Whither the Episcopal Church?


Retired Bishop Wantland of Eau Claire’s statement, in response to the recent rejection by the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops of the demands by the other Primates of the Anglican Communion is staggering:

The Episcopal Church is no longer a Catholic body. It is no longer even a Christian one. Itis simply an embodiment of a corrupt, historically inaccurate, spirit of this age. And if the Anglican Communion does not see the Episcopal Church for what it really is, even that Communion will be on its way to be a miserable footnote in Christian history.

That is more than any Orthodox speaker had to say at the recent conference on Orthodoxy for Anglicans. Kindness prevented such a statement – but it is deeply disturbing if it is indeed the case. Pray for Anglican brothers and sisters.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.





41 responses to “Whither the Episcopal Church?”

  1. Clark Avatar

    Magdalene tower from the river on the side of the botanical gardens?

  2. Alice C. Linsley Avatar
    Alice C. Linsley

    He is speaking truth. The Episcopal Church is in full rebellion against the Incarnate Word. The few orthodox who remain are waiting until September 30, the deadline given by the Primates for The Episcopal Church leadership to clarify its theology and commitment to remaining in the Anglican Communion. This week’s decision to thumb its nose at the Primates’ Communique will speed up the separation. The great pain felt by faithful Episcoplians is almost unbearable. Imagine if Orthodox Bishops issued a statement after an ecumenical gathering that said that the only thing that mattered to them was their individual church’s canons and that they resented having to be accountable to one another. That’s what has happened in TEC.

  3. fatherstephen Avatar

    Clark, you should win a prize.

  4. Tom Avatar

    Indeed Father, pray for us! In my circumstance I have concluded that we must find a new church home (which I hope is Orthodoxy). However, my wife refuses to discuss the matter. I am afraid that to do what is right for the spiritual health of my family, I may have to “force” the issue.

    God has closed the door but I have yet to find the window. Please, pray for us!

  5. mrsfalstaff Avatar

    It is my fervent hope and prayer that the faithful remnant of the Anglican Church of Canada and TEC will be able to remain in communion with the See of Canterbury and will be the beginning of a revival of biblical Anglicanism in North America. It is looking very much like my parish will pay the price of losing its building because of our standing up for the Good News, which will be horrible, BUT – the parish is the people, not the building. We will remain faithful to God, we will remain Anglican, and we will soldier on.

  6. Steve Avatar

    Praying for you and your patience, Tom. Please pray for me and for the Orthodox Church. Hopefully you and your family will end up with us in Orthodoxy.

  7. Roland Avatar

    I had been wondering if I might have jumped ship a bit too early. Now it is looking like I escaped TEC just in time.

  8. Fatherstephen Avatar

    In response to mrsfalstaff: I realize there are a variety of views, though I’m not sure what Biblical Anglicanism would be. Would it be high or low or broad? Among biblically oriented Anglicans I found some who believed in Baptismal regeneration and some who did not. Some who believed in “real presence” viz. the Eucharist and some who did not. I cannot find an historical moment in the history of Anglicanism that there was an agreed doctrine among its adherents, but rather an agreed pax Anglicana that left some things unsaid, or half-said.

    I am deeply grateful for my years in the Anglican Church and much that I received. Though I have to admit, that what I received ultimately pointed beyond Anglicanism and to the Orthodox faith, which once was the faith of the Church in England (i.e. Augustine of Canterbury, St. Cuthbert, et al). Augustine is said to have come ashore (as described in Bede) “carrying a cross of silver and a portrait of Christ on a board (an icon)”.

    I genuinely do pray for mercy for those who are toughing it out against Bishops who have so flagrantly abandoned the faith. But I’ve always wondered what the faithful remnant would look like? Would it include the ordination of women, for instance, even though this innovation was never able to pass the test of a 2/3 vote at the time? They had to make it a different sort of change so that simple majority would do. Where does the line of Biblical Anglicanism get drawn?

  9. Eric W Avatar
    Eric W

    After the Friday decision in Syosset that has apparently upset many people who were hoping that the financial scandal in the Orthodox Church in America would be properly dealt with, should we be asking “Whither the OCA”?

  10. Alice C. Linsley Avatar
    Alice C. Linsley

    Fr. Stephen, You are correct that there is a wide range of Anglicans. I considered myself an Anglo-Catholic after Thomas Cranmer’s 1549 Book of Common Prayer (which upholds spiritual regeneration and real presence), but wasn’t able to live as such in ECUSA. The Book of Common Prayer is what holds Anglicans together, at least in theory, but as there are now different prayer books, there are different brands of Anglicans. Then there is the problem of the 1979 ECUSA prayer book, which contains the seeds of the heresies that have now blossomed in The Episcopal Church.

