Wednesday, 14 January 2004

anti-ECUSA plot revealed

Today’s Washington Post carried this story:
Plan to Supplant Episcopal Church USA Is Revealed

The full text of the document mentioned in the story can be found below. It is also on the Washington Post website as a PDF document but is over 30 megabytes in size, so downloading is not recommended. PDF file later replaced by smaller one, only 4 Mb

It may be worth mentioning that the website listed at the end as being “in Great Britain” is not in Great Britain but is part of a Canadian one. Close :-)

December 28th, 2003

Dear Friends,

I am Geoff Chapman, Rector of St Stephens Church in Sewickley, Pa. (Diocese of Pittsburgh). I am responding to you on behalf of the American Anglican Council and their Bishops’ Committee on Adequate Episcopal Oversight (AEO). Thanks for contacting us; we very much want to network with you in these difficult times and be of real help to you.

The AAC Strategy Committee has been working for months on AEO. In consultation with a wide circle of friends - inside this country and beyond - we have clarified our strategy and are now moving to implement it. I am serving as their response person for AEO, and I want to brief you on our progress. This document will get you up to speed on where we are going. Please keep this document confidential, sharing it in hard copy (printed format) only with people you fully trust, and do not pass it on electronically to anyone under any circumstances.

1) Our ultimate goal is a realignment of Anglicanism on North American soil committed to biblical faith and values, and driven by Gospel mission. We believe in the end this should be a “replacement” jurisdiction with confessional standards, maintaining the historic faith of our Communion, closely aligned with the majority of world Anglicanism, emerging from the disastrous actions of General Convention (2003). We believe this goal is now pressed upon us by the Holy Spirit as a result of the rejection of the historic Christian faith and the rejection of biblical and Communion authority by the leadership of ECUSA. We will lead our congregations and partners in making the adjustment to adopt this strategy. We seek to retain ownership of our property as we move into this realignment.

2) As an intermediate step, we will respond to the urgent pastoral need in our country by offering Adequate Episcopal Oversight to parishes or remnants of parishes who share our deeply held convictions, proceeding under the guidance of our Bishops and the Primates. Bp Griswold’s offer of “Extended Episcopal Care” is unacceptable, fundamentally flawed and disingenuous, and does not meet the needs of our parishes or the intentions of the Primates. Our AEO will maintain confidentiality in the application process, and seek transfer of Parish oversight across geographic diocesan boundaries to an orthodox bishop, the right of pastoral succession, liberty of conscience In financial stewardship (the right to “redirect” funds), and negotiated property settlements affirming the retention of ownership in the local congregation.

The implementation of Adequate Episcopal Oversight will normally follow a two-step, “Stage 1 Then Stage 2” process.

Stage 1 will feature “spiritual realignment” while remaining within the letter of current canons. Parishes would publicly announce that their relationship with their diocesan Bishop is “severely damaged” because of the events of the summer, and that they are now looking to one of the Primates or an AAC orthodox Bishop for their “primary pastoral leadership”. Announcements will need to be carefully phrased to avoid canonical violations.

During the months of Stage 1, we will begin to reform our relationships to build the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes. We will move to initiate support structures for fellowship and strategy, We will act courageously and faithfully to support “at risk” parishes. We will creatively redirect finances. We will refocus on Gospel initiatives. We will innovatively move around, beyond or within the canons to “act like the church God is making us”. Stage 1 will enable congregations/clusters to keep clear use of their buildings for the foreseeable future, and would give critical time to strengthen our leadership circles for what promises to be a turbulent spiritual season.

Stage 2 will launch at some yet to be determined moment, probably in 2004. During this phase, we will seek, under the guidance of the Primates, negotiated settlements in matters of property, jurisdiction, pastoral succession and communion, If adequate settlements are not within reach, a faithful disobedience of canon law on a widespread basis may be necessary.

Some congregations have already proceeded to “Stage 2” because of local circumstances. While we cannot offer AEO under an AAC diocesan Bishop at this time, we do have non-geographical oversight available from “offshore” Bishops, and retired Bishops. We may also be able to offer oversight from special designated priests acting on behalf of our AAC Diocesan Bishops.

3) Our local strategy for developing AEO will have to keep our goal and current hostile circumstances in mind. We call it a “cluster strategy”, and it will closely sync with the establishment and spread of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes. We are developing clusters of churches (3-30 churches per cluster) in 15-30 varying dioceses. These churches would join the Network and apply for AEO whenever possible as diocesan clusters. When they are prepared, we will sequence public announcements of their intentions to realign in successive weeks to build impact. These churches will need Clergy and Vestries who are unified, well networked, and ready for a season of conflict if necessary.

Smaller, isolated congregations that cannot connect with a supporting cluster will be welcome to apply, but encouraged to make a public announcement later in 2004. They will sail in the wake of the leadership of stronger clusters.

