Fr Stephen Smuts

Posts Tagged ‘Schism

Breakaway Presbyterian Churches Pass 100 Mark

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File:ECO Logo.jpg

A conservative Presbyterian breakaway network of churches founded as an alternative to the more liberal Presbyterian Church (USA) has passed the 100-membership mark, the Christian Post website reports today (January 14, 2014).

Founded just two years ago, the Evangelical Covenant Order (ECO) of Presbyterians passed the milestone late last year and continues to add more congregations this month.

In an announcement recently sent out to supporters, ECO hailed the passing of the 100-church mark as a “milestone.”

Church officials said they recently added four more churches to the network and added, “Welcome to these new ECO churches. We praise God for His Faithfulness and look forward to growing together in 2014!”


Wikipedia has more on ECO here.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

January 15, 2014 at 14:22

The Russian Veto Against Francis and Bartholomew

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The embrace between Rome and Constantinople is renewed. But a document from the patriarchate of Moscow freezes the discussion between Catholics and Orthodox on the powers of the pope over the universal Church…

Read on here.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

January 8, 2014 at 22:49

Why Conservative Anglicanism is Doomed

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On Friday, the Anglican Church announced that the next Archbishop of Canterbury would be the current Bishop of Durham, Justin Welby. This appointment is important, since the Archbishop of Canterbury is the highest-ranking bishop within the Anglican Communion. Archbishop-elect Welby is a complex man: he’s an Evangelical with an admiration for Catholicism, and a traditional-minded bishop who supports women’s ordination.

In a way, he reflects the complex situation that the Anglican Communion finds itself in. The Communion has two major factions. The liberal wing is pushing for women’s ordination, church blessings of same-sex relationships, the ordination of practicing homosexuals, and in some cases a rejection of the inspiration of Scripture and the historicity of the physical Resurrection. Meanwhile, there’s a conservative Anglican wing that’s fighting against all of these things, and trying to preserve what remains of Anglican tradition.

Unfortunately (and genuinely, I say this with regret), I believe that the conservative wing is doomed for failure. Conservative Anglicanism will either cease to be Anglican, cease to be conservative, or simply cease to be. As a movement, it is unsustainable, for the following reasons:

You can read those reasons here.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

November 13, 2012 at 20:52

Hepworth Redux

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A day ago someone in Australia who goes by the name ‘Jay Walk’ (no, that’s not Gay Walk) has conveniently uploaded a video which has been entitled: Traditional Anglican bishops sign Catechism Catholic Church Portsmouth UK October 2007.

Deborah Gyapong has today conveniently put it to good use, setting the stage for yet another blog post forming part of her ongoing series of  posts coming out in defence of Archbishop John Hepworth. Her blog remains the only sanctuary left for him on the blogosphere. Her loyalty, albeit so misplaced, is most admirable. Me? I’m tired of fighting the Hepworthian PR machine… All the lies that are so quickly and easily spread, half-truths, deceit, conduct unbecoming, schismatic behaviour, slander, an unwillingness to repent, collusion, failing to admit any accountability, the refusal to work with fellow Bishops, running off to the secular media (or anyone else who is willing to listen), endorsing Slipper, making unsanctioned press releases, using the TAC as a bargaining tool to orchestrate his hoped for glorious return to the Catholic Church, not following through on his own word, the promises (is he a Catholic layman yet, and if not, why not?), the arrogance, the self-pity… It has been a long and taxing fight that includes:

There’s so much more. It has, indeed, been a long, sick and sordid story. Unchristian. So what, I must ask, is the point Deborah? Archbishop John Hepworth has been charged and found guilty, sanctioned by a Church (TAC) that he in any event does not want to be in. What more is there?

It’s time, I’d suggest, to look forward. You have an Ordinariate. You are part of that. Those who wanted to go went. Others stayed. Why still bother with the TAC and her internal processes? Why the bitterness?

Not so long ago, I said:

The Archbishop is media obsessed and sadly has become somewhat infectious. Someone who is in error and is to be avoided as such.

