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Friday, April 6, 2007

My Church in turmoil: The Episcopal Church's road to Schism from the Anglican Communion.

This is liable to be a long entry as I've toyed on and off about how to go about drafting what will be a controversial essay on the current state of the Episcopal Church (ECUSA) in the United States. As you've probably read in the newspapers and online, the ECUSA is on the road to schism (that is separation) from the world-wide Anglican Communion. The issues are very straight-forward, and very serious for proponents of both sides of the battle. And the ramifications of the outcome are significant for all of its 77 million baptized members in the Communion since schism holds no neutrality; you are either in or out.

There is a reason that we were told as youngsters to not discuss religion and politics in polite company - both are contentious, and both are deep-rooted in our traditions, beliefs, and ideals. But adults need to have forum to discuss these matters particularly when the outcome of certain arguments can lead to new doctrine, which could have long term implications on critical pillars that are essential to the Church's very existence.

Because this is a commentary, be forewarned that I have a significantly strong, fact-based opinion about the matters concerning this debate. Where feelings are concerned, I expect that mine differ with many in my own Church, locally and on the national level. But I think, except for a small minority who are thriving - literally thriving - on their activism; this debate is painful and antagonistic. Most parishioners on both sides of the equation would rather that the whole thing just goes away. But even I must concede that the idea of agreeing to disagree cannot really apply to such fundamental questions.

There is no doubt that I'm going to offend someone by taking my stand. And I cannot apologize for this because my essay is a response to the insurgency that is undermining the fabric of our Church and its doctrine. While my Diocesan Bishops are doing their utmost to express their views and shape the debate to their side's advantage, I will do my part to present the contrary view - the traditional Christian, Bible-based view.

And while I accept that I am not moral enough or Holy enough or "good enough" to be a Bishop, Minister, or even a Deacon - I do expect that those holding those roles in a Church are; they are called up to uphold the moral values, beliefs and traditions that are expected of leaders of the Church and the Community - that they walk and live not by man's example, but by the Lord's example laid out so clearly in the Holy Scripture. I don't mean that Church leaders should be perfect people, but reasonable, rationale, moral people that have a sense for right and wrong. And by their efforts try to live a Godly and Holy life.

I make this distinction because I admit I am a terrible Christian. Between my poor attendance, lack of compassion, and all the other shortcomings I have, I don't beg to lead the debate on behalf of my side, or be set up as an authority on good and bad -- but at least, I understand who should be leading and who shouldn't be leading, and I recognize correct Biblical interpretation from false interpretation - which is really at the heart of Episcopal-Anglican debate.

Note that where applicable, I also present links, facts, and source material that are abundant on the world-wide web. I encourage Episcopalians to do as I have, which is to read everything that can be found on the matter before forming their opinion. And then share it openly with their fellow parishioners and friends.

My background, and up-bringing in connection with the Episcopal Church

Let me begin by stating that my family has been associated with the Episcopal Church dating as far back as it's origin in 1789 (my family attended St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, and my descendants are buried there - they probably attended as Anglicans prior to conversion). I write this reference, not to make myself out to be some authority on the Church (I most certainly am not), but add to the enormous dimension of personal connection I have to the Church which makes the observation of turmoil in the Church and the spiraling movement toward separation from communion with the Anglican Church - all the more disappointing, and disheartening.

At present, I attend St. John's (Episcopal) Church in West Hartford, Connecticut. St. John's is a wonderful church of which I am happy to be a member (although this is probably not apparent by my mediocre attendance record). Members of the church will tell you that the St. John's is blessed financially and its members tend to come from healthy, well-to-do families and means which reflects the economical status of residents in trendy, upscale West Hartford. Although, the state of the membership in most suburban Episcopal Churches in Connecticut is probably by default, similar.

