, or the dozen or so priests in the Diocese of Florida. VOL will not let up. Not now, not ever. If it wasn't for VOL no one would know these things are going on. No one. And these bishops would get away with their behavior with only a handful knowing about their wretched behavior because their own diocesan publications would never tell them.

IN THE LATEST ROUND from galvanized orthodox laity upset with the consecration of V. Gene Robinson have launched a national petition to bring to church trial 35 bishops involved in the installation of a practicing homosexual bishop in New Hampshire, including both Robinson and the Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold. Its purpose is to determine, in formal trials, the standing of church law, doctrine and practice, said Jim Ince, project coordinator.

"We believe it is long overdue that the traditional bishop of the church pull themselves together and take serious action against the errant ones who consecrated Robinson and Robinson himself. We believe they have violated their ordinations and consecration vows. We need to formalize the gravity of their actions and bring our church judicial system into line with the Anglican Communion."

The bishops were asked in a letter last week from Lay Episcopalians for the Anglican Communion (LEAC), petition sponsor, to announce by April 28 their response to the group's request that they recant, repent, resign or retire. Copies of the letter were subsequently mailed to 40 bishops who opposed Bishop V. Gene Robinson's approval. The petitions will be presented to the opposing bishops, encouraging a prompt start in the church's "presentment" (indictment) procedures. Some 58 bishops, representing 27 percent said they would reverse their vote to consecrate Robinson if a vote were being held now.

Bishop Robinson's has led to disarray among American Episcopalians and disrupted their affiliation with the worldwide Anglican Communion.

LATEST ECUSA FIGURES in the Episcopal Church reveal that of the 16,523 clergy nationwide, there are now 4,051 women. This includes deacons, priests and bishops. Of the 292 bishops, 12 are women. Now if women's ordination should ever become a lightning rod issue with the Global South, then this would certainly be another strong reason why the ECUSA should be excluded from future Lambeth gatherings. One dare not ask or think what would happen if Nevada Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori should become the next Presiding Bishop. Would the majority of Primates even be seen with her?

In the DIOCESE OF PENNSYLVANIA, Fr. Vivian Smart, the black priest of St. Mary's in the town of Chester, near Philadelphia died of a brain aneurism last week but not before his wife the Rev. Lula Grace Smart gave a piece of her mind to Bishop Charles Bennison when he came to visit her dying husband in hospital. She threw the SOB out of her husband's hospital ward telling the visiting bishop that "the last thing he needs to hear is your voice and you are the reason he is here." Bennison is trying to cut costs by merging St. Mary's and retiring the priest of the predominantly black congregation. The stress of being told he was out of a job just a few short years before retirement was more than he could take.

The funeral was conducted by the evangelical/charismatic Fr. Greg Brewer of the Church of the Good Samaritan in Paoli, Pa. in a large tent on the grounds of St. Mary's to cope with the overflow crowd who came. Two bishops turned up. One was Alan Bartlett the former Bishop of PA, and the other was Frank Turner the former (black) suffragan of the diocese. Apparently Bartlett told Bennison not to come. He was a no show.

The Rev. "Mother" Lula Grace Smart, rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in Germantown, PA believes that the stress on her husband by Bennison caused the brain aneurism. The death of this godly priest paves the way for Bennison to work his will and wreck further havoc on the diocese. The diocese is urgently awaiting a report on how millions of dollars from its Unrestricted Trusts Funds have been spent, the outcome of which could see Bennison getting the boot.

FROM THE CRASS to the absurd, the homoerotic Bishop of New Hampshire V. Gene Robinson, (still recovering from alcoholism) has written his biography with the presumptive title, "Going to Heaven: The Life and Election of Bishop Gene Robinson." Before the book has even hit the shelves, it is being flogged at a 30% discount. The book is being touted as "one man's journey into his own "otherness" and the emergence of a ministry that speaks to countless people who believe in a Gospel of love and inclusion." It is being published by somebody called Soft Skull Press...this is beyond parody. Hold your check books, you'll be able to buy this book on E-Bay six months from now for 50 cents.

