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Will The Real Episcopalians Please Stand Up?
By J.R. Ensey

The Episcopalian Church shocked the world recently when they elected a practicing homosexual as bishop of New Hampshire, one of the highest offices in American Anglicanism. The action prompted many in that communion to consider withdrawing and forming a more conservative Anglican movement in the United States. Although the suggestion drew cheers from some, others counseled that the move should not be done hastily, pointing out that to depart would leave the gays and more liberal elements of the church in total control of its assets. If leaving was to take place, they said, it should be the gays and their supporters who had departed from traditional Anglican doctrine. They called the action of their leaders who elected the gay bishop “unbiblical and schismatic.”

That made sense to 2700 conservative Episcopalians who met recently in Dallas, TX on October 8-9, 2003. According to a story in the Los Angeles Times of 10/10/03 by Larry B. Stammer, “Rather than petitioning for a separate or parallel Anglican church for biblically orthodox Episcopalians, they decided to seek recognition as the “successor church”—the real Episcopalians. Because they were continuing to embrace the doctrines and morals traditionally held by the church, they deemed they had a right to the name and the assets.

“Many outside assume we will announce we are leaving [the Episcopalian Church],” the Rev. Canon David Anderson, president of the American Anglican Council, said at the emotional session. “Everyone has been thinking we want a parallel province [church]. Not! We are not leaving. They left us. We are the rightful heirs of all the culture and legacy and faith of the Episcopal Church.”

What if the disputed election stands and no repentance or change of direction is forthcoming? The delegates urged disaffected members to withhold their financial contributions from their national church headquarters and redirect the money toward “biblically orthodox mission and ministry.”

Why such a display of emotions? A statement issued by the conference provided the answer: “We repudiate the General Convention’s confirmation of a non-celibate homosexual to be a bishop of the church, and its acceptance of same-sex blessings as part of our common life. These actions have broken fellowship with the larger body of Christ and have brought the Episcopal Church under God’s judgment.” The declaration also called on primates to discipline the bishops who “departed from biblical faith and order” by supporting the gay bishop, Gene Robinson, and same-sex blessings, and appealed to their leaders to “guide the re-alignment of Anglicanism in North America.”

And how did the presiding bishop of the American Episcopal Church respond? The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold issued a statement deploring the use of “inflammatory rhetoric and ultimatums...In such a climate, mutual pursuit of ways to build up rather than tear down is made more difficult.” As one might suppose, Griswold had supported Robinson’s election. Earlier he had made the observation in a published interview that the scriptures did not condemn committed homosexual relationships. Therefore, he felt it necessary to blame the representatives of the traditional Episcopal view for inflammatory rhetoric and for “tearing down” what they were trying to inject into the ranks—i.e., they had what some would call a “bad spirit.”

There were calls at the conference for Griswold’s resignation for “abuse of the office of the presiding bishop.” The Times article reported that “U.S. Episcopalians who opposed Robinson and same-sex blessings are in a decided minority, based on the votes at the General Convention, but they claim to be in the mainstream within worldwide Anglicanism.”

Interesting developments, indeed, and a sobering commentary on our times. Some questions come to mind:

Are there any lessons in this affair that could benefit leaders and ministerial constituents of other religious movements?

Why are those who seek to bring down traditional barriers always ready with a word of personal condemnation and judgment for any who oppose their removal? Whose “inflammatory rhetoric” in support of gay ordination ignited this conflagration in the first place? Why must those who wish to remove barriers have to find out the hard way why they were erected in the beginning?

Is it justifiable to assume that the Episcopalians who are remaining faithful to the established teaching of their denomination are indeed the rightful heirs of its culture, faith and legacy?

Let the real Episcopalians please stand up!

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