Final Report At The Episcopal Church: Mother Jesus? Interviews With Church Liberals, Conservatives & Bloggers. Finally, How Did The Catholic Church Avoid The Dire Situation That Looms For The Episcopal Church? By Dave Hartline
Rarely does one witness a major historical event in Church History. In my first report last week, I spoke of my perceptions along with some interviews. Now I am confident in saying that the Episcopal Convention, which is concluding in Columbus, Ohio, is not only a major event for the Episcopal Church but the Catholic Church as well. The leaders at the Convention passed a different version of the Windsor Report, some would say a watered down version. This Anglican report had asked that the American (Episcopal) Church apologize and repent for allowing the blessing same sex unions and ordaining an openly gay bishop. The odd thing about this convention is both the liberal side and the conservative side seems to think they lost. The moderates think they won. However, the energy is not on their side, it is on the side of conservatives and liberals, with the liberals, although smaller in numbers, having more of the momentum. Perhaps the new head of US Episcopal Bishops, Katherine Jefferts Shori, sent a message in her first homily by saying, “Mother Jesus.”
The Catholic Church will be greatly affected by this convention. The Catholic Church will receive many converts and none of them will be liberal. The orthodox faithful of the Episcopal Church who are considering coming our way have made it very clear to me that if they come they will preach, from the rooftops if necessary, the evils of liberalism, relativism etc. One person said to me, “If I do cross the Tiber, I will preach from the rooftops about the wickedness I have seen envelope my church. I cannot stand to see this happen to anyone else.”
One of the main voices of the traditional side is the Reverend Canon Kendall Harmon. He runs the very influential Titusonenine.com website. He is Oxford educated and is from South Carolina. The following is his assessment of the Episcopal Convention.
Dave Hartline Where is the Episcopal Church right now?
Canon Harmon We are in unprecedented territory. The greatest amount of pressure right now is on the Episcopal Church and how it reacts to this convention and to the greater Anglican Communion. Bishop Shorri is second on the list because as the new presiding bishop many will immediately look to her comments and decisions. There is also a great deal of pressure on the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. He is going to face tremendous pressure from Anglicans in Africa if they deem the Episcopal Church has brushed off the Windsor Report.
Dave Hartline How did the Episcopal Church get here? My impression is the folks in the pews are nowhere near this liberal. How did this happen?
Canon Harmon Societal pressure from the intellectual elites and the willingness of certain bishops during the last three decades to employ and cater to a very different mindset that is often very different from a traditional scriptural mindset. Those on the liberal or progressive side worked very hard to push an agenda and it has worked well for them. They know how to use the appropriate language. My belief is if you are going to use descriptions like, “the Spirit is with us” you better be right. I don’t believe their agenda is right. Because of their agenda, more and more Episcopalians will leave for the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church or Evangelical churches.
Dave Hartline In your opinion, are there forces at work that could make what is happening in the Episcopal Church happen in the Catholic Church?
Canon Harmon There are forces at work in the Catholic Church trying to make this happen but it will never happen in the Catholic Church because you have “Clear Doctrine,” something we haven’t had in a long time. Many of your bishops, archbishops and cardinals have the unique ability of showing themselves to be orthodox and compassionate. It has served the American Catholic Church very well. We do not have a Magesterium as you do.
As I walked around the convention’s final big day, I once again ran into some familiar faces and some others whose opinions I had not gathered. On the left, I ran into Susan Russell, President of Integrity, the organization that supports gay and lesbian issues in the Episcopal Church. I also spoke again with Bishop Gene Robinson, the openly gay bishop of New Hampshire. Here are their comments.
Dave Hartline Could you tell me if my assessment is correct or incorrect? It is my observation that while Bishop Robinson may get the most press from the liberal or progressive side. However, it is you that seems to be most highly regarded by the liberal faction. To quote one person who said she was very liberal, “Susan won’t back down one inch to the fringe on the right and those who have a literal interpretation of all things.”
Rev. Susan Russell Hmm that’s an interesting assessment you have. I don’t know if I am the one to judge that but I will say this. Gene is a bishop and his job is to be a conciliator. I am the President of Integrity and I have to fight for the rights of gays and lesbians.
Dave Hartline When you say the rights of gays and lesbians what do you mean? I know a lot of traditional Catholics, Episcopalians etc who would say they don’t discriminate against anyone but that gay marriage, civil unions; openly gay clergy has nothing to do with discrimination. It is scriptural.
Rev. Susan Russell Let me tell you something, if someone says they don’t discriminate and is still against gay marriage, civil unions and an openly gay clergy, they discriminate.
