Wed, 3 Sept., 1997

Mexican Standoff
Synod Rectors Meet with PA Bishops

From David Virtue

It was a Mexican standoff yesterday when eight Synod rectors in the Diocese of PA met with the three bishops of the Diocese to discuss their future together.

Bishop Allen Bartlett told the eight rectors that the "Parsons plan is over", that is, the fly-in visitation arrangement that Bartlett had worked out earlier in the year with the Synod rectors was now "null and void."

Those visitation rights had been agreed upon by Bartlett with the Synod rectors. In exchange for money, Bartlett agreed to stay away from the Synod parishes.  [Offering money  (I think this meant paying their diocesan assessments) to get Bartlett's support was a very unwise move, to say the least.  You cannot buy loyalty.  E. Fox.]

With the decision by the recent General Convention not to allow fly-in bishops Bartlett was now under canonical sanction to rescind the deal.

He told the eight rectors in his office, "I am demanding to come". The Rev. David Moyer, rector, Church of the Good Shepherd, Rosemont, and a spokesman for the group said; "No you can't".

After considerable debate and argument Bartlett blinked and backed off. "I am still hopeful", said Bartlett.  [COMMENT: Let him blink.  He has put himself in the untenable position for judgement day, and we need to stand firmly on Godly common sense.  E. Fox.]

There were no threats, no inhibition, and money was not discussed, said Moyer.

"We will never accept an apostate bishop," said the articulate Synod rector, "and we have no plans to stop Bishop Parsons from coming in. We pleaded with him (Bartlett) not to abandon the Parsons Plan."

Bishop-elect Charles Bennison, who was also present did not say a word, but was clearly pained by the argument. "It looked like his head was going to come off his shoulders. He looked like he was going to explode. He was not a happy camper. Clearly he had been silenced by Bartlett, " said Moyer.

Suffragan Bishop Franklin D. Turner said the Good Shepherd document made "our positions irreconcilable" and the Synod rectors agreed.

Earlier in the discussion David Moyer said he had been very supportive of a new promise. Our ESA Convention was a Spirit-led event," he told the three bishops. "Our bishops who had emerged battle weary and shell-shocked from General Convention were rejuvenated by their own ESA convention and were now ready to do battle and face whatever the future held."

"We are defending the Biblical faith of Anglicanism. We are putting our necks on the chopping block," he told the three bishops.

The Pennsylvania synod parishes represent the second largest block of ESA churches in the US. Only Fort Worth, Texas has more synod parishes.

"Our hope is that the other conservative, Evangelical parishes in the Diocese would join with us. We would stand together as a larger army in the fight for orthodoxy, because if we go down they will be next," he said.

However, there is little evidence that that is likely to come to pass. Greg Brewer, a contagious Evangelical and rector of Church of the Good Samaritan in Paoli, PA, recently wrote in his weekly newsletter to the parish that he was "choosing to move ahead with the vision God has given us without getting hijacked by the conflict that surrounds."

[COMMENT: We must indeed choose our battle carefully.  But we must choose them.  If we do not stand firm with those of like mind, we will soon find ourselves alone.  I hope that Greg will choose to stand with the ESA parishes.  David Virtue, the author of this piece is my co-author in Good and Right in the Eyes of God? and a member of Greg Brewer's parish.  E. Fox.]

"We choose to fix our eyes on Jesus. We choose to pick our battles carefully," he wrote.

But barely weeks into his new role as Bishop-elect, Bennison confronted the charismatic parish of the Rev. John Maher, at St. Mary's in Elverson, PA with his homosexualist agenda for the Diocese and met with bitter opposition from angry parishioners at a meeting following the morning service. Bennison departed annoyed and frustrated. A repetition of this can be expected in other conservative parishes.

Other Evangelicals in the Diocese include the Rev. Michael Knighton, (West Chester); the Rev. James Cirillo (Bucks), and The Rev. David Thomas (Kennett Square).

The eight ESA synod parishes who met with the three bishops included, David Moyer (Rosemont); The Rev. Phil Lyman (Huntington Valley); The Rev. Warren Shaw (Chester); The Rev. Larry Snyder (Newtown); the Rev. Bob Haskell, (Southampton); The Rev. David Ousley (East Falls, Phila.) and The Rev. Barry Swain, (Philadelphia).

Another meeting is planned Oct. 7 after the bishops have met with the rural deans and the Standing Committee to discuss the issue.

"We expect the battle lines to be drawn and the war to begin at that time," said Moyer. "It'll be a battle to the death. Jesus will be victor."


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