    Orthodoxy is the “true Faith” because it is based on the Apostles’ Teaching and the Bible, interpreted through the Tradition we have received from the Church Fathers. The Faith is not open to revision. It is what we have received and what we are to defend and preserve.

  11. fatherstephen Avatar


    It is always a question that we should be asking. But what is at stake there is proper accountability, investigation, etc., not doctrine or the faith. There will never be a time that such problems or misconduct is utterly removed from the Church. But the present certainly has brought some pain to the OCA, and my prayers are for many good men and women and for our Hierarchs.

    The Episcopal Church went through its own financial scandal back in the 90’s surrounding the Presiding Bishop’s Discretionary Fund. It happens everywhere.

    Of course, the question, Whither? with regard to Orthodox jurisdictions is somewhat complex at best. I personally look forward to the day of a single Orthodox jurisdiction in America. I’m not holding my breath, but I can pray. Though the results of that would also bring its own pain. There is no healing of any sort except through the Cross. I assume that what is going on in the OCA is a Cross, and that we have to give thanks for it as much as we suffer from it.

  12. Eric W Avatar
    Eric W

    I assume that what is going on in the OCA is a Cross, and that we have to give thanks for it as much as we suffer from it.

    Yes, it is a painful cross, esp. for some like us who are getting ready to enter the church, and have experienced financial and moral failings by leadership in our past churches over the decades. *sigh*

    In less than an hour we will be going to Dallas to celebrate pan-Orthodox Vespers tonight at St. Seraphim Orthodox Cathedral, and we assume that His Eminence Archbishop +Dmitri has returned from Syosset and will officiate. Your prayers are appreciated. God bless.

  13. fatherstephen Avatar

    I would love to be there. And I would encourage you not to lose heart because of the sins of others. As much as it hurts, it is still a very different thing than changing the Christian faith. It’s a sin, that could very well result in suspensions and depositions. I hurt about it a great deal. I know many of the people involved and care deeply for them. And I will never cease giving thanks for the kindness they showed me in receiving me into the Church. And, I might add (to be bold) nothing has changed the commitment of my tithe to the Church and complete peace in its regard.

  14. EYTYXOΣ Avatar

    And, I might add (to be bold) nothing has changed the commitment of my tithe to the Church and complete peace in its regard.

    It is encouraging to hear/read that from someone who knows the players involved in this situation and probably more about the situation than many of us do, for it indeed is something that many of us who are in the OCA and give to the Church think about. I will give your greetings to His Eminence if I get a chance to talk with him afterwards.

    EYTYXOΣ aka Eric W

  15. Fatherstephen Avatar

    Archbishop Dmitri is truly dear to me – the Old Anglican Prayerbook had the priest address the bishop in confirmation as “Reverend Father in God.” Vladyka has been perhaps the first time in my life that I could use such words with all my heart. He is a great Christian and a lover of souls. He has done me more kindness than any hierarch I have ever known.

    This coming Tuesday will be the 8th anniversary of the day he ordained me to the Orthodox priesthood. It is always with joy that I sing the many years for him at the conclusion of each service. It is hard to describe for others what it means to me to love my Bishop.

    He once called me on the phone directly (usually one of the priest on staff calls you and says, “Hold for the Archbishop.” But this time he called me himself, and without a hello he immediately asked, “And what do Tenneesseans volunteer for?” (We are known as the Volunteer State). Without missing a beat (I recognized the voice) I replied, “Why, to die in Texas!”

    I could hear the laughter all the way from Dallas.

    If any part of that story doesn’t make sense – then look up David Crockett in your encyclopedia.

  16. Margaret Avatar

    God bless you, Father, for posting this and taking comments.

    We were called into Orthodoxy from our Anglo-Catholic parish in 2005. Our former church remains in our prayers, as do all Christians continuing to worship with the Episcopal Church.

    Please pray for St. Andrew’s in Nashville.

