[COMMENT: This is a fairly accurate summary of where things have gone. Our conservative leadership has no plans for taking back the Episcopal Church (and never did). And so, as Napoleon observed, "The ultimate end of defensive warfare is surrender".
I believe the ordination of women has been a tragic error, and will continue to plague Christendom for perhaps centuries. But the theological case is clear. Sadly, not even conservative (so-called) leaders can think theologically any more.
That will change, and is changing in the younger ranks.
But there will be a long time before the massive ship of the Church begins to
turn around, to unite as one Body, and to serve the Lord as we ought.
The 1976 General Convention of the ECUSA, by a very slim margin in both the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, approved the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate. A similar decision in the Anglican Church of Canada preceded the actions of the 76 GC. (These decisions seriously damaged ongoing ecumenical dialog with both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Catholic Churches.) The Presiding Bishop of the ECUSA at the time, John Allin, made it clear that he was opposed to the ECUSA taking "unilateral" action without the consensus of Catholic Christianity, and that he remained opposed to the ordination of women. At a House of Bishops meeting following the 76 GC, John Allin offered to resign his position as Presiding Bishop because he could not support the decision to ordain women. The HOB at that time passed a "mind of the House resolution" stating that any who were opposed to the ordination of women were to be viewed as holding a valid theological opinion on same, and the HOB refused to accept Allin's offer to resign.
Shortly thereafter, around 1978, a "rally meeting" was held for Anglican-Catholics opposed to actions of the 76 GC. The numbers attending this meeting far exceeded a similar meeting of "orthodox Episcopalians" held in Plano TX following the 2003 GC. At this rally, a group emerged to represent and maintain Anglican-Catholic orthodoxy in the ECUSA. This group was known as the Evangelical Catholic Mission (ECM). At the time of its formation, the ECM boasted eleven (11) bishops, thousands of priests, hundreds of parishes, and tens of thousands of laity as members. The ECM agreed to continue to oppose the ordination of women, and refused to recognize any women so ordained. Priests were not allowed to "concelebrate" with women, parishioners refused to receive Holy Communion from women, and bishops who ordained women were avoided by ECM bishops.
Edmond Browning, Bishop of Hawaii, was elected Presiding Bishop of the ECUSA at the 85 GC, succeeding John Allin. Browning was chief consecrator at the ordination of Barbara Harris (Suffragan Massachusetts) in 1989 to become the first woman bishop in Catholic Christianity. Browning made his primary mission as Presiding Bishop to be the creation of an "all-inclusive" church in which there would be no "outcasts". He was also a very ardent and strong supporter of the PLO and Yassir Arafat.
Over the course of about ten years or so, the enthusiasm and interest initially shown by ECM began to wane, and bishops began to disassociate from the organization. In order to infuse new hope and enthusiasm, steps were taken to reorganize and re-name the ECM. The "end product" was the Episcopal Synod of America (ESA), organized in Fort Worth in 1989. In addition to continuing its rigid opposition to the ordination of women, the ESA (composed primarily of "conservative, orthodox" Episcopalians) also took a stand against the increasingly "liberal" trends being established in the ECUSA.
The ESA was formally incorporated in Texas in January 1990 by Fort Worth Bishop Clarence Pope, Eau Claire Bishop William Wantland, San Joaquin Bishop John-David Schofield, Quincy Bishop Edward McBurney, and retired Bishop of Quincy Donald Parsons. Headquarters for the ESA was established in Fort Worth TX. Bishop Pope and Retired Bishop of Fort Worth Donald Davies signed the lease for the ESA to occupy a suite of offices in the Ridglea Bank Building in Fort Worth. Bishop Davies left the Episcopal Church to form the Episcopal Missionary Church (EMC) shortly thereafter, and Bishop Pope, upon his retirement, became a member of the Roman Catholic Church, later returned to the Episcopal Church, left again, and returned again. The ESA claimed only five or six bishops as members, as opposed to the original eleven in the ECM.
Frank Griswold, Bishop of Chicago, was elected Presiding Bishop of the ECUSA at the 97 GC and succeeding Edmond Browning. And the rest, as they say, is history . . .
By 1998, the ESA had significantly dwindled in membership and support. Just prior to the reorganization of the ESA in 1999, the organization could claim slightly more than 100 parishes and only four bishops as members. Some of the parishes claiming membership as ESA parishes were affiliated with "continuing Anglican churches" such as the Anglican Church in America (ACA), Anglican Province of Christ the King (APCK), Anglican Catholic Church (ACC), Episcopal Missionary Church (EMC), and a number of other parishes were affiliated with, for example, the American Anglican Council (AAC) and the Anglican Orthodox Church (AOC).
