National Assembly Update

Everyone agreed that it was a first-rate Assembly, full of determination, clarity of vision, good humour and every emotion imaginable.

After a rousing welcome and call-to-arms from Fr Geoffrey Kirk, who addressed himself in plain Yorkshire terms to those who delude themselves that the best way to stop a runaway train is to sit as close to the back as possible and hope for the best, the Assembly got straight down to work on resolutions. Suffice it to say that all resolutions, the full texts of which can be found in the October 2001 issue of New Directions, were passed as drafted, with the exception of 02, of which more in a moment.

It had been intended that Fr David Moyer, President of Forward in Faith North America, would update us on the latest situation on Accokeek and all the trials that our good friend Fr Sam Edwards has endured there. For understandable reasons, Fr David had decided not to travel at this time, and so it fell to Stephen Parkinson and Fr Geoffrey Kirk to try to set out for delegates the whole, long, sorry story. It concluded with a letter to the Assembly from Fr Sam, which we are pleased to reproduce here:

Saint John’s Parish
600 Farmington Road West
Accokeek, MD 20607
Christ Church, Accokeek Saint John’s Chapel, Pomonkey

October 9, 2001

To the members of the 2001 National Assembly of Forward in Faith

Dear Friends in Christ,

Greetings in the holy Name of our risen and triumphant Lord.

Your Director has invited me to summarize the current situation here in Accokeek, and I am happy to do so.

As of this writing, we are still awaiting a decision from the Federal District Court judge on the preliminary motions in the case Jane Holmes Dixon v. Samuel Lee Edwards and the Vestry of Saint John’s Parish. We have moved for a dismissal of the suit, asserting that the Court has no grounds to assume jurisdiction in this case. Dr Dixon has moved for expedited declaratory and summary judgment. Arguments were heard on August 23, and the Court has been silent since. We are expecting that the case eventually will be dismissed. If not, we have the option to appeal to a higher Court for dismissal or going to trial on the merits. We firmly intend to oppose this naked aggression until all appeals are exhausted or until our resources can no longer support our defense.

As you certainly know by now, the Review Panel for the trial of a bishop dismissed the canonical charges against Dr Dixon in what is likely to go down as one of the more bizarre rulings in the history of ecclesiastical law. In essence, it said that both sides in this dispute had a valid interpretation of the canons in question, so there would be no trial. The decision is of a sort that dovetails nicely with Dr Griswold’s pluriform approach to truth. The practical problem with it (to say nothing of the philosophical and theological issues) is that, when there is a dispute between two parties neither of whom is right or wrong, the matter typically is settled in favour of the party with the most guns: When there is no right, then might is the arbiter. When there is no truth, there is only power. The Review Panel decision is actually an admission of what many of us have long thought and some of us have long said – that there is no genuine discipline within ECUSA at the national level. This fact raises a serious ecclesiological question, namely, whether ECUSA can be meaningfully characterized as a church at all.

Meanwhile, the canonical charges filed against me are working their way through the canonical system. As I am still canonically resident in Fort Worth, their Standing Committee has taken jurisdiction and appointed a Church Attorney who is completing his investigation and will probably deliver it to them around the beginning of November. At that point, they will decide if an ecclesiastical trial is warranted. If so, I will gladly participate, for among the matters at issue is whether – contrary to all previous claims by ECUSA – opposition to women’s ordination constitutes ‘teaching doctrine contrary to that held by this Church.’ If that is one of the matters tried, it provides a rare ‘no loss’ scenario for the surviving orthodox Anglicans in ECUSA.

Stephen also asked that I give suggestions concerning how our many friends in England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Cornwall, and Man can help. The first, the most obvious, the most important, and the most effective is to keep doing what you have been doing already – pray to the Lord for us and enlist the prayers of all the saints both here and above. The Lord’s answer to your prayers provides the only rational explanation for our being able not just to hold out as long as we have, but to flourish in good heart as we’ve been doing it.

If you are moved to offer more tangible assistance in addition to this, the parish does have a Crisis Fund. Monies for this have come largely from contributions channelled through Forward in Faith/ North America and the American Anglican Council. So far, they have been used to meet some of the out-of-pocket expenses of our incomparable attorney, the Rev’d Deacon Charles Nalls, who has provided us with literally thousands of dollars’ worth of highest-quality legal service and charged us nothing for them. It is possible that other crisis-connected expenses may be incurred, however, if action in the secular courts is sustained and Mr Nalls needs to bring other attorneys in to augment our defense team. I would suggest, if it seems good to the Council, that any contributions for this fund be sent to the London office, whence they can be forwarded to us, either directly or through FiF/NA’s Fort Worth headquarters.

On behalf of all the faithful in this Parish, I thank you for the inestimable gift of your love and prayers. May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ richly bless you as you bear witness to His Truth for the Unity of all His Holy Church.

Faithfully yours in Christ,

Samuel L. Edwards, SSC


The Assembly moved on immediately to Resolution 02, moved on behalf of the Forward in Faith Council by its Chairman, the Bishop of Fulham, which Fr Oriel Alby, of St James, Milton, in the Diocese of Portsmouth, wisely amended to read:

‘This Assembly:

expresses its support for the Reverend Samuel L Edwards, SSC, the lawful Rector of S. John’s Parish – Christ Church, Accokeek and S. John’s Chapel, Pomonkey – in the Diocese of Washington, in his present unhappy struggle occasioned by the ecclesiastical authority for the time being in that diocese, ‘Bishop’ Jane Dixon.

supports the rights & obligations of the wardens and the vestry of the said parish, in their brave stand to seek justice

is heartened to learn of the support given Fr Edwards by the Bishop of Fort Worth, the Right Reverend Jack L Iker, SSC, and encourages all orthodox bishops of the Anglican Communion to express support for Bishop Iker in his courageous stand for gospel truth and godly order.’

Lastly that evening, the Assembly warmly welcomed the Council’s decision to send a sum to Fr Edwards’ Defence Fund, equivalent to the collection at the National Assembly Mass the next morning. It is good to report that, with some late donations still appearing, the sum we will be sending the fund is close to US$5,000 – any readers of New Directions, who wish to stand shoulder to shoulder with Fr Edwards in his trials and tribulations, may add to that sum by sending donations to the Forward in Faith Office at Faith House, payable to ‘Forward in Faith’, and clearly marked ‘for Fr Edwards’ Defence Fund’.