America I

Paranoid ranting

In his diocesan newspaper

the soon-to-retire Bishop of California, the Rt Revd William Swing writes:

n twenty-seven years of writing to you, I have spent little or no time covering breakaway groups in the Bay Area which use our prayer book and hymnals, which advertise in the yellow pages under our name, but which have no legitimate standing in the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion.

My conviction has been that we as an historic people of God are on mission. So let’s be about that mission; let’s not devote energy to the folks who have set up shop nearby and who trade off our good name. The old saying goes like this: ‘The dogs bark and bark, but the wagons moved on.’ So I’ve tried to keep us moving ahead on the mission of Jesus Christ, not bogged down in intramural squabbles.

Nevertheless I want to share just a little sampling of my experience of these folks with you. Perhaps this might be of help to you in the future as you discern what the words ‘Episcopal’ and ‘Anglican’ mean when you drive by church signs.

Communists everywhere

In 1979 Bishop Myers sent me on a three-day assignment. I was to go to a particular congregation that was planning on dropping its affiliation with the Episcopal Church. Remember now, these were the crisis days right after women’s ordination and prayer book revision. Lots of congregations were on the fence about staying or bolting.

When I arrived, I interviewed individual parishioners and the rector; studied the history and demographics of the parish; went to small group meetings. On the last day, I sat with the leadership at lunch and said this: ‘I think I’ve got it. You are saying that revising the prayer book and ordaining women are deeply destabilizing innovations which threaten the very core of our American, democratic culture and values. Who would want to bring such harm to our country? The Communists! You are convinced that the Episcopal Church, wittingly or unwittingly, has become a pawn for the Communist Party and their intent to bury America. Therefore, it is your patriotic duty to disassociate yourselves from this menace and from the Episcopal Church.’ Their eyes brightened. ‘Yes, you understand.’

These are people whom I love individually but who bought into Senator Joseph McCarthy, Anita Bryant, etc, and the hunt for red and pink conspiracies around every corner. In the 1950s they claimed that the Revised Standard Version of the Bible was a Communist document because it was translated under the direction of the World Council of Churches. In their minds, a Communist front organization. And they are still around today, stronger than ever in the form of institutes and religious lobbies. They are politically correct enough not to use the word ‘Communist,’ but the same fire burns in their hearts. Their constituency has few people of color, no women priests and old 1928 prayer books, and the money pours in from Pittsburgh and Texas with the intent to bring an end to the Episcopal Church. They are a tough crowd, and they work non-stop to carry out their goals.

Beware counterfeiters

Last summer my wife Mary was in an Asian country shopping for a pocketbook. She spied one she liked, but the label said ‘Classical Designs.’ Finally she said to the owner, ‘Do you have any Prada bags?’ He said, ‘Oh, yes.’ Then he reached into a drawer, took out a Prada label, removed the Classical Designs label on the bag of Mary’s attention, and inserted the Prada label. Easy. Get a great label even if the depth of quality isn’t there.

There is a little church a few blocks from our home that calls itself an Anglican church. Obviously it is not recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury and has no more right to be called Anglican than Mary’s pocketbook has the right to be called Prada. But there it is in all of its counterfeit splendor. It takes advantage of our ‘noble army of martyrs’ who gave their lives quietly translating manuscripts or fighting against injustices or facing the political dynamics of their day or praying us through ordeals. The counterfeiters freeze-dry us in time, usually 1954, then thaw out our labors on Sundays. In their boutique-fake Anglican churches, devoid of the mess of history or the blood of Incarnation, they show antiseptic reruns of us. As a tee shirt in the Bahamas says, ‘Nobody move, nobody get hurt.’

A couple of churches in the Bay Area don’t even bother to switch labels. They use our prayer book and hymnal, sometimes even invite one of our clergy to officiate, and run an Episcopal-type church without carrying the responsibility of commitment to a larger vision of the Body of Christ. They chose neutral titles for themselves such as the Church on the Hill or in the Forest. These are like couples who live together but don’t want the accountability of a marriage commitment. No ties. No big picture. Just cul de sac religion. Or rather just enough ties to figure out how to usurp the work of others and skim off enough cream to serve a rich local liturgical dish to unsuspecting attendees. A parody by parasites.

Opposite of Catholic

Every time there is trauma in the Episcopal Church, there is an effort by some of the counterfeiters and the Communist fixators to join forces but nothing – nothing – ever comes of it. Those who cannot tolerate the catholic, universal nature of the Church, with the strain of holding everything and everyone together, certainly cannot live with the idiosyncrasies of each other. Once a church group learns to say, ‘I don’t need you all any more,’ then they are on the road to exponential isolation. The opposite of catholicism. What truly is worth striving for is to make the Church more catholic, or more catholic than it was when we inherited it. Paul inherited a one-race Church. When he died, the Church was multiracial. There is the model. Move outward; embrace more of the human predicament in the Name of Jesus Christ.

