Dear Brothers and Sisters
January 2, 2015
The No. 1 Anglican news story of the year is the Church of England's overwhelmingly vote to allow women bishops. A parish priest from Hale, the Rev. Libby Lane, a 48-year-old mother of two, made history as the first woman to be named as a bishop in the Church of England. She will be the next Bishop of Stockport in Greater Manchester.
It comes more than 20 years after the ordination of the first female priests in the established church and almost a century after the first attempts to open the ministry to women. It was a surprise choice no one saw coming; even the bookies were taken by surprise.
VOL's No.2 Anglican story of the year is the Archbishop of Canterbury's failure to unite the Anglican Communion despite visiting all 38 provinces. He publicly admitted at the end of his travels that the Communion might not hold together. In fact we have a de facto split if not a de jure one. The real question now is: Can he ever bring the Primates of the Communion together again or hold another Lambeth Conference!
VOL's No. 3 news story is revelations that Western Anglicanism is in deep trouble and that the CofE, TEC, and the ACoC might not be around a generation from now. Already both secular and church historians are sounding the alarm that nearly all mainline denominations are in rapid decline and will likely not be in existence by the middle of the Century unless there is a spiritual revival. That appears unlikely as denominations like TEC, PCUSA, the ELCA and Church of Christ (to name a few) are running out of theological steam, running on a progressive ticket that has removed itself from biblical authority. As Fr. George Rutler, a former Episcopal priest and now an RC priest in NYC, observed this past week, "TEC is a tragic example of what happens when you abandon a serious commitment to the teachings of Christ." Ya think!
Fr. Rutler notes that the Episcopal Church has changed significantly. "It is vanishing. A few generations ago, it was the unofficial official church of the United States. It was a visible presence in the national order. It was prosperous and effective in many ways. That's all gone now. It doesn't exist anymore. The remnant you see is post-Christian. Demographically, the Church of England will not exist in 20 years. Other Anglican groups outside England have been ordaining women as priests and bishops in recent years, and the result has not only been theologically chaotic but a demographic catastrophe."
Within The Episcopal Church, there was some notable news, none of it good.
VOL's No. 4 story is the triumph of "Neutral Principles" over the Dennis Canon in legal battles being fought in South Carolina, Ft. Worth and Quincy. Higher courts have been reversing lower court rulings, making it seem almost impossible for TEC to hold on to properties they believe are theirs.
VOL's No. 5 story is the death of two homosexual bishops. Otis Charles died Dec. 2013 and Tom Shaw, Bishop of Massachusetts, died Oct. 2014. Gay activist Bishop Gene Robinson kept making the news with occasional columns in the Huffington Post, thus giving him a continued platform to spout his erroneous views about God and sodomy.
VOL's No. 6 story is the continuing decline of The Episcopal Church. Jeff Walton of IRD noted that the denomination's Office of Research compiled the self-reported statistical tables for provinces and dioceses for the last reporting year (2013) and noted that in U.S. dioceses, baptisms are down five percent from 27,140 in 2012 to 25,822 in 2013. Similarly, marriages are down four percent from 10,366 to 9,933 (the denomination has seen a 40 percent decline in children baptized since 2003 and a 46 percent decline in marriages over the same period). The losses are not evenly distributed, with some dioceses performing worse than others: in the Diocese of Northern Michigan, where an ordained Buddhist was elected (and later failed to gain consent from other dioceses) to be bishop in 2009, zero children were confirmed in 2013.
Overall TEC is numerically down more than 5% in ASA with The Episcopal Church taking a huge hit in numbers in the Diocese of South Carolina, where TEC Bishop Charles vonRosenberg reigns.
VOL's No. 7 story is the Episcopal Church's attempts to reinvent itself with something called TREC. Findings from a study revealed that the Church must change or face a serious financial crisis. So the committee recommended a unicameral House of Bishops and Deputies, more power for the Presiding Bishop, reduced General Convention time, fewer resolutions.
VOL's NO. 8 story is the news that Bishop vonRosenberg sued his own Church Insurance Company of Vermont for money to continue suing Bishop Mark Lawrence of the Diocese of South Carolina (Anglican), now under the ecclesiastical authority of Global South Primates.
That was not the only act of a particularly nasty bishop against one of his own. VonRosenberg later wrote a letter to the former Bishop Suffragan of South Carolina, William J. Skilton, telling him in no uncertain terms that because of the "confusion" and ecclesiastical breakdown of the diocese, he can no longer function sacramentally as a bishop in the diocese, even though Skilton has been around the diocese for more than 40 years! He has not left and joined either Bishop Lawrence or the ACNA!
So much for all that wonderful talk of inclusion and bridge-building and, oh God, lest we forget, "reconciliation" that everyone talks so much about from Justin Welby to Jefferts Schori. Nothing ever changes. Everyone is becoming more entrenched with little hope for change.
VOL's NO. 9 story came as the year ended with a real bang when the Suffragan Bishop of Maryland, Heather Cook, hit and killed a cyclist, then left the scene of the accident, only returning to the scene when a cyclist followed her to her gated community. They found an empty whiskey bottle in her car. The Bishop of the Diocese, Eugene Taylor Sutton, immediately went into spin mode and suspended her. More on that next.