Parishes/clusters that go through this process in a “Stage 2” mode and Bishops who receive such parishes/clusters will be at risk of litigation and presentment, and should be prepared for such.

An AAC Bishop could be available to go with any parish/cluster to meet with the diocesan Bp, as needed. We think the presence of an AAC Bishop with a stated partnership with the Primates could change the dynamics of such a meeting.

This “Stage 1, Stage 2, Cluster Strategy” has several advantages: It will…

  • (1) build “rising orthodox network” DNA among the networked churches. Churches in the clusters would gain formative experiences of working together, depending upon each other, praying together, linking with the Global South, and if need be, suffering together. This would be invaluable for the months and years ahead.
  • (2) give us our best shot at a success. Any isolated parish that moves alone into the revisionist line of fire at this point is going to be in peril. Congregations moving in clusters have the advantage of leveraging their combined strength.
  • (3) generate significant public attention both within this country and among our world-wide partners.
  • (4) build “position” for any settlement talks in the future.

4) We are building a network of “Cluster Moderators” who will serve emerging clusters as they gather. These leaders should have a servant’s heart and a broad base of support in their own parishes that will enable them to come alongside conflicted or imperiled congregations. They must be able to bridge the lines of our coalition with genuine respect for the differences within the orthodox community. We will identify these key leaders as soon as possible.

5) We would cover everything in intentional, dependent Christ-centered prayer, seeking the Holy Spirit’s leading and provision at every point, Prayer support cells will be developed around the country and mobilized at critical moments.

Here are some “Frequently Asked Questions” :

1) What does it take to apply for AEO (Adequate Episcopal Oversight)? Normally we would ask for the signature of the Rector and a supporting vote of the Vestry. When you have reached this point of decision, send the application to the AAC office. There is no need to inform your Bishop yet of the application. We will inform him with you in due time. You can find the application and guidelines here:
http://www.americananglican.org/News/News.cfm?ID=827&c=21

2) Does AEO mean that the orthodox overseeing Bishop would have control of the call, licensing, and canonical residence of the clergy? We do not know the answers to that, but our Bishops will be exploring these issues as we move forward. The AAC bishops are not prepared to sign off on an arrangement that will leave a congregation in continuing high risk, and that means that issues of spiritual authority, pastoral succession and episcopal oversight must be solved, That Is the fundamental difference between Adequate Episcopal “Oversight” envisioned by Canterbury and the Primates and the Episcopal “Care” offered by Griswold. However, there are many details yet to be ironed out.

3) What legal liabilities would you face if you wanted to leave your current diocese? Recent litigation indicates that the local diocesan authorities hold almost all the cards in property disputes and clergy placement if they want to play “hardball”.

But we think that the political realities are such that American revisionist bishops will be reticent to play “hardball” for a while. They have just handed the gay lobby a stunning victory, but are being forced to pay a fearsome price for it. The opposition at home is far greater than they anticipated and the opposition overseas is serious and inflamed. ECUSA will certainly lose members and funds at a high rate over the next months, accelerating their decline. In one short summer they have managed to radicalize all the orthodox in our communion and take away the “middle ground” where so many of our members have hidden! This has put many (perhaps even most) parishes in conflict and made the survival of many smaller parishes a large and urgent question. No one is very happy about this inside ECUSA, and the American public is hardly cheering the events in New Hampshire.

ECUSA leaders know well how conservatives could quickly become the “victims” in the public mind. They also know that all of our AEO work will eventually find its way across the desk of the Archbishop of Canterbury (ABC). All of this together will create pressure for them to cooperate with the ABC/Primate’s call for AEO. So we suspect that there will be a window of time before they return to “hardball” tactics.

The AAC has a new “Legal Resources” link on their home page, and if you or your new Vestry need help in this area, we would suggest contacting them.
http://www.americananglican.org/Issues/IssuesList.cfm?c=47

4) Can we redirect our funds? This is happening on a widespread basis. There are several strategies to consider. Some parishes have used “donor intent” to trump diocesan canon. The argument goes something like this… “In these conflicted times we will offer our congregation pledge forms with options to indicate their preferred use of their funds. The options go… “Would you like to have a canonical portion of your gift sent (1) to the Diocese? (2) To the National Church? Or (3) To the Vestry for their judgment on whether to pass on funds to the Diocese or National Church? All redirected funds will go to Anglican missions who are committed to biblical faith, values and Gospel ministry?

The Vestry then informs the Diocese that they feel it important to allow their members to follow their conscience. Arguing for “freedom of conscience” and the honoring of “donor intent” is very difficult for liberals to oppose, regardless of the strength of your state law. And it should give your parish some breathing room as you seek to move through this difficult season together.

