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VIRGINIA Diocese Wipeout...Northwest Texas, Nthn. California parishes leave...

A deaf church is a dead church; that is an unalterable principle. God quickens, feeds, inspires and guides his people by his Word. For whenever the Bible is truly and systematically expounded, God uses it to give his people the vision without which they perish.--From "I Believe in Preaching" by John R.W. Stott

Not to be abandoned. Some people construct a Christianity which consists entirely of a personal relationship to Jesus Christ and has virtually nothing to do with the church. Others make a grudging concession to the need for church membership, but add that they have given up the ecclesiastical institution as hopeless. Now it is understandable, even inevitable, that we are critical of many of the church's inherited structures and traditions. Every church in every place at every time is in need of reform and renewal. But we need to beware lest we despise the church of God, and are blind to his work in history. We may safely say that God has not abandoned his church, however displeased with it he may be. He is still building and refining it. And if God has not abandoned it, how can we? ---Henry Luke Orombi, Archbishop of Uganda

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The big news of the week was, of course, the mass departure of Episcopalians from the DIOCESE OF VIRGINIA, an exodus unparalleled in Episcopal Church history. In one day upwards of 5,000 Episcopalians from nine parishes (there will be more) announced that they were no long ecclesiastically or spiritually tied to The Episcopal Church USA and were now Anglicans with a new loyalty to the Anglican Communion through their new archbishop and friend, the Most Rev. Peter Akinola, Primate of Nigeria, the largest province in the Anglican Communion.

With his own Convocation of Anglicans in North America, CANA, now firmly rooted on American soil, and with its own bishop, the Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns as its American spokesperson and leader, Akinola can now begin the serious work of rescuing evangelical parishes caught in the spiritual vortex of the TEC and being dragged down into the pit of spiritual despair and increasing ecclesiastical isolation from the rest of the Anglican Communion.

The real news is whether the Primates will see CANA as the basis for a new Anglican structure in North America announced in Kigali recently and will formally ratify it when they meet in Tanzania in February.

But just to let you all know that it is not simply large parishes that are leaving, and getting all the publicity, the 73 folk at Church of the Word in Gainesville, VA wrote VOL to say they were voting to leave the Diocese as well. This is more typical of the average parish in the TEC, and should give the liberals heartburn. After the 40-day discernment period they voted 96% (70) with three voting No to leaving the diocese and TEC, with the same voting pattern for the property.

The hemorrhaging was so bad that the Episcopal News Service and Mrs. Schori were desperate to put a spin on it all with Mrs. Schori announcing that she was available for "healing" (the rift), totally failing to recognize that the TEC patient is on life support. ENS did their best by pointing up one parish - St. Stephen's in Heathsville - where the vote was less than 90 percent to leave, by running a headline, "Large, viable remnant' wants to continue as Episcopal congregation." This was not true of course and you can read what the folk in that parish said to VOL in an exclusive story in today's digest.

But anxious not to let the whole thing get totally out of control with the legal boys heading into court to begin the fight over properties, Bishop Peter Lee promptly called time out and put in place a 30-day moratorium on lawsuits and property transfers, presumably to give him breathing room to figure out whether he wants major court battles to mark the end of his time as bishop.

Lee said his "primary concern" was for the tiny minorities of members in the departing churches who do not wish to leave the diocese and said the next month should be used to help these "faithful Episcopalians who need to be given every encouragement to establish structures necessary for their continuity as the Episcopal Church."

This is a joke, the minorities in all the fleeing congregations are so tiny (they range from 3 to 30) that together they could fill one liberal parish and give it the biggest jump start in 50 years.

But a VOL reader wrote to say that the diocesan news release indicated that the standstill agreement had been arranged "with those who have chosen to leave," but it turns out that none of the leaders and lawyers of the group had heard about the agreement prior to the news release from the diocese! What this indicates is that the Diocese of Virginia is still dictating the rules of the game.

