Saturday, October 13, 2007

Bishop Criticizes Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls - his statement and the rector's response

It is very hard to reply to Bishop Robertson's attack. One the one hand, he says that traditional Anglicans are a few malcontents, and good riddance as they leave. On the other hand, he says they are devious conspirators, trying to take over the diocese and force a way of life on people. I guess that's TEC leadership - throw out a bunch of inconsistent insults and hope something sticks.

For what it's worth, the American Anglican Council letter that went out was simply an invitation to take part in the AAC as a way for Biblically traditional folks to support one another. It included FACTS, from both diocesan and TEC publications, about the terrible membership and attendance declines afflicting the church, and documented actions and statements by TEC leaders.

Comment by Bishop Robertson of South Dakota, October 12, 2007 (http://www.diocesesd.org/ click on Information Exchange):

"Some of the clergy, some lay folks as well, were upset that a letter had been mailed out from a group of folks at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Sioux Falls, asking folks to leave the Episcopal Church and join their Anglican group. The usual reasons were cited for their leaving, the issue of human sexuality, same sex union blessings, our failure to interpret scripture as narrowly as they do, and they ask all of us to consider leaving the Episcopal Church and join their splinter group. I spoke about some of their concerns in my convention address.I believe that the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) has addressed the HOB statement and finds that it has met the conditions set forth in the Windsor Report, which is the document being touted by these splinter groups as the standard for belonging to the Anglican Communion. Whether or not the Primates will follow the ACC's lead is questionable. But as I said at the convention, it doesn't matter, since the Primates do not have the authority to either ask or remove someone from being a part of the Anglican Communion. The Episcopal Church in South Dakota will continue to be the Anglican expression of faith here in South Dakota. I suppose that some folks will be unhappy with that and will likely leave us. They can do that if they wish, and they can go with my Blessing. We, the Diocese of South Dakota, will use whatever resources we have to ensure that folks at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church will be able to worship in the Episcopal/Anglican tradition as they have since that church was started. As I said at the convention, this whole splinter conversation is not about being the church, it is about power, authority, biblical interpretation or rather the holding of everyone to one interpretation, and it is about control. It is about dishonesty and it's about holding one group accountable to one standard and another accountable to a different standard.I trust that you will see it for what it is worth, an attempt to force on the good people of this diocese, a way of life in the church which is at odds with the Anglican/Episcopal tradition as they have been expressed and handed down to us in this Diocese over time. If you have any questions, please feel free to call me.I am preparing a letter to be sent to all congregations in this Diocese concerning the House of Bishops statement at the New Orleans meeting in September. It can be made available but not read from the pulpit."

+++

Comment by Fr. Timothy Fountain (posted by diocesan staff Saturday morning):

The preceding comment by the bishop is not accurate. American Anglican Council mailings are not sponsored by Church of the Good Shepherd. Good Shepherd did not pay for the mailing. The Vestry of Good Shepherd has not aligned the parish with any particular advocacy group in the church. Our financials, vestry minutes and all other records are totally open to diocesan staff at all times.

I do provide pastoral care to people who share a traditionally Biblical and Creedal practice of Christian faith. Several of them have been told to "keep their views to themselves" in other congregations of this diocese. The Presiding Bishop recently stated that the church needs "all of its voices" - that is not the actual practice in many settings.

Prior to convention, the diocese provided a list of congregations that don't turn in annual reports, lists of convetion delegates and other requested documents (I would add to this parishes which now ignore requests for letters of transfer). Good Shepherd holds to a much higher standard of honesty and cooperation than many congregations in this diocese. It is unfortunate that the bishop has characterized Good Shepherd in uncharitable and unflattering terms.

24 comments:

kendall said...

It is disappinting to see so many basic factual errors in a communication from a Bishop.

For example, he says: “the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) has addressed the HOB statement and finds that it has met the conditions set forth in the Windsor Report...” No--sorry.

It is the Joint Standing Committee of the ACC and the Primates, even though the House of Bishops themselves ONLY invited the Primates Standing Committee to come with Rowan Williams. This is not the whole ACC.