The Church that I grew up in was far more Anglican and far more conservative than most Episcopal Churches - as a rule. I was confirmed by Father Edward Patrick at Trinity Episcopal Church in Portland, Connecticut. Father Patrick was from England, and was well-regarded as a spiritual leader and he was beloved by all. To underline his sense of humor, I can distinctly remember a confirmation class, where after correcting an exam - he slowly and methodically tore them up and tossed them into into the flames of the roaring fireplace. In disgust, he got up, turned, and left without uttering a word. We all sad in silence contemplating the trouble we would be in with our parents having angered Father Patrick so. This was meant to be a lesson in applying ourselves and - wasting his time. Years later, we learned that he would do this with every confirmation class in order to light a "spark" under the students so they would give the material the attention and respect that it so deserved. Notwithstanding, his tough shell, "Father Pat" was an incredible person and a wonderful rector. To this day, no one has come close to his manner, ability, and compassion as a "real Rector".

I can remember, as a youngster, that the Church was jam-packed each Sunday. During spring services, the large choir would go around to the outside, and procession from through the tall oak doors, up the long way to the altar of the Church. In those days, Services were conducted with the utmost reverence with particular focus on Biblical teaching and scripture. I can still clearly see and hear the images from those days. In those days, you looked forward to Sunday - to the Prayers, the Eucharist, the Sermon, the Hymns, Church school, and to the fellowship of the coffee hour.

Sadly, after many years of service, and after having signaled his retirement from his duties, Father Patrick passed away. In a lot ways, when he died, he took traditional Anglicanism with him. For Trinity Church or perhaps the Episcopal Church in Connecticut was never the same without him.

During the period when Father Patrick was Rector, the most controversy I can recall was the fact that the parishioners were very upset over the replacement of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer with the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. The Bishop had ordered the removal of the old Prayer Book in favor of the new. The newer book combined the baptismal rite from three rites into one, rearrangement of the Lord's Prayer, adding liberal or so-called "inclusive language" changes (for example, removing the use of the word "men"), adding Eucharistic Contemporary Prayer selections, etc. A few parishes left the Episcopal Church over the changes, but most stayed because Rite I was not all together removed from use. Today many Churches use Rite I in the 8 a.m. Service.

Introduction to Rev. James E. Curry

Portland Trinity Church went through a very rough period with the Diocese of Hartford; the Diocese sent in a variety of rectors who didn't seem to work out for one reason or another, until they settled on Rev. James E. Curry, who served as Rector for about ten years. During his tenure, the attendance of the Trinity Church spiraled dramatically, and the parish fell into a sad state. Rev. Curry, being very liberal in his politics and approach, divided the church membership by ousting the long time organist, Mrs. Greenwood, and battling with prominent church families over church administrative matters and warden leadership. Even my family - which was not prominent in a sense that they never "helped run the Church", but they did attend since the time when my Grandfather moved to Portland in the 1930s; and under Curry's tenure had left the Church feeling that the state of disharmony was too painful to endure.

During my college years, I recall one meeting I had with Rev. Curry, he had made a sly comment that the Church rolls had been diminishing, and he said, "It seems I've lost most of your family too." In a lot of ways, I felt for Rev. Curry; it was not the point that he had really inherited the decline, but rather seemed to have either caused it, or perhaps - oversaw its decline. I distinctly remember him creating a hymn service where we would all sing hymns as requested by parishioners. There must have been no more than 20 people scattered about the church, he begged them to all come together to fill up the front rows. Sadly, I think that was the last time I had heard the hymn "Onward, Christian Soldiers" in an Episcopal Church. One of the greatest hymns of all time has been now deemed "too offensive to sing due to its militaristic overtones" by ECUSA officials. What a shame.

