Thinking Anglicans

Central Florida: bishop writes

The Bishop of Central Florida, John Howe has sent this letter to his diocese. Bear in mind that Central Florida is one of the Network dioceses.

The Central Florida Episcopalian for this month also contains another article which details further the position on property issues for congregations who might wish to leave the diocese. That can be found in the original PDF here, on pages 11 and 12, or there is an html copy here.

Both documents are worth reading right through. Some quotes from the letter:

…Nearly thirty of our Bishops – myself among them – have given the assurances requested, but a larger number than that have said they will never agree to these requests, and more than a third of the Bishops have yet to declare themselves. (Note: The Episcopal Church has never officially authorized the blessings, but some Bishops have done so in their own Dioceses.)

Everyone hopes that clarity and understanding will be improved on all sides when the Archbishop meets with us, but I know of no one who expects that at the end of the meeting the unequivocal assurances will have been given by the House as a whole.

Archbishop Williams will need to consult with the other Primates to consider and evaluate whatever responses we will have given them. The Archbishop has recently said he is “hopeful, but not optimistic” that the Anglican Communion will be able to stay together after that point.

What this will mean for parishes, Dioceses, and The Episcopal Church as a whole is not yet clear. There is, however, increasing talk among several of our Central Florida clergy about the possibility of their declaring their “separation from The Episcopal Church” and their seeking “realignment” with some other Province of the Anglican Communion. They would hope to take as many of their parishioners with them as possible, and they would try to retain the property belonging to those congregations.

If they decide to do this it will be extremely messy, difficult, and costly in every way imaginable.

Both the canons of The Episcopal Church and the state law of Florida stipulate that congregational properties are held “in trust” for the Diocese and the national Episcopal Church. This means that even if every single person in a given congregation wanted to leave they could not simply “take the property with them.”

…I believe that in virtually every one of our congregations, even those in which the desire to separate is widespread, there are many who do not wish to leave The Episcopal Church or the Diocese of Central Florida. If those who desire to remain can become a viable congregation, that congregation becomes the continuing body of that parish, with a claim upon the property.

So: I foresee an extremely difficult period ahead of us, in which congregations may be pulled apart, and arguments over property become horribly distracting and costly.

I am committed to being as gracious and generous as possible to those who, for conscience sake, believe they must separate. But I am pledged to stand alongside those who, for conscience sake, choose to remain, and I am committed to the rebuilding of congregations and this Diocese in the wake of any such departures…

Also, Bishop Howe recently wrote this letter in reaction to this one from retired Bishop Spong.

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Pluralist
14 years ago

Now that Bishop Spong’s letter is highlighted for comment, it is time then to comment. I agree with him. he might have been more polite, apparently, but there is this huge level of disappointment in what has been taking place for a very long time. What is the alternative? It is this, from Bishop Howe: _But the deeper question is not whether or not a given person’s orientation has changed, but whether or not that person is willing (often at great personal sacrifice!) to conform his/her conduct to the teaching of Scripture that sexual intimacy is for marriage (one man,… Read more »

Jerry Hannon
Jerry Hannon
14 years ago

This is a rather refreshing letter from a Network Bishop, not only recognizing the legal reality about individual parishioners or clergy who choose to depart the Episcopal Church versus such persons taking real and personal property associated with each parish, but also clearly stating that he, Bishop Howe, will stay. Yes, we can all live together, people with varying beliefs on non-core issues, in this Province and in other Provinces of the Anglican Communion. We did before, and we will do so in the future. Thanks be to God.

Leonardo Ricardo
Leonardo Ricardo
14 years ago

Sometimes I think Bishop Howe is passive aggressive…and for those of you that think he is being reasonable (like me) this time, please take a trip to St. Lukes “Network Cathedral” in downtown Orlando and listen to another hate/feardriven excluding homily from the olden days/daze of fire, brimstone and *difference* (think “back of the bus”)….ole’

dave paisley
14 years ago

Now there’s a class act. Maybe he could give Duncan, Iker et al lessons?

Also nice to see the unequivocal declaration of property rights.

C.B.
C.B.
14 years ago

“I urge you not to go looking for lawyers who will support a position you would like to see prevail. Look for the best advice you can find regarding what will prevail. I believe we have already received that from [our chancellor and vice chancellor]. I can assure you, there is no one in the state of Florida who has thought more deeply about these issues!” Ouch! I hope reasserters are listening. He’s clear on where his theology is, and he’s clear about the law and he’s clear about his allegiences – if he has to leave TEC to stay… Read more »

Malcolm+
14 years ago

Of course, it was events in this diocese which made clear the real agenda of the so called reasserters.