No one has cornered the market on being catholic. No one has ever seen the catholic nature of the Church in toto. It exists only in the mind of God. We do see miniatures of it occasionally, and we lurch toward it blindly in our deepest yearnings. The Roman Catholics do not exhaust the catholic nature of the Church, nor do the Orthodox or the Protestants. We all carry its seed in our fragmented groupings. Truly catholic means all of the above and more. Lots more, as the Holy Spirit leads us into the truth of the One.

Therefore, as a bishop I spend most of my time strengthening and expanding the Church’s infrastructure and institutions so that we can make the long, hard pilgrimage toward the catholicism that Christ intends for us, the wholeness he holds in his heart. All of it is important – the seminaries, the social services, the retreat centers, the congregations, the worship, the ever-expanding ethnic constituencies. We must be on our way toward a catholic destiny where God is all in all. We aren’t communists or counterfeiters. We are the real thing, catholic Episcopalians who pray that the Holy Spirit will lead us ever deeper into the full revelation of the Body of Christ.

America II


n today’s fast-paced world, one can be forgiven for a little self-indulgent nostalgia. We all like to hark back to the ‘good old days’ when things seemed simpler and clearer cut than they do now. All well and good, but we must beware lest the lens through which we view the present in terms of the past has become clouded by unreality.

This warning applies to us all, not least the Bishop of California who has recently come out vigorously against those backward Christians who insist on protesting his liberal agenda. ‘The dogs bark and bark,’ he tells us, ‘but the wagons moved on.’ So they have, but not all in the same direction; and for the Californian Swing, the covered wagons of those who disagree with him and the TEC majority are little better than fascist McCarthyites.

Students of Soviet history will remember that a privileged few of the Party elite were able to go on exotic vacations and buy things, which the toiling masses could only dream of. And what do we find Mrs Swing up to while the modern American proletariat slaves away, nine till five? ‘Last summer my wife, Mary, was in an Asian country shopping for a pocketbook.’ Mary wasn’t happy with generic brands, she wanted something better, and asked for it. ‘Do you have any Prada bags?’ Admittedly, it is a different cultural context than a dacha on the Baltic Sea but the point is surely the same. Perhaps the McCarthyite parishioners were on to something?

Hijack the revolution

Never ones to beat about the bush, the triumphant Soviets were quick to point out the faults of their traitorous cousins, Lenin’s ‘petty bourgeois revolutionaries.’ It seems that the counterfeiters are at again, living off the revolutionary ardour and sacrifice of the Party. Swing speaks out: ‘There is a little church a few blocks from our home that calls itself an Anglican church. Obviously it is not recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury…but there it is in all its counterfeit splendor.’

The Bishop goes on, these ‘boutique-fake Anglican churches…figure out how to usurp the work of others and skim off enough cream to serve a rich local liturgical dish to unsuspecting attendees. A paradox of parasites.’ What can we say? It’s next stop, Siberia for these lickspittle capitalists in worker’s clothing. Thus perish all enemies of the West Coast Soviet, as the People’s Wagon moves on, crushing the barking dogs of recidivism under the iron wheel of dialectical materialism!

‘We aren’t communists or counterfeiters. We are the real thing, catholic Episcopalians…’ No; Catholics do not do the things he does: they don’t act against the teaching of the Church, they don’t ordain women, they don’t bless same-sex marriages. Neither do they believe in pagan pseudo-Gnosticism, that the ‘catholic nature of the Church…exists only in the mind of God.’ On the contrary, Catholics believe in the whole Faith, as received from Christ, through the Apostles, and do not dare run the risk of contradicting something given us by God himself. This same Faith exists, embodied and concrete in the teaching and nature of the Church, visible and militant on earth, expectant and triumphant in heaven – not as an unknowable Ideal, existing only in the mind of God, towards which the initiate gropes blindly on their journey to enlightenment.

Bishop Swing may protest his opponent’s McCarthyism, but he shouldn’t be surprised if the Cold War glass is turned his way. And neither should he wonder if real Catholics have the courage of their convictions to stand up against the error of the imposters. It is these latter who will inherit Swing’s ‘exponential isolation’ along with heretics throughout the ages.

John Heidt

America III

The new boss

he newly elected presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church USA lists as her major qualifications for office positions at two institutions shrouded in mystery and without any formal accreditation, if they exist at all.

That is the finding of an investigation of the rise of Katharine Jefferts Schori, 52, a pilot and oceanographer and strong advocate for same-sex marriage and homosexual ordination, by Virtue Online, which describes itself as ‘the voice for global orthodox Anglicanism.’

Schori and the nominating committee for the election that took place in June list as Schori’s major qualifications the following positions she reportedly held: Pastoral Associate and Dean of the Good Samaritan School of Theology, Corvallis, Oregon, from 1994-2000; Priest-in-charge of El Buen Samaritano, Corvallis, Oregon.

Terry Ward, a writer for Virtue Online, says he could find no record of the existence of the Good Samaritan School of Theology in his examination of the web pages and church newsletters of the Good Samaritan Church of Corvallis, Ore., the web pages of the Episcopal Church USA and the Oregon and Nevada Dioceses, the web pages of the Association of Theological Schools, which lists all accredited and affiliated institutions in the USA and Canada.

