The Episcopal Church is Splintering
by Mike McManus
I was an Episcopalian for 25 years, but left the church 19 years ago with a
million others. Occasionally I attend Episcopal services because I love its
However, the national church's recent General Convention offered two new reasons
why many more orthodox Christians will leave. This week former Episcopalians
who call themselves Anglicans, held a Requiem Mass at St. Paul's Cathedral in
Portland, Maine, "in observance of the death of the Episcopal Church."
Why? First, the church elected as Presiding Bishop for a nine year term,
Katherine Jefferts Schori, who has an earned Ph.D. in marine biology, is fluent
in Spanish, but has never been a Rector (senior pastor) of a church. In her
opening sermon she declared, "Our mother Jesus gives birth to a new creation.
And you and I are His children."
Delegate Rev. Greg Brewer was shocked: "Biblically, this is wrong on several
counts: Jesus is not a mother who gives birth: Jesus is the Word through whom
creation was spoken, not birthed, into being. Jesus does not ‘birth' us. We are
reborn by the Spirit and adopted as God's children. Jesus is not a mother who
births us; Jesus is a Savior who redeems us."
Schori voted for the election of Gene Robinson, an openly gay man to be bishop
of New Hampshire and allows and promotes same-sex unions in her Nevada diocese.
She told the New York Times "We're not here to argue about matters of sexuality.
We are here to build a holy community."
Brewer winced, "As if sexual behavior and holiness before God and one another
have nothing to do with each other!"
The second reason many will flee this sinking ship is how the General Convention
reacted to "The Windsor Report," issued by a special Commission appointed by the
Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, in response to Robinson's election.
It asked the Episcopal Church to do three things: stop electing and consecrating
non-celibate gay Bishops, discontinue performing same-gender marital blessings
and offer a sincere expression of regret for "tearing the fabric" of the
One resolution expressing "regret" for consecrating a "bishop living openly in a
same-gender union"and asked "to refrain from...(the) consecration of bishops
whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church" – was defeated.
A weaker resolution passed that expressed no regret, and simply asked "to
exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the
episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church." It
made no mention of same-sex blessings now performed routinely in hundreds of
However, the House of Bishops did approve the consecration of a man to be bishop
who was twice divorced and married three times, most recently to a divorced
woman. Surely his "manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church."
Not to liberal bishops, 20 of whom denounced the vague resolution. Washington DC
Bishop John Chane said he would "defy" it.
The vast majority of the world's 72 million Anglicans are not white Anglo-Saxons
- but are black conservative Africans who do not ordain women, let alone gay
men. They believe the issue is "primarily a moral and theological matter: sexual
intimacy is intended by God to be limited to marriage," as Bishop John Howe of
Central Florida put it.
"On the other side are those who believe this is a justice issue: homosexual men
and women, gays and lesbians, have the same rights as heterosexual persons, and
to deny those rights by refusing blessings or access to any Christian ministry,
is a total violation of Christ's example and commandment to love others as he
This week the Archbishop of Canterbury recognized the split. He proposed that a
shared theological "covenant" be written that each province would be asked to
abide by. Those who did so would retain full status as "constituent churches."
Those who did not would be "churches in association" without decision-making
status as Anglicans.
"No member church can make significant decisions unilaterally and still expect
this to make no difference to how it is regarded in the fellowship."
The Archbishop said his proposal could allow local churches in the United States
to separate from the Episcopal Church and join the growing number of orthodox
churches affiliating with the Anglican Communion.
Conservatives rejoiced. They argue that the Episcopal Church, which has
abandoned the historic faith, should be pushed aside. But the future will be
contentious. Most Episcopal bishops are fighting any parish's decision to leave
and will not permit them to keep their buildings, though local congregations
paid for them.
The Episcopal Church is splintering.
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