But then the Clergy, Wardens of Church of the Apostles, Fairfax, Virginia, wrote to Bishop Lee accusing him of intimidation! You can read their letter here or in today's digest: http://tinyurl.com/tngq6

Wrote a vestryman to VOL: "It is also too bad that the diocese wasn't concerned with the interests of minority members before this, particularly in the cases where the minority were orthodox Episcopalians! We've all seen too many instances where the only option for the orthodox minority was to leave the church that they had been members of for decades when a new, liberal priest was brought in!" He's right of course. Diversity and inclusivity we learn has only been going one way, never in favor of those who want to hold on to the 'faith once delivered to the saints.'

But orthodox leaders around the country were ecstatic at the news. The Rev. Canon David Anderson of the American Anglican Council said the breakup was "breathtakingly exciting" -- but it wasn't caused by the churches in Virginia. They were simply being faithful.

"The perpetrators of schism are, in fact, the top levels of leadership of the Episcopal Church," Anderson said. "They have taken up another Gospel. They believe now that there are many ways to God -- and Jesus is simply one of them. We argue that that's not the case -- that what the Bible says is still accurate." You can read his full statement here or in today's digest. http://tinyurl.com/y2qgov

Anglican Communion Network leader, Bishop Robert Duncan (Pittsburgh) also had kind words about the departures. He commended the eight Virginia churches and assured them of the Anglican Communion Network's prayers and continuing support. All but one of the parishes which announced the results of their congregation-wide votes are affiliates in good standing of the Anglican Communion Network, and will remain so, he said. You can read his full statement here or in today's digest: http://tinyurl.com/y5boah

But the legal issue over property ownership will now occupy center stage.

I have posted a number of new stories in the ongoing crisis in the DIOCESE OF VIRGINIA including several more parishes that have severed ties with the national church.

BREAKING NEWS...The vestry of Church of the Epiphany voted 10 - 2 with no abstentions to recommend to the parish secession from the Diocese of Virginia and from TEC. The congregation will vote in January.

CANON lawyer and priest Fr. Charles Nalls of the Canon Law Institute in Washington, D.C. has some cogent thoughts on the TEC's Canons and Constitution.

"No surprise on Bishops Lee's claims. He wrote me some years ago in response to a letter CLI sent to all ECUSA bishops on the ownership question, and said he would move on the property of any departing church. I doubt that he's either matured in his thinking or grown in Christian charity toward those who might believe that heresy is not better that schism.

First, I do not think the hierarchical concept will be an issue that the court will take up. It did, after all, approve two approaches hierarchical and neutral principles in Jones v. Wolf. There is no need to reopen the question of polity on the part of the court.

The real question that is emerged is one of trust law. This has, in fact, gone up to several state high courts with success for the parishes. Even before the wins by ECUSA parishes in California, there was the Methodist church case that was foundational. There were two key elements-1. The national church has to prove a trust was voluntarily granted (a tough one canonically where assent to canon might be construed as grant of trust) and 2. The trust, unless made irrevocable, can be revoked at any time by the grantor even during the litigation! This was a huge problem for the national church which lost the parish.

Even before California, a case involving the A.M.E. national church reached Maryland's high court in From the Heart Ministries. The court took a slightly different gloss, but, blending the neutral principles approach, there was a win for the parish on the first question. (The case is on-line for those who yearn for a detailed analysis.)

These are but one thread of the cases running loosely from the Barker decisions in California in the early 1980s, and there is another strand that goes the other way.

Courts really have been resistant to arguments relating to things such as "the principles upon which a church was founded." It puts them squarely in doctrinal issues where they cannot go (although the Fourth Circuit which covers Virginia in Dixon v. Edwards pretty much rendered decisions on the ecclesiastic power of bishops vis a vis canons!).

There generally is no Federal question involved, unless the national ECUSA or TEC or whatever they call themselves this week gets involved. Then, there may be a question of Federal diversity jurisdiction, which is how Dixon v. Edwards became Federal, despite strong jurisdictional arguments which the Circuit simply ignored. The "Colonial church" argument is, as CLI has said in the past, a good one.

Does the Virginia revolt portend a greater national revolt across the country? One VOL observer noted, "Now if small parishes across the country started leaving which is more typical of The Episcopal Church, then there would be a wholesale uprising that not all the Grand Poobahs at 815 Second Avenue could spin or put down."