Rev. Curry and I met in 1991 while I was attending UConn to discuss an article that I read in the National Review Magazine entitled, "Are there Episcopalians in foxholes? What in Heaven's name is happening to the Episcopal Church?” Rev. Curry was quite willing to discuss my concerns about the Episcopal Church's move to the left, in particular - I wanted to take issue with the disturbing notion of the blessing of same sex marriages and gay activism in the Church. I think the basis for my discussion was to determine if the Church was "too liberal" for my own politics and concern for its present theological direction; was the Episcopal Church becoming involved in gay-activism? Curry didn't necessarily defend Rev. Spong, but he didn't take issue with his positions either. But he did affirm that I had nothing to be concerned about since then Bishop-Arthur Edward Walmsley had said that the Bishop has upheld the current Biblical position - which was that homosexuality was a sin, and the Bishop wasn't about to condone same-sex unions, etc.

Now I'm not sure why Rev. Curry said this. Either he believed it to be true at the time, or he was covering up for Bishop Walmsley. In deference to the fact that Curry has always been considered honest, I would have to believe that he chose his answer to simply avoid a theological debate on the matter. The fact is that Rt. Rev. Arthur Edward Walmsley is knee deep in supporting homosexual activism in the Episcopal Church; note this link that reports that Rt. Rev Walmsley is headed to Ottawa to lead a meeting on "Same Sex Blessings" on April 13-14 of 2007. So for whatever positions that Rev. Curry tried to imply, years later we find our old Bishop is off leading activism for the same sex crowd as Canada moves toward a vote on same sex blessings.

But, for me, to understand the politics and left-leaning agenda of now Bishop James Curry is to understand the politics of the Presiding Bishop of Connecticut, and the leadership of the Episcopal Church. This is not to say Bishop Curry isn't a pleasant man, he is. While he is remembered as "drab" at the church lectern, he is considered very good with administrative functions. And he is apparently very good at traveling around and supporting the Diocese Leadership's liberal agenda in keeping with the revised Episcopal Church's vision of moving toward a non-Bible based church, and drawing the Church into Schism.

Part of my concern with our own Connecticut Church leaders lies with the evidence of strong-arming by Bishop Andrew D. Smith, who threatened to remove six Episcopal rectors (now down to five) from their posts for opposing the election of V. Gene Robinson in New Hampshire. It's fairly remarkable that the Bishop would resort to such strong-armed tactics when it comes to dissent within the Church. In light of the fact, that supporting homosexuality is certainly not in keeping with Biblical teachings, its seems that Bishop Smith has chosen liberal politics and liberal activism over established Christian teaching; an odd position for any man of the cloth to take.

A sample incident written by William Witt where one of the "Connecticut Six" was assaulted by Bishop Smith illustrates the extent to which Bishop Smith is willing to push traditional Christian's out of the Church. It's a dismal crime perpetrated by the Bishop on one of his own churches in support of immorality. This activity by Bishop Smith has not gone uncontested and formal charges were filed against Bishop Smith in 2005. Churches from all over the world protested Bishop Smith gestapo-style tactics, including Rector Chuck Collins of San Antonio, Texas.

Smith has worked toward widening the schism by authorizing priests in October 2006 to bless same sex unions in the Church where he is quoted as saying that "'s time for the church, this diocese, to acknowledge and support our sisters and brothers who are gay and lesbian." The reaction to this created staunch opposition by the American Anglican Council, in a similar article on the same story, the AAC's Rev Canon David C. Anderson, stated, "[this action] is proof of his [Smith's] disregard for the larger Anglican Communion and further evidences his militancy with the homosexual gay agenda."

About V. Gene Robinson (alleged Bishop of New Hampshire)

The entire situation revolving around V. Gene Robinson seems to have created a firestorm that even the most liberal activists in the Church couldn't have foreseen. The response has created major divisions in the Episcopal Church - echoing anger within individual parishes, and dioceses, which is resonating nationally and internationally across the Anglican Church and its international communion.

On its own merit, Robinson's nomination seems to be a bizarre choice. Robinson seems to have had a long history of troubles and issues including alcoholism, divorce from a woman to seek a gay partner after fathering two children with his wife, "living in sin" with another man as well as other matters of concern. It seems that he was selected by those like him who are hell-bent on advocating open homosexuality to take a high position in the Church for the sole purpose of changing the Church's doctrine and accepted teachings.

