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Largely through my own fault it has been assumed that my essay on the two Virginia parishes in some measure argued for their property rights, or against Dr. Gunderson’s thesis that these parishes were re-founded or restored by the Diocese of Virginia in accordance with the Canons.

I have no quarrel with that conclusion. My point was that if we abandon our claim to be a territorial church and instead become a gathered church, we have no right to complain about others invading our territory. We would have no territory other than real estate. A map of any present diocese would look rather like a proposed Palestinian state on the West Bank!

If a modern Episcopal “parish” is in practice the people on the rolls and the real estate they use and if an Episcopal rector or priest is merely charged with looking after people who call themselves Episcopalians and leading some form of recruitment,what one has is a denomination or a sect and not a Church.

This was not the thinking of our church, at least until fairly recent times. Read the lives and biographies of 19th Century bishops, High and Low, to discover how deeply their investment was in the heritage of Anglicanism to be the Church locally expressed and not a club for people who like that sort of thing.

It is because we have lost our concept of “churchmanship” -would someone propose another word? – that we have encouraged the creation of “parishes” which recruit partisan congregations.

Of course there have always been church parties, and parishes with distinct flavors, but never before has the influence of secular political practice invested such parties with such a partisan and divisive spirit. This is true of both conservative and liberal congregations and their alliances.

Never before has our church embraced the concept of majoritarian rule mindless of the susceptibilities of minority groups. Never before in our history have we rejected comprehension in such a thorough manner. For centuries we have guarded the rights of mutually exclusive groups within the Anglican symbiosis. Thus individual parishes and their networks now threaten the older structure of dioceses and territorial parishes, and the obsession is centered on what we Episcopalians want, rather than on our mission to the world. There is something slightly deranged about obsessions.


I am grateful to Dr. Joan Gunderson for her essay on the histories of Truro and Falls Church parishes. I hesitate to take her on in an area in which she shows great learning. However there’s something dangerous about her conclusions.

Dr. Gunderson begins on firm ground. The Colonial legislature divided Virginia into geographical parishes. Anglicanism was not only the Established Church but a territorial church. Thus it claimed to have a mission in place. It did not regard itself as an ecclesial organization which drew to itself those who thought of themselves as Anglicans, but rather as the Church locally placed with a mission to all who lived in the geographical parish. At this point it is easy to assume that such a territorial mission had something to do with Establishment. This is not so. It had everything to do with the notion that the Anglican Church was the old church reformed and not some new model, created at the Reformation with the power to draw to itself adherents who liked the liturgy or the metrical psalms.

After the Revolution the Episcopal Church enshrined in its Constitution and Canons the continued notion that at diocesan and parochial levels it inherited and continued its self-perception as a territorial church. The Canons then and now describe the parish in terms of territory and also describe how that territory may be sub-divided to form new parishes and missions. Indeed I shall go on to argue later that if such a self-perception is abandoned, the Episcopal Church has no right to grumble when other overseas bodies plant themselves near an existing Episcopal parish or indeed take over at least the property dedicated to the territorial parish.

The newly formed Diocese of Virginia was in bad shape. Many buildings had been destroyed or badly damaged during the Revolution. Many clergy and laity fled abroad. The first two bishops did little – Madison was busy enough as rector of Bruton Parish Church and President of the College of William and Mary. (Clowes Chorley’s, “Men and Movements in the American Episcopal Church” although dated as the title suggests, offers fascinating insights into this period.) Many parishes were totally neglected. There were not enough clergy to go round and many lay people preferred to keep their Anglican convictions quiet.

It was not until the advent of the Evangelical Revival and the establishment of the Virginia Theological Seminary that revival and restoration began. But note the ancient parishes had not been abolished and the conventicle model introduced. It may have taken forty years from the Revolution to revival but in the end it was to the old parishes that the new breed of Evangelical parson went. On the whole, the old parishes were divided and sub-divided. Ruined parish churches were restored, new buildings erected. But all this was done in accordance with the Canons.

Were the newly formed parishes and missions, created in the former territory of the colonial parishes something new with no links to the original territory ascribed to the original parish? Surely not. In a sub-divided parish, each parish might claim to be the heir to the original parish. As the very large original parishes often had two or three church buildings, where one survived or was restored in a “new parish”, there might well be a compelling incarnational link to the original parish. So in this sense I think it unfortunate to quarrel with the claims of the Falls Church and Truro Parish for claiming Colonial roots. When restored and established these two parishes certainly occupied some of the same territory originally part of a larger unit. If they had restored Colonial parish churches in which worthies once worshipped, the link is the more compelling.

