Manassas Journal Messenger | Local clergy wait with faith

Conservative Episcopalian congregations in the county and across Northern Virginia are in a “pray-wait-and-see” stance awaiting a London summit to address the confirmation of a gay U.S. bishop.

They expect the primates “to discipline and rebuke” the Episcopal Church of the United States of America, and that those who approved the gay issues to be excluded in the life of the church. They are also hoping that “a realignment” or a “new structure” will be fashioned in North America to accommodate the conservative Anglican churches.

“We expect the primates to take strong action to discipline ECUSA and stand with those of us who are committed to Biblical faith and orthodoxy. We are determined to stay obedient to Jesus Christ,” said the Rev. John Guernsey, rector of the All Saints Episcopal Church in Dale City.

“There is great grief over the terrible decisions (of ECUSA) but there is also a real sense of peace, joy and hope that God is doing something new and significant not just in a tiny denomination but also for his purposes around the world,” he said. The crisis in the Episcopal denomination is “a living out of the global drama” that has seized the Christian church, he said.

Episcopalians who met in Dallas, noted the Rev. David Harper, rector of the Church of the Apostles in Fairfax, expressed “a real sense that business as usual and more of the same is not an option (for the primates). We believe a new structure in North America where we faithful Anglicans can come together in a recognized place” will emerge from the Lambeth summit.

Church leaders told the Potomac News and Manassas Journal Messenger that they do not know what “form and shape the discipline and rebuke” from the primates might impose on ECUSA but some speculated that the decisions on gay issues might be repudiated and that the confirmation of the Rev. V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire would be withdrawn.

ECUSA’s General Convention in Minneapolis last July approved the election of Robinson and the blessing of same-sex unions that are now being done by some parishes. Robinson’s elevation to the bishopric will be celebrated in early November.

Despite anger and grief over ECUSA, Episcopalians continue to profess love for their church, which is less than 1 percent of the Protestant church population in the United States and about 3 percent of the total Anglican Communion, said Guernsey.

At All Saints, leaders and members are praying and fasting, even as their “grieving and mourning” move into “a fresh level of prayer and hopefulness of something new and good coming out of the tragedy of Minneapolis,” said Guernsey.

“We’re not obsessed (with the General Convention’s actions), we’re continuing the wonderful life of our congregation,” he told the Potomac News, saying All Saints continues, “in the midst of the church’s crisis and struggle” with its flagship ministries to care for the homeless and the “sexually-broken.”

Guernsey is one of the founding directors of the American Anglican Council, the network of conservative Episcopalians who are calling for faithfulness to Biblical authority on such issues as marriage and family life. His church sent 23 representatives to Dallas.

Vestry leaders and church members of Christ Our Lord in Woodbridge are closely monitoring developments in London and Richmond, the seat of the Diocese of Virginia. Their rector, the Rev. George Beaven, led his parish’s delegation of six to the Dallas convention.

The crisis in Minneapolis, Beaven said, was “framed around homosexuality, but the real issue at stake is Biblical authority. The national church has crossed a line that many of us cannot go over without compromising the Word of God. The national church has provoked a firestorm.”

He said his congregation is praying for “a peaceful” way out of this crisis. He said damage has been done to the church’s outreach and diocesan missions and programs are “at risk” as financial donations have been withheld.

In Haymarket, the Rev. David Jones, rector of the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church keeps in touch with the AAC and its network of churches, ministers and individual Episcopalians across the country.

He said people refused the church’s literature during the recent Haymarket Day, indicating that “people are turning away from us.”

“I am saddened that the church chose to reject the plain statements of Scripture,” he said, quoting Romans 1:26-27 about God’s disapproval of homosexuality.

Vestry leaders of Woodbridge’s St. Margaret’s who attended the convention are trying to figure out “where we’ll go” if a schism befalls the Episcopal Church, the American branch of the global Anglican Church.

The summit of presiding bishops with the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams, at the Lambeth Palace is expected to produce a course of action that may draw inspiration from the AAC’s action document “A Place to Stand” fleshed out last Wednesday in Dallas.

Participants in Dallas, said Guernsey, were encouraged by the groundswell of support from Episcopalian members, seminarians, ministers and by the outreach of fraternal Christians such as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who as the emissary of Pope John Paul II wrote to the Dallas conferees urging them to stand together in “unity and a communion of grace.”

Contrary to media reports, there was less talk of “secession” in Dallas, added Harper.” There was instead a passionate reaffirmation of faith shared together.”

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