It's clear that Robinson was quite keen on what he was trying to do from an activist standpoint. While he watched with glee as Episcopal parishes battled internally, and with each other over his controversial lifestyle as an openly gay man living "in sin" with his partner seeking to change the "culture" of the Church. A better man - a good man- one with a true Christian conscience would not have wished to see such negative harm come to an institution so important to so many. It's clear the Robinson's ambition (and his small hoard of activist supporters) firmly believe that their social agenda is profoundly more important than the very survival and harmony of the Church itself.

Robinson's assent and election to the role of Bishop was under very controversial circumstances. You can read the detail here but in short, allegedly the Bishop's website was linked to 5,000 pornographic images, and there was also an accusation that Robinson improperly touched a male parishioner on two occasions at a New England Conference. One way or another, after the parishioner "recused himself" from the matter (which I suppose neither serves to acquit Robinson nor condemn him), the Convention dismissed the charges and Robinson was elected by a narrow margin of 62 to 45.

Since his election, Robinson has continued to seek "assistance" for his personal issues and problems. Recently, he took at brief leave to address his alcohol problems as was reported in this February 14, 2006 Boston Globe piece. But this article is not about making judgments regarding Mr. Robinson's behavior or choices, as it is about larger question regarding the Episcopal Church and its teachings.

Biblical View of Homosexuals

My own view on whether or not homosexual behavior is by choice (sexual perversion) or by orientation is very much undetermined. I happen to interact with homosexuals on a daily basis (probably as many as 15 on average) - and generally speaking, they are friendly and courteous. And clearly, from my own observations, they are different. For the reader's edification, I want to be clear that I am not against gay people.

The scientific community has many arguments for and against orientation. The statistics regarding suicide, mental anxiety, and depression, "partner" break-ups (lack of monogamous relationships), are higher among homosexuals than of most social groups. There are also unfortunate parallel circumstances where many self-proclaimed homosexuals, as young persons, endured a period of abuse, rape, and other sexual mistreatment that may have led them to develop or "choose" this alternative lifestyle. There is plenty of documentation on the web and in medical journals to support these statements. Again, this is not the basis for my essay, but the reader should understand that I do not hate gay people, nor do I have dislike for them. The evidence presented in the links above indicate that there are social issues surrounding this phenomenon have not been adquately vetted.

The Holy Scripture clearly states that Homosexuality is a Sin, either directly or through parables. This fact is plain and simple and not subject to interpretation. No rational person would dispute this fact. They may refute the Bible as the "Word of God", or they may attempt to dismiss teachings in the Bible by drawing parallel or circular arguments to outdated cultural positions (such as the often misinterpreted "woman shall keep quiet in the Churches" (1 Corinthians 14:34, and a similar reference in 1 Timothy 2:11-13), etc.) but when it comes to human nature - the concept of man and woman go to the very nature of our existence beginning with the Garden of Eden.

Thus, if you believe that Scripture is the basis for church teaching, and therefore - the basis for the Church then you understand that homosexuality is incompatible with Scripture. Surely you can draw the reasonable conclusion that the consecration of Bishop Robinson (or any minister of God) is incompatible with Scripture.

The advocates of the activist attack on the Episcopal Church want you to forget these facts. They can't compete on the intellectual level, so instead a dishonest approach - they make the "social justice argument" or play the discrimination card. They completely disregard the basis for why the Church exists - its doctrines and Scripture - instead they see Church as merely a social organization, akin to a rich man's golf club that won't accept African American members. So their arguments are reduced to indirect Biblical references ("women keep quiet in the Church") or vague and unrelated parallels to 1930s black discrimination. Remember that the next time you read or hear them speak. Warm and fuzzy instead of Biblical or fact-based.

So there you have it. For the purposes of Church leadership, and moral teaching, homosexual activity and behavior, whether by orientation or choices is contradictory to the teachings of the Holy Scripture as stated in the Bible. And since the Bible is the basis for Church teachings, then its clear that homosexual leaders have no place in the Church - not just the Episcopal Church, but any Church of God.

