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VirtueOnline - News - Exclusives - Episcopal Church's hit list against orthodox clergy tops 700 and counting



VirtueOnline - News - Exclusives - Episcopal Church's hit list against orthodox clergy tops 700 and counting:

Episcopal Church's hit list against orthodox clergy tops 700 and counting 
List keeps growing includes bishops and deacons

By David W. Virtue and Mary Ann Mueller
www.virtueonline.org 
July 16, 2013

When Provisional Bishop Charles vonRosenberg of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECinSC) released his list of 103 Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina clergy who could be cut from the clerical rolls and sliced from their pensions and health insurance, The Episcopal Church passed an infamous number ... 700. 

VOL has documented more than 700 cases of Episcopal clergy - mostly priests, a few deacons and at least a dozen bishops - who have been uncanonically inhibited, deposed, and or released from their ordained ministries as they valiantly strive to remain faithful to the Gospel even as The Episcopal Church disintegrates into spiritual decay and temporal anarchy.



EARLY DEPOSITIONS

Little by little, the list of inhibited and deposed clergy grows - a list which first began in 1977 when two priests, a continent apart, were relieved of their Episcopal priesthood and ministry by their respective bishops.

In April 1977 the Episcopal News Service reported that the Rev. Robert S. Morse at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Oakland, California was inhibited and would be eventually deposed by California Bishop Kilmer Myers, claiming that the priest had voluntarily abandoned the ministry of The Episcopal Church. 

Bishop Myers is quoted as saying that he acted with "great personal pain and anguish" in inhibiting Fr. Morse and setting up the mechanism by which he would be deposed. The bishop also counseled the faithful not to receive any sacraments from the priest. 

"No loyal Episcopalian or Anglican may receive the sacraments from the Rev. Robert Morse," the bishop is quoted as saying in the ENS story. 

Robert Sherwood Morse would later become the Archbishop of the Anglican Province of Christ the King (APCK), a continuing Anglican Church body.

On the East Coast, the Rev. Canon Albert J. duBois found himself in the crosshairs of Long Island Bishop Jonathan Sherman. For 24 years, Canon duBois was executive director of the American Church Union. As such he stood up in the 1976 General Convention and challenged the passage of the resolution that allowed the ordination of women to the Episcopal priesthood, and noted that the unprecedented action "placed the Episcopal Church outside the traditional doctrine, discipline, and worship of Anglicanism."

The Canon charged that Convention "acted unconstitutionally in attempting to give permission for the ordination of women to the priesthood". For his clarion call to The Episcopal Church, duBois was rewarded with inhibition and later deposed by his bishop and charged with "forming a new church." 

Canon duBois became the international president of Anglicans United. He stated that the "threatened deposition was simply an effort to single him out in order to crush any organized opposition to the Minneapolis actions."

Canon duBois reported that there were "over one hundred separatist congregations" in the U.S. He predicted there would be "over two hundred and fifty such congregations by the end of 1977, with many more in 1978."

In August of 1977, five Episcopal priests in the Diocese of Los Angeles and one in the Diocese of Colorado were deposed as they opposed the approval of the ordination of women to the priesthood brought on by the 1976 General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

The priests -- supported by their congregations -- had renounced the authority of their bishops.

Earlier in June of that year, Bishop William C. Frey of Colorado deposed the Rev. James Mote of St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Denver, the first of a number of parishes and missions to vote to sever relations with its Episcopal diocese in opposition to the ordination of women.

In August, Bishop Robert C. Rusack of Los Angeles deposed the Rev. John Barker and the Rev. Elwood Trigg of St. Mary of the Angels Church, Hollywood; the Rev. William T. St. John Brown of St. Matthias, Sun Valley; the Rev. Forrest Miller of Our Savior's, Los Angeles; and the Rev. George H. Clendenin of the Church of the Holy Apostles, Glendale.

Since those early Episcopal Church actions against traditionalist priests, many clergy have felt the ecclesiastical weight and animosity of their bishops and standing committees whenever their orthodox views clash with the revisionist theology of The Episcopal Church that has actively embraced liberal theology and aligned itself with contemporary culture and American society. Their loyalty to Christ and His Church and to the "faith once for all delivered to the saints" has been rewarded with their ministries being torn out from under them, or at least on paper. 