  17. handmaidleah Avatar

    I can truly say I remember an idyllic childhood and my first eight years were in Memphis, Tennessee. Lots of lightenbugs, fishin and rompin around, as they say, and all of it barefoot in the summertime.
    That just wasn’t something you could do in Las Vegas in the summer, unless you had feet made of asbestos. 🙂 Glory to God for flip flops!
    The United States is a beautiful country, truly we are blessed, I haven’t been in a state that I haven’t really found lovely in one way or another.
    There was a point in time, in this country, when you were identified as a citizen of the state you were born in, hence I am considered a Tennesseean, not some Federalist citizen of the United States. My how things changes with the times. I don’t know what ol’ Davey would think…
    In Christ,
    the handmaid,

  18. mrsfalstaff Avatar

    Personally, I think that the ordination of women is something that faithful Christians can differ on. I have no problem with it. As far as what biblically faithful Anglicanism would look like – the distinctions between high, low and broad are distinctions of style, not substance. I am not learned enough to get into details with any skill,(actually, from having read your blog, I wish I could introduce you to my priest and be part of the ensuing conversation… I’m sure it would be fascinating) but for a start I would refer you to the Anglican Network in Canada http://www.anglicannetwork.ca/ and Anglican Essentials Canada http://www.anglicanessentials.ca/. Since I am a Canadian, I am not familiar with similar organizations in the States, although I do know that they exist.

  19. mrsfalstaff Avatar

    Well, I tried to the best of my ability to answer the question of “where does the line of biblical Anglicanism get drawn”, and I see that my comment has been flagged for moderation, even though I don’t remember my first comment being flagged. I admit, I am curious as to why…..

  20. fatherstephen Avatar


    The reason the comment was flagged, forgive, is that the program at WordPress automatically puts in moderation (or worse) anything that contains two or more links (Spam notoriously contains sometimes hundreds of links). But I saw it this morning and it’s now cleared and posted. Sorry it got sidetracked shortly. But that was the only reason.

    I think the conversation viz. the ordination of women would be interesting, but largely unfruitful from an Orthodox perspective. There is some conversation within Orthodoxy about the possibility of women as deacons, but I know of no serious consideration being given to women as priests. For one thing, how orthodoxy sees the priesthood is different in many ways from most of the West.

    But I think that conversations on such topics are not without merit.

    The larger question from previous years was that in Orthodox conversations with Anglicans, they put themselves forward as Catholic. But took a unilateral action on a matter of unchanged tradition without consultation with the historic churches and in spite of being asked not to do what they did. The general answer we received was that it was none of our business what the Anglicans did, and generally being told that they were protestants anyway.

    That some of the same Biblical and Political efforts have also created changes with regard to human sexual behavior, etc., is even more alarming to Orthodoxy.

    Part of the problem for conservative Anglicans, would be what “biblical” Anglicanism would actually be. There are some fundamental issues within Anglicanism that were never addressed at the time of the Reformation – issues that continue as problems within various Anglican movements outside of the official Anglican Communion.

    Orthodoxy, of course, has its own problems. I wouldn’t want to say that we don’t.

    Mostly I pray that whatever anyone does, they do it with thanksgiving to God and with humility and kindness. I cannot solve the problems of Anglicans (hence I’m not an Anglican). I am Orthodox because I believe it to be what it claims to be and that I accept it as God’s ship of salvation. May God save us all.

  21. handmaidleah Avatar

    Fr. Bless!
    Since i haven’t been an Episcopalian for years but my parents are but don’t go regularly because of my father’s health, they really have no idea what is going on.
    What does all of this really mean?
    If the TEC splits from the Anglican Communion, in a nutshell, what does the Episcopal Church become? Just another Protestant sect?
    Christ is in our midst!
    the handmaid,

  22. mrsfalstaff Avatar

    Oh, I see. I was just curious.

  23. Roland Avatar

    “If the TEC splits from the Anglican Communion, in a nutshell, what does the Episcopal Church become? Just another Protestant sect?”

    Yup, I’m afraid so.

  24. mrsfalstaff Avatar

    The Montreal Declaration of Anglican Essentials is probably where a revived Anglican church should start, at least in Canada. If TEC splits from the Anglican communion, there will probably be a nasty situation in which there will be two different groups that say they are the “real” Anglicans. I expect it will be the conservatives who end up remaining in communion with Canterbury, but I wouldn’t want to bet on it.

  25. fatherstephen Avatar

    But Canterbury is not actually conservative. I’ve always thought that the definition of Anglican as “that which is in communion with Canterbury” was simply a borrowing of definition from Rome that made no particular sense. Canterbury was an important See in England in medieval times, but nothing like a Patriarch.