For a biblical/theological understanding of redirecting funds, look at John Guernsey’s talk from the Dallas Conference. You can find it here:
http://americananglican.org/News/News.cfm?ID=784&c=21

5) What is important over the next months? Here are some concrete suggestions for your consideration:
a. Join the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes. Here’s some basic information:
http://www.americananglican.org/News/News.cfm?ID=920&c=21
Look to the AAC website for updates.
b. Form diocesan “clusters” with sympathetic churches. This is essential. An AAC chapter can be the seedbed for a cluster that is seeking realignment. Circle up, pick a moderator, and contact us at AAC headquarters.
c. Be careful of your language. Don’t declare yourself “out of communion” with your diocesan Bishop as such statements have been used as evidence for canonical action against clergy (“abandonment of communion” in Philadelphia). To say that your communion is “impaired” or “damaged” is a wiser response for the moment. Let the excommunications come from the Primates.
d. Prioritize your issues and pursue them in due order. Sort out the challenges you face and go after the most important first, while saving the least important till last. The issues you face could include securing new leadership, consolidating and educating your Vestry, building a network of support within your Diocese, stabilizing your, congregation, etc. Take first things first. Operate in God’s time. Don’t be stampeded to early and untimely actions. The Primates will move over the next months to build a growing and determined solution to the crisis. It will be good to follow their lead and that of the AAC Bishops.
e. Be measured, deliberate and courageous in your responses, “Wise as serpents and gentle as doves was Jesus’ phrase for it! This is a moment for courageous and clear leadership. Watch out for the spirit of anger or self-righteousness! It will kill fractured parishes.
f. Join and build the network of churches committed to biblical values and faith. There will be safety in numbers. See if there are other parishes in your diocese who could also apply for AEO. Work in partnership with us in the AAC. Either we hang together or we hang separately! And don’t forget (when it seems like you are all alone) that Christ himself has promised to walk with us through these times!
g. Familiarize yourself with the strategy affirmed in Dallas in October and talk and pray about how you can apply it locally. It can be found here:
http://www.americananglican.org/petitions/Petition.cfm?petitionID=8
h. Keeping close to Christ is essential. Read your Bible. Pray lots. Be aware of Satan’s opposition and resist him. Worship regularly. Stay in good fellowship with close Christian friends. Watch out for your own emotions, especially anger and frustration, and remember that the Holy Spirit’s leading is not the same as your emotions! We will be of no use to the Lord Jesus in these struggles if we are not fully His!
i. Remember confidentiality! Much is at stake over these next months. The careers of godly men and women, the possibility of congregational survival, the Anglican witness to Christ in our culture and generation, etc. We ask you not to spread these emails over the internet, and to speak of them only to people you trust. In the end, everything will be spoken plainly, but the ability to get organize and take counsel together effectively depends upon our readiness to keep confidentiality.

Here are some Internet resources that might be of value in keeping you informed…

A site in Great Britain: “Crisis 2003”
http://london2003.anglican.tk/
Kendall Harmon’s excellent web site
http://titusonenine.blogspot.com/
David Virtue’s web page with a wide ranging collection of news stories
http://listserv.episcopalian.org/archives/virtuosity.html
The American Anglican Council
http://www.americananglican.org/News/NewsList.cfm?c=21&num=1000The AAC Legal Resources page
http://www.americananglican.org/Issues/IssuesList.cfm?c=47
The AAC Dallas Strategy affirmed by over 2300 people
http://www.americananglican.org/petitions/Petition.cfm?petitionID=8
Guidelines and Application for the AAC’s Adequate Episcopal Oversight
http://americananglican.org/News/News.cfm?ID=827&c=21

We will keep all details of our contact with parishes in confidence. Please do not hesitate to keep in touch with me or with the AAC office if we can be of further help. God bless you, as you courageously serve Christ and his gospel.

Here is my contact information…
Geoffrey W. Chapman
Rector, St Stephens Sewickley, Pa
xxxxxxxxxxxxx (work)
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (cell)
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 14 January 2004 at 3:18 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Comments

It is better to have the thing out in the open. It is obvious that the schism has started and will go in a number of directions most likely ending with the shifting of Anglican influence from Canterbury to possibly the Southern Cone. By the time this is finished ECUSA, Canterbury and Canada may possibly belong to a “sect” of Anglicanism. I know y’all have the same problems - I worshipped at St. Barts in Great Stukely for ten months and loved it even though the church was in Interegnum (no priest). I worship at an orthodox Anglo-Catholic Church in LaPorte Indiana (St. Paul’s)and am a member of the vestry. We are simply waiting until things work themselves out a little more. This has been coming for awhile.

Posted by: Richard Cook at January 14, 2004 5:03 PM

Now if only we could get the legal strategy of the ObiWon and his general counsel out in the open. Every knows Griswold and Beers are behind the lawsuit in Pittsburgh and the threats of presentment against those clerics who publicly dissociate themselves from GC74. Ah, but those progressives are capable of things only Torquemada could envy.