MORE GOOD NEWS from Virginia. A new parish, Christ Church, Newport News is in formation under the pastoral direction of Bishop Frank Lyons - the Anglican bishop of the Diocese of Bolivia. Christ Church is sponsored by Light of Christ Anglican Church Marietta Georgia, Fr. Charles Osborne Rector.

Fr. Osborne is a former Episcopal Church priest now serving under the authority of Bishop Lyons. The parish will be temporarily hold services in the Comfort Inn at 12330 Jefferson Ave Newport News Virginia. The Comfort Inn is next door to Patrick Henry Mall. Current plans call for the first service to be held on Sunday January 7th 2007 at 9:30 AM.

An organizational meeting will be held immediately after the service with refreshments. Volunteers are needed to assist with all areas of parish life including bible study, altar guild, flower guild, website development, acolytes, communications, fellowship, music, prayer guild, ushers, stewardship, lay readers and altar servers. If you are interested in assisting please contact John Berry at 757-369-1978.

BUT there were small uprisings here and there this week. In Northern California the first parish in that diocese announced this week that it was leaving with their property. St. John's Anglican Church in Petaluma, a town 40 miles north of San Francisco, voted to become St. John's Anglican Church on Sunday, an act that will probably not bring out the best in their newly elected Bishop Barry Beisner. You can read the full story here or in today's digest. http://tinyurl.com/y5ut6t

In the DIOCESE OF NORTHWEST TEXAS, Bishop Wallis Ohl got more bad news this week; when one parish announced it was leaving - The Church of the Good Shepherd in San Angelo and another - Holy Trinity in Midland - said they were weighing their option to leave and take their property and money with them. Ohl has a particularly nasty uninclusive side to his nature and to those who would leave. When St. Nicholas left in May of 2005 he told them they had to be out by early June, no ifs ands or buts, just go, and now he has told the folk at Good Shepherd the same news - they have to be out of their parish by January 6 - no negotiation, no offers on the table, nothing. When VOL spoke to the bishop all he had to say was "I have no comment." But one observer told VOL that his meanness will come back to haunt him. His diocese is teetering on the financial edge and any more departures could see the diocese facing serious deficit. The Lamb always wins.

THE second biggest piece of news, and one that ties indirectly into what happened in Virginia, was the announcement by the Archbishop of Uganda, the Most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi, that he and other Global South Primates have informed the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, that they "cannot sit together with Mrs. Schori at the upcoming Primates Meeting in February," citing her position on the Bible's teachings about "faith and morality."

In a pastoral letter to Christians of the Church of Uganda, Orombi said that some Primates have asked Williams to invite a bishop from the Anglican Communion Network "to attend the Primates Meeting and represent the orthodox believers." In his pastoral letter Orombi insisted that his "problem" with the Episcopal Church is "not that they have enthroned a woman as their Presiding Bishop" but that her theology is heretical and her moral positions unacceptable to that vast majority of the Global South Primates. (She publicly supported the consecration of the openly homogenital Bishop of New Hampshire, V. Gene Robinson). The Kigali communiqué, issued after a meeting of Global South leaders in Rwanda in September, noted that "some of us will not be able to recognize Mrs. Schori as a Primate at the table with us." The communiqué cited 20 signatories, to the letter. You can read the Pastoral Letter from His Grace, the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda here: http://tinyurl.com/y2gmn4 This is a major slap at a sitting Presiding Bishop never before seen in the history of Anglicanism and sets the stage for a major ecclesiastical conflagration in February in Tanzania.

This now puts the Archbishop of Canterbury on notice. If he invites Mrs. Schori, the Global South Primates might do to her what four of them did in the DIOCESE OF PENNSYLVANIA when Bishop Charles E. Bennison showed up at a country club near Philadelphia to meet them. They sat in another room and refused to see him, a major snub that Bennison will never forget even as he now faces being thrown out the ecclesiastical door himself.

