Tuesday, September 18, 2018


Get ready, Alabama, the schismatics are on the way. On September 25-26, 2018, they will be holding a conference at Samford University, in Birmingham, and are going to tell us all about "What is Anglicanism?" I think we all have a pretty good idea of what they are going to say. We have heard it all in South Carolina.

The anti-Episcopal Church forces are making a toehold in Alabama and it is centered at Samford University, in Birmingham. Samford is an independent university historically connected to the Southern Baptist Convention. The Beeson Divinity School, at Samford, recently established The Institute of Anglican Studies "devoted to orthodox Anglicanism, the gospel proclaimed and lived by the Christian Great Tradition, the classic worship of the Book of Common Prayer, the doctrinal commitments of the Thirty-Nine Articles, and the final authority of the Holy Scriptures for faith and life." The Institute offers the Certificate of Anglican Studies that "prepares a student for life and ministry in the Anglican Church." Find more about the Institute here . The Institute has been recognized by the Anglican Church in North America as a training ground for their new clergy. It has the potential to be a seedbed for schism in Alabama. Never mind that ACNA and the other schismatic groups have not been, and certainly will be not, recognized as Anglican. To be an Anglican, one has to be in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. He has said he is not in communion with ACNA. ACNA is not part of the Anglican Communion. The only province of the Anglican Communion in the U.S. is the Episcopal Church.

The conference is set to bring together many prominent critics and opponents of the Episcopal Church from around the world. 

---Eliud Wabukala, retired primate of Kenya, has been a leader in GAFCON, the Global South, and the founding of ACNA. 

---Mouneer Anis, chair of the Global South primates' steering committee, active supporter of ACNA, and prominent defender of schism in SC. 

---Foley Beach, archbishop of ACNA.

---Ephraim Radner, theologian, academic, and prominent writer critical of TEC.

---Stephen Noll, long-time speaker and writer critical of TEC.

---Andrew Pearson, dean of the Episcopal Cathedral Church of the Advent, Birmingham.

---Others: Gerald Bray, Barbara Gauthier, John Yates III, Rusty Reno, Timothy George, and Gerald McDermott.

Find the conference schedule here .

One will note that the Episcopal bishop of Alabama, Kee Sloan, has been allotted a five minute slot for a "prayer." I am surprised they let him on the program at all.

If this anti-TEC brigade thinks they are going to establish a beachhead in AL to spread their fundamentalist, anti-human-rights kind of religion, they may have some reason to believe it. Andrew Pearson, the dean at Advent, has a history with the background of the schism in South Carolina. He was assistant at St. Helena's under Jeff Miller before going to Birmingham. See my blog piece, "Memo to Dean Pearson: No Schism in Alabama." Find it here . Even before Pearson, Advent was for years a strong conservative voice of Episcopal Church criticism in AL. This has not changed. Advent is virtually a church within a church about as distant from the rest of the diocese as possible. I expect they would secede from the union if they could take the property with them. Owing to its size (3,600 members) and wealth, Advent has a certain power in the diocese. If we look at the 2017-18 parish "covenants" of parish payments to the diocese, we see Advent's attitude. Find the table here . In 2017, Advent pledged $293,200 to the diocese. Of this, $183,543 was an undefined "restriction." Moreover, Advent reduced its pledge by $30,284.60. Under budget constraints, the Diocese of Alabama has not been able to replace Assistant Bishop Santosh Marray who left to become bishop of Easton in 2016. Sloan is now the sole bishop in one of the largest dioceses of TEC.

What is the likelihood of schism in Alabama? Highly remote. The schism in South Carolina was the work of a diocesan leadership committed to a long-term adversarial interface with TEC. They made the schism and presented it as a fait accompli to the clergy and laity who had two choices, go along with the diocesan leadership or stay with TEC. There is no such situation in Alabama and no expectation that one will develop. The "orthodox" presence in Advent seems not to be widespread. The bishop of AL and the diocesan leadership have shown steadfast loyalty and devotion to the Episcopal Church even in the most difficult days of reforms for African Americans, women, homosexuals and transgendered. Alabama has enjoyed a train of great bishops. Before Sloan was the universally revered Henry Parsley, who barely lost out to Katharine Jefferts Schori for presiding bishop in the election of 2006.

Nevertheless, every diocese ought to recognize the potential of a schism on the part of the intolerant "orthodox" church people. Every bishop should be aware of the current climate of schism. Of course, every bishop should read my history of the schism in SC.

Having studied and written about the schisms in the Episcopal Church, here is my unsolicited advice to the TEC bishops today:

---Welcome all viewpoints. Give dignity and respect to differences of opinion and insist that everyone do the same.

---Get to know your clergy and lay leaders well.

---Make it absolutely clear to everyone that you and the diocese are devoted to the Episcopal Church and you will enforce the Dennis Canon without question.

---Encourage differences of opinion but make it clear you will not tolerate treason against the Episcopal Church and the Church diocese.

---Insist that the Standing Committee and other diocesan committees reflect the diocese and remain open to all viewpoints.

---Know your enemy. The Anglican Church in North America has declared itself the enemy of the Episcopal Church. It was set up by GAFCON and the four schismatic dioceses in 2010 with the explicit mission of replacing the Episcopal Church as the legal and legitimate Anglican province in the United States. It is devoted to discrimination against homosexual persons. ACNA was the product of a movement in the 1990's called the Anglican Realignment that aimed to destroy or greatly diminish the Episcopal Church which it believed had turned heretical. While it has not succeeded in replacing TEC in the Anglican Communion, the AR has met a certain success in harming the Episcopal Church.

It appears to me that the schismatic movement in the Episcopal Church has abated. As a backlash against the TEC reforms for homosexuals, it ran from 2007 to 2012, but seems to be dying down of late. Bp Love, in Albany, appears to be resolved to remain loyal to the church even as he finds ways to cope with the unwanted reforms for same-sex marriage. Nevertheless, the possibility of schism remains, and we should all remain alert to that in Alabama and every other diocese,