And Fr Robert responded:

… this man [Hepworth] and issues should be a “dead” subject, lets all move on now.  The Lord will deal with him, in divine providence!

PS.  I’m only really left curious on one thing: Who is Gay Walk, oops, I mean, Jay Walk, the one who so opportunely posted the above lame, boring, soundless video to YouTube. Please, do tell us Deborah.

UPDATE:  See also, the impact of Bishop Hepworth’s handy work, here.

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

October 28, 2012 at 20:06

Episcopalians on Both Sides of the Schism Feeling the Pain

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The Post and Courier reports:

Leaders on both sides of the Episcopal split in Charleston agreed on one thing Sunday morning.

It’s a painful time for everybody.

“There is a lot of hurt everywhere,” the Rev. Michael Wright, rector of Grace Episcopal Church, told about 150 people packed into Hanahan Hall for a special forum on the recent events involving the national Episcopal Church and the Diocese of South Carolina.

In recent years, the diocese, led by Bishop Mark J. Lawrence, had distanced itself from the national church, citing the church’s liberal leanings. Diocese officials said that the national church’s “indiscriminate inclusivity” has compromised the integrity of the institution, particularly after the national body ordained an openly gay bishop and blessed same-sex marriages.

After a series of back-and-forth actions that began in 2006, the national church on Thursday sanctioned Lawrence and restricted him from exercising his ministry. On Friday, the diocese officially announced its split from the national church.

Grace, a Gothic Revival cathedral on Wentworth Street that dates to 1848, will be staying with the national Episcopal Church.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Chuck Bender, a member of Grace, said before the forum started. “Some of these people have been in these churches all their lives, and now they may have to decide if they’re going to have to go somewhere else.”

St. Michael’s, which occupies a tourist landmark at Meeting and Broad streets as Charleston’s oldest church building, is siding with Lawrence and the diocese. The Rev. Al Zadig, the church’s rector, addressed the split during the 10:30 a.m. worship service.

“I cannot underestimate how painful this is to so many of us cradle Episcopalians,” Zadig said, reading from a letter that was available in the vestibule for members and visitors. “I know several clergy who have been in tears over this.”

The fact that the break has been coming for a long time doesn’t make it any less painful, he said.

“For many years there has been a split coming in the Episcopal Church over the core issue of the authority of Scripture,” Zadig read. “Do we have the freedom to rewrite the Bible to fit social trends, or do we rewrite our hearts according to the changeless word of God in Scripture? … The National Episcopal Church is changing Scripture according to social norms and in doing so has changed the core of the Christian faith.”

Wright said the Episcopal Church has always welcomed diverse opinions, and the issue was disregarding church law.

The diocese and most of its churches quit after a disciplinary board from the national church ruled Thursday that Lawrence had abandoned the Episcopal Church. A major issue was Lawrence allowing churches to declare that their properties were no longer held in trust for the national church.

“The break is clear,” Wright said during the forum at Grace. “What that means is still being worked out.”

What’s not clear is who now constitutes the Diocese of South Carolina.

“We are the Diocese of South Carolina,” said Wright, of Grace Episcopal Church. “Nothing is changing here. … We carry on as the Episcopal Church.”

Zadig, of St. Michael’s, said those who left are still the Diocese of South Carolina.

“How will it change our life?” he said. “Not at all.”

It’s not clear what body the parishes that left the national church will join. A special convention is scheduled for Nov. 17 “to iron out the necessary changes to our Canons and Constitution, and begin to discern the best way forward into a new Anglican future,” according to a notice on the diocesan website.

It’s also not clear who will lead the churches that remained with the national body. Leaders will start working out those details this week, Wright said.

The diocese announced its break from the Episcopal Church on Friday in a half-page advertisement in The Post and Courier.

Wright said “the remaining diocese” will make a similar public statement as soon as a new leadership structure is in place.

