Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Connecting the Dots: To Write or Not to Write?

       After my "Why I Stayed" series I had pretty much decided to stay positive and reflective with my blogging, and to stop writing about the schism in South Carolina. I decided to abandon further work on the project I promised, to be entitled "Connecting the Dots". But then I'll read something like the archived ENS news article on the "Chapman memo" in
Pittsburgh, http://archive.episcopalchurch.org/3577_26104_ENG_HTM.htm , and start to feel like I would be remiss not to point out the premeditated nature of the strategy of "ersatz" peace preceding the eventual blitzkrieg by breakaway leadership, not only to leave the Episcopal church, but also to harm (and some would even say to "mortally wound") her. Especially scroll down and read the section entitled "Hard Ball Tactics" by Dan Englund, and then read the text that follows, which is the actual memo itself. And then look how things are actually playing out in South Carolina and other breakaways. Shay Gaillard, a priest in the SC breakaway diocese, responded on a facebook version of this post that the Chapman memo is old news, and is not the blueprint of what has happened in South Carolina. The only differences I see in SC and the strategy laid out in the memo is that (1) SC went independent and (2) is seeking support from GAFCON instead of the Southern Cone and (3) SC gained insight from San Joaquin and Pittsburgh and elsewhere and became more proactive and aggressive, both seizing property and inciting institutional response from TEC. Read and compare. The "clustering" strategy noted in the Chapman memo was perfected in SC. This time the whole diocese, with the exception of a few congregations, left TEC and immediately filed a lawsuit to claim the name of the "Protestant Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina". There you have the "replacement" strategy from the Chapman memo refined and executed. Also, the language in the Chapman memo about generating significant public attention both within the US and among their worldwide partners has much similarity to PR strategy in South Carolina.

        Maybe I wouldn't be so bothered by this if the spin coming from the breakaway diocese and most of their GAFCON and other Alphabet Soup supporters were not so inaccurate and designed to besmirch the character,  theology and pastoral commitment to ministry in the name of Jesus Christ of us who remain in TEC.

        In talking with my former colleagues, they truly feel justified in doing this, because they claim that Mark Lawrence and other bishops were being deposed "for being orthodox and biblical". Listen to Bishop Michael  Nazir-Ali (Visiting Bishop for Anglican Communion Relations in the Diocese of South Carolina), “I think it is absolutely scandalous that people like +Mark Lawrence—who is one of the finest bishops that I have ever known and who upholds Catholic truth and Christian teaching and the Gospel in everything that he does—should be deposed for doing so [being Catholic, Christian and Gospel-oriented], and not for any other reason."--in an interview by Mary Ann Mueller, Special Correspondent to Virtue Online. (Thanks Lionel Deimel, via scepiscopalians.com) From the same interview, Nazir-Ali is also quoted thusly: "I mean, this is a topsy-turvy world that we are looking at where people are being deposed for being Biblical, for being creedal, for being Catholic by others who, if you read what they write or say, clearly seem to be heretical in their exegesis of the Bible, their doctrine of the Church, and in what they believe about the Person and work of Jesus Christ and so on."

Nothing could be further from the truth. Look at the Chapman memo, and then look at the way things have played out, even before Bp. Jefferts-Schori was elected Presiding Bishop. This has all the appearance of having been a systematic plan. 

Bishop Lawrence, I now believe, was not being "attacked" for being orthodox. He was brought up on charges of abandonment (by priests and lay people from within his own diocese) for not fighting to keep St. Andrew's in Mt. Pleasant in the diocese (again, see the strategy laid out in the chapman memo) and for issuing quit claim deeds to all the congregations in the diocese. The reason given to us clergy was because the Episcopal Church was planning to invade and "confiscate" our property. Why would they do that? Only if we showed signs of leaving with the property. A look at Pittsburgh and San Joaquin in terms of the "Biblically Orthodox" breakaway strategy gave pause to an institution that is trying to stay together. And a quit-claim deed had already been given to another SC congregation 3 years before the rest were handed out en masse. If someone began to lay the groundwork for taking title to your house, would you not start looking for ways to protect yourself? It's an honest question. Wouldn't you?