From the DIOCESE OF CENTRAL NEW YORK comes word that one of two cardinal parishes in Binghamton, NY is closing down. A letter from the Wardens and Rector of Trinity Memorial Church dated April 10, says: "As was announced at the worship service on March 26, we have received a letter from the Senior Warden and Vestry of Christ Church inviting Trinity to enter into dialogue with Christ Church about consolidating both churches..." A source told VOL that this is the oldest church in Binghamton and its closing is a sign of the liberal times and theology the ECUSA is in, in this part of the country. Ironically an orthodox Anglo-Catholic parish, Church of the Good Shepherd on the Southside of Binghamton continues to flourish.

ON THE PLUS SIDE of the Episcopal Church ledger, The Anglican Communion Network announced the rollout, effective April 1, of its Qualified Retirement Plan for clergy. ACN-related clergy who are not in or otherwise eligible for the Church Pension Fund of the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) are invited to enroll.

The Plan Provider selected by the Network is American Funds, highly regarded in the investment community with more than 70 years of investment experience. The Plan is a defined contribution plan and provides for annual contributions by employers of up to 20% of compensation. Covered clergy have the option to contribute additionally to the plan in accordance with federal regulations.

Contributions are vested when made, and the benefits, which are transportable, can also be augmented by rolling over into the Plan other portable retirement accounts. The plan was launched on April 1, but arrangements can be made to apply the plan retroactively to January 1, 2006.

Application forms for parishes, clergy and other organizations to join the Network are available online at www.acn-us.org/join. Applications to enroll in the Clergy Retirement Plan can be obtained by contacting Lisa Waldron, ACN Director of Accounting, at lwaldron@acn-us.org or by calling 412-325-8900 x102.

In addition, the Network anticipates announcing a retirement plan for lay employees, property and casualty insurance programs for parishes and organizations, and a group health insurance program before the end of the year. In connection with these efforts, the Network is gathering input from its members to help with the development of a health care benefits plan. Network affiliates and partners are invited to download a health insurance survey form at www.acn-us.org. Completed surveys can be faxed to 412-325-8902 or mailed to 535 Smithfield Street, Suite 910, Pittsburgh, PA 15222.

"We are excited that we are now able to offer the retirement plan for eligible clergy," said Wicks Stephens, ACN Chancellor. "We hope by year's end to be able to offer a whole range of benefit options for our Network constituencies, both clergy and lay."

This financial step is clearly a further major distancing of orthodox Episcopalians from the national Episcopal Church. Money is a true barometer of much that goes in ECUSA, and with this announcement, orthodox priests who have left or who are thinking of leaving ECUSA now have a new financial cushion. My sources tell me that the ECUSA hierarchy is chafing at the bit over this new development. Offering this kind of security to fleeing priests and, in time, laity, creates a new level of anger and angst among ECUSA's deep thinkers. They want to believe that the inviolability of the Dennis Canon means they can hold orthodox parish priests as hostages. Not any more, those days are done. This news is especially welcome in the Diocese of Florida which has seen a flurry of departures and will see yet more after GC2006.

CONFIRM NOT CONFORM, a Youth Confirmation Program for the Episcopal Church is being tested this fall by Every Voice Network, a theologically liberal, "inclusive" (but not of the orthodox) and very pro-gay organization for young people exploring confirmation. The CnC (Confirm not Conform) says it is a rigorous nine-month program using Anglican traditions of exploration, debate and liturgy to help young people develop their own spirituality and theology.

Among the possible features of the curriculum is for the youth to build their own sacred space, select a favorite heretic and write a personal gospel and a group creed.

One wonders if the EVN folks have read the Apostle Paul lately. Writing in the 12th chapter of Romans, Paul says "do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Apparently the Every Voice Network folk haven't caught up to the past. Writing one's own creed when we have perfectly good creeds in Nicea and the Apostles gives one pause as to whether you would want your kids involved in this "curriculum."

IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND parishes are being urged to let Muslims share their faith in churches. In this latest politically correct silliness, bishops in the Cof E say churches should invite Muslims to share their faith with congregations in a bid to foster a better understanding of Islam. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, led the Church's call for the situation to be turned from one of "embarrassment, disturbance, and even outrage into positive action, positive hope, which will break the stereotypes and lay serious and lasting foundations for understanding and peace."