Dave Hartline What about 2,000 years of Christian tradition?
Rev. Susan Russell I find it odd that the people in the Episcopal Church would talk about scripture as if they were some fringe element fundamentalist. One of the reasons our church broke with Rome was because of issues like the Magesterium. Now they want one? I am a cradle Episcopalian. I still believe in the One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church. I grew up saying that. I don't know if you are aware of it but that's what we said. I want to have unity with your church but we aren't going back to being second class citizens. You know we have a level of support in all of the churches, including yours and among some important people too. Just not important enough.
Dave Hartline What about the third world’s view on the Episcopal Church?
Rev. Susan Russell David, let me stop you right there. We live in the third world. If you are referring to Africa, Asia or Latin America that is the two thirds world. I know that may come across as being politically correct but that’s the way I feel.
Dave Hartline OK, what about the two-thirds world’s view on the Episcopal Church. They seem to be far more conservative than the US & Europe, especially since at least in Africa’s case they are dealing with Islam. Gay inclusion is not something they want to promote.
Rev. Susan Russell That may be but we aren’t going back I can tell you that. I certainly believe in dialogue but I won’t give away our rights.
Dave Hartline Statisically, the liberal or progressive wing of the Episcopal Church or the Catholic Church for that matter isn’t growing. Why?
Rev. Susan Russell It is growing. I am sure you have been told it is not but I can tell you it is. I am from Los Angeles and in West Hollywood and Pasadena our churches are doing very well.
I concluded my brief interview with Susan Russell asking her if she would have anything to say if she ever bumped into the Catholic hierarchy. She said she might have a few things to say but felt it would be best if she could give them a “Voices of Witness” DVD which explained her views through words of others. She handed me a copy. Bishop Robinson was near so I spoke with him about the convention and Episcopal-Catholic unity.
Dave Hartline How did you assess the Windsor vote?
Bishop Robinson Well, I hope the conservative side is more flexible since they got what they wanted.
Dave Hartline It seems to me that they think they didn’t.
Bishop Robinson Well, I don’t know how they can say that.
Dave Hartline Some think it was watered down and they feel the integrity of the Episcopal Church is still under siege from elements that want to change the Episcopal Church’s teachings and integrity.
Bishop Robinson Well I am always eternally hopeful but I don’t like that type of thinking. I thought they got what they wanted. I mean if some diocese or group leaves the Episcopal Church after they got what they wanted. I would view it as a kick in the teeth. However, I am always willing to listen.
Dave Hartline Would you please tell me if my assessment of you is correct. I have written on my website that you are a liberal or progressive but more moderate than some elements here. The reason I ask is that many traditional folks that I know don’t discriminate against homosexuals but feel it is not the type of lifestyle God would permit, so they may have no trouble with you as a person but do have trouble with you as an openly gay person, especially a bishop. Susan Russell said that anyone who doesn’t accept gay unions, openly gay bishops etc. are really no different than those who are openly anti-gay. What’s your opinion?
Bishop Robinson Well, first of all I think you are exactly right. I am a progressive who is more moderate than some here. To be honest, I have spent more time at this convention talking with conservative people than liberals. I know there are many who don’t accept me as a bishop. I have no trouble sitting with them. That’s what the word Communion, as in Anglican Communion, is all about. You know, I was denied Communion in a conservative diocese. Now that I thought was beyond the pale.
Dave Hartline What are your views on abortion? The reason I ask is I have worked with people in the Catholic Church that I knew to be homosexual, and as liberal or progressive as some were, many seemed to be pro-life. They seemed to equate the unborn with their situation. I don’t see that here. How do you feel?
Bishop Robinson Well, I can certainly understand those you spoke of equating their situation with those in the womb. However, I believe in the Episcopal Church’s teachings. I believe in viability. I don’t counsel women to have an abortion past the first trimester. My advice has always been if you are going to get an abortion do it quick.
Dave Hartline When is viability? I just put a story on my website about a baby who survived an abortion years ago and she just sang in the Colorado General Assembly. What if a woman came to you and said she’s getting an abortion in her second or third trimester?
Bishop Robinson Well it’s her right to choose so though I would be personally against it, that’s her decision. The young woman you mentioned well that’s why I believe in getting abortions as early as possible
Dave Hartline You mentioned to me before that you didn’t think unity with the Catholic Church was possible because of your ordination. However, you did mention that you have been contacted by some Catholic priests who supported your ordination. Is that all they called to say, congratulations?
Bishop Robinson Well to be honest, I have ministered or counseled Catholic priests who need some spiritual guidance.
