Friday, April 15, 2005

A great and much needed letter

Seventeen active ECUSA bishops have written an open letter to the Bishop of Connecticut, Andrew Smith, concerning his threats and persecution against six parishes and their rectors.

I’ve read this letter several times, and each time, my reaction is “YESSSS!” It is an excellent, strong, godly, and much needed stand by the seventeen bishops. The other day, yesterday morning I believe, I asked where are the Athanasiuses among active Episcopal bishops. I’m glad these men proved my impatience to be in error.

The conservative network bishops have been very restrained thus far, perhaps too restrained. But this letter makes clear that they will not stand idly by while liberal bishops persecute the orthodox. I believe this letter marks a new phase in orthodox Episcopal action.

Some highlights:

The clergy and people of the six parishes now in sustained conflict with you are in full communion with us. They preach and teach what the Anglican Communion preaches and teaches. They preach and teach what we preach and teach. It would be impossible for us to recognize any inhibition or deposition imposed upon them.

In standing in solidarity with the Connecticut Six, the bishops make clear they will not recognize any inhibition on them from +Smith. For a bishop to say he will not recognize the action of another bishop is very significant. There comes a time to tell apostate bishops that we will not recognize their authority. The Seventeen are doing just that, at least in this matter.

Was it also the case that financial demands were tied to any possible provision of such care… ?

A very pointed and on target question indeed! +Smith, for months, has demanded that parishes pay up to the diocese. One reason (Maybe the main reason?) he’s taking action against the six parishes is that they can not consciously give any money to him. Other bishops are pressuring orthodox parishes to pay up to Moloch or else. The Seventeen are gently, but pointedly, saying this is intolerable.

What are we to do? We have agreed as bishops not to cross diocesan boundaries. But was not this moratorium based on other moratoria being observed as well, and on the maintenance of status quo as regards actions against the conservative minority?

This is a shot across the bow. Several liberal bishops have played it both ways. They have torn up those parts of scripture and the canons that they don’t like and defied the Primates, while they suddenly become fuming fundamentalists when it come to diocean boundaries. And out of respect for the canons, conservative bishops, frankly, have let them get away with it.

The Seventeen warn those days may be (finally!) over if +Smith and the like continue to persecute the faithful. This is in the spirit of Athanasius, who considered defending the faith and the faithful more important than geographical boundaries.

Needless to say, if ECUSA orthodox bishops start boundary crossing, all hell will break loose. But a little hell should break loose on those apostates and heretics who oppress the faithful.

We also ask: was Title IV, Canon 10, intended to be used against clergy who have resolutely maintained their commitment to the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, as these clergy have? What about due process and right to ecclesiastical trials, both of which are denied when this Canon on Abandonment of Communion is used in this way? Who is it that has abandoned the Communion?

A withering attack on +Smith’s disregard for due process. Now, I don’t think the Seventeen are hinting that they may consider +Smith to have abandoned communion. (But, of course, by departing from the faith and attacking the faithful, he has.) But “Who is it that has abandoned the Communion?” is an extraordinary question to ask in a formal letter from seventeen bishops.

This is a painful letter for us to write. We pose much of this letter as questions. Is there some way to head off the terrible confrontation that now appears inevitable, not only in Connecticut, but also among us bishops?

The tone of this letter is masterful. The bishops say some hard things and yet leave the door open to peace. Nevertheless, they make clear that if things continue as they are, there will be “terrible confrontation.”

And there should be.

Thank God for these Seventeen bishops who are acting as men of God on behalf of the Faith and the faithful.

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