In a few months the dioceses which originally formed the entire Diocese of Virginia will meet at Jamestown. The fact that three of the four were carved out of the original diocese doesn’t annul their claim to be heirs of the Colonial Church in Virginia and of the first diocese.

Two other points. If a modern “Episcopal” diocese is merely a collection of non-territorial units which draw to themselves people who think of themselves as Episcopalians, and if a diocese today is merely a collection of such “gathered” congregations under an overseer, upon what grounds would TEC object to the establishment of congregations linked to the dioceses of Sarawak, or the Limpopo or the Upper Pampas? What ever the Windsor report says about territory, if TEC is not a territorial church, in the sense that all other Anglican Provinces are territorial, what are we fussing about? True there may be legal and emotional claims to property, which may be taken to the secular courts, eroding further the separation of church and state.

There’s another consideration here. If the rectors of the two Virginia churches have been given the pastoral care of a territory and therein towards any and all who would claim that ministry, and if the laity who habitually gather in the church building have a similar mission to the community, to abandon such a mission would seem to be a very grave undertaking. To abandon such a mission in favor of a narrowly constructed religiosity which excludes those who do not accept a “party line” would seem to be a serious betrayal of the Anglican tradition of parochial ministry.

Much the same must be said of parishes which advertise their mission to specific “outcasts” at the expense of others. Anglicanism has no doctrinal test for the laity.They are to be baptised. (There’s still confusion about the necessity of confirmation to hold certain offices.) The mission of a territorial parish is to everyone and not merely to a strata of society. An Episcopal parish priest has the Cure of Souls, all the souls and not merely those who agree with a program, or vote for a particular political party, or who enjoy talking about their bedroom habits, or hate talking about their bedroom habits. Anglicanism is a very patient faith. It does not rely on programs or parties to change people. It merely makes available to all “the means of grace and the hope of glory”. Thus it does not drive away those whose lifestyles seem controversial or dreadful, the gossip, the alcoholic, the pregnant teen, but prays that in the weekly round of prayer, Word and Sacrament, God will work in the soul and body of each parishioner as we are changed corporately and individually. Such an extraordinary mission is the natural outcome of the concept of a territorial church whose reason for being in anchored in place rather than in some unique and divisive “ism”. It is this mission which makes our Anglican/Episcopalian self-consciousness unique. The abandonment of territorialism and the growth of divisive faction undermines our heritage in an extraordinarily dangerous way.


This is a disturbing Christmas for American Episcopalians. A great deal of the news is Bad News, in stark contrast to Gospel, Good News. The recent defections in Virginia have brought home to many of us the reality of our divided state more than perhaps any other defection or pronouncement since the latest round of the battle for TEC’s soul began. It is not that the news of people leaving us, collectively or individually is “news”, but that so many parishes and missions in one place being involved is “news”. There is as powerful an act as the threats to take away their property by resorting to secular courts. Let Caesar’s power arm us.

Certainly the noise of schism tends to obscure the glory of Bethlehem. As we stand firm for our differing positions the news of a condescending God emptying himself into a girl’s womb and then into a dirty manger seems weak and powerless. I love the old KJV translation of that glorious passage in Philippians. “He made himself of no reputation.”

Philippians 2: 1- 18 seems to me to be as vital a passage in describing the ideal of the Church as the more usually quoted passages in Ephesians. It draws together the grounds for our own individual and corporate condescension and anchors this self emptying in the Incarnation, Atonement and Resurrection/Ascension. The point is extraordinary. God becomes vulnerable, lives a vulnerable life, makes no claims to protect his status, his holiness, his purity, but lives among men and women, and very often men and women who have been rejected by those whose personal pride and sense of virtue describes and limits their religiosity. In the end he is done to death by a coalition of colonial rulers, religious folk, politicians and opportunists.

In modern times this non-violent approach to truth has inspired many a prophet, Christian or non-Christian and in many cases led to the same result. Humans must fight to protect what they believe to be essential even if one must die for the people. The end justifies the means.

