Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Scripture: Matthew 13:36-43 (Jesus Explains the Parable of the Weeds)
36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.’ 37He answered, ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!
In today’s gospel lesson from Matthew, Jesus explains directly the parable of the weeds in the field quoted yesterday and makes clear that if we, the faithful, listen to the Word, and if we then obey and follow God’s commands, we will be with God in eternity. These are comfortable words for me in these troubled times within the life of the Anglican Communion, and most especially in the Episcopal Church. God gave us ears with which to listen, but leaves it to each of us whether we choose to use them or not. I pray that we use them.
Lest we think that things are not happening while we await ++ABC’s report concerning the Primates judgment about TEC’s status, I include a report concerning property litigation that has been ongoing between the Diocese of Connecticut and Trinity Episcopal Church in Bristol, Connecticut. Until now, the battle has been between the Diocese and the parish, but now, the national church has intervened to ensure that the interests of the national church are addressed.
815 is Watching – – The Long Arm of TEC’s Lawyers (from Courant.com):
Church Fight Heats Up
Episcopalians Act On Bristol Parish
By ELIZABETH HAMILTON | Courant Staff Writer
November 4, 2007
A bid by Connecticut Episcopal leaders to force members of a renegade Bristol parish to vacate their church building is getting some extra legal muscle. [JR comment: interesting that the write chose to describe the parish as being “a renegade”]
The national church has filed papers in court seeking intervenor status in a lawsuit against Trinity Episcopal Church brought by the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut. It accuses the Rev. Donald Helmandollar and church leaders of trespassing on church property.
Members of the Trinity parish voted to leave the Episcopal Church last May because of disagreement over the 2003 election of an openly gay New Hampshire bishop and the church’s blessing of same-sex unions. Around the same time, Trinity members voted to join the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, a self-described mission of the conservative Anglican Church of Nigeria.
According to the lawsuit against Trinity, the property in Bristol is held in trust for the diocese and does not belong to the parish. When Trinity chose to align itself with the Anglican convocation, the lawsuit says, its members lost their rights to control the property.
Trinity parishioners and Helmandollar, who was removed from ministry by Connecticut Bishop Andrew Smith in June, insist they have the right to continue worshiping at the Bristol church.
Attorney Howard M. Wood III, who is representing Trinity, said the national church’s decision to intervene in this case is “consistent with the national [church’s] policy of looking over the shoulder of local counsel to insure that the national’s policy of no compromise and no selling the buildings to churches … is followed through.”
He also accused the national church of using the “strategy of intimidation and punishment of local church leaders” by canceling their liability insurance and suing them personally.
“It is the massive resources of the national church and the liberal diocese against the small weekly offerings of the local church, with the result that the reason the local church was consecrated – the ministry of the Gospel – suffers,” Wood said.
The Connecticut lawsuit might be little more than a distraction to the national church were it not for the wider dispute engulfing the Episcopal Church.
The church is in active litigation with approximately 25 break-away parishes around the United States over property right disputes, according to the Episcopal Church website, and is even facing the withdrawal of entire dioceses in some instances.
As has been the case in similar disputes with breakaway parishes in other states, the Episcopal Church is joining the Connecticut lawsuit to protect its wider interests, according to the lawsuit.
“The Episcopal Church’s interests are not adequately represented by the existing plaintiffs because … the Church has additional concerns that these plaintiffs do not have, including the impact of a disposition in this case on similar litigation elsewhere in the United States,” the lawsuit says.
Smith responded to Wood’s criticism Friday by saying the attorney is “conjecturing and attributing motives to the presiding bishop and the presiding bishop’s chancellor, and that’s a dangerous thing to do.”
Smith said that the diocese is “following the governance of our church” by claiming its right to the property.
[JR comment: Wouldn’t it be nice if we heard some discussion of Christian charity in these reports of Episcopalians suing Episcopalians?]
Dispute over gays splitting local Episcopalian congregations [JR comment: This headline misses the point of the principal interview and overplays the “gay issue” ]
Mark I. Pinsky | Sentinel Staff Writer
November 4, 2007
The long-simmering dispute over homosexuality in the Episcopal Church, USA, which has threatened to tear the denomination apart, is now roiling the Diocese of Central Florida.
Six traditionalist congregations here, together with two new congregations in the process of being established, are planning to leave the diocese and the denomination.
They oppose ordaining openly gay clergy and blessing same-sex unions and were outraged at the 2003 consecration of openly gay Rev. V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire.
“I believe all of the efforts we have made to change the direction of the church have failed,” said the Rev. Donald J. Curran of Grace Episcopal Church in Ocala, one of the dissident congregations.
“It became very clear to me that after the response of the House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans that no outside force was going to change the direction of the Episcopal Church,” Curran said.
“Eventually Central Florida will go the way of every other diocese in the country,” Curran said. “That is, with a new bishop it will become more moderate, and then it will become more liberal, and ultimately it will embrace the innovations of the national church. You cannot build walls high enough to keep this agenda from coming into your diocese.”
[JR Comment: I watched a video interview with Fr. Curran+ and he echoed two comments that Fr. Riley+ has made as to the real underlying issue for orthodox Episcopalians. First, it is not human sexuality and the ordination of Gene Robinson as a bishop of the church that drives orthodox protest for that is only a symptom of the real issue – – the national leadership’s consistent movement away from the authority of Scripture as the foundation of our faith and from a commitment to the belief in the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as The Way to Salvation.]
Also of Interest Concern the Central Florida Planned Withdrawals – – The Comments of The Rev. Canon Kendall Harmon, Diocese of South Carolina (part of the same article)
The split within the Central Florida diocese has national as well as international implications, according to a leading conservative strategist, the Rev. Kendall Harmon of South Carolina.
“What it shows is the degree of dislocation and alienation within the Anglican family,” he said. “People do not want to embrace the new theology that has been endorsed by the national leadership of the Episcopal Church, USA, with regard to sexuality, as well as a whole host of other issues. These individuals and parishes feel in a bind because they have confusion about denominational identity.”
Harmon, who opposes leaving the Episcopal Church at this time, said that other conservative congregations and dioceses unhappy with the direction of their denomination will face the same dilemma in the months and years ahead.
“They’re going to have find a way to differentiate themselves,” he said. “The question is, ‘Is this the right way?’ ”
[JR Comment: This is the decision that faces each of us and because we are going to have to make this decision at some point in the future, I pray that each of us will strive to become fully informed so that we can make wise decisions for the welfare of our parish.]
The Closing Message (For me, what this is all about)
“If there were any word of God beside the Scripture, we could never be certain of God’s word; and if we be uncertain of God’s word, the devil might bring in among us a new word, a new doctrine, a new faith, a new church, a new god, yea himself to be a god. If the Church and the Christian faith did not stay itself upon the Word of God certain, as upon a sure and strong foundation, no man could know whether he had a right faith, and whether he were in the true Church of Christ, or int he synagogue of Satan.”
— Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, Works of Archbishop Cranmer, Parker Society I, p 53 – Miscellaneous Writings and Letters of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, Martyr, 1556. Ed. John Edmund Cox. Parker Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1846.
Please continue to Pray for each other, for the whole state of Christ’s Church, most especially Grace, and particularly for +Bruce and for Gregg+ and Bill+, our clergy at Grace. Let us not forget that our clergy need our love and “pastoring”, just as much as we need theirs.
God’s peace, love and grace to each of you.