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SPRINGFIELD: Adequate Episcopal Oversight offered in Diocese of Springfield


Special Report

By David W. Virtue

EVANSVILLE, IN-In what might be the first test case of Adequate Episcopal Oversight in the Episcopal Church, a fellowship has been formed in the Diocese of Indianapolis, under the oversight of the Diocese of Springfield that is drawing parishioners from four parishes primarily in the Dioceses of Indianapolis and some from the Diocese of Kentucky.

"It is the first of its kind," said the Rev. Robert Todd Giffin, 33, an orthodox priest who will lead the 60 plus parishioners under the banner of Faithful Anglicans in the Heartland (FAITH) Inc. They are meeting at Evansville's West Side Fairfield Inn, but its future location will be the former St. Andrews Presbyterian Church on Stringtown Road. Faithful Anglicans in the Heartland confirmed it had successfully bid $150,000 on the church.

The newly formed fellowship, which has the blessing of the orthodox Bishop of Springfield, the Rt. Rev. Peter Beckwith is drawing people from liberal parishes in St. Paul's Henderson, Ky, St. Paul's Evansville, In; St. Stephen's, New Harmony, Ind. and St. John's Mt. Vernon, Ind.

The decisive issue for these Episcopalians who left their Tri-State churches was the confirmation of an openly homosexual bishop to the ECUSA episcopacy as well as the promotion of same-sex blessings by General Convention.

The two dioceses of Indianapolis and Kentucky have revisionist bishops unacceptable to this new group of parishioners who are crossing diocesan lines to attend the FAITH parish.

The Rev. Robert Todd Giffin is the new Episcopal priest for the 60 orthodox Episcopalians. They will now worship under the banner of Faithful Anglicans in the Heartland (FAITH) Inc. Giffin said he expects the number to swell to over 150 in the next few months. The new members of the group have decided to change their memberships from liberal dioceses and parishes to the Diocese of Springfield and to worship as a satellite fellowship of the adjoining, more traditional diocese.

Fr. Giffin said that one parish priest, Fr. Phil Lewis, formally of the Diocese of Albany at St. John's, Mt. Vernon in the Diocese of Indianapolis is orthodox, but the revisionist Bishop of Indianapolis, Catherine Waynick was forcing these people to look elsewhere for spiritual leadership.

The Rev. Giffin is presently in charge of two missions in eastern Illinois - St. Mary's in Robinson, Ill and St. Alban's, in Olney, both under Bishop Beckwith. "This new group is meeting on a Saturday, so it won't conflict with my other duties," he told Virtuosity. Giffin will continue his two-hour commute to his church, operating the Evansville center as a satellite of his parish.

"I am functioning with the full authority and blessing of the Bishop of Springfield, The Rt. Rev. Peter H. Beckwith. We are offering pastoral care to those in southern Indiana and the Tri-State area that feel estranged from their church since General Convention. This is a temporary provision being offered to faithful Anglicans in this region until adequate Episcopal oversight is accomplished through the Network of Communion Dioceses and Parishes," he told Virtuosity.

"Up till now diocesan boundaries were defined by state lines," now that is changing.

"We're excited to get Fr. Giffin," said John Lippert, a member of the new fellowship's steering committee.

Lippert is listed as the sole incorporator of Faithful Anglicans in the Heartland, according to the nonprofit domestic corporation application through the Indiana secretary of state.

Giffin, originally of Indianapolis and now a Newburgh resident, said he was unaware of the traditional Episcopalians until he read about them in the newspaper. "The intent was to remain who they were and what they believe and worship the way they did last year," said Giffin, whose diocese has rebuked the confirmation of openly gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson.

Members of the new fellowship - they are careful not to call themselves a church, which could bring opposition from both diocesan leaderships in Kentucky and Indianapolis - said they represent the true worldwide Anglican Communion.

"This is not a group of splintered Anglicans or a breakaway group. This is the mainstream," Giffin said. "This is not a reactionary movement or an aggressive movement. ... No one has broken away from anything."

"Not everyone in FAITH Inc. will transfer," Ward said. "These people will move, though. If they don't, they still will be welcome." He said patience will be key to the group's success. "God called the Israelites to walk in the desert a long while," Ward said. "This is hardly a challenge. There's a lot of work that needs to be done and now we can do it."

Bishop Beckwith was unavailable for comment.


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