This brings us to where we are today. Unlike the child Jesus, we don’t want to be born powerless, offering only loving service, servanthood to others. Unlike the grown up Jesus we want to draw a sharp distinction between those with whom we make common cause, left or right -perhaps even center – and those who do not live up to our notions of purity. The litmus test about purity may take the form of rejecting fellowship with conservatives or liberals. We have power to reject, power to withdraw, power to withhold money, power to create our own new world in a TEC separated from the Anglican Communion free to pursue a “liberal” agenda, or in an ecclesial body separated from TEC in which we are free to create our comfortable “conservative” future.

Yet if St. Paul is right, we are to possess the mind of Christ, risking vulnerability by being born again into the real world full of real people. It was said of Jesus that the foxes have lairs and the birds of the air their nest, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. No property disputes there. We are to risk losing, losing everything, dying, really dying to self, to our plans, our solutions, our “doxies” and “praxies” in a death which has no guarantee of resurrection -that would still be painful and dreadful but incomplete. Knowing we will rise is cheating. No in God’s vulnerability we die and behold we live. Can we bear to think that God can change people through Word and Sacrament even if the parson talks tripe and the vestry funds odd causes? Can we believe that God is able to use the most flawed ecclesiastical establishment to do his will, be that establishment in Nigeria or the United States? Certainly that is what the living experience of Tradition tells us.

When we go to the manger on Sunday night, we will see the incarnate Body of Christ in all his fragility and helplessness. He offers to us His unity not in power or strength, power to enforce conformity, power to separate the wheat and the weeds, the sheep and the goats. Rather he offers us the power of love, which includes the power to help our brothers and sister who err into right belief, not to satisfy the Law but to rejoice in the Gospel.

What will be in the future will come about as God the Son through the Spirit works his self-denying, self offering purpose in love and not through our politics and acts of brute force. Nothing is more brutal than tearing in pieces that which God has called together. I believe that God will restore his church in the midst of the years. The agents of this restoration will be those who risk “making themselves of no reputation” and becoming slaves,”even unto the Cross.” Just as the angels rejoiced in the heavens at the mystery of the Incarnation so God will highly exalt those who in humility risk the death of the cross, who risk the path of love, and forgiveness and reconciliation. That self-emptying is a daily duty and a corporate responsibility so far from our repeated cries of self-justification, and our acts of self-promotion and self-love. Dare we offer up that we believe to be essential truth in an act of love towards those we now reject and scorn? Or like Peter do we prefer to take up the sword?

May the Christ-child give us the courage to love one another in our weakness and in that weakness discover God’s power to make all things new.


One of the parishes in Virginia which is attempting to leave the Episcopal Church is the Falls Church. George Washington was a member of the vestry there. Of course he was a Deist as were perhaps many of its parishioners then. Falls Church is one of the surviving Colonial parishes dating back to when the Church of England was the established church in Virginia. Its bricks have witnessed many changes.

Dr. Blair, first President of the College of William and Mary and Commissary for the Bishop of London writes about the corruption of Colonial era vestries which sought to undermine the authority of rectors by giving them annual contracts and firing them if they seemed to preach against the gentry. As John Betjeman puts it, they were “Broad of Church and broad of mind: broad in front and broad behind.”

Falls Church survived the Revolution, no doubt losing many who fled to Canada, the Bahamas and England. Its latitudinarian past -how does that sit with the present parishioners? -must have been shaken during the first Evangelical revival in the new diocese of Virginia enshrined by the founding of the Virginia Theological Seminary. I wonder how many left when the first evangelical parson was installed and told them they were sinners doomed to hell? He was probably right. Like their ancestors in Elizabethan England these people were “church evangelicals”, content to live and work together in a broad church containing everything from Deists to Sacramentalists. A Deist or semi Deist doubted the Doctrine of the Trinity.

Falls Church survived the Civil War and the division of TEC into two rival jurisdictions and was there to watch evangelicals leaving the Episcopal Church in 1873. The evangelicals were sure that Anglo-Catholicism was winning and the old Gospel was being subverted by Romanism. As a result of that schism the evangelical party in TEC was almost destroyed and fared little better in its new home as the Reformed Episcopal Church. The establishment of Trinity Episcopal Seminary in Ambridge in the 60s signalled the return of the evangelicals, something unnoticed by the other new 60s party, the Liberals.

Falls Church remained in the Episcopal Church even when the Prayer Book was revised in the 1890s and 1928.

