Establishment Chaos

From the start

The first General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church USA took place in Philadelphia in 1789. The then Presiding Bishop was the Rt Revd William White.

It was an auspicious beginning. The Episcopal Church was orthodox in faith and morals and over the years its ranks would include eleven presidents and a vast panoply of America’s political nobility and blue blood families. While not ever a state church, the PECUSA was the closest thing to an established Church the United States would ever have. It breathed class and distinction.

Now, more than 200 years later the Episcopal Church is on the verge of coming unravelled; having brokered into its ranks all manner of sexual behaviour under the nomenclature of lesbitransgay. Bishops White and Seabury would roll over in their graves if they knew that gay and lesbian priests were functioning, as though they were normal behaviour in the church. They would be doubly shocked to learn that a bishop could not, in conscience, affirm such basic tenets of the Christian Faith as the bodily resurrection of Jesus, the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and the authority of Scripture.

Change and Decay

Their revulsion cannot be imagined. And if perchance they should happen to read the present incumbent Bishop of Pennsylvania, Charles E Bennison’s paper on gay marriages and same-sex ceremonies their abhorrence and shame might lead them to plunge head first into the Schuylkill River, praying, as they tossed their mitres to the wind, that the good Lord would deliver them from such abomination and in his mercy save them.

But what might send them over the edge into early dementia is the knowledge that a single priest, who still believed as they did – both biblically and liturgically – was being hounded out of his parish because he dared to stand up to his bishop and declare that, like the emperor, he had no theological clothes.

This single priest’s stance, and his refusal to draw any more lines in the sand, has forced a confrontation with the bishop as well as the current Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold, and has drawn in several Primates of the worldwide Anglican Communion, thus bringing about the dismemberment of the once proud Episcopal Church USA.

Deposition Day Approaches

In less than eleven days the Revd Dr David L Moyer, rector, Church of the Good Shepherd will face deposition for daring to face down the apostate bishop in order to preserve his own soul and those of his parishioners. He has denied the bishop access to the pulpit (but not the pew) and has refused him the right to preach, perform confirmations and administer the sacraments. It will be a momentous day in the life not only of the parish and the diocese, but the Episcopal Church and the whole Anglican Communion. There will be support on the occasion from the Primate of Central Africa, Archbishop Bernard Malango, and possibly other Primates who will lend their support to Fr Moyer, and an as yet unnamed number of orthodox ECUSA bishops, priests and laity.

It will be an historic occasion that will shock the whole Episcopal Church to the core. Perhaps Bennison thinks that, once he has deposed Moyer, he can send in a gay or lesbian to replace the good father, or perhaps, as one wag observed, place a Visigoth in the pulpit.

And while all this is going on Bennison allows a non-celibate lesbian priest to move into the diocese just two miles down the road from Fr Moyer’s parish as though this was the most normal thing in the world to do – an act that has no Biblical or historical grounds and which every major denomination to date has rejected.

Fairness to the winds

Now one of the pressing issues in the Moyer versus Bennison drama is that Bennison will not allow Moyer a trial to face his accusers. This is in distinct contrast to the Bishop of Bethlehem, Paul Marshall who convened a seven-panel judge to investigate sexual charges against one of his priests, the Revd Dane C Bragg. Mr. Bragg was found guilty of ‘initiating graphic sexual conversations with two teenagers and threatening to interfere with one of the teen’s ordination.’

So one bishop is ready to give a fair hearing to a priest and the other is not. And Moyer is not even remotely accused of doing anything sexually aberrational. Had that been the case, you can be sure Bennison would have had a panel of judges convened and the matter dealt with summarily. After all, if you allow a non-celibate lesbian to perform sexual acts that have no Biblical warrant, in fact will provoke the wrath of God, and then don’t offer an orthodox priest a fair trial, what does that say about fairness or inclusivity?

What makes Bennison’s actions even worse is that in his letter to Fr Moyer demanding a visitation, he told Moyer that if he refused he would be given a trial. Moyer refused, and Bennison then disallowed the trial!

Bennison, meanwhile, got in touch with Bishop Paul Marshall (his neighbour bishop to the north) and asked him why he hadn’t come down hard on the Revd Ilgenfritz, whose name is also on the short list of possible FiFNA bishops. According to my sources, Marshall told Bennison; in so many words that he would do no such thing.

Kansas again

The Bishop of Kansas, William E Smalley is in deep trouble over his push to allow priests to bless same-sex couples. Not only has the Pluriform One, Frank Griswold, requested that he refrain from acting on his own in these acts (the Global South bishops are watching and are being informed by this scribbler) but Smalley is bringing the wrath of orthodox bishops down on his head. The Rt Revd Jack Iker, Bishop of Fort Worth, has written a personal letter to Smalley condemning his stand.

In addition, another orthodox bishop claims that a letter is being prepared and will be signed by some 30 or more orthodox and Evangelical bishops of the American Anglican Council (AAC) condemning Smalley for his actions. Smalley doesn’t get it. Nothing can be done in a corner anymore. The Internet makes that impossible. The truth will out and every unbiblical act committed by a liberal or revisionist ECUSA bishop will be reported around the world, pounding yet more nails in the coffin of ECUSA’s liberal appartchiks.

Clearly the stakes are being ratcheted up on stupid acts being done by bishops like Smalley, and even Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury designate recently wondered aloud whether things were now so bad in the US and Canada that ‘parallel jurisdictions’ were now inevitable.

David Virtue is a freelance commentator whose regular newsletter is to be found at Donations are solicited to maintain the service.