The report concludes there is a moratorium on same sex blessings when there isn’t. How can he rely on a report which Gene Bobinson says is a misinterpretation, and which numerous Bishops communications since New Orleans have made clear is the case?

Never mind that no one asked for a report.

My goodness.

cp said...

It is unfortunate that the bishop has characterized Good Shepherd in uncharitable and unflattering terms.

Is this happening in a vacuum? Can you think of anything that may have caused such a characterization to be put forward? It is hard not to characterize Good Shepherd's vestry and priest as not being supporters and allies in the cause of AAC.

I have never asked anyone to keep their opinions to themselves in my short time (not quite ten years now) in the Episcopal Church. As a matter of fact, I encourage dialogue. That does not mean we all have to agree. But it does mean we can continue to learn from each other.

As long as we both remember that this requires that we both talk and listen.

Anonymous said...

What a bizarre and rambling and confused attack from the bishop.

Kendall Harmon has done an excellent job of responding to the bishop's basic and startling confusion regarding the rather transparent distinctions between the ACC [an Instrument of Unity of the Anglican Communion] and the Joint Standing Committee of the ACC and the Primates [a committee that is not one of the instruments of unity].

But this line also is quite odd . . . "asking folks to leave the Episcopal Church and join their Anglican group."

HUH? The American Anglican Council is not a church or alternate ecclesial body. It's simply a body that organizes Episcopalians and Anglicans into support groups. There is no need in the least for a traditional Episcopalian to "leave the Episcopal church" in order to involve themselves in the AAC.

I should think that the good bishop of South Dakota would be thrilled to have groups of concerned and saddened traditional Episcopalians in his diocese involved in a fellowship and action group like an AAC chapter. This is a good thing, and I've found generally keeps people involved, active, together and *in* the Episcopal church. The fellowship involved in gathering together groups of like-minded Episcopalians is a heartening thing.

I would bet that that mailing has already received some responses.

It appears that the bishop's hope is that his traditional Episcopalians should depart his diocese. What a sad and non-pastoral response from the bishop.

God help the traditional Episcopalians in the diocese of South Dakota to find one another and support each other, since it does not appear that you will have any such support from your non-shepherd of a bishop.


Sarah

Anonymous said...

I am curious. Is there a mailing address for folks who don't have email who wish to be included on future South Dakota AAC mailings?

MWN said...

Pants on fire my dear former-bishop. Pants on fire.

Anonymous said...

I have to leave an anonymous comment, which is against my principles, because I would be too easily identified... This happened to me and my vestry when we attempted to explore the American Anglican Council. The bishop was quite "put out" with us. He had managed to string together myriad false statements and assumptions and we were "hit-up-side-of-our-heads" into obedience. His successor is a so-called "Windsor Compliant" bishop, however he's just as adamant about not joining (or allowing anyone to join)... You're in my prayers.

Ralinda said...

Well the bishop is sort of correct. It's about power and control. And it's about an attempt to force on the good people in TEC a way of life in the church which is at odds the the Anglican/Christian tradition as it has been expressed and handed down to us over time. He just isn't seeing who the culprits are very clearly.

NORTHERN PLAINS ANGLICANS said...

Address for AAC/SDK:
P. O. Box 90203
Sioux Falls, SD 57106-0203

Anonymous said...

As a member of Good Shepherd, am I shocked at the Bishop's response...well, duh! No. This man has always been hostle to Good Shepherd and other churches in South Dakota. Good Shepherd lost two wonderful priests before Fr. Tim due to the "power-hungry" narrow mindedness of Bishop Creighten Robertson.The wonderful thing is, Good Shepherd keeps coming back. We're like the Phoenix..we will keep rising. I am part of the Anglican group that worked so hard to inform this diocese of what is happening in South Dakota and TEC. My husband and I will proudly stand next to the people who signed that letter.

Scott said...

