Now back to our regularly scheduled coverage of the Virginia schism.
The Church Times has a report by Doug LeBlanc Property at issue as nine churches quit ECUSA.
Archbishop Peter Akinola has issued A Letter of Greeting from Archbishop Peter Akinola to the congregations who have recently joined CANA in which he says this:
…Sadly, I have also heard that some are suggesting that you are now affiliated with a Church that seeks to punish homosexual persons. That is a distortion of our true position. We are a Church that teaches the truth of the Holy Scriptures and understands that every person, regardless of their religion or sexual orientation, is made in the image of God, loved by God, and deserving of the utmost respect. That is the conviction that informs our passion for evangelism and drives our determination to establish new dioceses and congregations. We have no desire to place anyone outside the reach of God’s saving love and that is why we have supported well reasoned statements such as Resolution 1.10 from the Lambeth Conference in 1998 and also the section of the Dromantine Communiqué, which condemns the “victimization or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex.”
As I am sure you have heard, there is a bill currently being debated by the Nigerian Legislature that addresses the topic of same-sex marriages and homosexual activism. The Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria, in its desire to see the strengthening of marriage and family life in our society, has commended the legislators for tackling this difficult issue. We have no desire to see our nation follow the path of license and immorality that we have witnessed in other parts of the world. And we also oppose the severe sanctions of Islamic law.
We recognize that there are genuine concerns about individual human rights that must be addressed both in the framing of the law and its implementation. I am glad to inform you that while the Honorable Speaker of the House, a Moslem, wanted the immediate and outright passage of the bill, the Deputy Speaker, an Anglican, persuaded his colleagues to allow full public debate on it.
I am troubled, however, by the silence of outside commentators concerning the rights of the clergy, Christians, and particularly converts to our Church whose lives are threatened and too often destroyed because of mob violence. I see no evidence of compassion for those whose rights are trampled on because of the imposition of unjust religious laws in many parts of the world. There seems to be a strange lack of interest in this issue…
You can read the whole letter here on the CANA website.
There is also a letter there from Bishop Martyn Minns headed A Pastoral Letter for the new CANA Congregations. You can read that one here. He writes in part:
…Media coverage of our actions has been quite extensive. It has been prompted by the national and international implications of our decisions along with the reality that this is an unprecedented movement of congregations out of The Episcopal Church. As expected, not all of the media coverage was positive. I want to address one recurring untrue accusation concerning our attitude towards homosexual persons. Our vote was not an “anti-gay” vote. We affirm that as Christians we believe that every person, regardless of their sexual orientation, is made in the image of God, and deserving of the utmost respect. As the Dromantine Communiqué (issued by the Primates when they met in Ireland last year) states, “. . . we continue unreservedly to be committed to the pastoral support of homosexual people” and oppose “the victimization or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex.” And we have and must continue to witness to these convictions by our words and actions. I have attached a recent letter from Archbishop Peter Akinola that addresses this same issue from his perspective. Please notice the difference between what he actually says and believes and the dismissive tag lines that are often attributed to him.
Another persistent untrue theme is the way in which we care for those who voted to remain in The Episcopal Church. As I have said repeatedly, and I am sure you have heard from your own clergy and lay leadership, everyone is welcome to participate in our common life regardless of their vote on this or any matter. We are not monochrome congregations but diverse communities whose unity is in Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. If someone tells you that they voted against the resolution, then I encourage you assure them that they are loved and included as full members of the family of God in this place. If there is any way in which I can help in this matter please let me know. My calling is to provide for the care and nurture of every member of our growing fellowship.
You may have read a response to our actions from Bishop Peter Lee. While his disappointment was to be expected, I am saddened that his language seems strangely harsh. I am particularly troubled by the rather blatant attempt to create fear and division by the use of the phrase “Nigerian Congregations Occupying Episcopal Churches”. This is not the Bishop Lee that I know and respect. I look forward to the return of his more usual tone of creativity and generosity. We all know that while we may have changed our ecclesiastical allegiance we remain loyal and faithful Anglican Christians in America. The character of our communities remains the same.
The question of property seems to loom large in many people’s minds. I draw your attention to the following press statement that was released yesterday by Truro and The Fall Church, “Anglican Churches Comply with Virginia Statute Requiring Reports of Their Congregations’ Votes.” It clearly states our belief that we have a valid and compelling claim to the various church properties which we have for generations “occupied”. We also believe that this should be handled in a respectful conversation with the leadership of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. We are trying to avoid both costly litigation and a media circus. Initial signs from the meeting of the Standing Committee and Executive Board are encouraging and we are preparing to engage in substantive conversation after the Christmas Holidays…
Some of the press reports which may have prompted these letters can be found below:
Washington Post Episcopalians Against Equality by Howard Meyerson
Nation Holy Homophobia by Richard Kim
Economist Wars of religion – Schism in Virginia
Falls Church News-Press Editorial: No Surprise To Us Locals
The press release about voting reports mentioned by Bishop Minns, Anglican Churches Comply with Virginia Statute Requiring Reports of Their Congregations’ Votes can be found here (PDF).
The Living Church had this interview with Bishop Peter Lee Bishop Lee: Extension to 30-Day Standstill Agreement Possible.