An International Response

Most people and admittedly, even myself - expected that the matter of Bishop Robinson would have blown over by now, very much in the similar fashion to the Prayer Book scandal of the late 70s. But clearly this issue seems to have ruffled the feathers of more than simply a few older, high-brow members of the Church. In fact, it’s turned the entire Communion on its axis.

While the Anglican Communion is comprised of some 38 or so provinces, there are a variety of different splinter organizations that have been created as a result of the Robinson crisis. Organizations such as the American Anglican Council (ACC) have been set up to attempt to find a reasonable settlement to the entire matter based on the premise that the Anglican Communion should find some way to stay together. Unfortunately, the issues are running deeper than expected, with lawsuits filed all over the country between parishes and dioceses over property rights and funding (and in Connecticut), new mandates regarding Bishops and Diocese oversight, and pressures are mounting in the Church of England over the choice between morality and Biblical teaching, and money (the Anglican Communion it is said receives 30% of its operating revenue from the Episcopal Church alone). Smaller churches in Asia and Africa, which tend to be poorer, are reportedly the benefactors of these funds - so in essence, some of these Episcopal Churches are making a moral stand to support Biblical teaching and possibly do without the funding at the risk of disappearing!

If you are not familiar with the timeline of events regarding the entire crisis please click here, and as much as folks would like to think this all started with Robinson's ordination in November 2003, it didn't. The seeds of this conflict were planted by those seeking to promote their pro same-sex agenda as far back as 1976 (although goes back further with their timeline). But it is true that while that was mere kindling around a campfire, the real fire was not to really start until the envelope was pushed too far in 2003.

The response to the Robinson ordination was well thought out and planned by outraged Anglican leaders. Here is a basic timeline (with some modification by me I must give courtesy and credit to which may serve as a primer (I've taken the liberty of searching for and adding links with applicable text or stories so readers can dig further into the detail):

  • In July 2003 - preceding the Robinson consecration - a group of 60 Anglican leaders from across the globe declared that there would be consequences if Robinson was consecrated.

  • In October 2003 at the Lambeth Convention, the Primates of the Anglican Communion further warn that if the consecration precedes that the ramifications for the EPUSA could be serious, including the division of the Anglican Communion.

  • November 2003, disregarding concerns of the faithful and Anglican Leadership, Gene Robinson is consecrated as Bishop in New Hampshire.

  • In October 2004, a full year later after their warnings, and after much discussion, the Lambeth Commission distributes its "Windsor Report" reaffirming Lambeth Conference resolution 1.10 and the authority of Scripture as central to Anglican common life, and calls for moratoria on public rites of same-sex blessings as well as on the election and consent of any candidate to the episcopacy living in a same-sex union.

  • In February 2005, the Primates meet in Dromantine, Ireland, to collectively examine the Windsor Report and produce a Communiqué calling on ECUSA and Canada to "voluntarily withdraw" their representatives from the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) until Lambeth 2008.

  • In March 2005, ECUSA House of Bishops meeting at Camp Allen, Texas, and pledges to uphold all consecrations (including that of Gene Robinson).
    In June 2005, at the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Nottingham, England, ECUSA makes a presentation, "To Set Our Hope on Christ," defending what amounts to a new gospel that is wholly incompatible with Scripture, thereby justifying, rather than repenting of, their actions. (Canada also makes a similar presentation.) The ACC meeting also upholds Lambeth 1.10 teaching on human sexuality and endorses the Primates' request for ECUSA and Canada to withdraw their representatives from the ACC until the next Lambeth Conference.

  • In June 2006, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church meets in Columbus, Ohio. The GC response to the Windsor Report amounts to rejection and repudiation; elects heterodox Presiding Bishop that is fully committed to the revisionist path chosen by the Episcopal Church on issues of sex and morality. Eight dioceses request some form of alternative primatial relationship.

