Convocation of Anglicans in North America
January 26, 2007
The Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee
Dear Bishop Lee:
I am writing to you in response to your recent decision to “inhibit” 21 Anglican clergy and to rescind the licenses of 6 additional clergy who serve as faithful pastors in congregations throughout Virginia.
As you well know, such an action was not necessary since it has long been the custom of the church to permit an orderly transfer of clergy when they move from one Anglican jurisdiction to another. Indeed, several of your brother bishops in The Episcopal Church have followed this pattern and have done so with generosity and grace. Those who have applied to serve as part of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) have now been received, appropriate licenses have been granted, and they function as ordained Anglican clergy in Christ’s one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church under my episcopal oversight.
I have already responded in my letter of January 16th to your erroneous claim that you were not able to make such a transfer because the Anglican District of Virginia (ADV) is allegedly not “recognized”. ADV is an integral part of CANA, which is — as you have repeatedly acknowledged – a missionary initiative of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion). Are you, by your actions, suggesting that the Church of Nigeria is somehow not fully Anglican? Such a suggestion would be ironic in light of the meeting of the Primates in Dar es Salaam to be held early next month when a major agenda topic is whether or not The Episcopal Church – and hence the Diocese of Virginia – should continue to be recognized as fully Anglican or moved to a diminished or separated status.
I would also point out that the manner in which you have treated these clergy, and the lay staff of the churches they serve, by refusing to permit an adequate grace period for the transfer of their healthcare benefits, appears uncharitable. Maintaining adequate healthcare coverage during times of employment transition has been a government mandate for all employees through programs such as COBRA. It does not cost the previous employing agency–in this case the Diocese of Virginia–a penny, and yet you have deliberately denied it.
In your letter to me of January 22nd, in which you expressed your concern about the recent vandalism at Truro Church, you said that it “does not honor Christ and simply gives to the world a false impression of how differences are dealt with in the Christian community.” I was grateful for your expression of concern about the damage to our property; I urge you to show the same concern for these individuals and their families.
In an open letter dated November 17, 2006 the president of the diocesan Standing Committee promised that congregations which decided to disaffiliate from the diocese, would be able to part ways “within a context of mutual understanding and compassion.” There is still time to fulfill that promise.
I am mindful that you will receive this letter as you begin the 212th Annual Council of the Diocese of Virginia and as your own ministry transition accelerates by the election of a Bishop Coadjutor. It is my prayer that you will be sustained by God’s grace during these trying times.
Missionary Bishop of CANA
Cc: 21 inhibited clergy
Episcopal Diocese of Virginia Standing Committee
Members of the 212th Annual Council