VIRGINIA

Virginia Bishop Peter James Lee removed 21 clergy from ordained ministry in 2007 claiming they had abandoned the Communion. 

The bishop explained that the former Episcopal clergy were "released from the obligations of priest or deacon and deprived of the right to exercise the gifts and spiritual authority conferred in ordination."

Of the 21 clergy deposed, one Virginia priest recanted and returned to TEC fold. A 2007 ENS report said the Rev. Nicholas Lubelfeld "has declared his loyalty to the doctrine, discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church" as a result Bishop Lee lifted Fr. Lubelfeld's inhibition and returned him to full ministry in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. 

FLORIDA

By 2008 Florida Bishop Samuel Johnson Howard had deposed 42 orthodox Episcopal priests.

When he first took office, Howard seemed the picture of sweet reasonableness, promising to work with everyone, his door open to all, announcing that he was orthodox as he followed in the footsteps of the late evangelical Bishop of Florida, Steve Jecko.

In January 2004, things looked promising when the Diocese of Florida decided to uninvite Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold for the much-anticipated consecration of Howard as the next Bishop Coadjutor of Florida. There was an air of euphoria, a general feeling then that the change from Bishop Jecko to Howard would be a transition that orthodox priests could live with. They soon became disillusioned.

Thus began his ecclesiastical reign of terror. He was not gospel driven, but showed himself to an institutionalist, a corporatist, obedient not to those who paid his bills in the diocese, but as the CEO of a diocese whose boss resided at 815 2nd Avenue, New York, a city with which he was all too familiar.

For the orthodox clergy of the diocese, the joy quickly turned into disillusionment when it became clear that Howard had adopted the party line and would not go against the liberal Episcopal House of Bishops or his uber boss, Frank Griswold and, later, Katharine Jefferts Schori.

When seven orthodox priests in his diocese requested alternative pastoral oversight, Howard bluntly said no, that he would only entertain Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO). The Rev. Kurt Dunkle, Canon to the Ordinary blasted their actions as political. The seven parishes appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury's Panel of Reference, but got nowhere.

The formation of the Anglican Alliance in November 2001, at the urging of Bishop Jecko, gave form and shape to orthodoxy in the diocese. At that time, most of the clergy and laity in the Diocese of Florida were supportive of the traditional orthodox beliefs of the church while watching as the leadership of the Episcopal Church USA turned its back on many of the doctrines that are central to that belief. Their mission was to try to turn the tide of theological revisionism back to the solid foundation of the traditional faith once delivered to the saints.

By the end of 2003, it became evident that the Episcopal Church would not heed the cries from within the American church, or from the worldwide leadership of the Anglican Communion, to turn back from its trajectory towards theological innovation.

SAN JOAQUIN

A few clergy from an entire departing diocese were deposed at once as the orthodox diocese realigned with another province within traditional Anglicanism. In May 2009, Provisional Bishop Jerry Lamb deposed a total of 61 active and retired clergy in the (TEC) Diocese of San Joaquin by charging the central California clergy with "Abandonment of the Communion."

The San Joaquin clergy were given six months to 12 months to recant their position, renounce their orders, or deny charges of abandonment.

"The fact is, they chose to abandon their relationship with The Episcopal Church," Bishop Lamb said. "They declined to ask for a release from their ordination vows, and I had no option but to bring the charges of Abandonment of the Communion ..."

FT. WORTH

In February 2010, just as the Anglican Church in North America was being established in Bedford, Texas, the remaining (TEC) Fort Worth diocese, loyal to The Episcopal Church handed down a letter deposing 57 clergy charging them with violating Canon IV.10.1, the Abandonment of Communion of The Episcopal Church. The letter was signed by the second Provisional Bishop of TEC Fort Worth, Wallis Ohl.

PITTSBURGH

Those remaining in the TEC Diocese of Pittsburgh were kinder to nearly 100 Anglican clergy who followed their Bishop Robert Duncan as he forged out in the deep seeking to remain loyal to Christ through realigning with the Southern Cone. Eventually, his herculean efforts resulted in the creation of the Anglican Church in North America, an emerging Anglican province. In October 2009, Pittsburgh's realigning clergy were simply released from "their ministerial ties to The Episcopal Church so that they can become licensed in any entity they choose."