Falls Church stayed put when a “Low Church” party captured much of the South in the 1890s and took over VTS, with its stress on Morning Prayer and the social Gospel, as long as the social Gospel didn’t relate to African Americans. Indeed the parish survived the General Convention Special Project of Presiding Bishop John Hines, when Episcopalians, for a while, financed, among other projects, revolutionary African American groups which rejected Martin Luther King’s peaceful revolution. Its parishioners remained staunchly Episcopalian through the next BCP revision and the ordination of women. A few left to join one of the rival continuing churches in Northern Virginia, but not many.

Through these centuries a sense of corporate “belonging” enshrined incarnationally in bricks and mortar, in those pictures of rectors and bishops on the walls, in the church yard anchored the Falls Church in a community established in Colonial days, continued as American Anglicanism organized a Province and thereafter. Falls Church remained part of the Diocese of Virginia through thick and thin.

Now this heritage has been swapped for an allegiance to vocal and persuasive people and personalities. It was my experience in the Continuing Church that while what we were was merely people and a Cause, we remained fragile. People can react to or against a leader, almost at the same time. A Cause can be interpreted in many different ways. It was easy to quarrel and fight and divide, and for personalities to loom large. It was only when we began to build parish churches, paid clergy and established a communal sense of a past expressed in diocesan synods, however short in years that past was, that a sense of unity and stability set in.

As soon as they could, the Early Christians built shrines over the tombs of the martyrs or took over town halls. Stone do cry out and draw together when mortals fail. That is why the Church of England survived during the Reformation, because the heritage of the parish church overcame the loss most experienced as the old religion was abolished. Place and heritage trumped the instability of emerging and declining parties and causes.

I’ll grant you that a lot of twaddle is talked about Anglicanism being an Incarnational Church. The Incarnation means nothing without a grown up Jesus, a dying Jesus, a Risen Jesus and and Ascended Jesus. Having said that, the fact that God is enfleshed has deep significance in the quest for unity. It is not just baptism which symbolizes our unity, a unity which not even the Archbishop of Nigeria is able to annul, it’s the place in which we were baptized or the place where our baptism was corporately recognized that tells.

The Falls Church property is claimed by those who are swapping that which their fellowship has been through many crises, for trust in a Cause and some leaders. Perhaps it is no longer a parish church set in place, drawing on the memories, real or taught and lives of local people, and become a gathered church of the saints; a puritan conventicle? Eventually the Cause will be passe and the leaders dead. What then will bind the good parishioners together? Even if a rival TEC emerges it will be just that, an ecclesial entity fixated on the troubles in TEC, recording each new evidence of sin in TEC, talking about the affairs of a church they claim to have left, but in fact which will remain vital for their continued self-justification and existence. For all the talk of faith in God’s Word and promises, leaving is an extraordinary symbol of a weak belief in God’s purposes for the Church. Indeed the sort of evangelicalism espoused by many leavers is one which has no ecclesiology at all. It is a starkly individualistic faith bent on getting individuals to Heaven in which the church is almost an accidental agency to be taken or left as it suits the individual believer. As such it may be many things, but as the Bishop of Durham now points out, it is not Anglican, not even evangelical Anglicanism.

It’s as if SS Peter and Paul had founded an anti-High Priest Church!


The hot news today is that seven or eight congregations in the Diocese of Virginia have voted to leave the Episcopal Church and join the “Convocation of Anglican Churches in North America.”

My mind goes back thirty three years. The hot issues then were Prayer Book revision, the ordination of women and the funding of minority groups. some of which, it was alleged, espoused violence to achieve civil rights. This last issue was almost dead, killed by a coalition of bishops who ganged up on Presiding Bishop John Hines’s General Convention Special Project.

The main lobbies which opposed Prayer Book revision and the ordination of women were:

The American Church Union, the main Anglo-Catholic organization which even then was splitting between those who wanted a new liturgy and those who didn’t.

The Society for the Preservation of the Book of Common Prayer which later changed its name to the Prayer Book Society. This group included a broad spectrum of Episcopalians with a tilt towards the Low Church party. The Low Church party wasn’t evangelical. It was rather broad in its doctrine, and loved Sung Morning Prayer. Obviously these people wanted to keep the 1928 BCP.

Then there was the “Foundation for Christian Theology” which published the Christian Challenge magazine and still does.

“The Certain Trumpet” was a newsletter published by a layman, Perry Laukhuff.

Round about that time an attempt was made to bring all these conservative groups together in the formation of the “Fellowship of Concerned Churchmen.”