For the record: I am a co-signer of the letter that went out. No funds from any Episcopal Church were used in any way to send this letter. No Episcopal Priest had anything to do with the construction and mailing of the letter. The letter was not even printed or assembled on any Episcopal Church property, but in a private home. I am not a member of the congregation at Good Shepherd, nor have I ever been. The South Dakota chapter of the American Anglican Council has members in every part of this state, not just the congregation which took the brunt of the bishop’s attack.

The bishop is obviously confused, and does not have his facts straight (it seems he does not even know the difference between the American Anglican Council and the Anglican Consultative Council). Due to his unwillingness and inability to communicate, he has issued a rather poorly constructed and unwarranted rant against a priest and a parish...which as I understand is VERY committed to this diocese and the Episcopal Church.

If you read the letter, there is no attempt to steal membership away from the Episcopal Church. From the incredible and absolutely FACTUAL decline in membership and attendance in this diocese over +Creighton’s’ tenure, we are simply reaching out to a group of potentially disaffected Anglicans/Episcopalians. Reaching out to those who have left is something that +Creighton has not done (and I am speaking to this personally), and now by his own words will not do with anyone.

Read the letter we sent (not the bishops’ interpretation of the letter we sent). Now, read the bishops’ letter. Reach your own conclusions once you have all of the facts.

This diocese has been very good at keeping ALL of the facts of what is happening throughout the church from the members. The letter introduces a few of these facts…which, I believe is part of the modus operendi….and therefore the reason for +Creighton’s anger. But, that’s my opinion.

Scott
Sioux Falls

Dave said...

Anonymous, could you possibly share what diocese you're in--I know you don't want to share your name, but knowing your location might help the people who are keeping track of the persecution going on. Thanks

Curtis Price said...

My husband and I will proudly stand next to the people who signed that letter.

Please sign your post then. It's hard to be in dialogue with someone who doesn't even use a handle on the web, much less a real name.

Anonymous said...

CP writes: Is this happening in a vacuum? Can you think of anything that may have caused such a characterization to be put forward? It is hard not to characterize Good Shepherd's vestry and priest as not being supporters and allies in the cause of AAC.

CP, maybe you know the rector and vestry at GS better than I do, but as a member of that parish, I can say that these are not at all the first descriptors that would come to mind. The rector is not pounding the pulpit about the AAC. In fact, I have very rarely heard him mention it.

What does he talk about then? He talks about the Gospel; he preaches exegetically (and I do mean that - he scrupulously avoids eisegesis) from the lectionary; he teaches us about the liturgy and the Anglican tradition. I've been an Episcopalian for nearly four decades, I've spent much of my professional life studying theology, and I've got to tell you, his is some of the best preaching I've heard. A big part of that is that he is not evidently using his sermons for political ends. He seems to take his job as pastor seriously.

So when our bishop writes a broadside against our congregation, we're left wondering: what else do you want from us? If we have done something wrong, come and tell us - don't slam us backhandedly in public. If we need correction, then please come and correct us, and be a bishop to us. We are and remain Episcopalian, after all. Are we narrow-minded? Then come and preach the Scriptures to us and broaden us. Are we power-hungry? Then come and model humility and meekness for us. Are we out of step with Anglican values and traditions? Then help us to see that from the history and texts of our church. But do not expect us to be content with trendiness and slogans, and do not expect us to feel encouraged, blessed, or assisted by unkind words, mischaracterizations, or by strange attempts to pigeonhole our vestry and priest who are, in my humble estimation, doing precisely what they ought to be doing.

Laocoon said...

Curtis Price,

I agree with you - it would be better to be able to speak face-to-face, or at least name-to-name. Online it's easy to get nasty or overstate one's case.

But I wonder if maybe the reason some folks don't want to use their names is the fact that our church has been suing vestry members when parishes have tried to leave. I'm sad to see the parishes leave TEC and I'm sad to see the lawsuits happen, but I know that were I a vestry member of a conservative congregation, I'd get a bit of personal liability insurance and I'd avoid leaving a paper trail.

I'm not a vestry member, but for other reasons I remain - as respectfully as a nameless person can - anonymously yours.

Blessings on you, CP, and on all of my other siblings in Christ who're logging in here.