Because this conservative bishop would not launch a hate filled schismatical broadside at the rest of the Episcopal Church, he and his diocese were dragged before the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Panel of Reference and accused of being mean to the “real conservatives” who tried to steal the property as they departed.

drdanfee
drdanfee
14 years ago

Too bad in the long run that Bishop H. links his stellar clarity about maintaining big tent Anglicanism with references to junk science about how readily queer folks can change to straight. Just because Masters and Johnson did the study doesn’t make it best practices. By now enough holes and questions have been published in the peer-reviewed literatures about that particular M&J effort, that we should all get a bit red-faced to cite their study. The study focused way too exclusively on changing men, and involved men who were by reasonable criteria better described as bisexual or mainly straight, regardless… Read more »

Joe
Joe
14 years ago

Pluralist says, “Spong is right.”

This is how the AC has come to the present impasse. Whatever Spong is, “right” is almost never a fitting description!

Pluralist
14 years ago

My own blog comments here:

http://pluralistspeaks.blogspot.com/2007/09/bishop-spongs-necessary-letter.html

If you’ve seen his letter before, scroll down to the cartoon.

James
James
14 years ago

Jesus says that marriage is not for everyone. There are some who are born without the inclination to marry. There is nothing in history to suggest that eunuchs were either always castrated or always celibate (remember Potiphar?)–at the very least, they frequently played the passive sexual role in same-sex relationships. I think that the best translation of “eunuch” is GLBT. So, Jesus affirmed a place in the Kingdom for the sexually other.

dave paisley
14 years ago

I retract my “class act” comment, at least in reference to the response to the Spong letter. He’s entitled to think it a bit mean-spirited, but as noted above, fails the junk science test on refuting Spong.

Gee, and I have never really cared for Spong much, ever, but his letter says something that needs to be said, sugar coating be damned. However, is there anything in there that Williams doesn’t know already?

Lapinbizarre
Lapinbizarre
14 years ago

With respect to the bishop, the Masters & Johnson studies on Homosexuality are “Dark Ages” stuff. They were conducted between 1968 and 1977 (until 1973 the APA classified homosexuality as a “disorder”). M & J claimed a 71.6% cure rate. While recognizing that Masters’ & Johnson’s sexuality studies contain much good stuff, this is clearly nonsense.

Steven
Steven
14 years ago

Bishop Howe is in that most uncomfortable of all possible positions–straddling the fence. Most here praise the foot on the “reappraiser” side of the fence while disparaging the foot on the “reasserter” side. I would do the opposite, and see his position on property issues as merely being the result of a fairly hard-eyed and practical review of the legal issues in the State of Florida–right and wrong be damned. Still, his response to Spong shows his heart is in the right place even if he is placing one foot in the “reappraiser” property camp. The trouble is, his stands… Read more »

drdanfee
drdanfee
14 years ago

I have an alternative view of Bishop Spong insofar as I find myself agreeing with many of the questions he seems to ask, while not necessarily fully agreeing with the forms in which he asks questions, and not necessarily agreeing with the tentative provisional answers or restatements of belief which he proposes. Almost any time Spong talks/writes about the symbolical-nonliteral nature of much religious talk, including doctrines, creeds, and other treasures of our traditions, I find myself at minimum resonating with what what he is often saying. His comments about the contradictions and fudges built into some church life mores… Read more »

L Roberts
L Roberts
14 years ago

‘…Socarides has spent nearly his whole career claiming that he is a royal road sexual orientation change therapist, but his soft stats are as limited as anybody else’s soft stats. Even if you take self-reports of becoming straight at face value, Socarides is reporting from a highly skewed sample whose members have already self-selected for becoming straight as the only possible outcome. Even then failures are reported.’ Speaking of ‘failures’, Socarides’ son may be seen as such by his dad. He is an out and proud gay man; and himself a campaigner FOR gay rights ! If only Socarides had… Read more »

Merseymike
14 years ago

And of course, one gay man Socarides never did manage to convince was his own son!

Weiwen
14 years ago

re dave paisley and lapinbizarre,

Spong said in his letter that surely no “learned person” espoused ignorant attitudes on homosexuality…

…and then Howe (who has at least a Masters degree) goes and proves him wrong. I know a lot of reparative therapy groups at least correctly make the distinction between behavior and orientation, and aim at changing the former. Howe failed to do so. I wonder how he got his Masters degree.