After the 1976 General Convention, at which the ordination of women was adopted by a very slim margin and the first reading of legislation to make official the new Book of Common Prayer succeeded, the conservative movement split into those who wished to stay in TEC and fight and those who decided to leave and form a “continuing church.” Those who stayed in were largely Anglo Catholics. They created a lobby called the “Evangelical and Catholic Mission” which is now called”Forward in Faith America.”

In 1977 a meeting of those who wished to leave TEC was convened in St. Louis. Before the meeting was over a group created a church which intended to ask the Roman Catholic Church for uniate status. Another group elected a bishop and formed the Diocese of the Holy Trinity. Soon after the meeting ended another group met to create a non-geographical Diocese of Christ the King. These last two dioceses were in a body entitled the “Anglican Church in North America.”Over the next year, as the leaders of this new body sought to find Anglican bishops to consecrate their bishops-elect, conflicts arose over what we used to call churchmanship, with Low Church people electing a safe bishop whose connections abroad might produce an Asian Anglican bishop willing to consecrate the three bishops-elect. The leadership of ACNA also fought about Constitutions and Canons and whether dioceses should be geographical or not.

Once the consecrations were over- a bishop of the Philippine Independent National Church joined an Episcopal retired bishop to consecrate one of the three men, and then he joined in the consecration of the other two – the internal tensions snapped and within a year ACNA had split three ways into the Anglican Catholic Church, the Diocese of Christ the King and the Low Church “United Episcopal Church”.

From 1979 onwards the membership of the conservative lobby in TEC dwindled while the number of continuing churches multiplied. They spent a great deal of time denying the validity of the orders of other continuing churches, and gossipping about each other. Parishes and clergy played musical chairs, leaving one group in a huff to join another, or founding yet another group. More and more these groups defined themselves over against each other rather than over against TEC. This is not to say that all of these groups have dwindled into insignificance. There are substantial parishes and dioceses which have kept together through the years. The key to their success seems to be that they have largely forgotten their fight with TEC and have striven to grow positive Anglican parishes.

My deja vu comes from the fact that the scene today looks familiar. Within the Episcopal Church there’s the Network led by the Bishop of Pittsburgh. This group of dioceses and individual parishes seems to seek a relationship with the Anglican Communion which, in a large measure would weaken their ties with TEC. But there are signs that there are divisions of opinion about this goal or the ways to achieve it. The Network also has ties with what remains of Forward in Faith, with the Reformed Episcopal Church founded in 1873, the Anglican Province of America, whose origins go back to the Bishop Pike debacle in the mid 1960’s and a few other very small “continuing churches.”

In 2000 the former head of Trinity Episcopal Seminary and a rector of a parish in South Carolina left TEC and founded the “Anglican Mission in America”. Bishops were consecrated by bishops from the Province of Southeast Asia, but were judged “irregular” by the then Archbishop of Canterbury. The term “irregular” unlike “invalid” seems to be capable of whatever construction a particular church wishes to place on it. It’s a lovely Humpty Dumpty word. Usually it seems to mean they are bishops but they are not ours and we don’t recognize the group in which they bish!

Then there are parishes which have left TEC and are under the Bishop of Bolivia, or bishops in the Provinces of Rwanda or South-east Asia. Lately the Archbishop of Nigeria has consecrated the former rector of Truro Parish Church to head CANA, although this group, is not recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury or so said the Anglican Communion Office last Friday.

Two questions may be raised. The first is obvious. Why all these groups? The second is less obvious. How do these groups, all claiming the same raison de’etre and mission hope to capture the loyalty and imagination of traditional Episcopalians while they remain divided? The story of the 1970s and 80s suggests that multiple groups do not unite. Rather they further fragment.


There’s always been a gulf fixed between the ideal of the Church we see in the New Testament and its reality. Indeed the ideal is set forth in the Epistles as the letter writers address the failure of Christians either to love one another or to live in peace together. St Paul chides the Corinthians and years later, St. Clement of Rome tries to tackle the same failures in the same church.

The other day I had a report of a vestry meeting in a very conservative parish in which those who want to distance themselves from the diocese and those who do not got into a name calling process. Of course there’s nothing new in that. I can’t count how many times I’ve asked retired priests what they enjoy most about retirement and they invariable answer “not going to vestry meetings.”

I think I might say the same thing and I’m not retired. I’m lucky to have a positive-minded vestry, but at the annual meeting each year I worry that some of the nominees noted for their negative spirit and bad temperedness may get elected.