A new school

‘None of these sources showed any evidence that the ‘Good Samaritan School of Theology’ existed as an independent organization with staff or facilities,’ Ward wrote. ‘There was no mention of the school or of the titles or positions (dean, pastoral associate) associated with the school.’ But there is now.

Just do a search for the school and you will find dozens of references to it, in USA Today, Washington Post and other major papers all involving the election of Schori and her reliance on that major qualification. But there is no trace of the Good Samaritan School of Theology in the city phone directories of Corvallis or Benton County, Ore.

Asked in writing to explain her reference to this presumably phantom school of theology in her resume, Schori responded, ‘The Good Samaritan School of Theology was the then-rector’s term for all adult education programs, both internally and externally focused. They included initiation of such programs as Education for Ministry; ‘popcorn theology’ (movies and discussion); a weeknight meal and education offerings for all ages; Lenten and Advent series; satellite downlink programs with discussion (begun in the days when ECTN and Trinity were doing so many effective ones); invited speakers; Sunday adult forums; inquirers’ classes; confirmation classes; and so on. At one point, the School offered a set of historical liturgies, about seven or eight from the time of the church father Hippolytus through the 1928 Book of Common Prayer; the series featured instructed Eucharists.’

Asked to explain ‘El Buen Samaritano’ and her priestly duties there, Schori explained, ‘El Buen Samaritano was the Spanish-language congregation based at Good Samaritan, essentially a parochial mission. I acted as vicar with primary liturgical and pastoral responsibility.’

Schori won election in June at the church’s General Convention in Columbus, Ohio. Episcopal bishops elected her on the fifth ballot. She was the only woman among seven candidates.


Loyalty programmes

uaffing the champagne in the Sydney Qantas lounge the other week, I began to realize where the Archbishop of Canterbury must have found his idea for a two-tier version of the Anglican Communion.

What a triumph to come up with a Platinum level membership of the Communion with associated benefits (carrying about extra baggage, quick and early services, redemption throughout the year and access to the Primate’s Lounge). At the same time as this to have the simple Bronze level, where one feels less inclined to show loyalty to the club because the points system is created to benefit the organization and not the individual, and one can find benefits elsewhere.

In a way such a Frequent Flyer Programme is nothing new in the Anglican Church of Australia where our federal arrangement allows a diocese to be as in or out of the Club as it wishes.

Franchise Anglicans

Although the Anglican brand may be known on the average high street, it is more of a franchise system allowing for a strong, local decision-making system. In fact it was this federalism of the Church in Australia which could be seen as offering the original provision for traditionalists. The authority of General Synod as a legislative body is worthless without the necessary adopting of that legislation by dioceses on an individual basis after the event.

Whilst this would bring little comfort for the orthodox in a diocese which had jumped onto the liberal bandwagon, it did allow for Catholic clergy at least to find a home in a sympathetic diocese which did not have the same revisionist agenda – although it is true this left the laity hijacked to the whims of the local diocese, unless they too were willing to travel or move to one which suited them.

Therefore the calculated undermining of an orthodox diocese such as Wangaratta (amongst others) by the liberals misses the point. It was always within the vision that a diocese could refuse to assent to the legislation permitting the ordination of women and continue in that vein. However, the endless politicking by liberals has eroded this two-tier nature across the nation by stealth.

No oxygen left

And so the current legislation in the Diocese of Wangaratta permitting women priests to be possible in just six of the parishes, along with legislation for an Auxiliary Bishop, undermines the very foundation of the Australian arrangement.

Those who have encouraged such change may declare a respect for ‘both views’ but their heartless manipulation belies this claim.

However, the positive side is that groups such as Forward in Faith should not hold back. It is one thing for bishops such as a Melbourne Assistant Bishop to say that he hopes for a situation whereby ‘throughout the diocese, we will truly value each other’s distinctiveness, [and] celebrate our diversity’ but fascist-liberalism does not see that as a part of the master plan. It is more in their mind to celebrate alternative faiths rather than an alternative within the faith.

The Melbourne Institute of Christian Leadership director, Peter Corney, said in a recent paper leading up to the next round of elections for the Archbishop of Melbourne, that ‘Theological Liberalism slowly sucks out the oxygen of the classical belief that produces passionate faith.’ The oxygen has been sucked out of so much of the Australian Church and the liberals just keep on sucking.

The line in the sand

Planned or unplanned, Australia did have a dual system when it came to the ordination of women. It was by no means ideal, but it was a system. That arrangement is now of little matter as the liberals persistently work to undermine it. (Whatever one’s views on the Diocese of Sydney, at least the hierarchy appreciate conformity!)

As this pan-liberal sweep continues its way, Catholics now need to be more certain and more definite about their agenda throughout the Australian Church. Catholic groups need to draw a few more lines in the sand as well. For example the Society of the Holy Cross (SSC) should make it clear that a priest who has laid hands on a woman at an ordination is not being true to the objects of the Society, and needs to find his spiritual home with other like-minded clergy.

Ultimately it is time for the Catholics to get their act together and decide to which loyalty programme they really want to belong.