Anonymous said...

RE: "It's hard to be in dialogue with someone who doesn't even use a handle on the web, much less a real name."

We're "in dialogue"?

I thought we were simply explaining where each one of us stood.

RE: "It is hard not to characterize Good Shepherd's vestry and priest as not being supporters and allies in the cause of AAC."

So let me get this straight. A rector or parish may support the AAC, which is a supporter of all things traditional in the Anglican world.

This earns them an excoriating and false publicly posted letter and a bizarre "good riddance" from the shepherd of the diocese . . . because . . . they appear as if they like the AAC. Never mind that it comes out that it was people from more than one parish who mailed the letter.

In short, the parish and rector deserve it -- the false accusations and excoriations because . . . they like the AAC.

Wow.


Sarah

Anonymous said...

dave:
West Texas

Curtis Price said...

lacoon:
our church (sic) has been suing vestry members when parishes have tried to leave.

My understanding was the OTHER way--members of AAC suing Church leaders in civil court.

Links, please? All I'm aware of is the Church is trying to keep Her real estate, under the assumption (far from settled) that the Church, not the members of a parish, owns the bricks and mortar. I haven't heard of any civil suits against vestry members that can't agree with the Church on this point. Unless of course, the Church's property has been transferred to their own bank accounts.

Please, enlighten me.

Sarah:
A rector or parish may support the AAC, which is a supporter of all things traditional in the Anglican world.

Just so you know, there are some (including myself) who absolutely disagree with that characterization.

Peace!

NORTHERN PLAINS ANGLICANS said...

curtis -

Your links are to old, settled cases, involving in one case a cluster of CT churches suing about Civil Rights claims. The MA case involved a single parish.

There is not an AAC or other "orthodox" strategy to sue TEC. Rather, TEC is budgeting money (Robert Williams, a TEC spokesman, said $1,000,000 for the coming year) to sue traditional congregations that wish to leave. And nothing comes close to the amount of money going into suing the Anglican parishes in VA - a suit in which the national church (not just the diocese of VA) is participating

I personally know that Bishop Alexander of Atlanta is suing several lay members of All Saints' Anglican, Peachtree City, GA...who left their church building and took absolutely no church property with them.

The AAC has a petition going for full disclosure on TEC's part - how much is being spent on litigation, and from what funds is it being drawn? So far, TEC has not come clean about this.

I Corinthians 6 says that lawsuits among believers are always a spiritual defeat for both sides - that is true no matter who initiates the suit. And for the diocese of SD, where ministry resources are scarce, to put "giving to the national church" as a budget priority is simply awful stewardship.

cp said...

The AAC has a petition going for full disclosure on TEC's part - how much is being spent on litigation, and from what funds is it being drawn? So far, TEC has not come clean about this.

The Diocesan budgets and the National Church budgets are public documents. I just reviewed one last weekend at Cedar Shore.

Not so much with AAC, ACN, and the rest.
Speaking of Convention, seriously it's a shame that Good Shepherd did not have a table at Convention highlighting all the good ministries that I hear about mostly through the blogosphere. I would have liked to learn more about them. You were missed.

NORTHERN PLAINS ANGLICANS said...

You were missed.

Evidently not, cp. The Bishop's statement said that clergy and laity were "angry" and that we (people, not property) were expendable and welcome to leave.

But you are correct that we have some fabulous ministries going on - wonderful stuff to share, but as we were told by a priest at last convention, we are just "lucky" because we are in Sioux Falls, which is growing. Evidently, we have no gifts, don't work hard, don't care...

And how to explain Calvary, Sioux Falls and it's plunging ASA if Good Shepherd is just "lucky"? And even though the city is growing, there are many more churches for people to choose among. Our growth, indeed, is the fruit of good ministry, offered to the Father and blessed by the grace of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

As to your criticism of orthodox advocacy groups owing some public accounting,
1. Bishop Robertson said they "are not the church", so they can't be accountable to the church any more than, say, Integrity.
2. AAC and others don't take offerings from the whole church, only their own voluntary members. TEC takes money given by its members up through their dioceses...in some cases by enforced "apportionments". TEC has every obligation to be transparent in its finances.

