THE SPOTLIGHT again is on Washington Bishop Jane Dixon and her unwillingness to relent and allow Fr. Sam Edwards to take his rightful ecclesial place at Christ Church, Accokeek, MD.
The pressure is growing daily for Dixon to let him in, and, adding weight to that is yet another bishop, the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan, the evangelical bishop of Pittsburgh who implores her to “back away from the battle.” He is the fourth bishop to date, urging Dixon to face reality, and possibly presentment if she doesn’t.
Duncan has written two letters, one to Dixon and the other to Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold. Both letters were copied to Archbishop George Carey. In the letter to Griswold lies a subtle but veiled threat, “you will certainly also understand that we cannot be silent in our opposition.” Who the “we” is, is not explained, but it only takes three bishops to lay a presentment on Dixon and now a fourth has entered the fray.
If Dixon isn’t feeling the heat then she has the thermostat set at 30. Keeping the pressure on her is the vestry at Accokeek who are solidly behind Edwards, and the brilliant canon lawyer Charles Nalls who is doing the legwork to keep Dixon pinned down in the legal trenches.
Still Griswold remains silent, at least publicly. He initially came out for Dixon and against Edwards, but with correspondence by the various opposing bishops making its way across the Atlantic to Archbishop George Carey, this is now a very public scandal. He cannot remain silent forever.
This battle is shaping up, as many of us thought it would, between the forces of liberal and revisionist bishops bent on destroying traditionalist and evangelical priests in their dioceses, against an increasing number of evangelical Episcopal bishops now willing to step forward and defend one of their own.
It is interesting to note that supporters of Fr. Edwards are evangelicals like Bishop John W. Howe, Evangelical Catholic bishops like Bob Duncan, and Anglo-Catholic bishops like William Wantland (retired Eau Claire) and Jack Iker (Fort Worth).
There is real unity here that cannot be lightly passed over. Women’s ordination, the lightning rod issue that separates evangelicals from Anglo-Catholics has been shelved for the higher cause of Biblical morality and following proper canonical procedure.
This too is interesting. Usually it is the liberals who invoke the canons and resolutions of the church to support their positions, (Canon A045 is now being literally enforced by Griswold and the Executive Council against three traditionalist dioceses who won’t ordain women), but now it is evangelical bishops who are taking the bull by the horns and they are arguing strongly and vociferously that the 30-day deadline Dixon had to appeal Edwards’ coming, came and went and she did nothing. Ergo she lost.
This very public battle is galvanizing the whole church and you can be sure that increasing numbers of evangelical bishops will step forward to defend Edwards and throw cold water over Dixon, whose flames of hatred for orthodoxy is now very painfully obvious.
It is ironic that, publicly, no liberal or revisionist bishop is coming to her defence. Do they know something that the rest of us don’t know? Are they letting her swing alone in the wind on this one? Does she have enemies among the liberals that not even they will come out in support of her?
This could be the lightning rod issue for ECUSA. With documents, letters and commentary made public by Virtuosity and circulating around the world, these things can no longer be done in a corner. The sins of the wretched and hateful revisionist ECUSA bishops and their acolytes are now being exposed for all to see. They can run but that can not hide.
Their dirty little efforts to keep out orthodox priests in their dioceses are being exposed to the world. Before Bishop Dixon there was Bishop Ronald Haines and the seeds he sowed against allowing evangelical and traditionalist priests to be placed in his diocese is now coming to full fruition under Bishop Dixon. The full flowering of the revisionist agenda has now broken out and been confronted by one single priest, Fr. Sam Edwards. His “here I stand, I will not be moved” attitude is exposing the whole Episcopal Church in microcosm. How it will all play out only time will tell. We shall see.
Bishop Jack Iker, from whose diocese Edwards dismissory papers have been sent, has weighed in asking retired Bishop Allan Bartlett (Pennsylvania) to intervene in this battle, but Dixon has not seen fit to let him play that role, and she pro tempore, claims to be in charge. Bartlett reports to her. Now Bartlett is one of the “flying bishops” sent in by Dixon to sit in the congregation when Edwards preaches and distributes Holy Communion. I am told that these bishops do receive from Fr. Edwards, which raises interesting canonical issues. By doing so, are they recognizing his right and authority to be there? Ironically Bartlett did allow a flying bishop arrangement with traditionalist parishes when he was Bishop of Pennsylvania.
It is also interesting that Jane Dixon can have flying bishops, specifically proscribed by Frank Griswold, but the Forward in Faith, NA crowd who want, and have asked for flying bishops are denied that right. Fr. David Moyer, Church of the Good Shepherd, Rosemont, PA is in a running battle with Bishop Charles E. Bennison, precisely over this issue. Bennison has nixed the idea in Pennsylvania but Jane Dixon can practice it in the Diocese of Washington apparently. Why is Frank Griswold not laying down the canonical law and telling her not too? You have one guess.
Consistency is clearly the hobgoblin of small minds. And liberal and revisionist bishops are clearly inconsistent and small minded especially when it comes to serving the Episcopal Church and those who uphold Christian orthodoxy. Their attitude clearly ridicules and mocks any notion of “inclusivity” much ballyhooed by Frank Griswold and the liberals.
The truth is, there is no inclusivity. There never was and never will be. It’s a fiction and a lie.
The vestry and wardens of Church of the Good Shepherd in Rosemont, PA have written to Pennsylvania’s diocesan leaders. The deadline for this parish to accept Bishop Bennison is May 15. If they don’t let him make a canonical visitation Bennison will depose Fr. Moyer. So much for inclusivity.
In another “inclusive” act by Bishop Bennison, The Diocese of Pennsylvania ran a half page ad in the Philadelphia Inquirer inviting people to celebrate Easter with The Episcopal Church. The ad lists all the churches of the diocese by location except the six FIFNA parishes that have refused visits by Bennison and one former FIFNA parish that rescinded its FIFNA affiliation under the interim and has not restored it under the new rector.
That has implications for what it means to being ‘in communion’. And it also says something about diocesan claims to property.
David Virtue is a freelance columnist whose VIRTUOSITY website regularly provides vibrant comment on the state of the Episcopal Church [DVirtue236@aol.com]