    It’s also a peculiar thing for Evangelical Anglicans to even care about sense they do not believe that Bishops are of the “esse” of the Church, just the “bene esse,” i.e. not actually necessary in any real sense.

    It’s part of what I mean about the difficulties that confront Anglicanism. It has been a patchwork of compromised positions for 500 years. As soon as everyone stops compromising things fall apart.

    I found that one of the difficulties among conservative (and liberal) Anglicans that was generally unadressed was the problem of divorced and remarried clergy. Clearly a violation of Scripture, but so common now, the divorce rate among clergy equals that of the laity. As recently as the 60’s in many places it would not have been allowed.

    I always suspected that it stood in the way of many men who might otherwise look at Orthodoxy or even Rome but couldn’t because their remarriage would have been an insurmountable impediment to ordination.

    But it’s hard to know. I do know that there are many fine men and women among Anglicans and that I received much kindness from many. I pray only good things for them all.

  26. mrsfalstaff Avatar

    Well, there are instances where Paul says that the faithful “are not bound”, that certainly seem to imply that divorce and remarriage are acceptable in very limited situations.

    I am a disadvantage in this discussion as I am very ignorant of Orthodoxy. I don’t understand “esse” and “bene esse”. However, I’d say Anglicans believe that Bishops are necessary – no Bishop, no ordination, no ordination, no priest, no priest, no Holy Communion, etc. Seems pretty necessary to me.

    In fact, this is our problem in a nutshell. The vast majority of the leadership of the Canadian Anglican church is corrupt. We have people like Bishop Micheal Ingham in New West Minister, to whom church hierarchy is more important than the Gospel!

    Anyway, you asked what a revival of Anglicanism would be based on. In Canada, at least, it will be based on this:


  27. handmaidleah Avatar

    Looking at the Thirty nine Articles of Religion; do Anglicans believe in “predestination?
    Or am I reading this wrong?

    XVII. Of Predestination and Election

    “Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour. Wherefore, they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God, be called according to God’s purpose by his Spirit working in due season: they through Grace obey the calling: they be justified freely: they be made sons of God by adoption: they be made like the image of his only- begotten Son Jesus Christ: they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God’s mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity.

    As the godly consideration of Predestination, and our Election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal Salvation to be enjoyed through Christ, as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God: So, for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God’s Predestination, is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the Devil doth thrust them either into desperation, or into wrethchlessness of most unclean living, no less perilous than desperation.

    Furthermore, we must receive God’s promises in such wise, as they be generally set forth to us in Holy Scripture: and, in our doings, that Will of God is to be followed, which we have expressly declared unto us in the word of God.”
    In Christ the handmiad,

  28. fatherstephen Avatar

    As I recall the 39 articles only endorsed a predestination to the good, not the so-called double-edged predestination. Today, some Anglicans are quite faithful to the 39 articles, while others have no idea what they say. It’s a mixed bag. But what is affirmed about predestination (in the positive sense) is certainly affirmed by Orthodoxy as well. It’s in the Scriptures.

  29. mrsfalstaff Avatar

    In a word, no. What this article is saying is that, even though the idea of predestination is sweet to those of us who are already godly, it encourages those who are not to fatalism – to decide that they obviously aren’t one of the chosen ones, so they might as well keep sinning. The implication of the last paragraph is that there isn’t any scriptural basis for predestination.

  30. Vin Smith Avatar

    All organized religion is a scam and a sham. Why listen to evil, powerful men spew nonsense about religion?

  31. fatherstephen Avatar

    Gee Vin,
    There’s something better about unorganized religion? Nonsense about religion (or better yet, about God) is virtually universal. Evil men are pretty common as well (some of them are religious and some of them are not organized about it).

    If you have private theories about God, they are as likely to be nonsense as the ideas professed by evil, powerful men.

    The only way forward is repentance, kindness, forgiveness of our enemies. For those reasons I urge prayer for Anglicans or any others.

    Better to pray than to judge. We have a commandment from Christ to do the first, and a commandment not to do the latter.

  32. Vin Smith Avatar

    …That’s an excellent question you pose. Savvy, in fact. Is there something better about unoganized religion? Actually, there is.

    From the great gnostic traditions, to the the strong Biblical suggestion found in Matthew 7:7 “…seek and ye shall find,” we see the real path that leads to moving toward God–A lifelong personal quest. It can only be accomplished while maintaining deaf ears and blind eyes to Papal encyclicals and pronouncements from the Archbishop of Canterbury. Or the holy rollers, Jehovah’s Witnesses or Seventh-day Adventists. Imams, idiots in the streets holding up “the end is near signs.”

