Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Pulling the Plug on LEAC

The following letter was sent by Bishop Michael Creighton and Bishop-elect Nathan Baxter of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania in response to a mailing from Lay Episcopalians for the Anglican Communion, a rump group seeking to lead parishes out of the Episcopal Church. We agree with these bishops' objection that the LEAC meeting – like those of the "Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes" and the Camp Allen meeting – require that registrants submit to a "litmus test" in order to be able to register. By contrast, all are welcome to register for the National Gathering of The Episcopal Majority.

October 10, 2006

TO: All Clergy, Warden and Parish Offices in the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania:

We want to share with you some brief comments about communications recently widely circulated around The Episcopal Church.

1. Most clergy received an invitation from “Lay Episcopalians for the Anglican Communion” which invites upset Episcopalians to a meeting in Orlando, Nov. 20-21. The communication says that the meeting will prepare attendees to advocate to others to leave The Episcopal Church. Further, the letter implies that The Episcopal Church is schismatic when it is groups like this that are advocating separation and starting a new church entity.

We encourage you and all in this diocese not to attend for several reasons: First, we do not feel it appropriate to attend rallies that stoke the fires of one point of view. Recent experience shows that such meetings just add to conflict and division. In our perspective it is important to attend meetings where everyone is at the table, and everyone is valued. Secondly, this letter says reconciliation and conversation are no longer possible. That is the most unorthodox, unchristian position you can take! When people were perceived as ‘sinners and tax collectors’ Jesus did not dismiss them, but actually invited himself into conversation and over to their house. This group is encouraging the opposite, and that is inconsistent with the Windsor Process. Thirdly, the letter says that The Episcopal Church does not take Holy Scripture seriously. That is a totally false premise. Fourthly, the letter says that The Episcopal Church is not faithful to the Anglican Communion. The General Convention last June was clear that we wish to participate in the Windsor Process. Some wanted more specific commitments made and others wanted less. Regardless, everyone in The Episcopal Church desires that the Anglican Communion flourish and for us to be a trusted and valued part of it.

Let us be a bit more feisty about such groups. Their banner heading of their letter says “Truth, Clarity and Courage.” Their truth is partisan. The Truth of The Episcopal Church is Jesus. They are clear about dismissing others. Jesus did not dismiss people. Their courage is more of arrogance. The Gospel invites humility, compassion and communion with brothers and sisters in Christ, not separation.

II. On September 22 twenty-one bishops signed a letter after meeting in Texas. to access this letter. We applaud the letter because it confesses that “Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life.” While they say that the living Christ is revealed in Holy Scripture, catholic Creeds and Anglican formularies my experience as an Anglican is that the Real Presence of Jesus Christ is known in the communal grappling with Scripture that includes all orders, participation in the Sacramental life of the Body of Christ, and in the compassionate fellowship and service of the Christian Community. Further, I have encountered many people in my ministry that have encountered the living Christ outside the church’s internal discussions about doctrine and dogma.

Lastly, this group flagged Resolution 1.10 from Lambeth 1998 as the teaching of this church and as a premise for attending their September gathering. If indeed, Lambeth resolutions have the status of “the teaching of the Church” they become such because they reflect the mind of the majority of the Bishops without consultation and participation of the clergy and the baptized. If Lambeth resolutions are seen as “the teaching of the church” then we will need to see the whole Section I Report, “Called to Full Humanity” which was endorsed by Lambeth as the teaching of the church. You can search to access the report. That report has a lot more helpful information and perspective on issues about human sexuality and it does not summarily dismiss whole groups of people.

III. On September 22 we received the Kigali Communiqué from Primates and Leaders of the Anglican Provinces of the Global South. This statement begins well and conveys commitment to ministry and mission in a conflicted world. Then they say that many will not recognize Katherine Jefferts-Shori in the meetings of the Primates of the Anglican Communion. Further, separate church structures are encouraged. When I (Creighton speaking here) read documents like this my heart sinks. It reminds me of a British Bishop who was in my bible study group at Lambeth 1998. He was a “flying bishop” and visited congregations that did not like this or that and wished to have a bishop of their perspective visit them instead of their diocesan bishop. He said that he loved all of his parish visits because he was among like-minded people. Then in an honest, candid moment he said that it was absolutely the wrong thing to do because it set up a system where people who were different about things did not have to talk to one another and were never at the same Table. He said, ‘if we are One in Christ we are not acting like it.’

IV. We commend the Presiding Bishop’s recent letter reflecting on #2 and #3 above. It is a superb reflection. You can access this letter by logging on to the Episcopal News Service,

V. Lastly “The Episcopal Congregational Life Survey” was just released at the Administrators conference recently attended by Canon Seville and Mary Ann Smida from our Diocesan Center. 477 congregations representing 41,000 Episcopalians participated.

