Friday, December 26, 2003

Keeping the church together

There's a new site listed on my links -- I didn't list them just because their name is almost the same as my blog address! It's a new group called Episcopal Voices of Central Florida, formed with the purpose of "keeping unity in Christ in a changing world." They issued the following press release:


ORLANDO - A group of Central Florida Episcopalians has formed in an effort to keep the local diocese from leaving the national church.

Episcopal Voices of Central Florida is a group of lay people and clergy from all regions of the diocese, which extends to both coasts. Although group members are of differing opinions about sexuality issues now creating a rift within the church, they are dedicated to remaining in full support and union with the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

"We are mainstream Episcopalians who represent the middle ground, the place where everyone is welcome and we can find unity despite our differences," said Donna Bott, moderator for Episcopal Voices. "We oppose and will continue to oppose any attempts to take our churches, our property, our congregations, or our diocese out of the national church. Our bishop, John Howe, has stated that he wishes to remain in the Episcopal Church and we are here to support him."

Bott noted that Episcopalians have weathered other controversies, staying unified in its faith as revealed in scripture, tradition and reason.

"The current situation is polarizing the diocese and diverting its attention from such critically important issues as mission, poverty, hunger, and caring for all as Jesus commands," said Bott, a member of the diocesan board and a resident of The Villages.

Episcopal Voices formed following a September special convening of the diocese convention. During that meeting, resolutions were passed that put the diocese in a posture indicating a possible break with the national Episcopal Church, a situation that alarmed members and led to the group's creation.

"We know there are many people who don't want schism but haven't been able to find their voice. Episcopal Voices is here for everyone," Bott said, adding that the group is very enthusiastic about its mission.

"Anyone is welcome to join our group," said Winter Park attorney Chan Muller. "We represent all points of view with a common goal of staying together in Christian worship and service."

With the annual diocese convention set for the end of January, Episcopal Voices is beginning a petition drive to assure that the diocese remains part of the national church. Anyone interested in joining the petition drive is urged to contact the group's website at or e-mail directly to . You may also contact Leslie Poole at 407-647-3492.

It's going to be a tough battle. I'm guessing the Bishop's number one order of business at the diocesan convention will be an attempt to make the diocese an AAC-affiliate. It has already been announced, in fact, that our diocese, along with 12 others, has joined the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes.

Bishop Robert Duncan, convener of the new network made the announcement. He was also quoted in a New York Times article, "Thirteen dioceses are coming together to guarantee that the kind of Anglicanism that is authentic Anglicanism throughout the world is represented here in the United States and has its own voice."

Ah, yes. The one true church and spiritual leader, the AAC, not that pesky Episcopal Church of the USA, with its bunch of heretics.

Our Bishop Howe admitted to signing a "Theological Charter" for the network, but apparently Duncan jumped the gun in making the announcement, for Howe stated the bishops could not include their whole dioceses as members until diocesan committees had been given a chance to approve it. "The cart is way, way ahead of the horse, and I'm not sure it's the right cart or horse," Howe was quoted as saying in the article.

Oops, and the AAC had already gone and changed its website to reflect this new deal. Then they had to change it back. (This info thanks to my friend M who monitors all these websites and kept me up-to-date on these developments while I was working overtime the last few weeks.)

I guess the slow, parish-by-parish attempt at AAC-affiliation wasn't working out too well (not that many parishes have affiliated, even in our conservative diocese) and they decided to just go for it at the diocesan level. Too bad they have to wait for votes. I just hope our January diocesan convention doesn't go like the special convention in September, an orchestrated event with ringers placed in with the delegates to vote on such goodies as a statement of unity that left ECUSA out of the equation -- we here in Central Florida were apparently in unity with the rest of the world, but not with our own church.

It should be an interesting new year. My prayers will be that the Voices of Central Florida will be heeded at the convention, and that Howe will act as though he means what he says about not wanting a break with ECUSA.

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