What puzzles me is that people who visit their own internal anger, conveniently hooked to some event or issue, seem unaware that their language and behavior is inappropriate in a Christian setting. What bothers me even more is that we excuse their behavior and enable their creating dysfunction among us.

At no time do angry people have a better excuse than when there’s division and conflict in the church. Being zealous for a Cause is seen by many as a good excuse for people to vent in a manner which would not be tolerated in a secular club. Character assassination, name-calling, the imputation of the worst motives all seem tolerated weapons in the arsenal of a Christian crusader. Not that there’s anything new in all this. Read the first chapter of Luther’s reply to Erasmus on justification by faith entitled “The Bondage of the Will” if you want to read some purple prose. Read the Puritan attack on episcopacy in Elizabeth I’s reign, called the “Marprelate Tracts.” And yet in the 21st Century one would think that people who call themselves orthodox or progressive would somehow catch themselves, particularly at that moment in worship when we recite the General Confession.

To most of us, it looks like the two mothers of contemporary Anglicanism are going to allow the baby to be cut in half, although many of us would say that the baby doesn’t belong to either of them.

In England the leaders of part of the Evangelical Party have gone to Lambeth Palace and said that if the Archbishop doesn’t allow them to ignore liberal bishops, they will take unilateral action and call in their own pure bishops. One would think that liberal bishops were new to the Church of England. In return the liberals have written their own manifesto which basically says that unless +Rowan does something about the narrow puritans in the Church of England there will be trouble, as if Evangelicalism is something new. They should read J.C. Ryle’s, “Knots Untied” if they want to become familiar with historical Evangelical Anglicanism. Perhaps they should read their old liberal papers issued by what was once termed the “Modern Churchman’s Union”, if they can stay awake. The trouble is that both factions can’t remember yesterday and so they repeat the same old stuff over and over again.

Or perhaps the trouble is that none of us can remember yesterday. In all the noise, we moderates can hardly hear ourselves think. Like a dysfunctional parish or vestry, we actually allow people to shriek and yell, do things in secret, stir up the malcontents and drive off good, gentle, devout parishioners. We know the angry can’t yell at home or in the office. It’s only at church and perhaps in politics that they are able to get away with dreadful behavior. That should tell us something.


I recently received a hate email, accusing me, among other things, of a lack of loyalty to either liberal or conservative parties in the Episcopal Church. I suppose the fact that I am telling you this only opens the way to more of the same. But as self-examination is good for the soul, I’m going to tell you two events in my life which formed the way I think.

In my early teens I was fortunate to have a History and English Literature teacher named F. J. O’Brien, MA (Cantab). “Toby” O Brien was a big, florid, beery, cigarette-smoking character, dressed in tweed and tattered gown. He could make a class see the battle he was describing. We almost ducked to avoid cannon balls.

I must have been thirteen when I first remember handing in a paper, only to receive it back with an F on it and a scribbled “Utter Twaddle.” Now I had relied heavily on the text book supplied, and notes I had taken from O’Brien himself.

O’ Brien was also Senior Master, who doled out punishments to sinners whose crimes did not warrant a visit to the Headmaster and subsequent caning.

In some fear and trepidation I went to Toby’s office and knocked. He bade me enter, glared at me and said, “what have you done”. I explained quickly that I wanted to discuss my F on the paper I had written.”

This is what he said: “Clavier, don’t believe me, and particularly don’t believe a text book. Research a subject, analyze it, trust your judgment if it is informed. Never let your emotions get involved. No one is unbiased, but at least one can attempt to be impartial. Never toe the party line out of mistaken allegiance. Never surrender your mind.”

(You see now why I dislike the Church Teaching Series.)

Toby O’ Brien’s advice has been my mantra. OK I gave my allegiance to him in this matter. I think learning to debate, to be obliged to adopt and fight for a position at odds with my own was also invaluable training.

The second story is brief. One cold wintry East Anglian day, with a wind blowing full force from Russia, I was discovered by the Games Master hiding in the library. I loathed and abominated “games”, or sports and I hated even more the team spirit and the fanaticism it engendered. To this day, if someone puts a sports events on TV, I’m just rude and leave the room.

Mr. Selby said: “Clavier, have you read HG Wells’s “The First Men on the Moon”? I replied that I had not. Selby said, “Well in it the moon men are all heads and no bodies, and that is what you will be like.” I later proved him wrong.

I endured peer and authority persecution for years until, in the 6th. form, I was permitted to take long cycle rides, which I had always enjoyed.

