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The tragic betrayal of Central Florida Bishop Greg Brewer

The tragic betrayal of Central Florida Bishop Greg Brewer

By David W. Virtue, DD
July 12, 2018

We were friends for more than a decade when he was rector of the largest orthodox parish in the Diocese of Pennsylvania – The Church of the Good Samaritan in Paoli, Pa – the flagship evangelical and charismatic church that defied the odds, and in the course of history upsetting two ultra-liberal bishops, Allen Bartlett and Charles Bennison.

But the charismatic Greg Brewer deftly navigated around these two men over the course of his rectorship, scoring well with evangelicals around the country, defying the odds of surviving with a bishop like Charles Bennison, whose heresies included a statement that Jesus was a sinner who forgave himself among other heretical statements that saw him dissing the atonement, rejecting the bodily resurrection of Jesus and much more. Bennison was the worst of the worst, bested only by the heresies of John Shelby Spong, Bishop of Newark. Both men were cut from the same cloth. Bennison barely survived being thrown out of the Episcopal Church, but kept his throne owing to a statute of limitations.

In 2008, Brewer and I both attended GAFCON One, where Greg ran the music program and gained serious creds with GAFCON leaders for his musical talents. GAFCON had come about when moral compromise, doctrinal error and the collapse of biblical witness in parts of the Anglican communion (which included TEC) had reached such a level that the leaders of the majority of the world’s Anglicans felt it was necessary to take a united stand for truth. At that time, Brewer told GAFCON leaders, “I am with you,” and I had no doubt that he meant it.

It was at GAFCON One that I finally knew that my days were numbered in The Episcopal Church. The mounting heresies of presiding bishops Edmond Browning, Frank Griswold and Katharine Jefferts Schori made it all too apparent to me that TEC was on a downward slide from which it would never recover. Demographically and theologically TEC is dying and nothing will stop it. Watching now as Brewer is slowly being embraced by the Episcopal Borg, the experience of betrayal is overwhelming.

Sexual license became the denomination’s besetting sin; homosexuality, bisexuality and then the pandora’s box of sexualities all demanding affirmation, proved too much. I was ready to move out.

Greg did not move. Whatever was going on in his head, he calculated that TEC was going to be his future, one way or another. Never once in all his ministry had I ever heard him preach a single sermon on human sexuality, only vague affirmations of “the family” occasionally dotted his sermons, but never was the growing nightmare of homosexual acceptance in TEC ever met with a resounding nyet from the pulpit.

It was no surprise that his successor at Good Sam, the Rev. Richard Morgan, an Englishman, had any difficulty being accepted when he openly embraced homosexual unions. Morgan summarized his position in a paper that VOL obtained, saying that, "Same-sex covenant relationships have a very famous and solid biblical precedent. Fidelity is a good in its own right and can be exemplified by same-sex couples. Same-sex couples should be supported and encouraged as human beings and as parents trying to figure life out in the same way that we support and encourage all manner of people, none of whom have perfect lives."

Morgan went on to say that the relationship David had with Jonathan was sexual. "The model of same sex covenantal relationship in scripture is the relationship between David and Jonathan,” he said. Of course, there is absolutely no proof of that and was roundly condemned by theologian/scholar Robert Gagnon, but Morgan said and believed it.

Greg had moved on to an Episcopal parish - Calvary – St. George in New York City, a move that proved disastrous. From the moment he arrived, he inherited major administrative headaches, and allegations of major financial mismanagement, resulting in locked doors, shredding machines and much more. He also inherited an associate rector who was caught up in the hyper grace teachings of Paul Zahl and his Mockingbird organization.

It was soon apparent that his days there were numbered and he had to go. In fairness, he sorted out a lot of the church’s problems, but he ran foul of certain vestry members and he knew he had no future.

At almost the same time, the see of Central Florida opened up. Bishop John Howe had announced his retirement and Brewer saw his moment. The four young (internal candidates) were clearly outgunned by Brewer who had, himself, come from Florida, knew the area, had been a professor at Trinity School for Ministry, had raised over $10 million to rebuild ‘Good Sam’ and been the rector of a large prosperous conservative suburban church. He was a shoo in on the first ballot. As far as Brewer was concerned, God had opened a door after his disastrous two years in NYC and he was finally ‘back home’ in a geographical area he knew and understood.

But like so many orthodox bishops who started out well with great evangelical promise (following in the footsteps of John Howe was no small task), Brewer set out to put his own footprint on the diocese. A gay nightclub shooting in Orlando - - the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history - brought a warm fuzzy, heartfelt response from Brewer, but ignored the fact that the pro-ISIS Islamist, Omar Mateen, was probably gay according to his ex-wife, who said he regularly consulted gay APPS and was in the nightclub at the time.

Then Brewer announced that he and his diocese would now accommodate practicing homosexuals in "covenanted" relationships. A statement by Brewer stated he would allow legally married, same sex parishioners to come forward for a blessing at their anniversary. He did say he felt no need to change his stance opposing same-sex marriages and planned to uphold the teaching on Holy Matrimony that is reflected both in the Scriptures and in the Book of Common Prayer. But in sliding a wedge under the door, he was blindsided by two gay men who wanted their son baptized. After the issue erupted at his Orlando cathedral and its two leading priests resigned, the two men failed to show up with the child. Brewer’s credibility with evangelical Episcopalians across the country dropped like a stone.

To even allow partnered gay men to receive a blessing, acknowledges the legitimacy of their relationship. That's the first problem. The second problem is that by not offering pastoral counsel to these men, he abrogated his responsibility and legitimized their lifestyle. What he said in effect was, "I acknowledge that you are living in this relationship and that's okay by me." Brewer has said that how they live is not sexual sin and they can be blessed! Really! And what sort of blessing will they receive? A blessing that acknowledges the "truth" of their marriage and that repentance is not necessary? How else can one interpret this "blessing"? How does one interpret the holiness of God to these two men, I wrote at that time?

Brewer went on to say that, "There are also pastoral considerations yet unanswered. I give only one example: should legally married same sex parishioners come forward for a blessing at their anniversary when it is the parish's custom to publicly offer these blessings? My answer would be to welcome them and pray for them -- so long as the prayers used do not come from the BCP marriage service.”

This was a bridge too far for his old Alma Mater. He was called in by the leadership of Trinity School for Ministry, on which he was a board member and told he was gone if he did not recant his views. Brewer stormed out.

Brewer later signed a statement as a member of Province IV bishops, condemning Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina for ‘abandoning the communion of the church’. Lawrence took his diocese out of TEC over the prevailing hot button issues and later joined the ACNA.

The die had now been cast. Brewer had finally rolled over to the dark side. His recent videos at GC79 reinforced his stance that he was now a team player with Curry and believes all is well in TEC. He had nothing but praise for PB Michael Curry’s “revival” notions, though they never met the standard or criteria for what passes for revival as there are no reports of the seriousness of sin (all sin, not just racism), repentance with tears, confession and calls for newness of life. That is not the definition of revival Curry believes in. Apparently, Brewer shares that view.

A sociologist-theologian friend I put all this to, wrote and said, Brewer is the latest example of what George Orwell called "clubbable," the seductive group think of the House of Bishops to which Evangelicals have again and again proved to be such suckers. Brewer, he said, will come to regret this folly with bitter, bitter tears.

Brewer can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXowoGcpPfw


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