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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Has Something Changed Along the Way ?– Part 2

One year ago I put up a posting titled, Has Something Changed Along the Way? which attempted to show that Dr. James Simons, onetime President of the TEC Diocese Standing Committee, had changed his position on property issues.Read it here

Apparently there have been changes in diocesan standards concerning the clergy as well. The policies of the TEC diocese, which considers itself to be the true continuing diocese, have apparently evolved in the area of church discipline. In March 2008 I was asked to take a three month leave of absence for using “inappropriate language” with a parishioner. Then diocesan spokesman Peter Frank was quoted as saying, “The diocese upholds a very high standard of behavior for its ministers. While the behavior involved inappropriate language, it technically falls within a policy that demands zero tolerance”. Read it here

Recently I was told that: “There are three openly partnered gay or lesbian priests licensed and functioning in the TEC Diocese, there is a priest licensed and functioning who has been divorced at least twice perhaps three times and married three times perhaps even four times and a heterosexual priest living with a woman to whom he is not married also licensed and functioning.Obviously the once “very high standard of behavior for its ministers” appears to have been relaxed.How could it happen, Virginia? -- especially with clergy who are committed to high moral standards and are committed to the reformation of the Episcopal Church! In January 2008 twelve priests, “including the president of the diocese's clergy association and its longest-tenured rector, mailed a signed, one-paragraph letter yesterday to the diocese's 66 churches saying that while they supported the "reformation of the Episcopal Church we have determined to remain within, and not realign out of" it.In addition, “the group does not support ordination of openly gay clergy or conducting same-sex blessings, the so-called "innovations" at the forefront of denominational disputes since 2003. However, members said they do not believe it is necessary to leave the Episcopal Church, the American arm of the worldwide Anglican Communion, to make that point”. Read it here

Given their stated and upfront convictions in 2008, there must be a mistake? Surely these folks will have opposed these so-called “innovations" that have allegedly crept in to the TEC Diocese. After all we aren’t talking about back benchers here. We are talking the Canon to the Ordinary, the Canon for Formation, the Secretary of Convention, the Priest Developer of Cranberry Township and two former, one current and one future President of the Standing Committee. Wowser! It doesn’t appear that way!

Perhaps my expectations are just too unrealistic. When the PeeBee, Katherine Jeffords Schori, visited Pittsburgh this past April not one of these 12 “conservative clergy” spoke up about the most pressing issue facing the Diocese, ---“She wasn't asked about legal or property issues, and didn't comment on them.” Read it here (1st comment).

Why do I write this? I write because I don’t want those of us in the ACNA Diocese of Pittsburgh to be naive. If we think our former mates over in TEC will somehow ally themselves with us or support our position and stand up on principle to the powers within the TEC diocese or the national church based on past affections or past convictions, we are sorely mistaken. Reconciliation and/or settlement with TEC has always meant capitulation to their position --- nothing more and nothing less.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Ethan

    Was you have said here and the grace you have pled for over and over is true and right

  3. Correction:

    I cannot type! "Was" should be "What"

  4. This is my first blog comment since entering blog rehab some two years ago to address my incendiary blog behavior. Let's hope it works.

    I think it's always commendable for any Christian to try to be a light in the darkness if that's God 's call on their life. However there comes a time when throwing pearls to swine simply becomes a waste of time and that witness could be used in a more fruitful endeavor. Maybe a minority of biblical Christians in TEC-Pitt can do what the majority was unable to do in twenty years (influence the radicals)but it seems like a losing battle. Broaden the scope to the national Tec scene and the chance of turning the tide looks like Picket's charge. It seems a better use of time is reaching the wider population with the gospel.

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  6. Ethan

    I think the fact that none of the conservatives in TEC-Pgh have responded to my posting or your comments is a harbinger of things to come. They will not defend us against the more rabid voices in their midst. It will be to their peril, for they will be next.

  7. I'm sorry if I sounded critical towards the Christian clergy who remain in Tec. I don't mean to be. Some of my closest friends are still clergy in (other diocese) in Tec and they are clearly doing the work of the gospel. However, they are operating pretty much under the radar and receive little or no support from their diocese or the wider church because the two hold such different heart felt beliefs. And my guess is if they were to "speak up" and question the status quo they would be resisted the same way anyone who challenges someone else's beliefs is resisted. And since they need their jobs and their churches they lay low and continue to preach the gospel in hopes that love will win out in the end.