My former colleagues are being deposed, let me squarely say, not for being biblical, or orthodox or for being committed to the Gospel. They are being deposed for one reason: they followed Mark Lawrence out of the Episcopal Church. You don't get to leave the Episcopal Church and continue to call yourself an Episcopal priest. Any other reaction than deposition after such action would be insane, if not anarchical. And Bp. von Rosenberg has not enjoyed this task. As he noted recently at a clergy meeting, "I know personally the fathers of some of these clergy. And this is not pleasant."

Also, I have been on a quest, like Abraham, for "50 righteous men" in TEC, the so-called Sodom of anglicanism in the United States. What I have found is a plethora of good and faithful men and women clergy who are devoted to creedal and biblical Gospel and theological room to breathe in the Episcopal Church. If God would not have destroyed Sodom for 10 righteous men (I always thought Abaham should have taken the number down to one or even zero), I can't understand why some of my former (their word, not mine) colleagues would want to destroy the Episcopal Church which has so many "righteous" men and women. And by "destroy", I mean withdraw support (which we did financially some years ago) and physical property and persons and personal resources, leaving it sucked dry, and replaced (see the Chapman memo) by a "stronger, more unified, Biblical, Anglican, Creedal communion". This is not the way of Jesus.

As a priest who was constantly being fed disparaging information about TEC by leaders in our diocese (never positive news about our communion), and as one who, out of home-team loyalty always just "bought it", I wonder how the rank and file in the majority of the South Carolina congregations could ever see the truth with any clarity.

So I struggle. Do I go ahead and write "Connecting the Dots", holding out evidence that the truth is yet to be heard? Although I offered a link to my blog to Titusonenine some months ago, the elves have yet to link me, unless I'm missing it somehwere on their blog. Maybe they have simply forgotten. Or maybe this is one voice they don't want you to hear: someone from the "inside". If they will get in touch with me or link me, I will gladly retract my insinuation and placard it for all to see. So how are people "from within" to get another perspective? I do not like this dirty business. I would rather stay positive. But doggone it, SOMEBODY has to do it. We are talking about the Bride of Christ here. Perhaps with a little mud on her crinolens, but a lady, nonetheless.  Or should I just move on? You tell me.
CH +


  1. Jennifer RobertsJuly 30, 2013 at 2:18 PM

    What I hear from my parents who have ties to at least 2 dioceses is that we were being fed a bunch of bull from our diocese. Everyone outside of our diocese has a different story than what we were being told. It frustrates me because I truly love Bishop Lawrence and still pray for him, daily. But, the groundwork was laid 10 years ago is what I hear and people have guided him and the others with false information. The saddest part of all of this is... who will hire these 60 plus priests that left? I'd like to believe they can ask for forgiveness for leaving TEC, but the truth is most churches in other dioceses won't consider them. I don't know about writing or not writing. This is all so disheartening. I was willing to stay with St. George's no matter what was decided, but I am glad that we stayed, yet saddened over the divide.

  2. This comment is from The Rev. Tom Woodle...Dear friend and colleague...his comment didn't make it over, so I am re-posting it here for him in two parts...CH +
    Chris.....let me just give an observation from my own experience here. In the past I have been clear about what I believe and why, what I see as my scriptural basis. However, I have always left room for the possibility that I might be wrong. Therefore, I had no real problem remaining in TEC, which I knew from the beginning was a "roomy" church that tolerated a wide range of interpretations of scripture. That is one thing that actually attracted me to the Episcopal Church. However, my own problem came when I had to, much as you did, make a choice about whether to accept the deposition of Bishop Lawrence or not. This brought to the surface the question of how I lived out my vows made at ordination. Let alone the question of obeying those in authority over me, because who that was suddenly became very fluid and a real question in and of itself. However, the questions that did give me much concern related to my vows to "be loyal to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them." In good faith, I myself cannot see how TEC is following the doctrine, discipline and worship "as this church has received them." Something else seems to be going on and it seems that those of us who hold to the traditions that have been handed down to us are now considered to be "renouncing our vows" by TEC. It doesn't make sense.
    Secondly, in my vows I stated, "I solemnly declare that I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God", yet that seems to now be optional in TEC. One of many examples is the quote by the Presiding Bishop that "Other Abrahamic faiths have access to God the Father without consciously going through Jesus." (This would be speaking of Judaism and Islam). She continues, "I also look at people in other faith traditions, Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh, who show the fruits of the Spirit...which we see as godly behavior.“

