Heresy better idea than schism?
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Heresy is better than schism, the Episcopal bishop of
Virginia said yesterday in a speech that gently chided church conservatives for
imperiling the unity of the country's largest diocese over the consecration of
the denomination's first homosexual bishop last November.
"If you must make a choice between heresy and
schism, always choose heresy," said the Rt. Rev. Peter J. Lee to 500
Episcopalians meeting for the annual diocesan council at the Hyatt Regency in
"For as a heretic, you are only guilty of a wrong
opinion," Bishop Lee said, quoting Presbyterian scholar James McCord.
"As a schismatic, you have torn and divided the body of Christ. Choose
heresy every time."
After delegates applauded him, he added, "I hope we
will avoid both heresy and schism."
Since V. Gene Robinson was elected bishop-designate of
New Hampshire on Aug. 5 at the Episcopal General Convention in Minneapolis, 24
parishes in the huge Virginia diocese partially or totally cut off funding to
the diocese, resulting in an immediate $257,554 drop in funds.
The diocese's 2004 budget now shows a $900,000 drop in
income from 2003 because it was discovered that 64 parishes in all would be
contributing less money, diocesan treasurer Mike Kerr said. Hearings were held
yesterday afternoon on ways to bring the budget up to $3.9 million, cutting the
deficit back to $845,203.
Bishop Lee made it clear that the spiritual heads of
churches strongly disagree with him.
"I am aware that some of our congregations are so
unhappy with my decisions at General Convention that they will not welcome my
visits to them," he said. "I remind you that Christian communities
often consist of solidarities not of our choosing. Our faith teaches that people
with who we differ often have important truths to teach us."
The bishop, who will have led the diocese for 20 years
on Feb. 11, also announced he will allow a theologically orthodox bishop to
enter his diocese to minister to several thousand conservatives who fill his
That was a key demand by the American Anglican Council (AAC),
the lead Episcopal group opposing the Robinson consecration as bishop of New
Hampshire. The AAC recently demonstrated its strength in the Virginia diocese by
attracting 3,000 Episcopalians to a Jan. 16-17 conference in Woodbridge.
But the Rev. Martyn Minns, director of the Virginia
branch of the AAC, said Bishop Lee's promise to allow a conservative prelate
into the diocese carries little weight if the bishop maintains legal
jurisdiction over conservative churches.
As for the comment on heresy, that was "doubly
condescending," Mr. Minns said. "It made light of the true pain we are
Bishop Lee also alluded to "the pain and grief
expressed by those angered by the election and Nov. 2 consecration of Bishop
Robinson of New Hampshire and by my role in that," referring to his vote in
favor of the consecration.
"And I hear the pain and disappointment of gay and
lesbian members of our diocese who are frustrated at the lack of availability to
them of rites of blessing," he added.
No churches in the Diocese of Virginia have performed
same-sex blessings, said Melinda Artman, chairwoman of Virginia Integrity, the
Episcopal Church's homosexual caucus. She said there was a "blessing"
of two men at a location outside one of the diocesan parishes.
Bishop Lee, she said, "is listening to people who
feel profound pain at this convention."
However, there appeared to be pain on both sides of the
theological divide yesterday afternoon as church conservatives and liberals
hashed out resolutions ranging from blessing same-sex unions to condemning the
pro-Robinson votes cast by diocesan representatives in Minneapolis.
Final votes will be this morning. Many argued that
church unity is more important than theological uniformity.
"The national media has staked out a death watch
for the Episcopal Church," said delegate Jay Litten from Harrisonburg.
"I think we should disappoint them."
An Episcopal monk from Mount Vernon countered by saying,
"If we take no action on [these resolutions] this year, there'll be less
people to hear that death knell."