Friday, December 15, 2006

George Washington’s Church Leaves Its Denomination

After the American Revolution, the Anglican churches in the USA were without a denomination. Since their theological system required oversight by bishops, this meant that they couldn’t call pastors until they could resolve the rift. Such churches were run for years by the educated laity.

For Falls Church in Virginia there were more than ample resources. George Washington was a vestryman (like an elder), and the great hymnodist, George Mason was in the church. Later, Francis Scott Key often led services.

Eventually this, and other churches, became part of a denomination, now called The Episcopalian Church. But a lot has changed. Like almost all mainline denominations, the Episcopalians have abandoned the clear inheritance of scripture for the bowl of gruel that culture offers instead.

Orthodox congregations in the Episcopalian Church have struggled for years with the leftward lurch in their denomination. The elevation of an openly gay priest to bishop--in direct opposition to the instructions of the global Anglican denomination--was the final straw for many. Such folk have been seeking ways in which they can continue their tradition, remaining faithful to Scripture. For some, this meant leaving the denomination.

Shortly after the Falls Church congregation voted to disaffiliate from the Episcopalian Church, its rector (pastor), the Rev. John Yates, clearly restated what was behind their action:
"Our leaders have so devalued the Holy Scripture that they can no longer affirm essentials of the faith nor reject sinful behavior. They believe we must stay together no matter what."

For more than a year, Yates and other orthodox clergy have met with Virginia Bishop Peter J. Lee to develop a "Protocol for Departing Congregations" which would allow them to leave with their property intact if a super majority of 70% voted to exit and if each church agreed to a fee for the property, worth $17 million for Falls Church and $10 million for Truro.

However, Lee sent a chilling letter two weeks ago threatening to sue individual vestry members if they voted to leave. He cited church canons "15 times without referring to Scripture once," Yates informed his church.

Why? Lee told Yates, "We have a new Presiding Bishop who is like a new sheriff in town." Both churches note they have deeds which antedate the diocese but are asking their churches for authority to contest legally if necessary, as well as approval to leave.

As one parishoner told Yates, "I'd rather worship in a cornfield than submit to heresy."
column by Michael J. McManus
http://www.ethicsandreligion.com/current.htm Column #1320
This sad event reaffirms what the Kirk did last August. The biggest difference is that we disaffiliated early on in reaction to the presbytery’s filing of an affidavit against our property and the revelation of the PCUSAs legal game-plan. These showed that the “process” was not to be trusted.

So it was for the two largest Episcopalian congregations in Virginia—Truro and Falls Church. They entered into a long-term process with their bishop only to have the rug pulled out from under them at the last minute. With this betrayal, the congregations had no choice but to step outside the system and, thereby, their denomination.

Just like us, their title and deeds to the property pre-date the denominations' legal claims to the property. Like us, they will have to enter into a lengthy and expensive legal process to retain what they and their predecessors built. Keep them in your prayers.

Keep praying--keep the faith,
Tom

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Tom,
I just read a posting by David Virtue on his website that the church George Washington attended formally voted today to leave their diocese and The Episcopal Church. Falls Church had a 90% vote to leave and a 97% vote to retain the church property.

Another conservative church, Truro Chruch voted 92.1% to leave and 94.3% to retain their church properties.

Along with these churches, 6 other churches in the diocese of Virginia also voted to leave.

So, on this 3rd Sunday in Advent, over 4,000 Episcopalians have declared their allegiance to Jesus Christ as the sole foundation of their faith and have bolted from their liberal denomination which has drifted far, far away from the authority of Scripture.

May God pour out His spirit upon them and may He guide them and bless them as they seek to be faithful to Him and to His word and not cave in to pressure to conform to the world and its immoral standards!

Peggy Alexander

Don Hellwege said...

Tom,
I thought you would be interested in the report from a vestry meeting of one of the nearby parishes from a vestry member who has been struggling with the direction of the ECUSA.

Post-meeting:
http://llamabutchers.mu.nu/archives/209095.php

Pre-meeting:
http://llamabutchers.mu.nu/archives/208928.php

You and The Kirk are in my prayers daily.
Don Hellwege