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Layman's letter to Episcopal Bishop

[COMMENT:  This letter shows Michael Orcutt to have the kind of intellectual, moral, and spiritual backbone needed to fight the spiritual war in which we are engaged.  He is direct, to the point, and graceful.  He does not attack the bishop, but is clear on the issues at stake.  Pray for this kind of courage and clarity among our clergy. 

Prediction: the bishop and his supporters will find some way to never engage these issues, and Michael Orcutt will find himself under attack.  But if enough do this kind of thing, the tide will begin again to turn toward spiritual sanity.    E. Fox]

Dear Bishop Mathis,

I received the agenda for the upcoming Diocesan Council meeting yesterday and noted that the most significant events to have occurred in our diocese in recent memory are not even mentioned.  Perhaps you will discuss the departure of several priests and parishes since our last meeting in your report, but I feel it necessary to share my concerns with you prior to the meeting.

Two years ago I was a member of the Bishop Search Committee which selected you as a candidate.  One aspect of the search that dominated all other criteria was the desire to find a bridge builder, someone to bridge the growing gap between the liberals and conservatives.  That requirement was clearly expressed in the diocesan profile.  Since your installation as bishop, three parishes have left the Episcopal Church and three more rectors have resigned and taken large portions of their congregations with them.  Our discussions in this council have been few and brief with the blame always placed squarely on the departing clergy.  

As I recall the events of the past 10 months, your first visit to Christ the King Alpine, a Forward in Faith parish that does not recognize the ordination of women, you brought along Canon Jenny Vervynck as your chaplain.  I think a few rivets popped out of your bridge on that visit.  Shortly thereafter most of the congregation walked away from the parish.  Your subsequent assistance to the parish was then to provide a temporary rector who is a member of Integrity.  So much for tolerance.

In this council, you characterized your visits to St. Anne’s  Oceanside as cordial.  I wonder, then, why the bulk of the congregation felt they were under attack and spent the time in the church in prayer while you met with the vestry.  I can only assume that a few more rivets came out of your bridge on those visits because that parish soon left ECUSA.  

Exercising your leadership in the matter, you issued a pastoral directive to all rectors demanding copies of all property records and threatening instant inhibition if they so much as have a conversation about leaving the diocese.  I could hear bridge rivets popping out all over the diocese on that one.

This summer General Convention failed to pass any meaningful resolutions to satisfy the requirements of the Windsor Report.  The fact that ECUSA has been temporarily excluded from the Anglican Consultive Council (ACC) and may be permanently expelled from the Anglican Communion apparently did not matter enough.  It was clear that ECUSA is intent on continuing on the path of radical inclusion.  To top-off matters, the House of Bishops elected a new presiding bishop who embraces same-sex blessing, supported the ordination of Gene Robinson, and voted against a resolution which sought to affirm basic tenets of faith, including the authority of Holy Scripture.  The gap now widened, we now need a longer bridge.

Shortly after GC06 you joined with three other California bishops in a presentment against Bishop David Schofield alleging abandonment of communion based on actions from the San Joaquin Diocesan Convention.  I can find no theological basis for such a charge.  

A few weeks ago your wife, Teresa, posted an essay (Don’t Call Them Conservatives) on the diocesan website condemning the AAC, the ACN, and conservatives in general.  I can not conceive that she did so without your knowledge and consent.  On several occasions you have labeled the AAC and ACN as “schismatic and destructive” and as a “province in waiting”.  At the forum held at the Cathedral I heard Teresa echo those phrases once again.  As a member of a parish that recently affiliated with the ACN, I find comments of this sort very disturbing.   

Just last week I was shocked to read a letter from you in which you characterized departing priests as “Chicken Little”.  You state that the “sky will not fall on the Episcopal Church” and you may be correct.  I think more accurately that the foundations of the Episcopal Church are crumbling.  

Apparently lost in all this is a lack of understanding about what we believe.  As an orthodox, conservative Christian I have viewed the actions of ECUSA over the past few years with horror.  I see a Church that has clearly departed the traditional faith and adopted the ways of the world.  Scripture has become a handy tool to support the cause of the day rather than the final authority for living a godly life.  The Church, once a hospital for sinners in need of repentance and transformation, has become a fellowship celebrating and embracing all the perversities of the secular world.  I am a member of the AAC and belong to an ACN parish because they represent true orthodox leadership.

You were brought to this diocese to be the bridge builder, but it appears your talents are more suited for demolition.  If we are to preserve what is left, godly leadership is required.   At Saturday’s meeting, I sincerely hope you will engage in a dialogue and present a plan for the future.

In His service,

Michael Orcutt
Lay Member of Diocesan Council

CC: Diocesan Council members

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