Sunday, March 17, 2002


This comment is not intended to be a rebuttal either (a) in the sense of a historian reviewing what Wright has written about the history of a bishop's prerogative or (b) what Beers has written as a lawyer concerning the Canons of the ECUSA on a bishop's prerogative. It is rather some general observations.

Both men were asked to give their advice because of a desire amongst conservative congregations in certain dioceses, where the local bishop is committed to the lesbigay agenda or other modern innovatory doctrines, to have a pastoral visit from a bishop who shares their faith and morals. These parishes on grounds of conscience cannot receive with sincerity the preaching and sacramental actions of their diocesan bishops.

In a few cases the requests of such congregations/parishes have been granted but there are dioceses (e.g., Pennsylvania) where they have been not only refused but militantly rejected.

It seems to me that what both Wright and Beers offer to the House of Bishops is in general correct - correct that is as far as it goes. Any bishop who cares to allow another bishop into his/her diocese to minister to a particular parish is entirely free to do so and further can do so in such a way as to live at peace with that parish. To set up a system of Episcopal Visitors (as in the C of E) would take the action of General Convention.

The present historical tradition of the Anglican Way as well as the Canons of the ECUSA assume that the normal state of affairs in a diocese is that of a Bishop (with the help of a Suffragan) visiting all the parishes, giving their clergy and people pastoral care, and teaching all his flock the Faith of Christ as he drives away heresy and error.

But this is not the present state of affairs in the ECUSA and this is why there is an acute crisis in some dioceses and parishes.

Many dioceses have officially and publicly abandoned the biblically-based, orthodox faith and morals of the Anglican Way to embrace aspects of the radical feminist agenda as well as much of the recent lesbigay agenda; and they have decided that the process of reception (with regard to female clergy) is closed and the verdict is not only acceptance but active harassment of those who still believe (with virtually all the Anglican Communion) that this process is still in process and its results are not yet in.

Thus what has been missing in the ECUSA is not a sound basis in law or in tradition to tolerate gracefully those who, wishing to stay in the ECUSA, still intend to hold to traditional Anglican faith and morals and order. As Wright and Beers show such a basis clearly exists.

That which appears to be obviously missing in some diocesan bishops is loving hearts, caring souls, renewed minds and gracious spirits!

I regret to say that too many bishops have decided that they are Chief Executive Officers and Chief Liturgical Officers of their local religious society (i.e., diocese) and that their own ideology and rules for the company have to be accepted (or at least actively tolerated) by all! They have become hard-hearted religious operatives in whom it is difficult for conservative churchmen to see any sign of the spirit of Christ the great Shepherd of souls.

My judgment is that this state of affairs will not be changed by legal and historical argument or by political machinations in dioceses and in the General Convention. ONLY by fasting and prayer. Hard-hearts can only be softened by the grace of Christ and He usually sends such grace in answer to fervent and sincere prayer in the context of AGAPE (caritas) shown to the offending hierarch by the persecuted.

Time will tell whether the Statement of the House of Bishops of March 12 makes any real and vital difference to requests of the traditional parishes.

"We believe that the present Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church are sufficient for dealing with questions of episcopal oversight, supplemental episcopal pastoral care, and disputes that may arise between the bishops and a congregation. We encourage that their provisions be used wisely and in the spirit of charity."

"The provision of supplemental episcopal pastoral care shall be under the direction of the bishops of the diocese, who shall invite the visitor and remain in pastoral contact with the congregation. This is to be understood as a temporary arrangement, the ultimate goal of which is the full restoration of the relationships between the congregation and their bishop."

The Revd Dr Peter Toon St Patrick's Day, 2002.

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