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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Episcopal Church: Sanctuary or Brothel?

This, according to the neo-Puritan Orthodox of the Episcopal Church, is the very moment of schism in The Episcopal Church.

It is, of course, the historic consecration of the Rt. Rev'd V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire.

In this Sunday's gospel (Mark 13:1-8), Jesus says, "This is but the beginning of the birth pangs."

Schism or New Life? The End or a New Beginning?

An article in today's (November 14th)
The Episcopal Church: Sanctuary or Brothel?

You just can't make this stuff up.

Read on:

Episcopal rift threatens unity
The issue of gay priests has some dioceses-- including Springfield's--in open revolt as the talk turns to a permanent separation

By Manya A. Brachear
Tribune staff reporter
Published November 14, 2006

Just weeks after leaders of the Episcopal Church urged its members to refrain from confirming any more openly homosexual candidates, the Newark diocese allowed a gay priest to stand for bishop.

At the same June meeting of the 75th Episcopal General Convention, leaders chose the progressive Katharine Jefferts Schori to lead the American church. Soon eight conservative dioceses--including Downstate Springfield--asked to report to a new boss, one whose theology does not support gay clergy.

How can such drastically different points of view coexist in the same church?

"They can't," said Springfield Bishop Peter Beckwith. "We are not in communion with Newark. It's two different faiths."

Not so, says Newark Bishop John Croneberger. "I really believe that the church offers a very big tent, under which a lot of different acts take place."

That these two bishops cannot agree even on whether the Episcopal Church can contain their disagreements illustrates the ever-widening chasm in the Anglican Communion, of which the Episcopal Church is the American arm.

Most of the nation's 7,600 Episcopal parishes follow Croneberger's approach, as does Jefferts Schori, who was installed Nov. 4 as presiding bishop and is visiting Chicago this week. But more than 200 abide by the conservative principles of the world's Anglican powerbrokers, primarily in Africa and Latin America.

Many conservatives predict that if the U.S. church does not repent, it will be expelled from the Anglican Communion and traditionalists like themselves will take over as the true U.S. Anglican province. Under this rubric, Springfield would still be part of the global church. Newark would be expelled.

Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

Liberal wing soars on inclusiveness

By Manya A. Brachear
Tribune staff reporter
Published November 14, 2006

NEWARK, N.J. -- Louie Crew lives with his male partner of 30 years in a suburban South Orange high-rise with a view of nearby Manhattan. But he worships in the heart of Newark's barren downtown in a "smells and bells" mass of the high church tradition.

On a recent Sunday, he stood in Grace Episcopal Church as the priests and acolytes paraded in, sprinkling holy water on the parishioners and perfuming the room with incense.

Crew attends the church because of its traditional style of liturgy, not because the rector happens to be gay. But if that mattered to him, Crew would have plenty of choices.

At least a third of the Newark clergy are gay--the legacy of former Newark Bishop John Shelby Spong. Between 1975 and 1999, Spong created a haven for gay and lesbian clergy, ordaining 35 and taking in dozens more who could not find jobs in other dioceses.

He also recruited clergy with a heart for AIDS victims, which attracted many from the gay community. That is what led Rev. Elizabeth Kaeton to become rector of St. Paul's Church in suburban Chatham, N.J.

Seated in her favorite corner booth at a Chatham diner, Kaeton recounted Spong's invitation to revive a dwindling congregation and take over an AIDS ministry in 1991. "He was irresistible," she said.

"It's given me so many opportunities to do ministry in a setting where I'm not always defending myself," said Kaeton, who has been with her female partner for nearly 30 years. "That takes up so much psychic and spiritual energy. Jack Spong made it so commonplace to be the best of who you are."

Current Bishop John Croneberger concurs with his predecessor: Encompassing varied views of Christianity has been the beauty of the Anglican way for more than four centuries.

"I don't think the future of our participation in the Anglican Communion is worth the price of sacrificing a whole group of people," he said. "Suggesting such a group of people might be excluded or told, `No, you have to go on hold again,' it's just one more example of chasing people to the back of the bus again. ... I can't buy into that."

Croneberger speaks not only as the church father of 113 congregations but as a father of five grown children, two of whom are gay.