83% agreed that morale was high in The Episcopal Church. 13% were neutral and 5% disagreed. Our hunch is that the great majority in our church has a high level of social maturity, is engaged in thankful worship, participates in helpful mission and is not fixated on conflict.

74% said they attended weekly or more frequently!

10% were in parishes which had major conflict to the extent that people left. 83% had no conflict or nothing out of the ordinary.

Over 80% in every age group says they have friends in their parish.

From age 15 to 65+ people perceived themselves as “conservative, moderate or liberal” in equal portions. 1/3 of our church’s population is in each category.

While the media feeds on those who wish to separate, the reality is that the great body of Episcopalians seemed to be fine, indeed pleased, with their church. That does not mean they agree with everyone on everything, but I think it does mean that we are nearly One when it comes to worship, fellowship and mission.

Yours in Christ,

+Michael Creighton, Bishop

Nathan Baxter +, Bishop-Elect

Update: Episcopal Majority member Mark Harris also comments on the LEAC meeting here.



Blogger BabyBlue said...

How ironic, Lisa, that you all blast the Lay Episcopalians for having their conference but then you broadcast your own conference in the post that follows. What is the TEC bishops write? "We do not feel it appropriate to attend rallies that stoke the fires of one point of view. Recent experience shows that such meetings just add to conflict and division. " Are they talking about the Lay Episcopalians or Episcopal Majority?


10/12/2006 12:01 PM  
Anonymous Allen said...

Give me a break babyblue.
This is a group and a meeting born in hate and don't deny it. It exists for no purpose other than division. How is that possibly Christian? How does that show forth the love of Christ in the world?
These are the same people that go around licking the boots of Akinola and his ilk and who would be ok if gay people were taken into the streets and murdered. And don't kid yourself, that is what Akinola wants, and people here in America are ok with him and his cronies doing their dirty work for them.
If people want to leave TEC, GO!
Their lives and those who decide to stay in TEC will be much better off for the absence.
But don't sow seeds of hate and division on the way out.

10/12/2006 6:35 PM  
Blogger Marshall said...

babyblue, I think Allen's tone is intemperate; but I would disagree with your characterization in comparing the gatherings of LEAC and of TEM. I haven't heard anyone suggest LEAC can't or shouldn't meet. I have raised and have seen objections to the stated goal of the LEAC gathering to train "cadres" to go into Episcopal Churches and lead people away. I don't argue that some will leave, as much as I might regret their leaving. However, to seek division rather than reconciliation is in my opinion a goal worth opposing.

I note that the Bishop and Bishop-elect of Central Pennsylvania haven't said that they personally will attend either the LEAC or TEM meetings. If as individuals they do so, it may be unwise. However, with Bishop Ackerman and Bishop Beckwith serving on the faculty of the LEAC conference, with its stated goals, it is clear that they support the division that is the goal of the conference. It is a marked contrast.

10/13/2006 12:33 PM  
Anonymous Allen said...

My tone was intemperate and fairly uncharitable. For that I apologize.
But so is the rhetoric coming from the other side and as a gay man, this debate affects me personally, because, at least from the conservatives that speak out, the issue is always about the "evils" of homosexuality and the consecration of Gene Robinson.
Like I said before, I really do not begrudge people if they want to leave, just have enough respect for everyone else to leave in a peaceful manner.

And what makes this whole thing even more sad is deep down, we are all on the same side.

10/13/2006 9:14 PM  
Anonymous J.C. Fisher said...

For several years, I was a member of a parish in the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania (at the time they called +Michael Creighton to be their bishop: I attended his election and consecration and later, when he visited my parish, thanked him for his vote against Lambeth '98 1.10. He was very *humble* about it).

I am very proud of Bishop Creighton today, and it looks like that diocese---just over the Alleghany mountains from Pittsburgh, but a world away!---will continue to be in faithful hands, with Bishop-Elect Baxter. Alleluia! :-D

10/15/2006 11:27 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

What is the backup for this statement?

“10% were in parishes which had major conflict to the extent that people left. 83% had no conflict or nothing out of the ordinary.”

I’d reviewed the document, “Episcopal Overview: Findings from the 2005 Faith Communities Today Survey,” when it was issued, and saw something very different. It says:

“93% of Episcopal congregations reported having disagreements or conflicts in the last five years (up from 86% in 2000). 37% of churches reported very serious conflict (up from 32% in 2000).

Of congregations that had very serious conflict:
- Some members left the church: 91%”

So, according to ECUSA, the percentage of parishes which had major conflict to the extent that people left is (.37)(.91) = 33.7%.

Note also: whatever document Creighton and Baxter are talking about, the one I cite is almost certainly more statistically significant, as it represents 4,102 parishes versus 477.

10/16/2006 12:25 PM  

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