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October 12, 2005
Column #1,259

                             The Splintering Episcopal Church

Rev. Eric D. Dudley, the Episcopal Rector of St. John's Church in Tallahassee, resigned last week, telling church members, "The roots of heresy are so deep in the Episcopal Church...that there really is no possibility of changing the fabric of the Church."

He wrote about helping a young man to believe in Christ, while feeling "sick that I was leading him to a new faith in a church that has turned its back on the very foundations of faith. I cannot do that ever again!"

The most visible form of the heresy he speaks about was the decision by the 2003 General Convention of the Episcopal Church to approve the election of Rev. V. Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire, though he's living in an openly gay relationship with another man.

However, the issue is far deeper and wider. "What I've seen is a growing disparagement and undermining of Holy Scripture and the unique person of Jesus," says Dudley. "In the Episcopal Church at many levels - bishops, priests, seminary professors - Scripture is no longer the foundation for ethical decision-making. They believe God is teaching a `new truth,' that replaces the old truth of Scripture.

"The new truth is that there are different ways to live out one's sexuality. They believe God fully embraces these new ways, though they are contradictory of Scripture. For example, The Episcopal pansexual organization known as Integrity describes itself as a "Gay-Lesbian, Bi-sexual, Transgendered Christian Community."  The door they have opened is a huge door, and they'll see the Episcopal Church move away from the classical understanding of sexuality, of marriage and Scripture."

"What is also disconcerting is the way they characterize Jesus in the Christian life. We have understood Jesus to be the Savior and Redeemer of a fallen and sinful creation. They see Jesus as a teacher and model of love who affirms all. It is a Gospel of affirmation, rather than transformation," Fr. Dudley said in an interview.

A week after he left St. John's, most parishioners also left with him to create St. Peter's Anglican Church across town. On Sunday 840 attended his first service vs. a 730 average at St. John's.

According to Rev. Jim McCaslin of All Souls Church in Jacksonville, 10-12 more churches in the diocese are considering following his example. "People are waking up to the fact that the Episcopal Church is no longer Christian," he said as the dean of the Anglican Communion Network for the Southeast, a group of orthodox believers in hundreds of churches.

In fact many have left the denomination to help create 80 new churches in the Anglican Mission in America. Others have joined spin-offs such as the Charismatic Episcopal Church.

"Chunks of the church will fall away like ice caps of the North Pole," asserts David Virtue, whose conservative website, www.virtueonline.org, has been read by 8 million traditional Anglicans around the world.

In 2003, 36,380 Episcopalians dropped out, 100 a day.

The same pattern can be seen in other Mainline Protestant Churches. Dave Shiflett reports in his book, "EXODUS: Why Americans Are Fleeing Liberal Churches for Conservative Christianity," that in 1960, 45 percent of voters were Mainliners and 45 percent were Evangelicals and Catholics. By 2000 64 percent are Evangelical or Catholic while only 23 percent are Mainliners where "contemporary virtues (like) tolerance have won out over biblical admonitions, and admonitions to holy living suddenly became hate speech," he writes.

Last summer the leaders of 80 million Anglicans, most of whom live in the Global South - Africa and Asia - met in Ireland and demanded that the Episcopal Church "repent" of its consecration of an active homosexual as bishop, halt its ordination of gay priests and the blessing of same-sex unions. 

U.S. Episcopal leaders came to a meeting in Nottingham this summer, expressing "regret" for upsetting 80 percent of the world's Anglicans, but did not repudiate the action. In fact, they defended their "new faith" of inclusivity. But they said final decisions had to be made by the next General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 2006.

The bishops of a dozen dioceses such as Pittsburgh, Dallas, South Carolina, Albany, NY Fort Worth and Quincy, IL have joined the Anglican Communion Network, emphasizing their union with worldwide Anglicans on this issue - and their opposition to the Episcopal Church, while remaining inside it.

"The actions of the Episcopal Church are threatening to have us expelled from the Church," laments says Quincy Bishop Keith Ackerman. "We were born into the Anglican Communion, and we want to remain in the historic faith."

Global South bishops may recognize their courage, and that of clergy like Eric Dudley, and expel only the heretics - who are a majority of the church.

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