"My cry in the House of Bishops is that I'm part of a church who has adequate role models for all my children," he said.

Rev. Mark Beckwith, a Massachusetts priest ordained in Newark, soon will replace Croneberger, who plans to resign in January to care for his wife, Marilyn.

Beckwith defeated a gay candidate also on the ballot but is expected to maintain Newark's liberal status quo.

While there are conservative clergy in Newark who do not agree with Croneberger, only one parish has requested alternative pastoral oversight, a plan bishops developed in 2004 primarily to comfort conservative congregations in progressive dioceses.

Rev. Brian Laffler, rector of St. Anthony of Padua in hardscrabble Hackensack, describes the majority of the U.S. church as "post-Christian" and relies on the leadership of Bishop William Skilton of South Carolina.

"St. Anthony's gets pulled into the public eye quite a bit because we have walked with the rest of the Anglican Communion, but we're a pretty ordinary church," Laffler said.

But less than a mile down the street at Christ Church parish, Rev. William Parnell said his neighbor is out of step with the rest of the church.

"I've come out of the closet," said the priest, who is gay. "And frankly the Episcopal Church has come out of the closet too."

Conservatives See No Compromise

By Manya A. Brachear
Tribune staff reporter
Published November 14, 2006

JACKSONVILLE, Ill. -- On his annual visits to confirm newcomers to Springfield parishes, Bishop Peter Beckwith spares no words to warn his flock that the Episcopal Church is falling apart--succumbing to secular values in the guise of modern faith.

"There's only one truth, and our challenge is to discover it," he said in a recent homily at Trinity Episcopal Church in Jacksonville, the oldest of the diocese's 40 parishes. "It is revealed to us."

This unwavering view of Scripture divides Beckwith from the majority of the Episcopal Church and its new leader, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

But Beckwith refuses to sacrifice his integrity to hold together the relationship. He does not compare the possibility of schism to divorce. In fact, he likens it to fidelity.

"I'm married to the gospel, the Anglican Communion, the authority of Scripture--and I've got this prostitute putting the moves on me," he said, intending a reference not to Jefferts Schori but to her theology.

Throughout this rural Illinois diocese covering 60 counties, many parishioners and priests side with their bishop. Others are accustomed to his hard-line position and do what they want anyway. Some say they will discuss differences only with Beckwith, preferring not to air their disagreements.

"Episcopal means `of the bishop.' How can you be against the bishop and actually say you're Episcopal?" said Rev. Richard Swan, a priest who oversees six parishes in a predominantly Baptist region where many parishioners have struggled to make ends meet after many area coal mines closed.

"We have a bishop who takes his vows very seriously as to the part where a bishop is to guard the historic teachings of the Episcopal Church."

A former military chaplain, Beckwith's experience in the armed forces fuels his ministry.

"The best lesson in the military is you learn it's not about you," he said. "It's about the mission--mission accomplishment whatever it takes. ... To me, that's so close to Christian vocation. It's about the mission of the church."

Beckwith considers homosexuality a form of sinful behavior. He refused to confirm a California bishop in 2003 because the man had been divorced twice. And he refused to confirm New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, who lives in a committed relationship with another man.

"The choice and the behavior is the issue," he said. "Sex is not fulfilling except for marriage between a man and a woman. Apart from that it's phony at best. It's about entertainment."

Of course, some priests disagree. Last month, St. Andrew's rector Rev. Virginia Bennett asked for oversight by an alternative bishop, saying she has not been able to overcome differences with Beckwith since she asked him to confirm a lesbian in her Edwardsville congregation in 2004.

Rev. James Cravens, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Lincoln, served as a chaplain in the Marine Corps with Beckwith. He voted against Robinson's election three years ago but says he does not like how Beckwith has used the issue to define his tenure.

"I think the American religious scene in general is driven by extremists," Cravens said. "I'm afraid the church isn't going to rise above it."

Others welcome the idea of a separation.

"I'm glad you're here," Elisabeth Langford told Beckwith in Jacksonville, where parishioners greeted him with hugs, handshakes, gratitude and a buffet of beans and beef brisket.

"I'm waiting for the split. I think it's necessary," she said. "It's two different religions in the same church. That can't last."


Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

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