    I, too, have that hope Ethan. The scary part is that God "working brightly" sometimes looks like the fires at Smithfield. Time will tell what it looks like in Pittsburgh but it seems to me that if our Christian friends in tec pitt (whoever they are)had any influence at all, the property deal would have already been settled in a much more charitable way than it is being handled now. As it is, I take great comfort in the fact that burning priests is against the law. I'm just not sure what that means for my home (rectory) and church property.

    Here's to God's sovereignty and grace!

  8. I can't begin to say how sad what's happened in TEC-PITT has made me. But I am not surprised - though I heard from several friends that they were trying to mitigate the actions of their TEC colleagues, they would also point out, "But of course, we really have no influence - or authority". As we have learned over the past two years, conversations with them lead nowhere. They have compromised themselves in a way that renders what they say or claim to do meaningless. And that's what saddens me. They are good folks wielding little or no influence on those intent on doing what they can to dishonor and even destroy ACNA and the Pittsburgh Anglican Diocese.

  9. I suppose part of my hope is anchored in the fact that there's a lot that happens behind the scenes. The TEC-Pitt clergy that I'm thinking of, the ones whom I know to be 'the real deal,' I trust to do the right thing. I really trust them. Now, as I stated previously, I wish that certain things would be publicly protested by the conserving remnant(in fact, I think that's desperately needed at this stage of the game). I also think we need TEC-Pitt to move from a Utilitarian Ethic to a Christian one (or, from 'court-ordered fiduciary responsibilities' to sacrificial concession and grace toward ACNA-Pitt).

  10. Yep, that's what we need: grace and goodwill between two Christian groups, Tec and ACNA.'s that working out so far? Million dollar buy outs, disaffiliation, fair market price tags. It seems that whatever goodwill is going on behind the scenes in Tec-Pitt is being overshadowed by Tec-USA. I've heard that's not true but if it walks like a duck.....

  11. If you clowns really believed in this "realignment" farce, you would willingly leave your nets (buildings & assets), which were not even lawfully yours in the first place, and follow your savior (Bobby D.) -- who, by the way, is collecting three paychecks while some of yinz can barely scrape together one -- to the land of Milk & Honey (and purity).

    Remember the Affirmation of St. Louis (1977)? Those folks exited the burning building without trying to salvage all of the furniture. What a novel idea! Too bad your Christian "principles" don't override your desire for comfort and stability. Then again, if Moe is still reaping the benefits of the so-called Old Church (may we call it "blood money"?), why should the other Stooges be expected to suffer in silence?

    Brilliant legal work, guys! Bobby D. must have had the "Dream Team" as his counsel. Your compadres over in Africa have parishioners who are starving to death, and you dillweeds are spending down your endowments in a futile attempt to hang on to buildings that aren't even yours to begin with.

    Keep up the good work, ACNA! The Catholic Church would like to thank you for making us look that much better!

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  13. Dang! Now I'm really glad priest burning is illegal! Simon reminds me of Jack Nickelson in A Few Good Men. He probably dresses nice, looks presentable, and may even hold down a job, but when he gets his buttons pushed all hell breaks loose. "YOU DAMN RIGHT I GAVE THE CODE RED!!" In all seriousness Simon, what the heck?! We all have a corrupt human nature capable of all kinds of excessive behavior but that wasn't even close to humanitarian. From a person who can yell with the best of them, I honestly suggest you talk to someone you trust and find out the source of that rage. Or, if we caught you on a bad day, please try again; you obviously have some deeply held beliefs that need to be expressed.

  14. Could we separate the two threads in this conversation? David’s original post implied that the conservatives who had stayed in the Episcopal diocese of Pittsburgh were becoming tolerant of the loose moral standards that characterise current Episcopal leadership, and concluded that because of this they cannot be expected to ‘ally themselves with us or support our position… They will not defend us’, presumably in regard to the property issue. What we can or should do in regard to the moral/doctrinal issues and what we can or should do in regard to the property issue are two different things. The conservatives are not of one mind about how to deal with the property issue, despite their common approach to the moral issue, and it would help discussion if that could be kept in mind.

    But the most important point regarding either issue is that conservatives are a minority in the Episcopal diocese, and on every one of its committees. At the moment we simply do not have the votes to stop the revision of standards in the diocese or to change the policies applied to property negotiations. Until that changes, there will be no change in diocesan policy in either area. David, you being recently (and reasonably) likened to Boss Tweed, I know you understand that those who don’t have the votes can’t stop those who do!

