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Diocesan Digest - August 17

[Episcopal News Service] 
  • DALLAS: Priests refuse diocesan leadership's disassociation moves
  • HAWAI'I: Nominees for bishop announced
  • MINNESOTA: St. Paul church joins network, keeps ties with Episcopal Church
  • NORTH CAROLINA: Church fire sparks arson investigation
  • VIRGINIA: Bishop, US rector elected as Nigerian bishop 'in conversation'

DALLAS: Priests refuse diocesan leadership's disassociation moves

[Source: Via Media Dallas]

A group of more than 15 priests in the Diocese of Dallas issued a statement August 14 saying they will not participate in any actions by the diocese's elected leadership to disassociate the diocese from the Episcopal Church.

"We are not now, and never have been, of one mind about decisions made by the triennial meetings of the General Convention - nor the annual meetings of the Diocesan Convention," the priests wrote. "When we differ, there are canonical processes through which we are called to resolve our differences. We believe that God's Truth is found in staying together and living with our different understandings of that Truth. This is at the heart of the Episcopal tradition.  The Body of Christ, at any time in history, has flourished with differing interpretations of Holy Scripture, differing appreciations of tradition and differing understandings of the function of reason in its common life. This is a time to cling to one another and to Christ for the work of His Church. We are bound to one another and all members of the Church in and by Christ."

In a July 3 statement posted on the diocesan website, the diocesan Standing Committee asked Bishop James Stanton "to appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury for a direct primatial relationship with him for the purpose of mission, pastoral support, and accountability."

The Via Media Dallas organization had previously issued a statement saying it was "deeply disturbed" by the Standing Committee's request that Stanton pursue "an appropriate realignment" or, if it becomes necessary, an "ordered and mutually respectful separation of congregations and dioceses" from the Episcopal Church.
The priests wrote that they are "encouraged by the Bishop's call for a time of listening prior to our October Diocesan Convention, and in that spirit, it seems right that those among us who do not plan on leaving The Episcopal Church state that clearly at this time."

Read the full text of the statement and the names of the signers.

Dallas is one of seven dioceses in which a bishop or Standing Committee is seeking a relationship with a primate other than the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, citing 2003 and 2006 General Convention actions. The other dioceses are Central Florida (Orlando-based), Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Springfield (Illinois), San Joaquin (California), and South Carolina.

In no case has a diocesan convention yet ratified these actions.

The Episcopal Church has a total of 110 dioceses and a convocation of churches based in Europe.

HAWAI'I: Nominees for bishop announced

[Source: Diocese of Hawai'i]

The Standing Committee has approved five priests to stand for election as the fifth bishop of Hawai'i.

They are:

  • the Rev. Canon Howard Anderson, 58, president and warden, Cathedral College of Washington National Cathedral;
  • the Rev. Canon Kathleen Cullinane, 51, associate dean and canon missioner, Christ Church Cathedral, Indianapolis, Indiana;
  • the Rev. Canon Robert L. Fitzpatrick, 47, canon to the ordinary, Hawai'i;
  • the Rev. David C. Moore, 58, priest-in-charge, St. Margaret's Church, Bellevue, Washington; and
  • the Rev. Dr. Joy Rogers, 59, rector, St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Battle Creek, Michigan

The diocese will accept nominees by petition until September 1.

The election take places during the diocese's annual convention October 20-21.

The new bishop will succeed Bishop Richard S. O. Chang, who turns 65 on November 30.

Chang intends to remain in office until his successor is consecrated March 10, 2007.

Since Chang took office, the church has paid off a $4 million-dollar debt tied to a financial misstep that forced his predecessor, Bishop Donald Hart, to resign. The church had guaranteed a $4 million loan to the developer of a luxury retirement community. After spending more than $12 million, the project stalled, leaving the diocese responsible for the loan. The repercussions cost jobs, curtailed programs and affected the budgets of the diocese's 41 parishes.

Read more information on the nominees.

MINNESOTA: St. Paul church joins network, keeps ties with Episcopal Church

[Source: Diocese of Minnesota]

Messiah Episcopal Church in St. Paul, Minnesota recently voted to join the Anglican Communion Network.

Messiah is the only parish in the diocese that has elected to do so.

Messiah, however, will retain its affiliation with the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Minnesota.

Quoted recently in an article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press newspaper, senior warden Lori Goetz said,  "I don't think we have an exact blueprint of how this will affect our relationship with other parishes,  but never at any point have we entertained the notion of leaving the Diocese of Minnesota.''

"We see joining the network as a way of strengthening our relationship with Anglicans who have a number of grave misgivings about actions of the Episcopal Church over the past three or four years,'' said the Rev. John Newton, rector of Messiah.

Read the full text of the Pioneer Press article.

