In my judgment the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes is a divisive organization outside the canonical structures of the Episcopal Church, the charter of which is undermining the good order and mission of this church. There are several reasons for this judgment, as follows:Here's another pastoral letter from the Rt. Rev. Don E. Johnson, Bishop of West Tennessee (another conservative bishop who voted against the consent of Bishop Robinson) dated January 15, 2004;
* The Network charter states that it will "operate within the Constitution of the Episcopal Church," a statement that conspicuously omits reference to the Canons. The Canons enable the Constitution and are essential for the good order of the church. Its charter also seeks to appeal directly to the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury and of other Anglican provinces, rather than the Episcopal Church. This is not in keeping with historic Anglican polity.
* The Network charter further states that the congregations within it "shall come under the spiritual authority of a bishop approved by the Steering Committee [of the Network]." This is a violation of the Constitution and Canons of our church, as well as the repeated resolutions of the Lambeth Conference supporting the geographical boundaries of dioceses, each under one bishop, in the Anglican Communion.
* The theological statement of the Network, "Confession and Calling of the Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes," is of a confessional nature foreign to Anglican tradition and beyond the scope of the Book of Common Prayer and its adherence to the historic Creeds and doctrine of the Church.
* Its Charter states that "all assets, of every kind and nature, held by the Network are and shall be dedicated and inured to the benefit" of the Network. This has the effect of diverting funds from the Episcopal Church and could potentially be interpreted to alienate property, contrary to the Canons of this church.
* A letter written by the Rev. Geoff Chapman of Sewickley, PA about the emerging strategy of the Network reveals its plans to undermine and attempt to supplant the Episcopal Church with "a 'replacement' jurisdiction with confessional standards." This letter has not been officially disclaimed by the Network leadership, even though there has been adequate opportunity for them to do so. Many of the essential points of Chapman's letter are reflected in the charter. I have no choice but to believe that it accurately describes the Network's intentions.
* The Network consistently exhibits a disturbing pattern of secrecy that is in conflict with the great tradition of our church, which is committed to face to face, prayerful discussion of the tough issues of Christian faith and life...
...I wish to be clear that I do not welcome or support the work of this Network in the Diocese of Alabama. Neither this diocese nor I have presented any cause for such affiliation by our votes at the General Convention or by the policies and practices of this diocese on matters of human sexuality being debated in this church. We have striven to be faithful to the counsel of the 1998 Lambeth Conference and the established teaching of the church in these matters, and to respect the dignity of all...
...Furthermore as provided in the Canons, I give Pastoral Direction to the rectors of the parishes of the Diocese of Alabama that they are neither to join the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes in their capacity as rector, nor as rector to sign a parish application to affiliate with the Network, and, if they have done so, to remove their signatures thereto. I also direct any priest who may have an inclination to join the Network to speak to me before making any decision or taking any action to do so. Finally, as the Bishop of Alabama I cannot support the decision of any vestry to affiliate with the Network...
Loyal opposition and honest dissent to such actions are legitimate and should be honored by all. I have been careful to do so. However, deceitfulness and subversive sabotage justified in the name of serving Christ cannot be overlooked. To this point, I direct your attention to an article in the January 14, 2004 issue of The Commercial Appeal outlining publicly the American Anglican Council's "confidential" game plan for the destruction of The Episcopal Church U.S.A. by becoming a "replacement" jurisdiction, even if it means "disobedience of canon law on a widespread basis" as deemed "necessary." At this time I have in my possession the full text of the "confidential" letter cited in the article. In as much as what has been done in darkness has now been brought into the light, I urge you to read for yourself this document that lays out the American Anglican Council's plan of destruction.This week, the Lambeth Commission is meeting with representatives of this para-church organization (AAC, Network, IRD...many names, same faces, same game plan). Frank Griswold, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, and a deputation chosen by him, will also meet with the Commission. Other groups requesting time with the Commission have been turned down or ignored. Rather strange for the Lambeth Commission, who claims to be speaking "with all parties." By granting this selective audience, the Commission intensifies the erroneous perspective that the current tensions are between the AAC and the leadership of the Episcopal Church.
I do not endorse, nor will I have this diocese in any way associated with this effort, and I will use all the power of my office to see to it that our clergy and congregations will not be in any formal membership arrangement with this or any other such group seeking to destroy the Episcopal Church. To this end, I am taking the following initial steps:
First, I am posting in its entirety on our diocesan web page (www.episwtn.org) the letter from the American Anglican Council's representative, the Rev. Geoffrey W. Chapman, who writes "on behalf of the American Anglican Council and their Bishop's Committee on Adequate Episcopal Oversight." It is their response letter to Episcopal congregations across the country who have requested what they describe as "Adequate Episcopal Oversight." Specifically, this letter refers to oversight by a bishop who has bought into the American Anglican Council's plan to sabotage The Episcopal Church. This secret plan is very different from AAC's public statements to the effect that it would work within The Episcopal Church under its Constitution and Canons to bring about change in Church policies.
Second, I have called a special meeting of the Standing Committee. I am asking for its advice and counsel concerning what next steps need to be taken by my office regarding our clergy and congregations formally affiliated with the American Anglican Council and, implicitly, with its agenda.
Third, while it may be obvious from the tone of this letter, I want to go on record in saying that I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of the American Anglican Council. Further, I do not endorse, support or condone their plan to methodically create anarchy in the Church.
Fourth, until the American Anglican Council made explicit what many already thought was their real agenda, I have spoken with respect for the bishops, members of the clergy and lay persons who have found in this organization a place to express their honorable dissent and loyal opposition. It is to you that I address the following:
It is my firm belief that most of you who have associated with the American Anglican Council did so for honorable reasons with no idea that their avowed actual goal is to destroy The Episcopal Church as it currently exists. However, according to their own documents, they seem to advocate whatever means necessary to "innovatively move around, beyond or within the canons" to do so. I know that not everyone associated with the American Anglican Council is of one mind. However, these revelations that have just come to light may help clarify your thinking about their agenda. As such, I hope that you will see this as an opportunity for you and your congregation to rethink and officially disassociate with this organization.
The AAC (or Network, or IRD...wish they'd make up their mind) does not, and has never, represented the conservative segment of the Episcopal Church. Seven of the Episcopal Church's 113 dioceses have voted to join the Network, with two other dioceses expected to vote on affiliating this year. Fewer than 70 of the 6,800 congregations in non-affiliated dioceses have joined. It is a small but loud group of extremists, driven by the desire to punish and destroy.