    The question is, therefore, what can be done to reform the church under these circumstances. The only thing I’d say about that today is this: the one thing that is absolutely certain is that to go on doing what conservatives have done in the Episcopal Church for the last forty years will not do it. Every conceivable rebuke has been hurled at the revisionists, and it has changed nothing. Every conceivable political stratagem has been used at diocesan and general conventions, and it has changed nothing. Anyone who continues to hope for reform of the Episcopal Church (as I do) must agree that it is time to try something else.

    Those of you who have commented about not being aware of any opposition to the new standards by the conservatives who have stayed may be looking for more of the sort of thing that was done in the past: fights on the floor of convention, refusing to let the bishop come and confirm, letters to the newspapers. You won’t see any of those things, but it’s because they haven’t worked, not because we are less committed to biblical moral standards. I do know that adherence to these standards has been urged on the Pittsburgh diocesan leadership, but not in a spirit of confrontation.

    As far as I know, we have no consensus about what should be tried instead, although David’s post might be stimulating progress towards that. The opinion I hear most, and share myself, is that the most effective thing is simply to go on preaching the pure word of God in our parishes, in the belief that God’s word does not return to Him empty, but prospers in the purpose for which He sent it. It’s true that such a policy won’t change things overnight, or even in my lifetime, but that doesn’t seem to be God’s plan. I know that the Bible was preached by many of those who pursued the policies that failed, but perhaps God wanted us to rely on His word and nothing else.

    Philip Wainwright

  15. Philip, I couldn't agree with you more that strong arm tactics rarely bring about true conversion. And to be honest, I think a lot of us have struggled with what is the best way to advance or even defend the true Christian faith in the face of revisionist and cultural opposition. However, when I look back over the years of struggle in our conventions and the "conservatives" involved in that struggle, I just can't blame the lack of results on the tactics or the people. If I do that then I also have to conclude that Cranmer and the rest of the English Reformers are also guilty of bad tactics or unloving attitudes. Actually, then I have to blame Jesus himself of somehow not being winsome enough to avoid persecution(I'm not comparing Anglicans to Jesus so don't anyone jump all over me). The point is even with poor tactics and bad attitudes (which we all have)there's still an x factor that runs much deeper and seems to resist the gospel "even if someone were to rise from the dead." I wish the believers in Tec all the best as they uphold the "faith once delivered," but I hope the new tactic is not to hide the truth under a basket in order to avoid conflict. I'll take the old tactic anyday.

  16. Thanks, Philip. I really appreciate your vulnerable honesty.

  17. I hear you Philip. In 2008, 2009, and 2010 3 of 4 clergy on your Standing Committee were conservatives. In 2011 2 of 4 clergy are still conservative and at least 1 lay member is conservative surely some influence could have come from this quarter. Also the Canon to the Ordinary, Canon for Formation, the President of the Diocesan Council and the Secretary of Convention claim to be conservative --where are their voices?

  18. Jeez-o-man! There's an awful lot of stone throwing going on here in this land of misfit toys!

    Although I'm too polite to name names, didn't Bobby D. have a couple of "ass-clowns" licensed and practicing in the Diocese during his tenure as Bishop of TEC-Pitt? And what about the divorced clergy who are currently licensed and practicing in the ACNA? And didn't one of your ministers' wife run off with another woman at some point? Hey, here's one! What about gluttony? I think the Bible mentioned something about that being bad. Hell, if Wilson gets any fatter, he won't be able to fit behind the altar! And I'd bet a paycheck that those five chins he's sporting are NOT the product of a thyroid problem!

    For someone who is not affiliated with either team, it's difficult to understand your thought process here(if you actually have one, that is). Why would the ACNA disaffiliate from TEC to form a new "church", then attempt to gain official recognition as a Province in the Anglican Communion, just so you can be in full communion with TEC again! Great thinking guys!

    All of yinz (ACNA & TEC) are really just pissing into the wind, anyhow. The Anglican Communion has been apostate for years. Female priests? Please!!! Oh wait, except for the African Provinces, right? I find it interesting that they're happy to pass laws which allow for the imprisonment and execution of butt-cowboys; but what are they doing about the fact that AIDS is rampant in Africa -- affecting up to 50% of the population in some areas? Either there are a shit-ton of girlie men over there, or your churches are doing a piss poor job of preaching about the value of monogamy in heterosexual relationships. And we won't even talk about the polygamy issue within the African churches. Incidentally, I wonder what the reaction would be if Jefferts-Schori went into their countries and set up camp to minister to the liberal element who feel marginalized? Somehow I don't think His Grace, the Most Rev. Nicholas Dikeriehi Orogodo Okoh, would put up a "Welcome" sign. I think their little feelings would be hurt. :)

    I greatly appreciate the entertainment you're providing with this blog. I enjoy reading the posts and watching you rally the troops to build up your "Church of Purity". Keep up the good work, guys!