This does not mean that I am not loyal to my ordination oaths, or that my love for Anglicanism, warts and all, here, in England and elsewhere, has dimmed. Quite the reverse. I’ve been lucky to observe Anglicanism in Africa, India, the Caribbean, Mexico and elsewhere and at grass roots. But I do believe that an uncritical love is no love at all.

Watching the British Prime Minister and the American President today I wanted to grab them both and say, “Say you are sorry. Say you were wrong.” Fat chance. I want to say to our ruling minority in the Episcopal Church, “You have been in power now for decades and any movement, however right minded, that has absolute power becomes corrupt and careless of the people it claims to represent.” I want to say to the traditionalists, “You have lost every battle in General Convention for decades and you have become soured and embittered and rather nasty. Say you are sorry to those you disturb and hurt, those who are leaving us because they are in the middle of this brawl and see nothing Christian about a church which encourages such behavior.” I want to say to the majority of Episcopalians and particularly to moderate bishops: “For God sake get off your bottoms and take control of this church. Work towards getting Deputies elected who represent the Church and its people and not factions. And then, for God’s sake lead them.”


The bishop-elect of South Carolina has compared the present strife in TEC to a messy divorce between two wealthy people. It’s a parish priest’s nightmare. In this case neither party has gone to a priest. The battle is fought out in public before the media. As usual there’s a property compartment.

To many people the couple don’t sound very attractive anyway. It’s one of those relationships in which one partner has dominated the other for at least thirty-six years. One can’t think of a thing the minority spouse has asked for which the dominant spouse has given. To make matters worse both are religious maniacs. Both parties are sure that they possess the truth and the dominant one even claims that God visits him/her and whispers the truth. The minority spouse is making arrangements to move in with an overseas lover while continuing to claim that he/she is still married to the dominant spouse.

Of course the cultures in which these public events occur, used to double standards about public scandal, fed daily on voyeurism wrapped up as objective journalism and entitled news, lap up this scandal and dip deeper into cynicism about organized religion.

This rather blunt parable -I apologize to Fr.Mark Lawrence for embroidering on his handkerchief -isn’t adequate and may be unjust, at least in parts. It is probably the fact that both “spousal models” together do not represent half of the parishioners and clergy of the Episcopal Church. The rest, like hungry sheep, “look up and are not fed.” In itself that is the scandal of contemporary American Anglicanism. But the parable is a reasonable assessment of what things look like from the outside and the self-perception of the two parties..

One of the elements of Colonial Anglicanism which PECUSA inherited was the concept that the vestry and or trustees of a local parish owned its own property. The second was the right of a vestry to call any priest in good standing as rector.The newly minted “Bishops by Ballot” in 1789 were give the right to object and to advise the vestry if they believed their candidate to be an unwise choice, but the vestry had the final say.

This system came home to bite the Continuing Churches when they emerged in the 1960’s and 70’s. Unscrupulous clergy or lay popes were able to withdraw their parishes and affiliate with rivals or, discovering a cleric with sometimes the most dubious claims to the episcopate, to set up a rector by empurpling the fellow. Thus followed years of division and factionalism and debilitating inter-church warfare which devalued all that might have been good. In a Darwinian survival of the fittest, only a few significant separated jurisdictions now survive, although paper or shadow sects continue. (Of course I exempt my former jurisdiction from these criticisms!)

Neither the established jurisdictions or those created by schism upon schism were unaffected by property disputes. I remember the great irony of a former Episcopal priest, made a bishop in one of the original separated churches, after seeking to wrest his parish and its property from the TEC diocese in which he ministered, unsuccessfully, then seeking to sue a congregation in his new diocese which was attempting successfully to pull out! How the press gobbled that story up.

Two things seem clear about what is to happen as the story unfolds between now and the next General Convention. Beginning with the Diocese of San Joachin, dioceses will attempt to divorce TEC and retain their own property. The Episcopal Church will then have to decide whether to institute proceedings in ecclesiastical and the civil courts to discipline the leadership and seize the assets. Given the recent history of ecclesiastical courts, particularly in the cases of Bishops Pike and Righter, given the lack of any adequate appellate jurisdiction or structure, finding Bishop Schofield guilty of schism would merely state that the only crimes TEC acknowledges are sexual or schismatic.