    And this is in direct opposition to not only Jesus' words in John 14:6 but also to Article 28 of the 39 Articles of Religion found in the very Book of Common Prayer that we use in worship: "Article XVIII. Of obtaining eternal Salvation only by the Name of Christ. For Holy Scripture doth set out unto us only the Name of Jesus Christ, whereby men must be saved." One could perhaps make the argument that she said "access to God the Father" and not salvation....but in other instances she has made it pretty clear what she believes.

  3. Tom Woodle comment part 2:
    So, my dilemma is that while I was happy to be an Episcopalian, even when I was in disagreement with much of what seemed to be coming down with TEC, I was put in a position of having to choose between either living up to my ordination vows as I perceived them, or following the party line of TEC. I am not being glib here......this has been a source of great distress for me personally, because, as you know and were a witness of under your ministry, I CHOSE the Episcopal Church to be MY church. Add to that the fact that Bishop Lawrence was deposed (in my opinion) for following the direction of Paul in Corinthians to rather be defrauded than take a brother to court. Yes, the Diocese of SC also went to court, but in response to the previous behavior of TEC in other cases where they seized property and sometimes sold it off rather than allow loyal Episcopal Christians to continue to worship there, in at least one case refusing to sell the property back to those who had built it at fair market value and in another case selling the church property to a Muslim group for a mosque. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.
    So, while I want to remain an Episcopalian, the church I chose and made my vows in has drastically changed and in my opinion (which is where I have to operate)has acted unbecomingly where Christian love is concerned.
    I suppose that you are correct in that we should no longer call ourselves Episcopalians, because we have left TEC. Or, some would say we should have every right to continue to call ourselves Episcopalians because the Episcopal Church left us in reality. I don't know. The fact is, I don't really care about the name. What I do care about are the rifts that have been sawed between brothers and sisters in the faith. I care about the piss-poor example all of this is for the rest of the world to see and I care about people who look at the the Body of Christ and say, "Why would I want to be a part of THAT since you people can't even treat each other with the grace and love you constantly chirp about." We have failed. All of us have failed and I wish somebody would just step back and say "I count all other things (name, property, status with the Anglican Communion, whatever) as rubbish compared to knowing Jesus Christ in His resurrected power." Maybe, just maybe, we don't deserve a church in our care. Maybe the organizations have become too haughty in and of themselves. Maybe this is God's judgement on all of us, relegating us to pretty much irrelevance in the fight to build the Kingdom of God in this time and place.
    Sorry to sound so fatalistic, but this is all wrong. God does not need TEC, nor does He need the Diocese of SC to carry out His plan. However, we are missing the blessing of being part of what He is doing in the fullest because of our squabbling, bitching and moaning. I can only pray that all of us somehow find our way to the center of what God is doing and let the rest go. Really.....let the rest go. The Rev. Tom Woodle

  4. Tom, I would say that PB Katherine is simply trying to say that she is leaving the final judgement of people of these other faiths up to God...something I have heard Fitz Allison say on several occasions. He has saif we might be deeply surprised when we find out who's "in" (and who's "out"--maybe nobody). Sometimes in this unpleasantness, who says a thing seems to carry more positive or negative weight than the content itself.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Chris,

    I have lots of thoughts on this, but to be honest after a long day at work the idea of trying to put it all together and respond to some thin arguments on Tom's part is exhausting and more than I can put together. I'm confidently leaving this in your hands and going to walk the bridge with Karen. Anxious to read whatever you decide to write...