BobinSwPA
BobinSwPA
14 years ago

I have to give Bishop Howe much credit. Pittsburgh is considering four options of which only one is really being considered (It’s like the old Soviet Union, one candidate to vote for). My father left the Roman Catholic Church when he married my mother. He didn’t get a pew, a brick, a missalette, nothing! I don’t understand how people think they’re entitled to everything and have such little regard for those wishing to remain (such as Falls Church and St. Stephen’s in Virginia). Maybe Duncan will take note but I doubt it. This is going to be a long messy… Read more »

George Conger
George Conger
14 years ago

Wrong diocese Malcolm+

It was the Diocese of Florida, not Central Florida that was before the Panel of Reference.

Ford Elms
Ford Elms
14 years ago

“Study after study, from Masters and Johnson to Charles Socarides has shown that for a remarkably high percentage of homosexual persons a change of orientation is possible.” Most interesting here is that those conservatives who speak in support of bishop Howe will not address the fact that this statement is an out and out lie. If a bishop in the Church can make such a statement, how can he be said to be in service to the truth? This is one of my problems with these people: they pretend to be standing for God’s truth, yet their statements about gay… Read more »

Steven
Steven
14 years ago

Hi Ford: I think I’m the only conservative here responding positively to any aspect of Howe’s letter to Spong, so you must be speaking to me. What is it exactly that you want me to respond to? I’m not aware of any “horrible stereotypes” of homosexuals and any “vilifying” of homosexuals in his letter, so I am at a loss as to how to proceed on that front. Actually, I think it is you that is engaging in a needlessly disparaging diatribe against Howe, not the other way around. As to whether the statement you quote is incorrect . .… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
14 years ago

Hi James There are some souls who get caught up with what a eunuch is versus what GLBTs are. They refuse to countenance granting any kind of tolerance or biblical legitimization. Yet, when I read the bible, I find the conventions and compassion that is shown to the eunuchs could easily be applied to GLBTs too. In Matthew 19:12 Jesus says that some eunuchs are born that way, others made that way by man. While homosexuality is such a disturbing thing for some souls, it becomes a weapon. Some souls can use it as an act of rebellion to “pervert”… Read more »

James
James
14 years ago

There is nothing in Scripture which suggests that eunuchs were castrated or celibate. Nor is there anything in history. Eunuch is a catch-all term for men who were not inclined toward heterosexual marriage for any number of reasons. Because they didn’t fit the traditional paradigm, they were used in various official positions. I don’t think eunuchs are analogous to GLBT–I think they ARE GLBT. Eunuch was the term used back then for the “sexually other.” And Jesus welcomed all the “sexually other” into the church when He welcomed eunuchs. My point is this: We have a Scriptural basis for including… Read more »

Ford Elms
Ford Elms
14 years ago

“What is it exactly that you want me to respond to? “ The fact that his statement is false. There is no scientific evidence that sexual orientation is fluid in this way. Sure there’s propaganda like Cameron, but that ain’t science. The “ex-gay” movement is dangerous and the “success” rate is so low that, were it a drug, it would not be used in clinical practice. There really isn’t any evidence as to the origins of these people’s sexual confusion, so their “change” is suspect. It is not whether or not it makes any difference from a Biblical standpoint, but… Read more »

Steven
Steven
14 years ago

Ford: (1) My respect for the “soft” sciences is muted at best, and non-existent in many cases. Researchers in this area are, and have seemingly always been, too susceptible to political correctness and the various ideologies of the practitioners to make them very reliable to one schooled in the hard sciences. Older studies are criticized by the current generation for erroneous findings reflecting the pre-existing biases of the ones running the studies, while more recent studies claim to determine exactly the opposite. However, the latter studies may, for the same reasons, merely reflect the pre-existing biases of the current generation… Read more »

Steven
Steven
14 years ago

Ford: (cont’d) So, based on the foregoing, I’m quite willing to concede (arguendo) everything you say in terms of immutability. I can even assume the existence of the “holy grail” of current pro-gayness researchers: “THE GAY GENE”. What difference would it make in terms of what God has asked homosexuals to do? None. At best, it means that non-homosexuals should be more understanding and compassionate, but it doesn’t change the spiritual and scriptural realities. These apply whether the condition is mutable or immutable. The same is true of the genetic basis for alcoholism (a definite problem in my family line… Read more »

drdanfee
drdanfee
14 years ago

Dear S., it reads as too clever by far of you to ask for specific contrary empirical data in your posts, while you vigorously occupy two defining presuppositions. (Try PsychINFO database?) One, you pledge an allegedly eternal and unchanged or unchanging biblical frame in which the very people we moderns understand empirically as queer folks simply do not and by categorical definition, ahead of time in weighing all facts, can NOT appear, except as villains who need to stop. Then you basically dare anybody to make queer folks – as real people with real loves, real ethics, and real lives… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
14 years ago

