Diocese of Springfield Pastoral letter by Bishop Peter H. Beckwith

The PDF copy of the letter can be found here
This will be the sixth TEC diocese requesitng for alternative oversight. The

full statement

from the Standing Committee.

June 30, 2006

Dear People in Christ of the Diocese of Springfield:

It is with a heavy heart that I communicate with you through this Pastoral Letter. The 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church is history. Commentary describing it is both plentiful and varied. The Bishop of Virginia, for example, has written that "the center has held." The Bishop of Florida has said "(he is)  well pleased with (the) collective efforts at General Convention. ... These past two weeks, your Episcopal Church has attempted mightily to please God." To the contrary, many are disappointed if not embarrassed, as I am, by what happened and what didn’t happen in Columbus.  In that group, with whom I am pleased to stand, are the Bishops of Albany,  Central Florida, Dallas, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Quincy, Rio Grande, San Joaquin, South Carolina, Southwest Florida, Tennessee, Western Kansas and Western Louisiana. Many beyond our Province in the Anglican Communion have expressed deep concern about the continuing direction of our beloved but beleaguered Episcopal Church, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, the CAPA primates, the Archbishop of the Southern Cone, the Bishop of Durham (England) and the Bishop of Rochester (England).

The Archbishop of Canterbury,  himself, is quoted as saying ECUSA is in "meltdown." From my perspective that is true. Archbishop Williams’ statement issued last Tuesday morning, June 27’" is stern testimony that General Convention was not up to the task of complying appropriately with the pleas of the Windsor Report.  Though B-033 was passed at the eleventh hour, it was seen as a mere smokescreen when placed in context with the overall tenor of Convention’s words and actions. What we appear to be saying in reality is that The Episcopal Church desires to be a member of the Anglican Communion but only on its own terms. No relationship prospers under that kind of orientation.

In Columbus, the direction put forth by the 74th General Convention in 2003 was ratified and strengthened. We elected as Presiding Bishop the least qualified candidate for that office. We approved the election as bishop coadjutor for the Diocese of Northern California a priest who has been divorced twice and married thrice, again raising the question of whether our Church has the ability to identify a "wholesome example."

Very disturbing and reminiscent of the 2003 defeat in the House of Bishop of Resolution B-001, was the overwhelming refusal by the House of Deputies to consider Resolution D-058 which declared the Episcopal Church’s "unchanging commitment to Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the only name by which any person may be saved,"  and which acknowledged evangelism as "the solemn responsibility placed upon us to share Christ with all persons when we hear His words, ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6)." A reason put forward for rejection was that action had been taken at an earlier General Convention in 1982. By that kind of logic, there would be little or no reason to recite the Creed or the Lord’s Prayer on a regular basis, or, for that matter, to participate in weekly worship. An honest response would have been that we, as a community of faith, are uncomfortable with the unique salvific efficacy of Jesus Christ; and that as a Church we have adopted a Gnostic theology and a New Age spirituality; and, since relativism is the order of the day, we are unable to assent to the Lordship of Jesus and the authoritative teaching of Holy Scripture. It is unclear at what intervals the General Convention is, as a body, prepared to witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but apparently once every twenty-four years is too frequently.

Because of other actions taken by General Convention, namely the adoption of Resolutions A-067 (Rites of Passage Publication) and A-077 (Revised Common Lectionary), I herewith issue the following Pastoral Direction and Solemn Warning effective immediately:  Enriching Our Worship, issued by The Church Publishing Company, which is to include "Rites of Passage" (A-067), may not be used in worship within the Diocese of Springfield without my specific, written permission granted in advance. (Please note that my Pastoral Direction of September 5, 2003, remains in full force and effect. It provides: "No member of the clergy of this Diocese shall use any liturgy not contained in the Book of Common Prayer or the Book of Occasional Services without my express permission. This requirement for permission includes usage of trial liturgies contained in any of the publications referred to as Enriching Our Worship."). Further, I direct that the Revised Common Lectionary (A-077) may not be used in the Diocese of Springfield before the First Sunday of Advent 2010 without my specific, written permission granted in advance. In any instance where I have previously granted permission to use the Revised Common Lectionary, that permission is rescinded, effective immediately. If there arise any questions or concerns about this matter, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Finally, the Standing Committee met on Monday, June 26’" and passed the attached Resolution.  Please know, I will continue to do my utmost to fulfill the vows I took when I was consecrated as your Bishop "to guard and maintain the received teachings of this Church ..., and to continue this Diocese’s holy fellowship with the several Provinces and Primates of the Anglican Communion. …" Additionally,  I forthwith will intentionally and deliberately explore avenues for alternative primatial relationship and, as appropriate, oversight, notwithstanding this Diocese’s status as a constituent member of the Episcopal Church."

Arguably, this is the lowest ebb of our beloved but beleaguered Church since perhaps the Civil War if not the American Revolution. However, I believe the future for faithful, orthodox Anglicans currently in ECUSA hasn’t been brighter for a long time. I believe a new structure will emerge in the USA which will be in full communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the other thirty-seven Anglican   Provinces, and of which you and I would be proud to be members. I am committed to doing everything in my power to assist in that Godly effort.

Faithfully yours in Christ,

Peter H. Beckwith

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