That's a bit like the Pope asking a bunch of Mafia dons to join him for Mass and a blessing at St. Peter's, but respectfully requesting that the wise guys leave their machine guns at the door. The Mullahs and their legions of men looking to cohabit with 72 virgins in the afterlife, should be asked not to carry concealed weapons or made-to-measure bombs on these illustrious ecumenical visits.

A RECENT SURVEY by the Bible Society in England revealed that less than a quarter of Christians in the United Kingdom possess enough knowledge of the Bible to be able to place key events in the order they appear. The Christian evangelical organization carried out a survey of regular churchgoers, which revealed that 76 percent of people were unable to put a series of ten popular Bible stories in the order that they appear in the Bible. Events used in the survey included Noah's Ark, Solomon's building of the Temple, and Jesus feeding the five thousand, among other similar incidents.

NASSAU AND THE BAHAMAS has a new archbishop to replace retiring Archbishop Drexel Gomez. He is Fr. Laish Boyd and he was confirmed by unanimous confirmation from their House of Bishops. He will assume the title of Bishop Coadjutor-Elect of the Diocese of The Turks and Caicos Islands. The rector of the Holy Cross Anglican Church emerged as the archbishop's successor 23 after an intensive round of voting at the Holy Trinity Activity Centre. The archbishop, who attended a meeting of the House of Bishops in Barbados on March 21, said that the bishops agreed to hold the ordination and consecration of Father Boyd at 10am on June 29 at Christ Church Cathedral. Archbishop Gomez said that Father Boyd will assume administrative duties on a part time basis first before assuming full term duties towards the end of this year.

ON IMMIGRATION, a VOL reader noted that if illegal immigration were to be eliminated, the Roman Catholic Church would no longer show growth. "It's rather like ECUSA's growth in the Dioceses of Texas. Where the population is growing, the church is as well. There are of course exceptions, namely where there are dynamic Christ centered congregations.

IN THE PROVINCE OF KENYA The Rt. Revd William Waqo, Provincial Secretary of the Anglican Church of Kenya and Personal Assistant to Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi, died in a plane crash recently while on a peace mission to the north-eastern part of the country. He was also an Assistant Bishop of Kirinyaga Diocese. Bishop Waqo was in the company of the area's Members of Parliament and Government officials who were on their way to Marsabit for peace talks aimed at ending livestock rustling and inter-clan fighting that has hit the area in the recent past. The military plane carrying the delegation crashed into a hillside and broke into two before bursting into flames. Among the dead were six MPs. "This is a great loss not only to the Anglican Church of Kenya but to CAPA and the entire Anglican Communion, which he served," said Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi. Bishop Waqo has been helping the CAPA Secretariat administratively in the absence of a General Secretary and described Waqo as a true Christian and a dedicated servant of God. He leaves behind a widow, Naomi a priest and four children, the youngest who is three weeks old.

From the DIOCESE OF RECIFE comes excellent news that the Bishop of Recife, the Rt. Rev. Robinson Cavilcanti has been invited by the President of the Republic of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, to participate, on April 17th, at the Presidential Palace in the Capital city of Brasilia, Federal District, to a meeting with the national evangelical leadership about the National Network of Social Protection. Bishop Robinson said that he feels honored with the invitation as Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Recife. The ultra-liberal Primate of that Province was not invited. The Diocese of Recife is now under Southern Cone Primate the Most Rev. Gregory Venables.

In today's digest you can read a critique of the 'Gospel of Judas' by our eminent Episcopal historian and theologian, the Rt. Rev. C. FitzSimons Allison. "Its claim that Judas was the favorite disciple and was instructed by Jesus to betray him has provided the media with extraordinary attention that needs to be put into context," he writes. The "Gospel of Judas" was known to have existed for some time since it was mentioned by Bishop Irenaeus (120-200 CE) but now is part of the Nag Hammadi discoveries of 1945-46. The recent publication of its careful reconstruction and translation has given it considerable notoriety. Read the full story in today's digest.

It is Holy Week and VIRTUEONLINE wishes its readers in all 45 countries of the world a very blessed Easter:

Christ has died
Christ is risen
Christ will come again.

All Blessings,

David W. Virtue DD

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