James You and I have come to much the same conclusion. One form of red herring debates are around whether the term eunuch is meant to cover GLBTs. Whether it covers some categories or not others. Whether only “celibates” were valid before God… It is like having six Adams discussing what names the various animals in the paddock should have (e.g. Clydesdales, Shetland ponies, Arabian, Palomino)? Then are the Zebras also horses? What should they call and how will they categorize the various llamas, alpacas, goats, cows and sheep? This can go on for hours, days, weeks, months or years.… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
14 years ago

“I didn’t ask you to prove there was NO scientific evidence that a homosexual orientation was mutable, but to provide evidence that it was immutable.” There was famous court case in Australia a couple of years ago where the prosecutor accused the defendant of contempt of court, but the defendant successfully defended themselves by demonstrating the question was a trap. The question was “Mr X, when did you stop beating your wife?” When Mr X tried to say that he had never beaten his wife, the lawyer tried to say that he wasn’t answering the question. The lawyer was right,… Read more »

Ford Elms
Ford Elms
14 years ago

“Older studies are criticized by the current generation for erroneous findings reflecting the pre-existing biases of the ones running the studies” Which is, of course, one of the purposes of publishing one’s work. All studies are flawed and will be refined by further study. Thus, one published study leads to another that corrects the flaws of the first, etc. This is why one study means nothing, results must be independently verified. And there is rarely, if ever, a “last word”. “My respect for the “soft” sciences is muted at best, and non-existent in many cases” “However, given the fact that… Read more »

Ford Elms
Ford Elms
14 years ago

And, Steven, as to us all suffering from temptation, I’m interested as to what “temptation” you suffer from that you would equate with the “temptation” for a lifelong, committed, monogamous relationship. And your comments on the “gay gene” are not true. It is most certainly NOT a “holy grail”. Many gay activists are quite afraid of it actually, since if there can be found to be a “gay gene”, then there can be a prenatal test for it, which would lead to abortions of gay children. And, most gay people, myself included, would have no trouble believing that to be… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
14 years ago

“If you can’t change your orientation, you can’t–so what. “

So, then your orientation is part of your natural life, a gift from God. Why would God give you a gift he didn’t intend you to enjoy?

Steven
Steven
14 years ago

Shucks! Another lengthy post of mine that was apparently too lengthy and is now, therefore, non-existant. I’m sorry the time and words were wasted. Anyhow, I’ll summarize: Cheryl: You missed the point. Mutability, immutability and degree thereof are irrelevant to the Biblical question. I don’t really have a vested interest in any of them from that standpoint, and don’t really trust the purveyors of any particular viewpoint on the matter all that much. I certainly am not trying to promote one view to the exclusion of any other–I think the whole question is up for grabs. Ford: First post: I… Read more »

Ford Elms
Ford Elms
14 years ago

“gnosticism” One trend that went through Gnostic teaching is that the world is an evil place, created by an evil demiurge. Thus, it is the responsibility of the believer to avoid contributing to the evil of the world. For some, like the Cathars, this was why sex was wrong: to have sex was to risk creating new, evil, life and adding to the evil of the world. Christianity sees Creation as a good thing, broken and awaiting its perfection, but still not evil in and of itself. Humans likewise are fallen, broken creatures, but still part of Creation, still made… Read more »

Ford Elms
Ford Elms
14 years ago

“still see celibacy as being superior to both.”

So does St. Paul. The thing is, he sees celibacy as best for everybody, if they have the charism. If not, they should marry. It is interesting that Issues in Human Sexuality sees marriage as the ideal and celibacy as fitting for those who do NOT have the charism for marriage, an interesting reversal of Paul. I very much doubt that any of them would council a young couple to try celibacy and then grudgingly marry them if they prove unable to control themselves.

Cheryl Clough
14 years ago

Ford I think we all know of marriages where the parents/priests only grudgingly allow the couple to marry after they have proved they were unable to control themselves. 🙂 Hi Steven I’m sorry your first posting went missing or that I misunderstood your intention. One battle is against others who think attempt to stereotype GLBTs e.g. find one serial homosexual pedophile and then state all GLBTs are pedophiles (but by that reckoning, all priests are pedophiles). No, the claims that there are anti-abortionist Christians who would like to be able to test for a gay gene so they could terminate… Read more »

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