August 24, 2011

The Voice for Global Orthodox Anglicanism Is Nasty and Wrong

On July 27, 2011, The Daily Show ran a segment called “GOP—Special Victims Unit.” Among other things, this funny but disturbing piece showed clips of conservatives complaining about how they are being attacked by liberals, in the process smearing liberals with horrible epithets. In the final clip, we hear, “So vicious, it’s so mean, it’s so cruel, and I don’t hear this coming from conservatives about liberals.” To this, Jon Stewart responded,“You don’t?” He then whispered, “You should watch this show tonight.”

What brought this segment to mind was an August 19, 2011, commentary by David Virtue on his Web site VirtueOnline: The Voice for Global Orthodox Anglicanism.

Virtue begins by calling Episcopal Church clergy “inept” and charging that “the church has turned its back on its historical traditions.” He calls two bishops “extreme revisionist traitors” and describes “liberalism and revisionism” as becoming “disloyal and and [sic] damaging … to the Christian faith.” He speaks of “the deep hatred that Episcopal liberals and revisionists now have for orthodox.”

Virtue then unleashes a completely unnecessary personal attack on my own bishop, referring to Ken Price as “the allegedly meek and mild milquetoast pudgy rump provisional Bishop of Pittsburgh.”

Of course, the ironically named David Virtue does not assert that the “orthodox Anglicans” to which he gives voice are mild-mannered, righteous, and godly people, but, like the mean-spirited political conservatives exposed on The Daily Show, he deserves to be characterized, in Jon Stewart’s words, as disingenuous and un-self-aware.

Having established that Episcopalians are bad people, Virtue gets down to what I assume is the point of the essay, namely, criticizing the way the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh is negotiating with congregations that left the diocese and took parish property with them. What he says is riddled with errors.

Virtue asserts, “To date, one parish has settled and one has walked away.” In fact, two congregations have settled, and the one that “walked away” effectively settled in so doing. He then goes on to say, “A judge has ordered the Pittsburgh ACNA and the TEC Diocese of Pittsburgh to deal directly with each other and work something out.” This is completely false. Judge Joseph James has upheld the stipulation agreed to by the Bishop Bob Duncan. The ACNA diocese has no standing in the negotiations over parish property, which is between representatives of the individual congregations and the Episcopal diocese headed by Bishop Price. Archbishop Duncan might wish to insert himself into these negotiations, but he has no basis on which to do so. Accusing Bishop Price of implementing a “divide and conquer approach” is so much sour grapes.

What Virtue is most upset about, it would seem, is the prospect of agreements that allow a congregation to retain—which probably means buy, rent, or lease—its property only if it disaffiliates from ACNA. Thus far, only St. Philip’s, Moon Township, has negotiated such an agreement, and it apparently did so without undue psychological distress. Because negotiations have been very secretive, I do not know if the diocese intends to link property retention with disaffiliation across-the-board. I would assume, however, that this is a decision the Episcopal negotiators will address on a case-by-case basis. There would seem to be no reason to link retention and disaffiliation in a case where, for example, the building is in poor shape or is badly located. (Arguably, many churches of the formerly united diocese are badly located.)

Although I have every reason to believe that the presiding bishop is not dictating the diocese’s negotiating strategy—Virtue believes that she is— Katharine Jefferts Schori made a strong case for linkage when she answered questions from the floor at Trinity Cathedral on April 19, 2011. She spoke of the need to be good stewards of church assets and observed, “We can’t sell to an organization that wants to put us out of business.” I believe that statement is actually a bit stronger than the official position of the diocese, but perhaps not by much.

I spoke the other day to one of the conservative priests who stayed with The Episcopal Church. The priest indicated that not all of the conservative priests of the diocese are in quite the same place regarding property negotiation, but that there is little sympathy for simply giving away property, whether literally or virtually. What those in the ACNA diocese seem not to understand, I was told, is that theology is a matter apart from the property issue. Conservatives in the Episcopal diocese are not in favor of giving away property simply because they agree theologically with many former colleagues in the Anglican diocese.

Virtue concludes his essay by calling Bishop Price “Hardball Harry” and saying, “You gotta figure that the telephone wires between 815 2nd avenue (TEC’s HQ) and downtown Pittsburgh have been running hot all week. Can one see the sticky fingers of Katharine Jefferts Schori all over this one?” In fact, the diocesan offices are no longer in downtown Pittsburgh, and no, you can’t.


  1. I believe when conservatives refer to Katherine as meddling and making sure that no church is sold to ACNA, they are referring to comments made during her testimony and others in the Virginia case. Too late tonight to find the citation, but I believe that is where it comes from, especially as news of a church (Matt Kennedy's??) being sold to Muslims was news at about that time.

  2. David V. has an obsessive in my view, need to be the victim of a grand conspiracy. And for reasons I will leave to the psychoanalysis pros to discern, he has focused that conspiracy on the presiding bishop. So, his latest diatribe while nasty and wrong is hardly surprising.

    The Chapman strategy has failed. It has failed because the conspirators (given the existence of the Chapman Memo we know that conspiracy exists) massively over estimated the support from laity they could garner and because the courts have cut through their specious arguments and awarded the property to the owners.

    When one sets out to commit theft by litigation because God is on one's side, it is best to be sure. In the event, God does not seem to be where they put her and judges can and do both understand and resent being used. Virtue's rant is the death scream of a loosing strategy.


  3. "God does not seem to be where they put her"?

    Now there's an interesting thought.

  4. Lionel, it appears that one positive outgrowth of this debacle is that the bloggers in pittsburgh seem to have become more cordial to one another. I think that's the only way we'll ever get anywhere (even if it's to go our separate ways) with the current conflict. In that regard I'd like to comment on the following statement and see if we can continue to speak honestly and cordially. You said, "What those in the ACNA diocese seem not to understand, I was told, is that theology is a matter apart from the property issue."

    I would contend that in fact it is impossible to separate one's deeply held theology and doctrine from how one treats other people even in fiduciary matters. That isn't to say, for instance, that everyone who agrees Jesus is Lord also agrees in drilling for oil in Alaska - we're not all in lock step, thank God, but the point is, there's something deeper driving the fiduciary decisions being made in the Tec camp and it seems to be more than "good stewardship of resources."

    I think the Presiding Bishop understands the deeper issues when she says "we can't sell churches to people (ACNA)who want to put us out of business." It seems to me that if two church entities hold to the same theology they would not consider one trying to put the other out of business. Please note at this point I'm saying who holds to what theology, nor am I even saying which one is right or wrong, only that it appears the two sides are different, and that difference seems to be the driving force in this whole matter. My reason for thinking this is simple. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that if the "conservative" Christians that I've known for many years who are now in Tec were in charge of this property settlement it would have been settled "amicably" a long time ago. Not because they are any less fiduciary responsible than whoever is running the show now, but because they operate from a place more consistent with the theology of most of us in the ACNA. Again, I'm not saying whose theology is better (I don't pretend to know what everyone in Tec believes), only suggesting that if we could take this conversation into the theological arena we might discover that the "fiduciary decisions" being made about property are being driven by a deeper issue which might be theological. That, I feel, is where the real issue resides.

  5. Fr Joe,

    I find your speculation interesting, but it is only speculation. I probably know the conservative clergy in our diocese less well than you do, but it has been reported to me that they aren’t as disposed to “amicable settlement” as you suggest.

    We really won’t know, will be, unless they actually tell us.


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