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Open Letter to the
Archbishop of Canterbury

Once the election of gay canon V. Gene Robinson as bishop coadjutor of New Hampshire was approved by the Episcopal Church’s 74th General Convention on August 5, 2003 (see Positions on the Election of V. Gene Robinson), the conservative American Anglican Council began to implement its plan to take over the Episcopal Church. Any objective analysis of the situation can only conclude that, having failed in this and previous attempts to move this mainline church sharply to the right through democratic means, a group of Episcopal bishops has decided to stage a coup d’état. According to the ACC, a group of “bishops, clergy [sic] and lay leaders” will meet in Plano, Texas, on October 7-9, 2003. (Plano is in the Diocese of Dallas, headed by AAC founder, the Rt. Rev. James M. Stanton.) The meeting is apparently designed to rally the troops and bring pressure on the Anglican primates, who meet in an extraordinary session in London, called by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams for October 15-16, 2003. Special diocesan conventions are being called in the dioceses of bishops participating in this scheme. These conventions are being called upon to pass resolutions repudiating the actions of General Convention on Gene Robinson and on the blessing of same-sex unions. Additional resolutions seem to vary by diocese, perhaps in response to their differing compositions and canons. Reports on these special conventions will be made at the Plano meeting. The most radical set of resolutions seems to have been advanced in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, headed by the Rt. Rev. Robert W. Duncan, who spearheaded the effort to deny Gene Robinson his episcopate.

Bishop Duncan’s plans are being opposed by an organization of Episcopalians from across the diocese called Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh (PEP). PEP grew out of an ad-hoc group that opposed the so-called Resolution One of the November 2002 diocesan convention. That resolution seems to have been intended as a warning to General Convention, but the latest six resolutions, of questionable legality, seem designed to facilitate the absconding with church property by conservative congregations. The AAC has encouraged its supporters to write the Archbishop of Canterbury, and PEP, in its multi-pronged plan to maintain church unity, has encouraged its members and supporters to do the same. My letter to Rowan Williams, which benefited from edits suggested by PEP members and others, is reproduced below.

— LED, 8/31/2003 


August 28, 2003

The Most Rev. and Rt. Hon. Rowan D. Williams
Archbishop of Canterbury
The Old Palace
Canterbury, Kent CT1 2EE

Most Reverend and Dear Sir:

I am a faithful Episcopalian, one who chose his church—I am a former Presbyterian—for the beauty of its liturgy and music and for its lack of obsession with dogma. The Episcopal Church, USA, is governed in a most American way, one particularly suited to our national character and one often seen by outsiders as especially courteous and respectful to all persons and opinions. That polity and the inclusive nature of the Episcopal Church is now threatened by a small dissident group of its bishops who arrogantly assert special knowledge of God’s truth and demand that their opinions prevail, even though those opinions have been expressly rejected in scrupulously fair and regular votes by General Convention, the deliberative body that governs the Episcopal Church, USA.

The dissident bishops, including, sadly, my own bishop, the Rt. Rev. Robert William Duncan, have repeatedly failed to assert successfully their narrow view of scripture and revelation. They have increasingly turned to both ecclesiastical and secular courts in their quest for power, and they now seek to employ the Anglican Communion, not in its traditional collegial and advisory role, but as a weapon to be wielded against their theological opponents. In this plan, they have naïvely joined forces with domestic political reactionaries whose goal is to remove people of faith from the discussion in the public square of issues of social, economic, and environmental justice; and they have curried favor with foreign prelates and archbishops who, for their own reasons, have encouraged these bishops in their heedless rush to schism.

Episcopalians now look to you, your Grace, to prevent a catastrophe from befalling Anglicanism in America. We pray that you will counsel tolerance, love, and fair play, and will not, through inadvertence, encourage intolerance, rancor, and rebellion. Should the dissident bishops gain through guile and flattery that which they have been unable to earn through legislative action, the inevitably resulting internecine warfare among American Anglicans will consume the wealth, energy, property, and moral authority of those on both sides of the ensuing divide.

Anglican provinces in the West have, I believe, a special role within the Communion. They necessarily must formulate Christian responses to the needs and challenges of diverse, technologically sophisticated, and socially complex communities, providing, thereby, a beacon, not only to those communities, but also to fellow Christians in cultures that, only in the future, may themselves be confronted by similar necessity. This process is guided, I believe, by the Holy Spirit, and, though subject to missteps, will eventually find the path to which the Holy Spirit is leading us. To fail to seek this path until all provinces are ready to join us in the search or to deny that the Holy Spirit has anything more to teach humanity would be to consign Anglicanism to a medievalist museum of quaint historical artifacts. Unity within the Communion must not prevent churches like the Episcopal Church, USA, from playing their special role. Church unity requires neither mindless conformity nor narrow legalism, a principle, I pray, that you would urge upon your primate colleagues.

Trusting in your love and wisdom, I am ever

Yours in Christ,
Lionel E. Deimel
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania

Compass rose of Anglican Communion

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