The TEC Pittsburgh action was seen as a pastoral solution by the diocesan standing committee. At the time, Bishop Keith Price had not yet been made Pittsburgh's provisional bishop.

"We're doing this for pastoral reasons," said the Rev. Dr. James Simons, the TEC diocesan standing committee president. "We do not want to see our priestly brothers and sisters deposed."

QUINCY

A month earlier, in September 2009, the Provisional Bishop of TEC Quincy deposed 34 priests and deacons, claiming that they had renounced their ministries in The Episcopal Church and declaring that those clergy are now deprived of all the authority conveyed in ordination.

"We did leave The Episcopal Church. We did not renounce our ordination vows, or abandon our ministries," commented Fr. John Spencer, president of the Anglican Diocese of Quincy Standing Committee. "The supposed inhibitions and depositions of our clergy have no bearing on those clergy, or on their ministries, since our diocese is no longer under the authority of the Episcopal Church. The actions of Episcopal Bishop John Buchanan simply mean that The Episcopal Church no longer wants these clergy to be allowed to function in any of their churches."

WESTERN NEW YORK

In October 2009, The Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Western New York, J. Michael Garrison deposed four priests and two deacons from St. Bartholomew's Anglican Church, Tonawanda. A letter dated Sept. 19th said that the Revs. Arthur Ward, Jr., John E. Commins, Richard Molison as well as Deacons Edward Kaczmierek and John Reitz had abandoned the communion of The Episcopal Church and were now formally deposed. All three priests and two deacons deny they have abandoned the Communion of the church and are now under the authority of the Anglican Church in North America.

Sometimes Episcopal clergy were deposed one at a time or in clusters of two or three or in small groups. These inhibitions and depositions are scattered throughout several dioceses of The Episcopal Church including, but not limited to: Atlanta, Colorado, Connecticut, East Carolina, Florida, Indianapolis, Kansas, Kentucky, Los Angeles, Massachusetts, Michigan, Milwaukee, Mississippi, New Jersey, Newark, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rio Grande, Rochester, San Diego, Southern Virginia, Tennessee and West Tennessee,

SOUTH CAROLINA

The most recent mass inhibitions of Episcopal clerics -- some 103 -- came at the hands of the Provisional Bishop of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. Bishop vonRosenberg and the TECinSC Standing Committee meted out the action on July 10.

"If there is no response from the restricted clergy in 60 days, the canons require the Bishop to remove them from the ordained ministry," a news release from The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECinSC) reported. To date, there are 88 clergy who are keeping their clerical ties with The Episcopal Church.

AMERICAN ANGLICAN COUNCIL

In February 2010, the American Anglican Council released a document in which it was able to track the clerical status of 404 Episcopal priests and deacons and 12 bishops who have been inhibited, deposed, or released by the Episcopal Church national headquarters at 815 Second Avenue in New York. 

However, those figures did not include the 100 or so Pittsburgh clergy, the 57 deposed from Fort Worth, another 27 clergy from Quincy and 10 more from San Joaquin who were not included in the original list, nor the 103 clerics pushed out in South Carolina inching the true figure to 700 or more. This may be a conservative figure when all the depositions are individually counted. 

AAC Chief Operating Officer Canon Phil Ashey explained that trying to get an exact figure on the number of Episcopal clergy who have been axed by The Episcopal Church is a hard thing to do.

"Well-it [the figure] is a moving target which changes weekly," he told VOL, "because we are compiling the numbers of those who are leaving by one's, two's and three's every week." 

Many of the deposed clergy are remembered on AAC's Wall of Honor. Canon Ashey was deposed by Virginia Bishop Lee in December 2005. 

"Yes, we do have our 'Wall of Honor,' on which we post the framed letters of Deposition," explained Canon Ashey, who proudly displays his own Letter of Deposition on the Wall of Honor. "You can imagine the names on that wall-- including most of the leaders of ACNA today. It is truly a Wall of Honor - TEC has been responsible in large part for creating ACNA." 


Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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