Dave Hartline Now, I don’t want to get into any privacy issues but were these priests coming to you for spiritual help because they thought you could help them through the homosexual issue or where they coming to you because you are a bishop? Forgive me, I am just curious since you are of another denomination.
Bishop Robinson Well, for the record I can say I am helping with the spiritual needs of these men and in what form and whether this occurs privately or in groups, that is all I will say. But, yes I continue to help them.
I concluded my interviews with Greg Griffith, he along with Matt Kennedy runs the Stand Firm website, a blog dedicated to maintaining the teachings and traditions of the Episcopal Church.
Dave Hartline How do you sum up this week? I know it may be difficult since you have been working day and night for a week and away from your family. What can you tell us?
Greg Griffith I will say this; evil hides whereas the truth comes out in clarity and honesty. We are upholding the traditions of our church. We are not aggressors, some would say we are aggressors but that is ridiculous. We are upholding our faith. The dishonesty of the left was clear to see at this convention.
Dave Hartline Bishop Robinson told me that he is trying to heal your church but Susan Russell told me that the progressive side is helping the church. They are growing and have a great potential for growth.
Greg Griffith Conservative Episcopalians may not like the fact that he is a bishop or his views for that matter. However, he is trying to find a way forward and he will at least sit and talk with conservatives. Susan Russell is a bomb thrower. She makes outrageous statements and then is surprised or angered when they are questioned. There is no way liberal churches are growing. As far as the potential to grow, yeah you could say that because right now there’s practically no one in them.
Once again as a Catholic, I left the convention so grateful to have that clarity that Greg Griffith mentioned and the coherent theology that Canon Harmon discussed. As I mentioned before, living near Columbus and being able to attend the convention helped to give me an insight into the Episcopal Church. Honestly, it breaks your heart to see the traditional Episcopalian wonder what is going to happen to their church. As my wife said to me, imagine how you would feel if some group or social movement tried to take over the Catholic Church? Well it almost happened. I distinctly remember being in grade school (1970’s) and hearing a liberal priest telling a friend’s parents, “Just wait by the end of this decade all of the barriers of this Church will come crashing down.” I distinctly recall trying to figure out what that meant as this friend’s parents grew angry. I was reminded of this conversation a few years ago. This man is no longer in the priesthood and I don’t think he even attends a church anymore. It was all about an agenda for him.
Catholics were rescued from this by Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger who enforced the teachings of the Church. Alhough, Cardinal Ratzinger was sometimes called every vile name in the book by liberals for doing so. The erstwhile Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI is faithfully guiding the growing Church. It might behoove those progressives to realize that even though there is a vocations problem in some parts of America, there aren’t any problems in conservative arch/dioceses like Denver, Omaha, Lincoln etc. Also, worldwide vocations to the priesthood increased 76% under the pontificate of Pope John Paul II from 63,882 priests in 1978 (his first year as pope) to 112,373 (the year of his death) Again, this points to the remarks of clarity and a coherent theology mentioned by Griffith and Canon Kendall All of this helps prove the point I make in my book, “The Tide Is Turning Towards Catholicism,” due out this fall.
I see the liberals of the Episcopal Church telling the conservatives that since they feel they gave in to the Windsor Report they want some favors in return. Conservatives, feeling the liberals didn’t give into the Windsor Report will be furthered angered. Now we have appeals to the Archbishop of Canterbury by some conservative dioceses that they be put under special protection. You don't ask for protection from a position of strength. Liberals in the Episcopal Church have been strengthened by 40 years of momentum and by an increasing number of liberal converts leaving the Catholic Church to join their numbers. Liberals don't see the hope in the Catholic Church that they do in the Episcopal Church. Clarity and coherent theology could have prevented this whole mess but the drip, drip of social activists, starting in the 60’s with Bishop Pike and continuing until recently with Bishop Spong, led to the reality of today. They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither was liberalism in churches, it just took about 40 years.
I thought I finished with the Episcopal Convention as I drove my parents to the airport. I was not. I bumped into the Archbishop of York (England), John Sentamu who was the Archbishop of Canterbury's delegate to the convention. I introduced myself to the Archbishop reminding him that he had promised to talk to me today. He smiled and said, “Under the circumstances, I cannot say anything. I remember meeting you but I hope you will understand that I just can’t say anything. I am sorry.”
As the archbishop and my parents went through the security gate, I pondered their different itineraries. My parents were traveling to a great family celebration, a mini family reunion and anniversary celebration for an aunt and uncle. The archbishop was traveling to report on disunion and trying to prevent this date from being a very glum anniversary. Clarity and coherent theology, who knew how important these words were? Comments Click Here