We reported on the above yesterday on the blog.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

October 22, 2012 at 15:36

Bishop ‘Abandons’ Church Over Gay Blessing Stance

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Bishop Mark Lawrence banned as disciplinary board finds he has abandoned church because he has defied the national Episcopal Church and made state diocese his church’s authority.

Via Goose Creek Patch:

An independent news blog for S.C. Episcopalians has reported that S.C. Bishop Mark Lawrence has been temporarily banned from acting as a bishop and priest since a disciplinary board found he has “abandoned” the Episcopal Church Monday.

Subsequently, the bishop revealed that he had plans to break with the national church.

The crux of the issue is over the national church’s more lenient stance on same-sex blessings, and the ordination of gay and female clergy. In reaction to this week’s news, a special convention of members of Lawrence’s Diocese of South Carolina has been called Nov. 17 at St. Phillip’s Church in Charleston. The convention will focus on whether or not the Palmetto diocese will remain with the bishop or within the fold of the national church.

Lawrence is the state’s 14th bishop and presides over the three diocese in the state and the state’s 30,000 parishioners.

While Lawrence has refused to follow the national church’s same-sex blessings, and ordinations of female and gay clergy, the church’s disciplinary board cited three reasons that show Lawrence has abandoned the church:

  1. His support of amendments to the S.C. church’s constitution that undermines the authority of the national church at 219th Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina on Oct. 10, 2010.
  2. He oversaw the change in language for the Episcopalian nonprofit, which made the nonprofit no longer under the direction of the national church in 2011.
  3. In November 2011, Lawrence directed his Chancellor Wade H. Logan III to issue quitclaim deeds to every parish of the Diocese of South Carolina disclaiming any interest in the real estate held by or for the benefit of each parish.

The full report by the board can be viewed here.

The S.C. Episcopalians blog reported:

Lawrence has repeatedly insisted the Diocese of South Carolina is “sovereign” and the Church has no authority over him as it does other bishops. In essence, Lawrence maintains that he is not accountable to anyone…

More here.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

October 21, 2012 at 18:06

This Is Where Dissent Leads: Communion Given to the Dog

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The Age (au):

Father Greg Reynolds wants his church of dissident Catholics to welcome all – ”every man and his dog”, one might say, risking the non-inclusive language he deplores – but even he was taken aback when that was put to the test during Mass yesterday.

A first-time visitor arrived late at the Inclusive Catholics service in South Yarra with a large and well-trained German shepherd. When the consecrated bread and wine were passed around, the visitor took some bread and fed it to his dog.

Apart from one stifled gasp, those present showed admirable presence of mind – but the dog was not offered the cup!

Father Reynolds, a Melbourne priest for 32 years, launched Inclusive Catholics earlier this year. He now ministers to up to 40 people at fortnightly services alternating between two inner-suburban Protestant churches.

The congregation includes gay men, former priests, abuse victims and many women who feel disenfranchised, but it is optimistic rather than bitter.

Yesterday a woman, Irene Wilson, led the liturgy and another, Emmy Silvius, preached the homily. Two more passed the bread and wine around.

Father Reynolds – his only clerical adornment a green stole around his neck – played as small a role as he could.

Inclusive Catholics is part of a small but growing trend in the West of disaffiliated Catholics forming their own communities and offering ”illicit” Masses, yet are slightly uncertain of their identities. The question was posed during the service: ”Are we part of the church or are we a breakaway movement?”

Father Reynolds was a thorn in the side of Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart when he preached in 2010 that it was God’s will to have women priests. He resigned as Western Port parish priest last August and had his faculties to act as a priest in Melbourne removed.

He is still a priest, though now on the dole. Mary Fenelon, who usually worships in Abbotsford, comes to this Mass because ”these people are forward-thinkers, and the church is going backwards. This is inclusive and welcoming’…’

(HTFr John Zuhlsdorf)

Dissent, caused by sin, leads to disobedience. Disobedience leads to rebellion. And rebellion ends up in anarchy, a place where dogs are fed communion. Breaks in the Body of Christ, some big, some small, all through schisms and heresies.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

August 5, 2012 at 18:57


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