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Main | Gene Robinson is Indeed a Bishop »

November 25, 2003

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Tony Listi

DC I agree 100% with Larry. PB Griswald and the convention do not preach the same gospel that I believe to be the WORD of GOD. The Holy Spirit does not change the WORD of GOD but reinforces it. Its time for the Church to repent and rid itself of the false teachers. I

Fundamentalism and literalism are what Jesus spent most of his time on earth preaching about to the Pharisees and Sadducees, the religious leaders of his day. Who are the the Pharisees and the Sadducees today? The Larry Halls and of the world. Fundamentalists and literalists forget that Jesus did not come only for white conservative Americans. He came for all people. Straight. Gay. White. Black. Rich. Poor.

Tracy Walne

D.C. It is my belief that the New Hampshire diocese has seceded from the rest of us whose beliefs are traditional and consistent with the past 2000 years of theological thinking.

I am appalled that Bishop Robinson is given the ecumenical responsibility of a bishop in view of his personal behavior and how that fails to parse with what I understand our church's teachings to be. Whether he is gay or heterosexual, his personal conduct is outside of the bounds of what I expect of ministers of my faith. In my own case, I had to get the blessing of the bishop to remarry, and it was made clear to me that having any sexual relationship outside of marriage was simply unacceptable in the eyes of Christ. This being the case, I determined that it was my responsibility to live up to Christ's teachings, not find a way to dilute them to fit my own desires. These standards have meaning in our church. But not in the circumstances of Bishop Robinson.

As for the direction of our congregation, I joined Church of St. John the Divine because of my trust and confidence and complete faith in Larry Hall as its spiritual leader and minister. I have no reason to doubt the validity of my decision made many years ago. Larry sets the standard for St. John's. If I felt that he did not, it would be my obligation to find another congregation with a minister that I could follow. I would urge that your responsibility as a member of the vestrey is to support our minister in matters spiritual, as he relies upon you as a member of the vestry for your knowledge, skill and experience to keep the church facilities open and operating. If you are not able to support Larry, then I consider it your duty, your obligation, to resign immediately. It is not your duty to take issue with him on matters spiritual. If you do, indeed, find yourself unable to accept Larry's direction, I very much hope that you will not take any action against him or the position he espouses but will withdraw from our congregation and find another which meets with your approval. If you find yourself staying put but acting against the direction of our rector, I think that you will be abusing your position and acting outside of the bounds of your responsibilty as a member of the vestry. Please exercise extreme care in your dealing with these issues as a member of the vestry.

With deep concern for our church family,

Tracy Walne

DCT

Tracy, I have the highest regard for you and the greatest respect for your opinion. But I don't think your view of the respective roles of the rector and vestry of an Episcopal congregation comports with canon law.

The monarchical governance model you describe is much like what the Roman Catholic Church uses. In contrast, the Episcopal Church has always used a separation-of-powers model, going back to pre-Revolutionary days.

An Episcopal vestry plays more of a role than simply "keep[ing] the church facilities open and operating." To oversimplify, under canon law, the rector has the use of the parish's buildings and furniture and is in charge of spiritual matters (Title III, Canon 14, sec. 1(c)). But the vestry has authority over financial and other temporal matters (Title I, Canon 14, sec. 2). The vestry is the parish's board of directors, not the rector's advisory council.

My general rule has long been, when in doubt, support Larry, because I have the same high regard for him that you do. But support for the rector no matter what the circumstances is not part of the vestry's job description. On the contrary, canon law expressly provides a process, with suitable checks and balances, for what it delicately calls "dissolution of the pastoral relation" when either a rector or a vestry so desires it (Title III, Canon 21). I stress that in no way am I suggesting that SJD needs to start down that path; I'm simply mentioning it to give context to your argument.

At a recent Vestry meeting, two conservative Vestry members made a suggestion similar to yours. They said that, if there are parishioners who don't agree with what they regarded as "the parish's position," then those parishioners should consider finding another home. Suppressing my irritation (mostly), I responded that I started coming to SJD 20 years ago, when Maretta and I started dating; we did our pre-marital counseling here with Jack DeForest (we were married in her home church in upstate New York); we had our kids baptized here; we've put a lot of time and treasure into the parish's work; and I think I'll stay, thank you very much. (The two conservative Vestry members, and several others, hastened to say that they did not mean to imply that I should leave.)

