Monday, March 31, 2008

Warning to South Dakota's Senators re: Messages from the Presiding Bishop and Episcopal Bureaucracy

The following is a message I sent to Senators Tim Johnson (D) and John Thune (R) of South Dakota on March 31st.


Honorable Sir,

You recently received a letter from Katharine Jefferts-Schori, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, in reference to global warming.

As you make up your mind on the issues, I want to alert you to the reality of this individual and the constituency she claims to represent. I think this vitally important, as your colleague Senator Obama has recently suffered embarassment by his association with an extreme religious personality.

Bishop Schori holds office in a denomination which has fallen from millions of active members to about 800,000 nationwide on most Sundays. The church has, according to its own national staff, suffered "precipitious" declines in recent years. The staff calls this downward spiral "systemic."

Here in South Dakota, the historic Episcopal Diocese has suffered years of decline, to the point that only 2,000 people attend its churches, state wide, on Sundays.

Meanwhile, Bishop Schori has made a habit of denigrating faith positions held by the majority of Christians, in the process suggesting that Roman Catholics and others lack intelligence.

Over a number of contentious issues, whole dioceses, congregations and thousands of clergy and lay people have disaffiliated from The Episcopal Church. In response, Bishop Schori is using millions of church dollars to sue dissenters, and most recently took actions which are widely interpreted as inconsistent with the constitution and canons of the church in order to eliminate bishops who are critical of the national church direction.

The fact is, she represents a very small elite within a very small and sadly declining sect. "The people" for whom she claims to speak are often bureaucrats at the denomination's New York offices. As an example, The Episcopal Church now "endorses" a radical pro-abortion group - a position that was taken by one small committee but is now stated as the position for all members of the church.

As a clergyman in the Episcopal Church for the last 20 years, and the rector of a church in Sioux Falls that has more than doubled its active membership since my family moved to South Dakota in 2004, I warn you that statements from purported leaders or official offices of the Episcopal Church should be understood as a form of activist "spam" rather than the position of any significant number of people. And including these endorsers in your decision making or statements could load you with baggage that hinders your public service.

The Rev. Timothy Fountain


Anglikitty said...

Great letter, Tim!

Also--a GREAT photo of Easter here in the frozen heartland!

Keep up the good work!

ahura said...


Glad that you are a voice in the Episcopal Church in SD. I referred some new friends to your church the other day. Doing my little part to help the faithful Anglican wing of Christianity in Soo Foo!


TLF+ said...

Thanks for the encouragement... and the referrals! Shel, entrusting souls to my care is about as high a compliment as you can pay. Bless you - and bless your church's effort to honor all Christian work in our fair city.

I do believe that the Anglican tradition has some valuable contributions to make to the broader Christian community. Most Anglican ecumenical statements place us within the greater body of Christ - there should be no stylings as a "one true church" over against all others.

But current TEC leadership is claiming unique and special revelations of "the Spirit", a new found assertion of "hierarchy", and a resurgent socio-economic snobbery to say that TEC is some sort of ueberchurch. All that while every measure of vitality in the denomination is down, down, down...

I give thanks that Anglikitty had some good Easter stuff on her blog the other day, reminding us all that Christ lives and is greater than this passing crap.

Alice C. Linsley said...

An excellent letter, Father Tim. May the heed your wise advice, and pass the word.

Anonymous said...

Amen, Brother Tim. My wife and I must start back going to Church. There is hope for us apparently.

Anonymous said...


The Oblate

cp said...

Gee Tim, thanks for lighting a candle in the darkness.

TLF+ said...

Thanks, cp - it's kinda an Ephesians 5:11 thing.

Joe said...

Father Tim,

I agree that this is a great letter and serves to remind us all just how far our church has fallen. I choose to be forever the optimist and to look for silver linings in grey clouds, but the clouds that I see these days are a much darker hue of grey and are becoming ominously black. I'm having a harder and harder time finding the silver lining. But then, as Saint Luke reminded me this morning in the Daily Office reading (RCL), the angel Gabriel assured Mary that with God all things are possible. So I will keep looking. God's peace.

TLF+ said...

Thanks, Joe. And staying in the Scriptures daily is one of the only things that keeps me hopeful and moving ahead - thanks for reminding us of that. Apart from Christ, this is all just a petty little fight over club leadership. But to seek Christ in the revealed word of God transforms this whole thing - even the unpleasant experiences can be part of our preparation for "an eternal weight of glory." And who knows what God might do? As in Gabriel's message to Mary (who sure didn't have any idea about the outcome of what she was going through!), we must look to God's greatness and wait on his purposes.

David Handy+ said...

Fantastic letter, Tim+. Short, but powerful. You pull no punches, and it's fact-based.

Of course, Sen. Thune, as a conservative Republican, needs little encouragement. He won't be prone to give much credence to the PB's vapid, leftist rhetoric anyway. I assume you know he is a devout, evangelical Baptist and attends Central Baptist in Sioux Falls very faithfully most weekends (or he did when I lived there in 2005-2006).

But I don't know about Sen. Tim Johnson (who is from Vermillion I think). As a Democrat, he is more likely to be taken in by the kind of lobbying efforts shown by the Presiding Bishop's pointless letter.

Keep up the good work, my friend!
And congratulations on being hailed once again on Stand Firm as an exemplary "flagplanter." That you are, like the Marines who planted the flag at the top of Iwo Jima in WWII. Bravo!

TLF+ said...

David+ - uggh - most of the Marines who planted the flag on Suribachi were killed in action shortly thereafter, and of those who survived, only one or two went on to have relatively peaceful civilian lives. Sarah Hey is clear that "flagplanters get shot".

You'll also note that I didn't get into the global warming argument. There are good folks on several sides of that issue (real or unreal, whether or not to take action, what action to take). It is just the absurdity of TEC throwing titles around to endorse things, flying off on junkets here and there, and pretentiously presenting itself as something it is not - the church as outlined in Articles of Religion XIX:
1) A gathering of faithful people (it is an unravelling and the people left behind show increasingly little faith in God or one another)
2) where the pure Word of God is preached (TEC???)
3) the Christ-ordained sacraments are ministered (I won't even get started)