Claiming church property on a large scale would cost TEC a fortune, and surrender more and more to the power of the state, and diminish further the “wall of separation”between church and state. The Roman Catholic Church has already done much to surrender to the power of the secular authorities. This at a time when the IRS is claiming the right to censor sermons. I do hope they have gray looking individuals forced to listen to typical Anglican preaching Sunday after Sunday. Serves them right.

In any case the right of the national church to seize the property entrusted to a diocese is by no means clear. The “Dennis” Canons, adopted in reaction to attempts by continuing churches to retain their parish property, utterly abolished a right entrusted to vestries since the Colonial days. It was a major revolution on TEC polity on a similar scale to that which seems to give a bishop veto powers in the election of a rector, not to speak of the establishment of search committees, interim ministries and sets of regulations of doubtful canonical veracity. Yet the Dennis Canon nowhere specifically entrusts the National Church with diocesan property. No doubt that will be tested in the courts.

Of course there’s that trivial matter of a scriptural ban against Christians going to secular courts!

Why on earth does this couple not seek an outside counsellor? No one is going to hear words about Millennium Developments or the mission of the Gospel. What will be seen is an object lesson in just how much Christians don’t love one another particularly when the family property is involved.


To my mind the report of the latest bishops’ meeting at 815 is excellent. The response of at least one of the Network bishops is predictable and so American. The bishop basically said, “We have a better offer.” The choleric Bishop Schofield says that our PB is an heretic. It’s easy to blacken one’s “enemy”.The ad hominem always works in the land of the National Enquirer.

What is really being said is that TEC is in error, at least heterodox if not heretical, and the virtuous dioceses and parishes cannot come as close to TEC as the Presiding Bishop’s offer suggests.

It’s all politics. If one is an evangelical one can merrily go around deciding whether a person or an ecclesial institution is saved or damned, because one has no theology of the church at all. There’s an invisible church, true. There are unsaved people in every church true, but the church is supposed to be a gathering of the elect.

Holding such a view -one typical of the evangelical/charismatic people in the “Global South” – it is easy to combine one’s ecclesiology with one’s politics. In politics one leaves a political party or joins it based on its platform and the expressed views of the leadership. So one may judge TEC and find it wanting on the basis of the agenda of the majority in General Convention or the views of the leadership.

But the faith of TEC is to be found in its Constitutional formularies. The formularies are based on the faith and doctrine expressed in the rites and ceremonies of the church to be found in the Book of Common Prayer and in the Catechism. Until these are altered in an heretical manner, the Episcopal Church is sound in doctrine and sound in worship. It is manifestly unsound in discipline as was witnessed in the consent to the consecration of the Bishop of New Hampshire and in illegal blessing services to couples of the same gender and the offering of communion to the unbaptized. It seems one is free to break the Canons if it is an issue of love and compassion. Sentimentality reigns. However Anglican began to loose control of its flock towards the end of the reign of Charles II,and apart for notorious attempts to expel Anglo Catholics in the 19th. Century has never really tried to regain that control. The case of the late +James Pike indicated strongly that TEC was out of the discipline game. Of course it’s a different matter if the subject is inappropriate sexual behavior. The whole matter of discipline is up fro grabs as the church tries to re-write Title 4.

If one does not believe women to be the proper subject for ordination, a radical change in TEC’s formularies, it seems good and right for people to leave her, or to seek some sort of separate status. That is being offered.

What I fear is that our traditionalists, or some of them, have taken a leaf out of the liberal handbook and have decided, with their Global South friends to act first and ask permission afterwards. This is certainly one way of working the politics.

Such a strategy would further alienate moderate Primatial opinion in the Communion, surely wouln’t be received happily by the Archbishop of Canterbury (there go those bloody American again) and only gladden those who want to expand their power base at the expense of “godly union and concord.”

As the Archbishop has given his cautious approval to the Presiding Bishop’s offer, this may slow down those who want to face the Primates with a virtual coup d’etat. Let us pray so.


Last Saturday night I was taken to the hospital with a temp. of 103F. I was admitted. It was agreed I had an infection and so I was given two antibiotics by drip feed. My temp. continued to spike until Wednesday night.

The infectious disease people blamed one of the chemo drugs. My oncologist insist that that is rubbish and that I had pneumonia which is now over.

So I was released yesterday afternoon, immediately had a three hour nap and slept a good night’s sleep for the first time in a week.

I went back to see the oncologist today. My hands and ankles are swollen, I’m as weak as a kitten, but not as much fun, and I have severe back pain. So now I have a diuretic and a narcotic based pain pill. Anything I now write may be blamed on the latter.