  19. David,

    Simon's comment is not worthy of a response, but it IS worthy of deletion. Just a suggestion.

    There's thoughtful discussion and debate, then there's adolescent rage which demonstrates a desperate need for prayer and therapy.


  20. Dito. I'm not a fan of censorship but I think Simon needs to go. He's simply unable to contribute decently. Simon, so far you've heard the word "therapy" twice. We really do care for you even if we don't like your attitude. Please get help.

  21. Wowzer! It's amazing how defensive we get when someone points out our own deficiencies! I also find it interesting how quickly an "open forum" becomes closed when your fundamentalist agenda is challenged with cold hard facts. You guys talk a pretty good game ("old tactics"), but apparently aren't as tough as you sound. There won't be any hand-to-hand in this arena, I guess. No wonder this so-called "ecclesiastical war" is so lame.

  22. Not having been on the Standing Committee at any of those times, I can't say what issues were discussed and how they were resolved, or what might still be under discussion. And the two canons are employees of the diocese who can't say anything critical of the diocese publicly and expect to keep their jobs. Bishop Scriven was in much the same position. They could resign, of course, but then they'd lose whatever influence they are able to exert on affairs.

    In the cases of both Standing Committee and other positions, the dynamic changed greatly when we elected a provisional bishop rather than an assisting bishop. If we'd continued with an assisting bishop, the Standing Committee would still be the Ecclesiastical Authority, and no one but themselves could have introduced changes of policy. A provisional has all the authority of a diocesan, and the Standing Committee is his Council of Advice, nothing more. What advice they have given in the matters mentioned in your original post, I really don't know.

    As far as Simon Student is concerned, I agree with Ethan and Joe. This is not a forum in which that sort of talk is appropriate. If you're willing to let filthy talk come from your mouth, you need to become a deputy to some Episcopal convention. I also can't shake off the feeling he is someone we all know, or know of, and I'd just as soon not have to speculate on that each time I read one of his posts.

  23. Dear Philip,

    What you wrote was so helpful and clarifying, and gives me some more sympathy with the conserving folks in TEC-Pitt. It also encourages me to pray for your leavening, gracious influence (as well as your ministries!). And I think you're right -- that graciousness will probably have a better effect. I think the more charity we can spread around, the better off we'll be.

    As per Simon Student, I'm with you, Philip. I am almost certain this is someone whom we know, an insider (not an outsider as he claims), acting out in an aggressive, serpentine manner. I'd bet a lot of money on it, if I had a lot of money to bet.

  24. It seems Mr. Student is not one of my greatest fans.

  25. David--there's a difference between robust and animated discussion and whatever it is "Simon Student" is injecting into the mix here, and I agree with Ethan and Phil that the delete button would be well-used in his case.

  26. You know, I think its wonderful that despite the presence of an obvious troll trying to stir up animosity, Pittsburgh's clergy on both sides are showing themselvees to be gracious and honorable. Thanks Simon. You truly proved a point. Not, I suspect, the one you intended. The rest of you... it is an honor to serve alongside you.

  27. I would like to state, for the record, that, although my office is the origin of the name "Simon Student" (which was used as a sample student account in our online learning management system so that we could see things from a student’s perspective), I am in no way associated with the "Simon Student" who has commented above. Nor am I behind the "Simon Student" who was on facebook until recently, who may or may not be the same person who posted here. (And whose account mysteriously disappeared yesterday.)

    Further, I would like to say that, although I am a convert to Catholicism from Anglicanism, Simon's attitudes above are not reflective of how I view my Anglican brothers and sisters, or Anglicanism in general. I still gladly support God's work in the Anglican world through my job. And I have both family and dear friends who are clergy in both TEC and ACNA. If Simon really is Catholic (which I doubt), he is certainly not accurately representing Rome's position either toward non-Catholic Christians or homosexual persons. One never "looks better" by throwing mud at others. As Ravi Zacharias once put it: throwing mud at others not only leaves you with dirty hands, but you end up losing a lot of ground.

    Lastly, I think it is rather low of the person behind Simon Student to not only post such unchristian things, but to post them anonymously and - further - to use a pseudonym associated with someone else, casting aspersions on his character. I hope that those of you who know me recognize that this is not the sort of thing I would sink to.

    With prayers for peace to all...