Look, we can go back and forth all day... the point is that you are defining "the church" by bylaws and perceived legal entitlements; the orthodox define the church by its fidelity to the whole Biblical message. It is all but impossible to come from those two places and arrive at something common.

There should have been a sane, gracious separation earlier on. I believe that the DES Pastoral Scheme provided a good "neutral corners" approach until tempers could simmer down and some mutually acceptable way forward could emerge.

It is not leadership to say, "I once took law classes - I don't have to answer to anybody." Sure, you might keep your position and some "stuff", but don't expect people to be inspired by such a message. Don't expect it to heal any wounds. Don't expect it to engender missionary effort. Don't expect it to give people an experience of God. Don't expect it to do anything but protect the titles and perceived entitlements of a small and shrinking group of people.

Curtis Price said...

the orthodox define the church by its fidelity to the whole Biblical message.

Against a self-styled "orthodox" scorecard.

Couldn't disagree more.

I find the combative rhetoric and exceptionalist theology of the ACN and AAC reflective sometimes of pieces of scripture at times, but in contrast to my incomplete concept of "the whole Biblical message."

Jesus's message and an overarching theme in Scripture, to me, is:

Get over it (your rules, your tradition, your doctrines, your divisions and lines in the sand) and get on with it. Knock it off--turn yourself around, and love one another and love God.

But I'm a liberal and a presumed theological and biblical illiterate. Sorry.

NORTHERN PLAINS ANGLICANS said...

Get over it (your rules, your tradition, your doctrines, your divisions and lines in the sand) and get on with it. Knock it off--turn yourself around, and love one another and love God.

cp - I think the first half of your definition is true of the Gospel...but only when the second half ("get on with it") is unpacked and given some clarity. Jesus is asking us to set aside many familiar, even seemingly sacred things to live as children of our Heavenly Father. Conservative as some things are at Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls, last Sunday's sermon included a Biblical critique and condemnation of racism. We all have things that need correcting - things we "need to get over." Even Martin Brokenleg takes the point of view that "Jesus comes to correct things in all cultures."

What is the "it" with which we are to get on? You cite the summary of the law - love God and love neighbor. But is God a feeling in the pit of my stomach? Is God transcendent? Does God care about us or is God uninvolved? Is God a concept or a personality? All of these and many more questions have to be addressed if we are to say "love God" - otherwise we end up loving a projection of ourselves.

And if we are to really love our neighbors, and include as our neighbors more than a small circle of relatively affluent, college educated baby boomers, we need some content to the teaching of love. If you've ever done prison ministry, you know that you are dealing with fragmented lives that need boundary and definition if they are to find grace and freedom. I was reading I Timothy 1 this morning, which is explicit about "the law" having a right place in our practice of faith.

And I have to ask, how do you present a simple Gospel of love when, on other posts, you have argued for the "lawyer bishop" position - that the church is about legal boundaries and entitlements, that the worst thing in the world is one bishop crossing the geographical claims of another? Might the response to such an institutionalist, legalistic position be, "Get over it (your rules, your tradition, your doctrines, your divisions and your lines in the sand)...?

Curtis Price said...

Conservative as some things are at Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls, last Sunday's sermon included a Biblical critique and condemnation of racism.

I applaud the effort, as the racism in South Dakota is far worse than I ever saw other places I have lived (Washington, California, New Hampshire, Central NJ)... but I don't understand... are we supposed to be impressed? Do conservatives that recognize racism get special extra credit?

NORTHERN PLAINS ANGLICANS said...

No special credit, cp. I was affirming your point that Jesus overthrows all of our "isms." Bible reading will lead people into challenging places.

My criticism of liberal protestantism is that its efforts to discredit the Bible on some points make it wholly useless. We become eisegetes, reading into it what we want to find and discarding portions we find uncomfortable.

Yesterday's lections included the teaching that "ALL Scripture is God-breathed and useful..."