I am certain that, if Larry thought he had the authority as rector to affiliate the parish with the AAC on his own, he would have done so already. Instead, he has sought the Vestry's approval. I am therefore going to take him at his word, and vote in accordance with my best judgment, as I was elected to do.

Many thanks for the input, and best personal regards,

--D. C.

First, thank you D. C. for setting up this platform for discussion. Clearly there are many views among Episcopalians and how we best approach the continuing crisis in our church which has resulted in a steady decline in our membership for several decades. For myself the Christian path has been circuitous, from being raised a Presbyterian, to agnosticism and now to being an Episcopalian at my wife’s insistence and the encouragement of several significant Christian mentors.

My training as a geologist challenged my early introduction to Christianity and resulted in a long period of agnosticism. How does evolution fit with Genesis? This perplexing question was approached for me by a wise Episcopal priest, Courtland Moore, who said he would buy into the concept that a geology book was not a book on religion if I would buy into the idea that the Bible was not a book on geology. My problem with the question of creationism, virgin birth and the resurrection all conflicted mightily with my understanding of nature, but Courtland admitted that while these were tough concepts, if no resurrection happened 2000 years ago why were there so many people still practicing Christianity. This approach to a logical conclusion is reminiscent of William Pale’s (the 18th Century philosopher) who wrote that if one discovered a watch and never having seen one would upon examination conclude that there must be a watchmaker and that such orderliness does not just happen. The same can be concluded from a study of our earth. Such beauty and orderliness just didn’t happen as an inevitable extension of the “big bang” theory. As someone in a state of Christian growth, I find it truly sorrowful to see the revisionist leaders of our church espousing the very things I believed as an agnostic. They are free to believe whatever they wish, but they should not do it at the same time they claim to be Christians.

Revisionists are very active in the Episcopal Church and it has become my opinion that our church in an effort to appeal to everyone has decided to stand for nothing. We don’t have to accept anything that would cramp our individual desires. Personally I believe there are basic truths that we must recognize and when we refute these truths we really get on a very slippery slope. We were given the Ten Commandments, not the Ten Suggestions. At the Arizona General Convention in the early Nineties a resolution introduced by William Fry proposed that all sexual activities should only be within the confines of Holy Matrimony. This resolution was voted down. I analyzed the way each diocese voted and what had occurred in their dioceses over the preceding years. Those dioceses that voted for the resolution did not show a significant decline in membership while those that voted against the resolution had suffered a 20% drop in membership. I believe people want a few absolutes in their life and a church that cannot recognize basic truths will continue to decline in membership.

It has been suggested that the American Anglican Communion represents the potential for schism. I don’t believe this has any basis in fact. The obvious schism has already been created by PECUSA by their most recent action. Already global dioceses have declared that we are no longer in communion with them. AAC will allow those dioceses, which desire to remain in communion with our Anglican brothers and sisters, to do so. As our church continues to decline in membership and other Bible teaching orthodox churches continue to grow in membership, the question does not seem to be will AAC create schism, but will the Episcopal Church remain Christian.


Betty Cody

"My name is Betty Cody. I've been a member of SJTD for 10 years. This community has been a strong family and support for me.

Changing Lives for God in Christ. That is our mission. Now how do we respond to that mission?

As a result of the actions of the past months, we have been in the headlines and the star attraction of TV and radio talk. The world is now watching to see what we will do in response.

I am not here to discuss the issues, great minds have already done that. I am here to plead that we continue to Change Lives for Christ by our actions. We sing a wonderful song in the church, "They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love....we will walk with each other.....spread the news that God is in our land....we will work with each other...side by side....guard each man's dignity...save each man's pride".

I pray that all unity may one day be restored in our church.

There is a lot of power and influence in this church. We all touch many lives each day. I hope that people will know us by our love as Episcopalians who build up and not tear down.

The church is not a building, it is people, it is us. WE ARE THE CHURCH.

I feel we should be joining together to show Christ's love to the world. I cannot support a separation from the Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA.

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