    Organized religion reeks of rot and decay. It has throughout all history; all wars powered by religious activism; all despots fueling human evil into a frenzy. Such treachery can be found buried inside all mortal men.

    All it takes is a “fuhrer” to whip them up. Speaking of the famous one–Adolph Hitler–there was a man who was arguably the leading Christian of the twentieth century. His murderous ways appealed to the Lutheran sensibilities of his people.

  33. fatherstephen Avatar

    I don’t believe in organized religion – I’m Eastern Orthodox.

  34. Vin Smith Avatar

    You sound very much like a man who has his head screwed on right, as we like to say in these parts. A thinker, leading a balanced life. I enjoy reading your posts. Always well thought out.

  35. fatherstephen Avatar

    I fear you misunderstand me. My head is not screwed on right. I do not consider myself a thinker and believe I only make trouble for myself and others when I do. My life is far from balanced. If you continue reading my posts, you are likely to become a fool. Flee.

  36. Darlene Avatar

    Dear Vin,
    Hitler was no Christian. Me thinks the word “Christian” and its meaning has become watered down, transformed into a concept that by many has become meaningless.

    However, I do understand your concern not to be misled by, as you say, “organized religion.” Even so, that term has been misapplied as well. That we, as Orthodox Christians, congregate in order to worship the undivided Trinity and receive His body and blood is far more than organized religion. The Church’s holy mysteries sustain us and help us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Yet among the wheat there is the chaff of which God alone can be the Judge. The Kingdom of God is that which is not of this world, and yet paradoxically can be found by those who live in this world yet are not a part of it.

  37. Vin Smith Avatar

    Hard to specifically disagree with what you have written, Darlene.

    Some context… I have had great experiences in certain so-called community churches. They are generally non-denominational in construct and governance; frequently are served by societies that supply pastors to many churches of similar bent–no real dogma. People who gather together just to worship God.

    As a concert pianist, I was asked to perform at one such church. I ended up with mouth sores, because I had to bite down so hard to not break out laughing–just the mood I was in at the time, and perhaps thirty-plus years less experience than I now have.

    It was a Christmas celebration. The lady pastor opened her little sermonette by saying, “…whether you call Him–or Her– God, Yahweh, Eloim, or Santa Claus, this is a season for us to acknowledge the beauty of life itself…” It was the Santa Claus reference that caused me to nearly lose it.

    It only took about a year for me to realize that it was the most profound spiritual talk I had ever heard. The lady pastor was, as you put it, working out her own savation, as were all of the listeners that evening. No pompous Pope, or President of the Southern Baptists, nor Archbishop of Canterbury–no religious pronouncements.

    From your definition Hitler was no Christian. From the viewpoint of the German masses, he was some kind of savior. Tin horn bully, evil personified, all of those things were part of his makeup–and has been such periodically throughout history as embodied by many “Christian” leaders.

    Another thing… What most Protestants do not realize is that they are actually Catholics, warmed over. Victims scriptural editing, canonical inconsistencies, all originally sparked by Constintinian power strugges have shredded any hope the Holy Bible would possess much accuracy. It all started at the Council of Nicea in 325, and raged on for better than a millenium. Large numbers of sacred books that actually painted a far different catechism than the one which Rome adopted in order to control the masses were discarded, in order to consolidate power… So, as I say, organized religions is a sham and a scam… Big business.

  38. zeitungzeid Avatar

    Vin (if I may)

    I do understand the point you are trying to make (the scriptures record the Lord saying much the same thing (Mt 24:24).

    More than catechism and ecumenical councils (broad brushes that are nonethelness instructive) the commandment is to love God and neighbour (ne’er invisible or imagined).

  39. Vin Smith Avatar

    …I agree. I shall be looking into Eastern Orthodox beliefs. Fascinating.

  40. eleftheria Avatar

    Father, Bless!
    A comment to Vin (if that’s all right?)…
    Bishop Paul de Ballester who had been a Roman Catholic monk converted to Orthodoxy more than 50 years ago. The reason (s) why are contained in:
    My Exodus from Roman Catholicism

    Knock on the door and it will be opened!

  41. zeitungzeid Avatar

    What I have found Vin (there again, if I may) is that Orthodoxy is an entity in and of itself to quote Archpriest Artemy Vladimirov — it is quite literally, God’s light (God) made visible.

    Well said too, wonder is a very good place to be…

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