NORTH CAROLINA: Church fire sparks arson investigation

[Source: WRAL-TV]

A weekend church fire is under investigation as a possible case of arson, authorities said August 15.
Firefighters put out a blaze at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Wilson, North Carolina, early August 12, and investigators suspected arson in the case, authorities said.

The flames stopped short of the 100-year-old sanctuary, but the church's gathering hall sustained extensive smoke and water damage.

"I ponder why someone would go to such lengths," said the Rev. Phillip Byrum, the pastor of St. Mark's. "Most of the things are destroyed."

The heat from the fire melted a stained-glass window the congregation had salvaged from a 1920s-era church, Byrum said.

The church is home to two different congregations -- one primarily African-American and the other Hispanic. Byrum said English and Spanish services are held each Sunday and are sometimes combined.

"I would not rule that out," he said when asked if the church's diverse congregation made it a target for arson. "But I think it's more of a random kind of thing."

The congregations plan to repair the sanctuary and rebuild the rest of the church, he said.

"There is sadness and some anger, but there is also a lot of hope," he said.

Detectives from the Wilson Police Department and agents from the State Bureau of Investigation and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating the case.

VIRGINIA: Bishop, US rector elected as Nigerian bishop 'in conversation'

[Source: Diocese of Virginia, ENS]

Bishop Peter Lee told the Diocese of Virginia in an August 13 letter that he and the Rev. Martyn Minns will release a statement before the end of August responding to the "various jurisdictional and pastoral challenges" raised by Minns' election as a bishop in the Church of Nigeria.

Minns is the rector of Truro Church in Fairfax, Virginia, and Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola has asked that he remain Truro's rector while serving as a bishop with oversight of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), originally called the Convocation of Anglican Nigerian Churches in America.

Lee had previously written to his diocese to say that the June 28 election of Minns is "an affront to the traditional, orthodox understanding of Anglican Provincial Autonomy."
Lee wrote in that letter that it would be impossible to honor Akinola's request that Minns remain rector of Truro Church.

Lee's August 13 letter says that a search is under way for Minns' successor and the Truro vestry has asked that Minns remain as rector until his replacement is chosen, an arrangement that would be unusual in most Episcopal congregations.

Lee reported that he and Minns met August 12, and "have not yet reached an understanding of how this matter will be resolved."

He asked for the diocese's prayers "that Martyn, the Truro Vestry, the diocesan Standing Committee and I might receive God's grace at this time to discern a way forward that glorifies God and honors our Church."

Read the full text of Lee's letter.

Minns is due to be consecrated August 20 at the National Christian Centre (formerly National Ecumenical Centre) in Abuja, Nigeria, with three other bishops-elect.

"The consecration service is significant in the sense that it signals the commissioning of new mission to America initiated by the Church of Nigeria," a news release on the Nigerian church's website says.

The release says that CANA was established in April 2005 "as part of Church of Nigeria's response to the lingering crisis in the US Anglican Churches brought about by controversial teachings regarding human sexuality and the bible. The Convocation is expected to provide a 'safe spiritual harbour' for millions of Anglicans affected by the teachings of the Anglican branch in the US."

According to a 2003 ENS report, the original idea for a Nigerian chaplaincy in the US grew out of conversations between American bishops and Akinola following the Primates Meeting at Kanuga in North Carolina in March 2001. Akinola later toured four US dioceses—Texas, Southern Ohio, Michigan, and Chicago—where there are significant Nigerian immigrant populations. In April 2002, he met with the American bishops at Camp Allen in Texas for further conversations concerning his plan for the chaplaincy. It was originally conceived as a partnership between the Episcopal Church and the Church of Nigeria, funded through a three-year commitment from the Dioceses of Texas and Southern Ohio, the Church of Nigeria, and the presiding bishop's discretionary fund.

According to the Rev. Patrick Mauney, retired director of Anglican and Global Relations for the Episcopal Church, "tens of thousands of dollars" were raised for the joint chaplaincy, but the Atlanta-based chaplain appointed to the position, the Rev. Canon Adegboyega Gordon Okunsanya, "overspent his budget" and work had to be temporarily suspended "until sufficient funds were on hand." Mauney disputed reports that Okunsanya was terminated. The Presiding Bishop's Office confirmed Mauney's recollection of the events.

Later in 2004, Akinola announced plans to establish the Nigerian convocation for "those thousands of Nigerian Anglicans who feel alienated by the actions of the Episcopal Church" in consecrating openly-gay priest Gene Robinson as a diocesan bishop. Non-Nigerians, he said, would be "absolutely free to join. The convocation is a non-geographic diocese."

At that time, the Archbishop of Canterbury's office said Archbishop Rowan Williams had not approved those plans to establish any non-geographic Nigerian diocese, independent of Episcopal Church structures, on American soil.

Both the October 2004 Windsor Report (paragraph 155) and the March 2005 Dromantine Communiqué (paragraph 15) call for an end to "cross-boundary interventions" by bishops.