Presiding Bishop says church laments Quincy departures[Episcopal News Service, Quincy, Illinois] Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said November 8 that the church “laments the departure from the Episcopal Church of some individuals in southern Illinois" after members of the Diocese of Quincy voted on November 7 to leave the Episcopal Church and realign under the jurisdiction of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.
“The Episcopal Diocese of Quincy remains, albeit with fewer members, and we are working to assist in the reorganization of diocesan affairs,” she said. “We assure all, both Episcopalians and former Episcopalians, and members of their surrounding communities, of our prayers for clarity and charity in their spiritual journeys. May all be reminded that the Gospel work of healing this world will take the best efforts of every person of faith.”
The action to realign was carried out by the passing of two resolutions. The deputies represent 24 churches and missions and about 1,800 parishioners.
The first resolution formally annulled accession to the constitution and canons of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. Clergy voted 41 in favor and 14 against the measure. In the lay order the vote was 54 to 12 to pass the motion. On the resolution to join the Southern Cone, clergy voted 46 to 4 in favor. Lay deputies voted 55 to 8 to approve the resolution.
The Southern Cone includes the countries of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay. It has also accepted former members of the San Joaquin and Pittsburgh dioceses of the Episcopal Church who, like those in Quincy, have theological disagreements with the wider church.
Worship at the Quincy synod was held at St. John’s Episcopal Church, the mother church and original cathedral of the Diocese of Quincy, created in 1877 by the division of the Diocese of Illinois. St. John’s has said it will change its name to “St. John’s Parish, an Anglican Church.”
Ending years of discontent
During the 45-minute debate on the resolution to leave the Episcopal Church, some speakers suggested that they could have a greater witness by “working from within,” but the majority of speakers expressed disgust at the Episcopal Church, saying that what they were leaving did not represent the church they had been born into or once joined.
The final speaker, a woman who was not fully identified, said “We need to make a choice. Is Jesus Christ our Savior or not?”
“I don’t feel like I’m leaving TEC, instead I feel like I am moving forward. I am convinced that by not leaving TEC, I will brand myself with the same heretical views of those who are running TEC now. This is the end. Right here. Today,” she said.
The resolution said leaders of the Episcopal Church and actions of its General Convention “have failed to uphold the teaching and authority of Holy Scripture, have challenged or belittled core doctrines of the Christian faith, have refused to conform to the agreed teaching and discipline of the Anglican faith, have refused to conform to the agreed teaching and discipline of the Anglican Communion, and have rejected the godly counsel of the leaders of the Communion.”
A relationship already strained by General Convention’s consent in 2003 to the consecration of Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, who is openly gay, was further exacerbated in 2006 with the election of Jefferts Schori as Presiding Bishop. The Diocese of Quincy does not ordain women.
Shortly after Jefferts Schori’s election, Quincy joined a small number of Episcopal Church dioceses seeking what they called "alternative pastoral oversight” from a primate other than the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. A news release issued at the time by the diocese said it objected to certain actions by the leadership of the Episcopal Church. It also said that part of the reason for the diocese's request was the theology of Jefferts Schori, who allowed Diocese of Nevada congregations to offer blessings of same-gender unions and voted to approve Robinson’s consecration. Quincy was "unwilling to accept the leadership" of Jefferts Schori, the news release said.
At its 2007 Synod, members of the Diocese of Quincy considered resolutions to sever ties to the Episcopal Church, but decided to remain at that time.
The Rev. John Spencer, vicar of St. Francis Church, Dunlap and official spokesman for the diocese, said on November 7 that action set into motion a year-long “period of discernment” on the issue.
“We did not want to rush. We wanted to give everyone time to think and pray, inform people about the issues and move slowly and methodically,” he said.
At that time Spencer said the diocese also "took the first steps, constitutionally, to make it possible to realign when the time is appropriate to do so."
In August 2008, the Standing Committee sent a document titled "The Church in Crisis: A Resource for the Diocese of Quincy," to every household in the diocese. It aimed at answering the question, “Shall the Diocese of Quincy separate from the Episcopal Church? If so, why and how? If not, then why not?'"
Following the unexpected resignation of Quincy Bishop Keith Ackerman, which was effective November 1, the synod convened without a sitting bishop. The Rev. Canon Edward den Blaauwen, rector of Christ Church, Moline, and a member of the Standing Committee, was appointed to preside at Synod’s business meetings.
At the opening session of the synod on November 7, which was closed to the public, Spencer reported that Ackerman was on hand to ceremonially “pass the gavel” to den Blaauwen.
Following the votes to realign, a letter was read from Archbishop Gregory Venables, primate of the Southern Cone, in which he reported that he had appointed den Blaauwen as Vicar General of the new diocesan unit, in the absence of a sitting bishop.
Den Blaauwen who also serves as executive administrator for Forward in Faith North America, of which Ackerman is president, attended the Global Anglican Futures Conference in June. He also accompanied Ackerman to the Lambeth Conference this past summer.
Spencer noted that no plans have yet been made for a search for a new bishop.
“Our focus has been entirely about just getting through this synod for now,” he said.
Reorganizing, realigning a diocesan structure
One of the first orders of business for the new diocesan structure was an announcement by den Blaauwen that members of the clergy formerly canonically resident in the Diocese of Quincy would receive a certificate indicating they were now clergy of the Southern Cone. He told those clergy who wished not to affiliate with the Southern Cone to write the word “rejected” on the certificate, along with a signature and date.
It was not apparent during the meeting if any clergy present would immediately reject association with the Southern Cone.
The synod also enacted other pieces of legislation aimed at reorganizing and realigning the new diocesan structure. Among them were:
• Establishing a nine-month “grace period” during which any congregation may, by a two-thirds vote, withdraw from “the Synod of this Diocese” and stating that the Bishop and standing committee will work “diligently, in good faith and with Christian charity, with any member of the clergy who might wish to seek canonical transfer to another diocese of the person’s choice;”
• Allowing for a parish or mission outside the geographical boundaries of the diocese to apply for admission to the synod of the new diocese;
• Creating a new Canon on Worship, which prescribes allowed versions of the Holy Scriptures and indicates that the bishop shall approve a “recognized edition of the Book of Common Prayer for standard use in the diocese;”
• Approving a new Canon on Marriage that defines holy matrimony to be “a divinely-instituted sacramental union of one man and one woman;”
• Affirming the “Jerusalem Declaration”, which came out of the GAFCON Conference;
• Approving funding from the diocesan assessment both for the Province of the Southern Cone and for the Anglican Communion Network, to which the assessment has gone since the Diocese of Quincy stopped supporting the Episcopal Church in 2005; and
• Supporting the Common Cause Partnership, a group of orthodox bishops and lay persons working for the creation of a new Anglican province in North America.
The Episcopal Diocese of Forth Worth will hold its annual convention November 14 and 15 and will also consider resolutions to leave the Episcopal Church and realign with the Southern Cone. In preparation for the convention, Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker has issued a statement titled “10 Reasons Why Now is the Time to Realign.”» Respond to this article