Tuesday, January 26, 2016


Andrew C. Pearson, Jr. is the dean of the cathedral church of the Advent in Birmingham and has been for the last two years. As I see it, he has embarrassed his bishop. He has embarrassed the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama.

The embarrassment came in response to the primates' meeting two weeks ago. As we all know, many American bishops sent out pastoral letters to their dioceses giving their thoughts about the gathering and its infamous statement punishing the Episcopal Church. Bishop John McKee Sloan (Kee Sloan) of Alabama issued a letter to the clergy of his diocese on January 14, 2016. It was immediately posted on the Internet and was included in Episcopal Cafe's round-up of bishops' responses ( www.episcopalcafe.com/episcopal-church-bishops-respond-to-primates/ ). Sloan's key phrase was:

it is discouraging that the Primates have decided that they      need to essentially put The Episcopal Church on a sort of probation for three years, as described in the next to last paragraph.

Sloan went on to say he had no idea where all this was leading.

The next day, January 15, Pearson issued "Letter to the Parish on the Primates' Statement 2016." This was posted on the Advent's website for all to see ( http://adventbirmingham.org/24930-2/ ). Pearson wrote:

Our bishop, Kee Sloan, has released a statement in response to the primates' press release (see below). His statement does not represent my position. It must be said that the primates have not placed the Episcopal Church in this position; we have placed ourselves there. We are the cause of disunity, not the rest of the Communion.

Thus, Pearson directly contradicted his bishop.

Pearson went on:

I have written our bishop stating clearly our position at the Advent and our need to differentiate ourselves from the decisions and actions of the Episcopal Church. I have called on Bishop Sloan to take a position of leadership in this process. I pray that he leads us in acts of repentance for following unbiblical teaching and causing deep disunity in the Body of Christ. That is what is required for reconciliation to occur in the Anglican Communion.

Pearson knows very well Bishop Sloan's positions. After General Convention approved the blessing of same-sex unions, Sloan set up a committee to carry that out in the diocese. After the 2015 approval of same-sex marriage, Sloan announced Alabama would have the same. Pearson is entitled to his opinions, but he knows very well what the policies of the diocese are.

Some of Pearson's language is eerily reminiscent of South Carolina. For instance, "differentiate" was a code word for schism. Earlier in his letter, Pearson had reiterated the ultra-conservative talking point that TEC's approval of Gene Robinson caused all the trouble:

In truth, communion was broken in 2003 with the election and consecration of Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire (Bishop Robinson was the first openly practicing homosexual to be made a bishop in the Communion). In 2003, the Episcopal Church made the decision to walk apart and has reinforced that decision when given the opportunity.

Nonsense. In the first place, the primate of Rwanda had invaded the US (Anglican Mission in America) before Robinson. In the second place the "walking apart" was done by the equatorial African bishops who cut off communion with TEC and then formed GAFCON in 2008 and recognized an anti-TEC proxy in the US in the form of the Anglican Church in North America. To say that Robinson caused all this is like saying the election of Lincoln forced the South to start the Civil War. In fact, the secession convention in SC cut off ties to the US, the Confederacy formed, and their forces attacked Ft. Sumter starting the War. It is absurd to say that Lincoln's election caused the Civil War just as it is ridiculous to say Robinson forced the schism in the Anglican Communion. In fact, GAFCON made the schism in the Anglican Communion.

Turns out that Pearson has quite a record of criticism of the reforms of the Episcopal Church himself. In my manuscript I first encountered him in January of 2004 when he was about 22 years old. Here is that paragraph from my manuscript of Ch. 2 (minus the footnotes):

Energized by the roaring success of its 7-9 October Plano/Dallas conference, AAC [American Anglican Council] pressed ahead its right-wing counter-revolution in new landmark rallies in January of 2004. On January 9-10, it held "Plano East," or, a near replay of the first Plano meeting in October. Once again, the faithful poured out in force as some 2,000 conservatives converged on Hylton Memorial Chapel in Woodbridge, Virginia, a megachurch located 20 miles south of Washington, D.C. The theme was, as before, to prepare for the coming "realignment" of Anglicanism in America. As to be expected, the tireless Kendall Harmon was front and center. And, this time, one got to hear him expound all morning long on the main day, the 10th. At 9:15 a.m., he gave a talk "Anglican Essentials." At 10:00, he joined an hour and a half panel on "Latest Developments & The Emerging Realignment." With him were other important AAC voices Martyn Minns, Diane Knippers, Hugo Blankenship, and Andrew Pearson.[footnote: Pearson was "Director of AAC's Affiliates Ministry.]