  • September 2006: The Global South Primates meeting at Kilgali, Rwanda, issue a communiqué that laments, "We deeply regret that, at its most recent General Convention, "... We are convinced that the time has now come to take initial steps towards the formation of what will be recognized as a separate ecclesiastical structure of the Anglican Communion in the USA."

  • October 2006: The Presiding Bishop's chancellor, David Beers, writes letters threatening legal action against the dioceses of Fort Worth and Quincy.

  • November 2006: In an escalating environment of threats and persecution, Bishop Schofield of San Juoquin, pulls no punches in his response to the new Presiding Bishop, saying, in part, "The Episcopal Church, as an institution, is walking a path of apostasy and those faithful to God's Word are forced to make painful choices."

  • December 2006: Nine Virginia congregations, including Truro and the Falls Church, vote to leave the Episcopal Church. Eight join CANA, the ninth accepting oversight from a global south primate. This brings the total number of congregations that have left the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia to 13, with another two having congregational votes coming up in January.

  • December 2006: In a letter to the Primates, the Archbishop of Canterbury explains his rationale for not withholding an invitation for the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church to the Primates Meeting scheduled for February 14-19 in Tanzania, saying "I am also proposing to invite two or three other contributors from that Province for a session to take place before the rest of our formal business, in which the situation may be reviewed, and I am currently consulting as to how this is best organized."

  • January 2007: Diocese of Virginia press release announces lawsuits against 11 of the 15 departing congregations, continuing the scorched earth policy against dissidents apparently being orchestrated by the national church's New York headquarters. Read guest editorial by Falls Church Sr. Warden, additional news stories here,

  • March 2007: Bishops Reject Primates' Ultimatum. The House of Bishops has declined to participate in a pastoral initiative designed by the primates to care for congregations and dioceses which for reasons of conscience cannot accept the Episcopal ministry of their bishop or primate. They also rejected a request to set up an alternative structure with separate Bishop oversight for the Churches with traditional Anglican theology. Also see the Archbishop of Canterbury's letter to the Southern Primates and the ACC dated March 5, 2007.

  • September 30, 2007 is the mandated deadline for Episcopal Church to reform itself or face possible separation from the Anglican Communion.

The question that everyone is asking is who has led this revolt in the Church and taken up gay activism? And why is it as critical as to be far more important than keeping a landmark American (since 1789) institution together as a unified group in confederation with the Anglican Communion?

The answer is simple. Liberal activism at this level has no shame. And it has no boundaries. In fact, the more damage you can inflict on a conservative, mainstream, or traditional organization such as a Church, then the larger the personal reward, and the greater the victory for the "cause".

You have a minority group of individuals who are subverting the Episcopal Church and changing it from that of a Bible-based Church with an emphasis on God and Scripture to that of a good works social club with an emphasis on liberal politics, and social engineering - and they have succeeded in creating another platform for themselves to spout their liberalism from - and moreover, they've done so with a new found authority - pretending the Lord as their mouthpiece!

So the truth is that little of this has to do with God's teaching, this is an opportunity for liberal activist groups to take over another institution and mangle its doctrines for their political agenda.

At this point, I want to reiterate that its not just the Africans who are taking issue with the Episcopal Churches current direction. Local Churches with Anglican ties such as The Church of the Holy Trinity in Marlbourough Massachussetts led by the Rev. Michael J. McKinnon have taken issue with the direction of the Episcopal Church as witnessed by his piece in in response to the Boston Globe's poorly written editorial "No change in Episcopalian teaching" dated February 8, 2007. Other Massachusetts' Churches have also voiced opposition and threatened to leave the Mass Diocese.

This underlines that the issue is not reverse-colonialism as suggested by some trying to direct blame toward the African Continent, but rather tangible and local outrage within the ECUSA - right here in the United States.

So why do I stay in the Episcopal Church? Why not just go to another Church and be done with it?