In 1999, the ESA was disbanded and Forward in Faith-North America was created to replace same. FiF-NA headquarters remained at 6300 Ridglea Place, Fort Worth TX. FiF-NA continued to proclaim opposition to the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate, and continued to voice opposition to the liberal-revisionist stance being steadily adopted not only by the General Convention, but also by an increasing number of members of the House of Bishops, clergy, and laity throughout the ECUSA. Upon Bishop Wantland's retirement from the Diocese of Eau Claire, FiF-NA was left with three bishops as members: Quincy, San Joaquin, and Fort Worth. These bishops have steadfastly refused to ordain women or to license women to serve as priests in their dioceses - in violation of canons of the ECUSA which make the ordination of women mandatory throughout the church.
The 2003 GC voted to elevate a divorced man living in an openly homosexual relationship to the office of Bishop of the Church, and gave tacit approval to same-sex blessings as "local option" by individual dioceses. Following the 2003 GC, a rally was held in Plano TX to oppose the actions of the GC, and to organize a group that would remain opposed to revisionist trends in the ECUSA. This rally resulted in creation of the Anglican Communion Network (ACN) at a meeting in Fort Worth TX at which Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan was elected "moderator".
Originally supported by twelve bishops of the ECUSA, some of those began to withdraw as fear of a separation from the ECUSA by the ACN began to grow. The ACN, like the AAC and FiF-NA before it, has always maintained that it intended to remain in the ECUSA as a "church within a church". The ACN is composed of bishops who oppose the ordination of women and bishops who support the ordination of women; evangelicals and catholics alike. Most, but not all of the parishes in ACN dioceses have directly, or indirectly through their bishops, affiliated with the ACN.
A separate "convocation" was created within the ACN to accomodate FiF-NA members who claim to still be rigidly opposed to the ordination of women. Under a "common cause" agreement, the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC) and the Anglican Province of America (APA) became part of the ACN. However, continuing church bodies which remain opposed to the ordination of women (including the Anglican Church in America and the Anglican Province of Christ the King) have not agreed to join the ACN because the Moderator and a number of other bishops who claim ACN membership ordain and license women.
After Jeffrey Steenson, bishop-elect in Rio Grande, made a "deal" with Presiding Bishop Griswold, Griswold allowed Steenson to receive the necessary number of assents to allow his consecration over which Griswold presided. Steenson presumably remains opposed to the ordination of women, but agreed to allow women to be ordained by other bishops and to allow them to serve as priests in the diocese. This underscored the allegation that no orthodox conservative candidates would ever again be elected to the office of Bishop of the Church in the ECUSA.
In 2005, Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker (a member of both FiF-NA and the ACN) filed an appeal with the Archbishop of Canterbury's Panel of Reference concerning the treatment of orthodox Episcopalians who remain opposed to the ordination of women, claiming that such conservative-orthodox Episcopalians are being denied their rightful place in the ECUSA because of their validly recognized theological stance. +Iker has long maintained that, if the ECUSA chose to walk apart from the Anglican Communion at the 2006 GC, neither he nor the diocese would walk with them. At the same time, +Iker has repeatedly affirmed his intention to remain a part of the Anglican Communion and "in communion" with the See of Canterbury.
Now comes the news that all FiF-NA affiliated parishes, laity, and clergy have automatically become full members of the ACN, "unless they choose otherwise". In doing so, FiF-NA has set aside the founding principles of its predecessors (the ECM and the ESA) and has given tacit approval to the innovation of the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate.
The only remaining FiF-NA parishes are, for the most part, located in the Dioceses of Quincy, San Joaquin, and Fort Worth, and the overall membership has dwindled drastically over the last few years - especially following the 2003 GC. Any "gains" in membership for the ACN will be minimal at best, and nowhere near the estimates offered by Bishop Duncan.
As long as the ACN-FiF group remains in the ECUSA and under the jurisdiction of ECUSA canons, the Dioceses of Quincy, San Joaquin, and Fort Worth can no longer legitimately oppose the ordination of women. The canon on the ordination of women was made mandatory by GC, and now must be enforced in Quincy, San Joaquin and Fort Worth since those dioceses are now in full communion with ACN bishops who support the ordination of women. All continue to remain members of the ECUSA, subject to the Constitution and Canons of same.
Bottom line is that the revisionists have won a major victory - the Anglican-Catholics have finally been eradicated from the ECUSA. The only remaining orthodox Anglican-Catholics in the United States are those who are members of continuing church bodies: the ACA and APCK. Finally, the ECUSA can no longer claim to be a recognized branch of Christ's One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and will continue its descent into the morass of secular-revisionist philosophy which will result in its new identity as a minor non-Christian religious sect.
As for me and my family, we will continue to serve the LORD !
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