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February 6, 1999
Column #910

CONSERVATIVE EPISCOPALIANS CALL FOREIGN CALVARY FOR HELP

The debate over homosexuality within the Episcopal Church of the United States of America (ECUSA) could lead to a split in the denomination, sparked by Archbishops in the world-wide 63 million member Anglican Communion.

This week a petition was filed by the Association of Anglican Congregations on Mission (AACOM), to the ''Primates'' or Archbishops of 37 Anglican national churches around the world. It asks them to seek the ''repentance'' of ECUSA's Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold and other bishops who have approved of same-sex marriages and homosexual ordinations that are in direct violation of Anglican resolutions on the issue.

The petition also asks that ECUSA's next General Convention in 2000 pass resolutions conforming with the votes of hundreds of Anglican bishops who gathered last summer at a once-in-ten year ''Lambeth Conference.'' The liberal U.S. Episcopal bishops and others from Canada and England were outnumbered for the first time by black evangelical bishops from Africa.

By a surprisingly wide margin of 526-70, Lambeth bishops voted that homosexuality is ''incompatible with Scripture.'' Therefore, they opposed ''the legitimizing or blessing of same-sex unions'' and the ''ordination of those involved in such unions.''

Most American bishops flatly disagree. After returning from Lambeth, Washington Bishop Ronald Haines wrote an open letter to homosexuals apologizing for the vote which was signed by 76 American bishops including those from the nation's largest dioceses such as New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. The Diocese of Massachusetts even passed a resolution denouncing the Lambeth vote.

How does Presiding Bishop Griswold reconcile his position on same-sex marriages and homosexual ordination when Scripture condemns the practice? He has said: ''At present, the Episcopal Church is in conflict with Scripture. All we can say is the mind of Christ operative in the Church today has led the Church to contradict the words of Scripture.''

The petition states that ''The emergency in ECUSA is incapable of internal resolution because that would require the revisionists to have a change of heart or to lose control over ECUSA to orthodox members. Neither will happen.''

It adds that if Episcopal bishops remain unresponsive, Anglican Primates should ''separate ECUSA from the Anglican Communion and replace it with an alternative province composed of a continuing Episcopal Church of orthodox-believing Christians who submit to the authority of Scripture.''

That would authorize the creation of a new denomination.

A separate petition has been sent to all 800+ Anglican bishops around the world, asking to ''provide temporary, emergency protection in the form of episcopal oversight'' of orthodox churches that are being harassed by revisionist bishops. St. Andrew's in Little Rock, for example, could not get Bishop Larry Maze to recognize it as an Episcopal Church. Through the help of a new group called First Promise, Rwanda Bishop John Rucyahana has agreed to provide oversight.

In Philadelphia, three Episcopal churches have told Bishop Charles Bennison Jr. not to come for scheduled visits. 'We said we could not allow him to preach, confirm or celebrate the Eucharist at St. John's'' in Huntington Valley said the Rev. Philip Lyman, rector. ''It is an issue of biblical fidelity.'' Active in First Promise, he notes that when he was ordained a priest, his first promise was that he would ''be loyal to the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this Church has received them.'' and only second did he promise to obey his bishop.

In Lyman's view, Bennison's view of Scripture is in error. The bishop has said, ''The Church wrote the Bible and the Church can change it...the Church has changed it many times.'' Of course, Bennison sees Lyman as insubordinate and has threatened to oust him.

Rather than choose between these oaths, Lyman hopes to report to a bishop that he can respect. AACOM and hundreds of rectors of large conservative Episcopal Churches in First Promise, hope that African archbishops will appoint the very Rev. John Rodgers, retired dean of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, as an Anglican bishop to oversee Lyman and other conservative priests who are torn between their view of Scripture and revisionist bishops.

Jim Solheim, spokesman for ECUSA, says that is very unlikely since Anglican archbishops have always pledged not to interfere in one another's territory. True, but specific African Primates have asked the leaders of AACOM and First Promise to make a case for intervention! The 213 page Petitions and Appendix make an exhaustive case. Some 82 percent of Anglican bishops voted for Biblical orthodoxy. I believe they will act.

Copyright 1999 Michael J. McManus.

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