Posted by: dan crawford at January 14, 2004 5:37 PM

Dan-

The “progressives” might be able to do alot but God is not enclosed in a building so therefore we do not need it. You would be suprised at the number of parishes that would be willing to just walk away. Check out the Yahoo Group Apostasy for a good line into what is happening on the conservative side. Big plans are being made (and being implemented).

Posted by: Richard Cook at January 14, 2004 9:19 PM

“It is better to have the thing out in the open.”

Yeah, now that y’all have been caught red-handed!

“ObiWon”? See, that’s a fictitious character. ECUSA exists in the Real World—-where God made some people gay, and loves ‘em like crazy anyway!

If you anti-gay people want to walk away, then vaya con Dios. I trust God will reconcile us in His good time. But take responsibility for your decision to leave the Episcopal Church —-and don’t try to steal the sanctuaries built by generations of faithful Episcopalians.

But you’re even more welcome to not leave. To stay in the democratic process of the Church, and try to change it more to your liking. In the same way, I have faith that ECUSA has every intention of not leaving the Anglican Communion. Just like our Savior, we will continue to stand at the door (whether in Lambeth or Lagos) and knock. If the door is shut in our faces, so be it. Our hand, extended in (historic Anglican) fellowship, will still be there.

Shalom!

Posted by: J. Collins Fisher at January 18, 2004 7:47 AM

“where God made some people gay, and loves ‘em like crazy anyway!”

You’ve got one great biblical truth, and one lie here… God indeed loves gay people, just as much as he loves heterosexual people. In fact He loves them all so much that He sent His Son to die for them, to pay the price of their rebellion against Him. God didn’t, though, make some people gay! He made all people in His image, and through man’s fall all have sinned and fallen short of His glory. One symptom of sin is turning to a homosexual relationship, however this is only one symptom of the disease of sin which is in ALL people - hence the need for Jesus to die for all people.
If a homosexual person then accepts God love, i.e. Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, then that person will do all they can to not practice any homosexual desire. It is completely unbiblical and flies in the face of God’s love, to accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour and then to keep delighting in, and practising, homosexuality.

Posted by: Charles Taylor at January 24, 2004 11:22 PM

How absurd. Let’s don’t drag the Bible or God or Jesus into this all-too-human pile of crud, because as we all know this isn’t about the Bible, or Jesus, or even Christianity. It’s about a minority of conservative gay haters conspiring to subvert a religous organization for their own narrow-minded ends, and whether you’re hetero or homo, it’s just plain sad.

Jesus’ message was simple: love without limits. He would be saddened and enraged (yep, he did the anger thing, too) to find out that simple but infinitely powerful message had been turned into a list of membership requirements, like a country club.

Enjoy desecrating the Eucharist with your new “Christian” organization.

— a hetero ECUSA member

Posted by: Ed Brickell at February 12, 2004 9:35 PM

Absurd is right. Your comments, Ed, are absurd, rude and hateful. There are those among you that are not gay haters at all, yet still find the decisions made at General Convention to be improper. You make this sound as though those that do not agree with you are hate mongers or against the love of Christ. Ridiculous!

Contrary to your comments, this absolutely IS about the Bible, Jesus, and Christianity. Jesus’ message was simple, indeed. Love one another. But love does not mean to agree that all that is sinful is acceptable. He did not say “Go, and sin again”… He said “Go, and sin no more”. He loves us all, though we are all sinners. But that does not mean that He accepts each of our acts as worthy.

There are those among you that do not agree with the decisions made at General Convention in 2003. There are those that would like to remain in the Anglican Church with Episcopal liturgies but with a more Orthodox approach to ministry. Why should that mean that they hate? Perhaps they seek a Christian fellowship that remains closer to Biblical truth regarding marriage and the resulting relationship between man and woman. Christ said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh” (Matthew 19:5). Paul said, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind” (1 Cor 6:9). In this scripture, the Greek term used by Paul for “abusers of themselves with mankind” is arsenokoites. This is translated as “one who lies with a male as with a female, sodomite, homosexual”. This will be (and is being) debated for some time to come. But that doesn’t mean we hate anyone.

Our family left the Episcopal Church after decades in that faith membership because we disagreed with the decisions made at Convention and we are confident that we made the right decision. This does not mean we hate anyone or fear anyone. It means we disagree with the direction the ECUSA is taking. We are entitled to that decision without being labeled by you or anyone else as “gay haters” or other such unfortunate and sad epithets.

We pray every day that Christ will come among us and show us the way. Obviously, we cannot do it alone. The ECUSA has proven that.

- A hetero Christian and former Episcopalian

Posted by: Concerned Former Episcopalian at February 15, 2004 6:20 AM