By any reasonable standard, I've laid the ground-work for leaving The Episcopal Church. I've made the case that for a traditional Christian like myself, which falling under Bishops' Smith and Curry and the Diocese of Connecticut doesn't make a lot of sense on its merit; they believe and seek one thing, and I uphold the truth - not my truth - but His truth. And moreover, the national direction of the ECUSA is shameful, outrageous, and disappointing. And actual Schism from the Anglican Communion is my biggest concern above all else.

I want to address this question from several angles. Hopefully, this will clarify a lot of things.

First of all, at a local level, my church - St. John's Episcopal Church in West Hartford is a good church. There is no outward agenda one way or another being preached from the lectern on Sundays. Having been a member since 1997, I know that the focus has been on Scripture and the music, readings, prayers and sermons are reverent and sometimes Bible-centered (generally not the strong stuff, but rather the soft take on Christ; (we know the rector's left of center politics by the bumper sticker on his vehicle - and he tends to keep those thoughts on his bumper where they belong). The rector and assistant rector are not activists and are happy to leave things as they are - nonconfrontational and noncontroversial. You come, you Worship, you drink coffee with the "Huffingtons" and chat politely about stocks with "Buffy", and you go home.

So, in short I am not upset with my own parish, nor does anything that happens there motivate me to a point of concern. The only thing is that I clearly understand that I am probably one of a handful of individuals that falls under the category of "traditionalist"; so it’s tough looking around and knowing that I'm pretty much alone. You can get a feel for the liberalism in the congregation by simply listening in at the Adult Forum. But all in all, the church is not likely to change because there is no legitimate reason for it to change.

Second, there are groups within the Anglican Communion that are fighting for conservatives and traditionalists to have a place in the Episcopal Church. These groups include The Primates, the American Anglican Council, Lambeth, and others who are devoted to God and trying to protect the ECUSA from itself. It's hard to abandon those working so hard to correct the church's broken moral compass. And I suppose there's always the hope that the Church might right itself before forcing its own separation from the Anglican Communion.

I know the signs on the roadway imply that schism is unavoidable - the recent arrogant decrees by the House of Bishops pretty much gave the finger to Canterbury and the Anglican Communion; whether this is "real" or just a temper tantrum by the ECUSA liberals will not be known until September 30th. But I think we owe it to the groups trying to keep the Communion together to talk and work together on the issue.

Third, as mentioned in earlier paragraphs, I have a long family history with the Episcopal Church. This in itself is a more personal issue with regard to maintaining my own family traditions in a similar fashion such as why I enjoy celebrating Christmas Eve with my family (while other celebrate solely on Christmas Day). So my feelings or thoughts on this cannot be expressed logically - it just is.

This leaves me with the quandary of internal debate over "family traditions" and "Anglican/Episcopal loyalties". I've always viewed that one of the pillars of the Episcopal Church is that it’s connected (not just remotely rooted) to the Anglican Church in England, the land of my ancestors. In fact, if you open the current version of the Book of Common Prayer, you will see written in the second to last paragraph in the Preface:

"...They will appear, and it is to be hoped, the reasons of them also, upon a comparison of this with the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England. In which it will also appear that this [Episcopal] Church is far from intending to depart from the Church of England in any essential point of doctrine, discipline, or worship; or further than local circumstances require."

Well, today it appears very much intending to depart on essential points of doctrine and discipline with The Church of England. The move by the activists in the Church as outlined in their most recent communication in March 2007, “...The meaning of the Preamble to the Constitution of The Episcopal Church is determined solely by the General Convention of The Episcopal Church.” This implies a clear shift from seeking accordance and agreement with the Anglican Communion, vis a vis The Church of England to a new independent authority, based solely on the whims and wishes of a few high ranking Episcopal Bishops. This seems a huge departure from the concept of a Communion. The connection to the Church of England no longer sought, and would no longer be legitimate, if schism occurs.

Since the ECUSA at this moment remains a part the Anglican Communion, there is no reason to leverage this argument in favor of my leaving today. This may change by the Fall of this year. Obviously, there is much to contemplate as developments continue to unfold.

