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By David W. Virtue

ATLANTA, GA--Two new Anglican parishes have been formed in the Diocese of Atlanta by clergy and laity who have left The Episcopal Church and come under the authority of the Province of the Southern Cone and its Primate The Most Rev. Gregory Venables.

The new churches have called themselves New Anglican Church and Holy Cross Anglican Church, and will be located in northwest Atlanta and Loganville. The New Anglican Church, (a temporary name), held its first service on Sunday and Holy Cross Anglican Church will hold its first service February 8.

The New Anglican Church is made up of parishioners from St. Jude's church, a biblically orthodox parish in Marietta, under the leadership of its Evangelical rector the Rev. Frank Baltz, 59, a 35-year veteran priest who has decided to stay with the parish and in the ECUSA.

The formation of the two parishes is not being viewed as an intervention by an outside Primate, said Baltz to Virtuosity, it is a rescue situation for Episcopalians who feel they cannot in good conscience stay in The Episcopal Church.

"I blessed them as they left. We all in the parish feel very sad that our people had to leave at this time. There was no anger. Many have been very impatient and instead of working through the process they got ahead of it. Nonetheless we blessed them and let them go."

Atlanta Bishop J. Neil Alexander was supportive of him in his loss. "The bishop did not threaten me but seemed supportive of me and the parish," he told Virtuosity. Baltz said he was not sure he would stay in The Episcopal Church and would consider all his options down the road. "I made no promises to the bishop. He understands we are orthodox, we haven't changed any theology. We mentally disagree with him."

(Bishop Alexander is a revisionist who supports same sex rites and the consecration of V. Gene Robinson.)

St. Jude's, which normally has 160 on an average Sunday dipped to less than half. The new Anglican Church saw 90 people at its first service with some 50 coming from St. Jude's, and the other 40 coming from other area Episcopal churches, a parishioner told Virtuosity. Only two of the original vestry stayed at St. Jude's.

The budget of the church had been $375,000 but it is expected to drop too less than half that when the shake out is completed. "Of the parish's ten largest givers seven of them left the church," said a former parish member. "It was the active leadership of the church who left and the most well heeled."

But funds had been drying up before the church split, and the departures will only escalate that process, said another parishioner.

Well-known lay Episcopal evangelist Lee Buck told Virtuosity, "I am now an Anglican. I was in the ECUSA for 35 years, and I depart now with great sadness. I met Jesus 35 years ago at St. Paul's, Darien, Ct. and now it has come to this." Bill Bugg an activist organizer Evangelical layman and influential in orthodox circles also left St. Jude's.

"The parting was amicable. We are not mad at anyone in the church; we left because of the apostasy of ECUSA (the national church) not because of St. Jude's or the rector. We had to make a decision. It was about the faith, the truth of Holy Scripture. We left because of people like Jack Spong (former Bishop of Newark) who has denied every tenet of the faith. It was also about the consecration of V. Gene Robinson which was the last straw," said Buck. "It was a matter of theological conscience; our intention is to be mission-minded reaching out to share the Gospel of Christ with others. That kind of thinking is not wanted any more in the ECUSA."

New Anglican Church has appointed a steering committee chaired by Dr. Brian Thoms, a professor at Georgia State University, and will call a rector in the next several months. Rev. Bill DeArteaga, is an associate priest of the new congregation, which includes many Hispanics. Father DeArteaga is fluent in Spanish.

Explaining New Anglican Church's action, Dr. Thoms said, "The recent actions of the Episcopal Church is in direct contradiction to Holy Scripture and indicates a fundamental abandonment of faith in the authority of the Bible and the traditions of the Anglican Communion."

St. Alban's priest resigns

The Rev. Dr. Foley Beach rector of St. Alban's in Monroe, GA also announced his resignation from The Episcopal Church, and his parish, to open Holy Cross Anglican Church. "This issue (sexuality) is only a symptom of a deeper problem regarding the authority of the Bible and the place of Church tradition in the modern Church," he said in a letter to his former congregation, "I have come to the conclusion that I can no longer serve the Lord as an Episcopal priest."

"In August with the approval by General Convention of a non-celibate homosexual man to be a bishop and the local option regarding liturgies for the blessing of same unions, the Church brought its internal and immoral crisis to each one of us. I have spoken loudly against these actions without any “serious” thought to the future. After meeting with Bishop Alexander on December 2, it was clear to me that I could not remain under his leadership."

Canon David Anderson, President of the American Anglican Council said he understood why these two parishes left ECUSA but at the same time he urged churches in orthodox dioceses to have patience as efforts were being made to restore orthodoxy in the Episcopal Church.

Addressing the move, Presiding Bishop Gregory Venables, Primate of the Province of the Southern Cone of South America said, “They would have been lost to the Anglican Church otherwise. At our Primates meeting in October, we all agreed that adequate oversight must be provided. We cannot just stand idly by while congregations are being lost to the Anglican Communion.”

The new churches are now under the jurisdiction and a part of the Diocese of Bolivia whose leader is Bishop Frank Lyons, a bilingual American who has lived and ministered in the Province of the Southern Cone for many years. Bishop Lyons expressed regret that the Episcopal Church was separating itself from the Anglican Communion. "They have
freely decided to go their own way, regardless of the consequences and in spite of heartfelt concern. The reality of what they have done, who they are, and how they regard the rest of Anglicanism needs to sink in. I think the majority of the Anglican World is in a profound grieving process at the moment."

The effects of the decisions of the Episcopal Church in the United States (ECUSA) to choose a candidate for bishop who is sexually active outside marriage and to declare same-sex “blessings” to be within the bounds of faith, continue to have negative impact around the world.


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