What is becoming clearer is that Archbishop Williams can no longer maintain a bunker mentality and hope it will all go away with resolutions, covenants, reports and promises that The Episcopal Church will repent and reform. That is not going to happen. That is now abundantly clear. Episcopal Church revisionist bishops and the their gay acolytes have learned to twist the language of Lambeth Resolution 1:10; parse the language of the Windsor Report, but at the end of the day we all know what it is about - the total inability and unwillingness by the vast majority of Episcopal Church bishops and clergy to believe in and promote a gospel of transformation that says people are living in spiritual darkness and need the light of Christ to shine into their hearts to make them anew.

That is not going to happen because the majority of seminaries don't believe or teach it, and the vast majority of priests long ago lost confidence in Holy Scripture as normative for the life and teaching of the church. The triumph of Spong over Scripture and Crew over Christ is now almost complete. The Episcopal Church is history. The church will increasingly be sustained by Trust Funds and endowments even as the pews empty and parishioners take their check books to new and vital places of worship. The plate/pledge loss this week alone in the Diocese of Virginia is close to $14 million, hardly small change.

CONSOLIDATION IN CONNECTICUT. While the DIOCESE OF CONNECTICUT is not exactly falling apart, there are cracks in the diocesan walls that indicate all is not well. This week Bishop Andrew Smith announced that four Episcopal churches belonging to the North Central Episcopal Regional Ministry will merge into one. "It takes a great deal of courage to let go of a building that has meant a great deal to people," Bishop Smith told the people. The bishop said that elsewhere in the state Episcopal churches has combined, resulting in "healthy, good mergers." You can read the story here. http://tinyurl.com/y297uj

But a knowledgeable priest in the diocese wrote VOL to say that the article on the closing of three or four ECUSA parishes in the Diocese of CT is a sign of Bishop Smith's failed leadership and UN-orthodoxy. "The area where these parishes are closing: Enfield, Somers and East Windsor have been the fastest growing residential areas in CT over the last ten years. An increase in the population but Smith's new Gospel will not hold water. In addition the regional team ministry approach which has three or four priests minister part time to half a dozen parishes may be a financial reality but it is a recipe for mediocrity. I predicted awhile back that ECUSA in CT would begin selling off parishes and the selling has begun."

In the DIOCESE OF SOUTHWEST FLORIDA it was announced that Bishop John B. Lipscomb, would take medical leave because he is grappling with Parkinson's disease and the effects of malaria contracted in Africa in 2004. The announcement came nearly one week after a bishop coadjutor was elected to succeed Lipscomb who is 56. Since his diagnosis of Parkinson's in 2002 and the bout with malaria Lipscomb has experienced a continued decline in his health with a concurrent decline in his ability to fulfill his responsibilities as the Bishop of Southwest Florida, he wrote in a letter to his diocese. "My family and I have decided that I should accept the judgment of my physicians." The Rev. Dabney Smith, rector of Trinity Church in New Orleans will take the immediate reins of the diocese. He is considered more orthodox than Lipscomb and won't go along with the gay agenda. We shall see.

IN OTHER DIOCESAN NEWS, the deadline for bishop nominations approaches in the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania and the Episcopal Diocese of Maine is preparing to begin receiving nominations. The deadline for Northwestern Pennsylvania is December 25 to succeed Bishop Robert D. Rowley Jr. The bishop announced in July that he was taking a "terminal sabbatical leave." He also cited health issues.

And the Standing Committee of the DIOCESE OF BETHLEHEM decided not to give their consent to the consecration of the Rev. Mark Lawrence as the next Bishop of South Carolina, citing those dreadful allegations of schism and his being a Network bishop and for leading a diocese that wants commissary status from an overseas orthodox bishop. We will undoubtedly hear more in time from other dioceses.

MORE ENLIGHTENMENT in the Church of England about a coalition of Evangelical and Charismatic Anglicans producing a covenant promoting "new, informal networks" among churches that are unable to maintain fellowship with Anglicans with whom they disagree. Well, this coalition includes Anglican Mainstream, Reform, the Church of England Evangelical Council, New Wine, and Crosslinks. Canon Chris Sugden of Anglican Mainstream says they represent about 2000 congregations. No small number.