The American Anglican Council, of which Pearson was a "Director," played a central role in coordinating the counter-revolution against TEC following the Robinson affirmation of 2003. AAC had been incorporated in 1996 by Diane Knippers and two others. Knippers was head of a right-wing PAC called the Institute for Religion and Democracy. IRD had been formed in 1981 in order to promote President Reagan's anti-communist foreign policy and other right-wing political agendas. It was funded by right-wing foundations and individuals. After the end of the cold war, IRD turned its focus on defeating liberalism in American life and zeroed in on three denominations: Methodist, Presbyterian, and Episcopal. If they could defeat liberal movements in those denominations they could diminish the influence of liberalism in American life. AAC was set up for TEC on the eve of a big vote in the General Convention on rights for homosexuals. In 1997 it brought together African bishops and ultra-conservative Episcopalians to form an anti-homosexual coalition for the Anglican Communion. The next year this coalition pushed through the Lambeth Conference of 1998 a statement condemning homosexuality. By the time of Robinson in 2003 this coalition had cemented. AAC also led to the creation of the Anglican Communion Network in 2003/04 to pull together the Episcopalian ultra-conservatives (ones who refused to accept the reforms for homosexuals). 10 TEC dioceses joined; and 5 of them went on to vote to break away from TEC. SC was one of the five.

After Pearson finished seminary at Oxford, he was hired as an assistant at St. Helena's in Beaufort (2007-2011). His mentor there was the rector, Jeff Miller, one of the most influential clergy in DSC in the run-up to the schism. In the circuit court trial of 2014, Dow Sanderson gave testimony that Miller had said the diocese had chosen Mark Lawrence as bishop in order to lead the diocese out of the Episcopal Church. While in SC, Pearson played no small part in the life of DSC. He sat on the Diocesan Council from 2008 to 2011. In 2009, he was chair of the resolutions committee for the diocesan convention. The committee presented resolutions that were passed favoring the Anglican Covenant and the "uniqueness of Christ" (thinly disguised strike against the Presiding Bishop who had given an interview supposedly questioning that concept). Even more importantly, Pearson was a member of the 2011 diocesan convention's Committee of Constitution and Canons. That convention voted to remove DSC's accession to the canons of TEC. This, in effect, was schism against TEC, but TEC took no action at the time. All dioceses of TEC are specifically required to accede to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church.

Pearson went on to become an assistant to the Dean, Frank Limehouse, at the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham in 2011. Since he transferred out of DSC a year before the schism, he was not suspended from Holy Orders the way 103 other clergy of DSC were after the schism of 2012. Limehouse had been another SC transplant to AL. By the time Pearson arrived, Advent had moved from the mainstream to the Evangelical edge of TEC. Pearson was named dean in January of 2014. (see resume: www.contentedits.com/img.asp?id=29162 ).

We know that the post-schism DSC sees itself as on a mission to save true Anglicanism from the heretical Episcopal Church. At last year's diocesan convention, Lawrence talked of expanding into nearby areas. Since DSC has refused to join any larger group, as a province of the AC, it is free to do as it pleases. A state supreme court ruling favorable to DSC would certainly be a big boost to any idea of expansionism. The Episcopal bishops of the southeast had better be paying attention. Another evidence for this theory of expansionism is the fact that last year, DSC flatly turned down TEC's offer to give the local parishes their independence and property free and clear in return for the legal rights of the diocese. This deal would have severely diminished DSC's institutional power.

Everyone should understand that the Diocese of Alabama is solidly in the Episcopal Church, thanks to the great leadership it has had for many years. Sloan's revered predecessor, Henry Parsley, was a model of judicious and loyal churchmanship. Too, Alabama is committed to the whole Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church including the Dennis Canon. Thus, no one should have any illusions about creating schism in Alabama or leading any parish out of the diocese. 

In my opinion, Pearson owes Sloan an humble apology. He, as all clergy, owes the diocese of Alabama allegiance. He, as all clergy, owes the Episcopal Church loyalty. Ordination oaths are binding.

Having studied SC, I can tell the people of Alabama, schism is the last thing you should want. It would destroy the great diocese of Alabama just as it has the grand old diocese of South Carolina.