Monday, March 15, 2004

The Plot Thickens

There has been a new development within the ongoing saga within the Episcopal Church. It appears that six congregations gathered in Ohio for Confirmations, but the Diocesan Bishop was not invited to participate. For those of you who prefer not to register to view the article, I'll provide the most relevant excerpts from a Cleveland paper, The Plain Dealer, written by Mark Rollenhagen;

...Six area congregations unhappy with Bishop J. Clark Grew II's support of the election and consecration of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire broke church protocol and brought in retired bishops from outside the diocese to conduct the confirmation service.

They secretly planned the service and held it in an Orthodox church so that Grew could not stop it and they later could not be accused of holding an improper service in an Episcopal Church...

The Washington-based council (the American Anglican Council) called the fact that five retired bishops from other states and one active bishop from Brazil crossed diocesan boundaries to conduct a confirmation service without permission from the local bishop "an unprecedented and historic move."
This is a troubling development, for a few reasons. First of all, such actions are simply not allowed, according to the Constitution of the Episcopal Church;

Article II, Sec. 3. A Bishop shall confine the exercise of such office to the Diocese in which elected, unless requested to perform episcopal acts in another Diocese by the Ecclesiastical Authority thereof, or unless authorized by the House of Bishops, or by the Presiding Bishop by its direction, to act temporarily in case of need within any territory not yet organized into Dioceses of this Church.
The presence of a bishop from Brazil is also troubling. It brings to mind the Chapman letter, which outlined a plan by the AAC to replace the Episcopal Church with their own form of conservative Christianity. When it became obvious that they would lose their property, they backpedaled, and even formed a new entity, The Network, which is the AAC dressed in new vestments. One of the strategies is to use foreign bishops who are outside the authority of the Episcopal Church.

Keep in mind that these are the same people that have been claiming that the Church is going to hell in a handbasket since the '79 Book of Common Prayer was introduced and women were admitted to holy orders. They are fixated on some imaginary golden age of the Church, in which "Father Knows Best" and the pews were full of Cleaver clones. Not only is this past they desire to conserve a work of fiction, it also refuses to acknowledge the reality of change. We are certainly informed by our past, but we also "strain forward to what lies ahead."

So why is Bishop Robinson the line in the sand? They could not rally much support around prayer book revision. Many people consider the '79 book to be an improvement. They couldn't rant too loudly about women's ordination without risking the alienation of half of the human race. So, the sacrificial lamb became gay and lesbian Christians. They grabbed a handful of bible verses, verses that can only be "true" according to their interpretation, rallied support from those who think homosexuals are "icky," and marched lock-step on a crusade to "save the Church." Never mind that they have to walk on the backs of innocent victims along the way. It is about being "right," and relationships be damned.

Another troubling consideration is the precedent this will set for the future. I recall one bishop whose visitation I always dreaded, because he simply could not chant, but thought he could. In the future, will I be able to request "alternative episcopal oversight" on the grounds that my people require a bishop whose voice brings to mind an angelic choir instead of a cat fight?

Crossing diocesan boundaries without permission of the Ordinary is not only rude and arrogant; it also ignores the checks and balances that we have in place for very good reasons. Wandering foreign bishops have caused much turmoil in our past.

I think it is quite obvious why this incident happened in Ohio when it did. Later this month, the House of Bishops will meet. There will be discussions on "alternative episcopal oversight." The AAC, in their new disguise as the Network, will now come to this meeting with their right to send any bishop of their choice across diocesan boundaries a fait accompli.


There you go man,
Keep as cool as you can.
Face piles
And piles
Of trials
With smiles.
It riles them to believe
That you perceive
The web they weave
And keep on thinking free.

-Moody Blues

UPDATE: The Ven. Mark Hollingsworth Jr., Bishop-Elect of Ohio and the Rt. Rev. J. Clark Grew, II, Bishop of Ohio, respond to the Extra-Canonical Confirmation Service.

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