Fourth, if I leave the local Church, then I will lose grounds for engaging directly in the debate with local Church leaders and parishioners. It's more effective to be able to say "we are going down the wrong path", and then it is to argue from the outside that "they" or "you are going down the wrong path". Moreover, the Diocese of Connecticut would love for all the traditionalists to pack their bags and leave so they could be one unified voice through and through on all things political, liturgical, and theological. The perfect utopia - no opposition! They would love to sit in their meetings, unopposed, nodding unanimously in agreement - completely assured of their correctness - amplified by full solidarity on every vote and word.

Lastly, there is the vague hope that if schism is about to occur or does occur that the Episcopal Church may in time recognize that they've gone too far. Even though the rhetoric out of the House of Bishops is inflammatory and screaming for separation at this stage, this isn't to say that recently dismissed concept of alternative oversight (which by the way may be the cleanest way to solve the problems in the interim) could be resurrected at some point. Now, my church - St. John's wouldn't join the new Episcopal Church or fall under alternative oversight, but it might be enough for some parishioners to feel a connection to the Anglican Communion through the relationship that could bridge the Anglican Communion and the new and old Episcopal Churches. I'm sure somewhere a hardcore liberal is laughing at this notion, but not much of this is funny to those looking at the financial books of the ECUSA - where they are seeing themselves nearly 4-million dollars in debt.

Although as a point, I don't blame or condemn traditional Christians who have already decided upon leaving the Church. For many, Church is where they recharge for the week, and it's often a sanctuary for peaceful prayer and reflection, and Christian reassurance through fellowship with follow Christians. So, going to a place where there can be so much conflict and disharmony can probably be deflating and counter-productive for some.

And when you see the Episcopal Church attempt to put an 86-year old man on trial, retired Bishop or not, for ministering outside of a jurisdiction, you can see why people would become so angry at the lunatics running the TEC, and want to leave. It's a little more than unnverving.

So as the countdown to September 30th continues, true Anglicans should do the following:

1. Monitor all communications and transcripts published by their local Diocese, the American Anglican Council (ACC) (note the AAC has a free weekly email newsletter than can be subscribed to here),, the Anglican Communion, ECUSA, Church of England, and the Church of Nigeria.

2. Find out where you Parish stands by attending church meetings, reading your Parish newsletter, and speaking with your Wardens. In a similiar fashion, determine where your Diocese stands.

3. If your Diocese or Parish are in league with the ECUSA positions and agenda, seek out information regarding alternative oversight in your Episcopal juridiction, if it exists. Please note that I'm not calling on you to abandon your Parish, but educate yourself about local and state organizations that are sympathetic to keeping the Anglican Communion whole and ending the ECUSA pro-gay, pro-gay positions. Whether you decide to stay in your Parish or go to another, or leave the Episcopal Church a decision that only you and your family can make.

4. If you feel strong enough about the matter, write your Rector a letter explaining your thoughts on the matter. Or write the Bishop and Diocese. Chances are that your complaints will fall on deaf ears, but you might feel better about it.

5. If you want to engage directly in the debate then write an editorial for your local newspaper to print. Of course, understand that if you do this, everyone in the Church will understand your position. So be prepared to take some heat about, including more than a few cross-eyed looks during Service.

6. Seek information on other Anglican Churches in your area. Over the years, there are several Anglican Churches that have split from the Episcopal Church for a number of reasons, including Episcopal Doctrine, or the crisis over the Prayer Book in the late 70s. Some alternative Anglican Churches can be found here. And there are a large number of these Anglican Churches can also be found on this page (I was actually surprised to see so many groups that want nothing to do with the Episcopal Church but still want to maintain "Anglicanism").

7. Pray for the Episcopal Church. That its leadership sees the light and reverses its ongoing trend into darkness. These folks may be well meaning, but they are doing the Devil's work.

Thanks for reading. And have a Happy Easter!

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