The coalition had "warm support" from traditional Anglo-Catholics, and was also hoping to attract other "solid, central Church of England people", he said. Canon Sugden described the covenant as "a series of principled statements about what will need to be done in certain circumstances - not across the nations, but as individual situations require." He warned: "We can no longer be constrained by an over-centralized and increasingly ineffective control that is stifling the natural development of ministry."

But the Revd Canon Kenneth Kearon of the Anglican Consultative Council said the revolt will deal a fresh blow to the embattled archbishop, who has fought to hold the Church together despite entrenched views on both sides of the debate. It also threatens to cripple the Church's finances, because about 40 per cent of its income is supplied by evangelical parishes. Liberal bishops risk the loss of millions of pounds of income as parishes that are traditionally the largest contributors withhold funds.

PENTECOSTALS pass Methodists in England. A survey finds that there are more Pentecostal Christians in England than Methodists. Dr. David Voas of Manchester University suggested that the Methodist Church, founded in England 300 years ago by Charles Wesley in a split from the Church of England, may end up being reabsorbed by the Anglicans. Pentecostalism, which was founded in the United States, has spread to South America and Africa. Most Pentecostals in England are African immigrants. Estimated Sunday attendance at Methodist churches dropped from 289,400 in 2005 to 278,700 in 2006, the Economic and Social Research Council says.

Mrs. Schori is one of 34 Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders who wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice December 12 asking for a meeting with her to discuss the "urgent situation in the Middle East" and calling on the United States to make peace in the region an "urgent priority." Apparently Mrs. Schori doesn't see any contradiction or incongruity about wanting peace in the Middle East and peace in an increasingly fragmented TEC. Ms. Rice should tell Mrs. Schori to get her own house in order before telling her what to do about the Middle East. Nobody, it seems, has an answer to that. There are answers for The Episcopal Church.

AN ARTICLE in the Jerusalem Post (posted on VOL) accusing the Bishop of Jerusalem the Rt. Rev. Riah Abu al-Assal of corruption, nepotism and calling for his resignation has met with resistance by the outgoing bishop.

An internal investigation was initiated in June after rumors began circulating that Bishop Riah had influenced the selection of a Nazareth insurance agency to underwrite coverage for church schools in Jerusalem and Nazareth. Half of the commission for the transaction reportedly was kicked back to the bishop's son-in-law, Ayoub Kandaleft, who has had financial difficulties.

But Bishop Riah defended his actions, saying he was motivated by humanitarian concerns over his son-in-law's debts. "My records over many years are full of aid to those in need and what I did for others in need, I did for [my son-in-law] Ayoub," he testified to the panel. Bishop Riah told the Telegraph newspaper in England the situation had been "blown out of proportion." He is scheduled to retire at the end of March.

Archbishop Rowan Williams, who is aware of the controversy, will nonetheless receive him, and Williams will visit Israel and Palestine Dec. 20-23 on a "pastoral pilgrimage."

IN IRELAND, IrishAngle, an orthodox news service reports that retiring Archbishop Robin Eames will get a 2 million pound ($4 million) nest egg to help him in retirement. One wonders what Primates of the Global South will make of that. You can read the full story here: www.irishangle.net. This is considerably more than what retiring American bishops collect on the way out the door. Eames is the wiliest of old limousine liberals. He was an author of Windsor Report and his basic thrust is to keep everyone at the table, as long as the table is owned and operated by the liberal elites.

CORRECTION: In an article by Mike McManus about the situation in Virginia he writes to say that Truro was also founded in colonial times, but George Washington was not on the Vestry. GOOGLE ads on VOL. Dear readers. Form time to time Google ads appear at the website that we have no control over. Please don't beat us up about it. When we spot them we ask Google to remove them. My webmaster Mr. Robert Turner does an excellent job monitoring this but occasionally ads squeak through the net. Please know we ARE aware and we act immediately to deal with the problem. Thank you.

NEXT WEEK will be the last week of the year for VOL. we are asking those of you who have not yet made a tax deductible donation to seriously think about doing so. We are in urgent need of funds to start the year. The costs to run the website, staff and medical have gone up and we do need your help.

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Advent Blessings

David W. Virtue DD


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