    1. Thin? Thin is relative my friend. LOL. I've definitely been called worse. You make one mistake here though Suds.....you assume that I am arguing or have an argument. Not at all. Any argument I have is purely in my own mind, with myself. I am not debating with anyone but myself....I am looking at events unfold around me and I am being honest with my feelings over this whole mess. I am frustrated and venting. I am searching for Jesus in the midst of this pile. Now, if you would like to respond to my venting, I would be more than happy to hear it. As I said, I always leave room for the fact that I might be wrong. I'm being serious when I say, "Show me Jesus and I'll grab hold."

  6. Hey, Randy. Gee, thanks for the help, LOL. As for Tom, I know and love him, and respect his opinion. I also pray for him because, as he said, a decision was imposed upon him, and he felt little choice. I do not agree with his opinion that Mark Lawrence was forced into this deposition rather than to be defrauded by bring taken to court. Mark Lawrence short circuited the process. His call, but look at all the sadness and mayhem. ,

    1. Just for clarity....I read your comment above several times and I'm not sure I was clear previously. To my understanding, one of the chief complaints leveled against Bp. Lawrence is that he did not protect the property of the diocese at Mt. Pleasant by bringing a lawsuit against them to seize their property when they decided to leave. What I meant is that if this was part of the complaint, Lawrence was held responsible for refusing to sue them and letting them leave in peace. That, in my opinion, was following the directions of Paul who said "why not rather be defrauded than take a brother before a secular court." Of course, you could then say the same thing about the diocese, so, TEC stands condemned for past behavior regarding this and one might say that we stand condemned also for striking first against TEC. I'm no lawyer, but I suppose I see a difference between going to court to seize property and going to court to protect property. Of course, there is always the argument of just whose property it is anyway. Seems like both sides think themselves to be protecting God. What do you think would happen if we all just decided we were going to give up and do our best to follow Jesus...just all of us, TEC and the diocese and all concerned, just drop it, love each other and move forward as best we can see. I suppose I just see things too simply.

    2. Then what you get is an "OK" from Mommy and Daddy that if you disagree with them, you can leave and take the house with you. It's anarchy. Sons and daughters were roundly condemned in Old and New Testament alike for leaving parents bereft of their property. I would love to distill it down to simple love, where no one owns property and we all hold all things in common. But our church in its councils voted duly. They didn't "abandon" anybody. Those who chose to leave over theology (and that's a BIG Ol' subjective mushy can of worms) were welcome to. But to leave and seize the property and take it with you (and to allow it without a challenge when it is attempted) descends to institutional anarchy, which is the roiling of water that the Chapman memo recommends. It strikes at the heart of what it means to be community and to "hold all things in common". When the leaving church and or dioceses "take" the stuff, they are declaring ownership as over against the Institution, who is holding the property in a trust relationship for the next Episcopal generation in that locality. How about St. Andrew's in Mt. P. sitting down and negotiating with the Diocese? We want out, but can we change the nature of the property so that we can call it our own by BUYING it? Then canons are satisfied, and court doesn't have to come up at all. But the Chapman memo admits it's uncanonical to take property, so it recommends doing it asap before the HOB and other TEC leadership develop a backbone and say, "Hey, wait a minute! Whenever you leave, especially with the resources, you diminish us! Not so fast!" They HAVE to challenge property-taking for the common good. In my humble opinion, that's what you get when you just drop it. When Tony Seel felt like he had stretched as far as he could theologically (and for him that would be hardly at all, LOL), he had the integrity to leave the keys on the table as they departed. They were free as birds, and as far as I know, spent zero $$ on lawsuits. Before long, they were in a different building and "Bob's Your Uncle", they're thriving. If youre going to leave, that's the way to do it.

  7. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a northern liberal intellectual cradle Episcopalian who wonders about the "party line." My experience of the Episcopal church has been open, loving, compassionate, intellectually fearless, and unconditionally welcoming. Tell me your idea of God is less than this--and that is all any of us have-some human "idea" of the Unknowable--and I will tell you that the Unknowable God loves you more than words can say.

  8. "unconditionally welcoming"? how scandalous, how uncontrollable...how radical...how merciful...how wild...how preposterous!