By David W. Virtue
Two prominent lay Episcopal leaders, one a woman professor, the other an African American, have announced they are leaving The Episcopal Church, citing irreconcilable differences over the innovative theology and morals that are now all pervasive in the national church.
Dr. Edith M. Humphrey, William F. Orr Professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, said in her letter of resignation that the foundations of The Episcopal Church and Anglicanism have been compromised and have become unrecognizable.
"After over 13 years of discernment, I will be chrismated and received into the Eastern Orthodox Church on Orthodox Pentecost, June 7th. I will be making my church home at St. George Antiochian Cathedral in Oakland (Pittsburgh)."
Humphrey said she had worked for the health of the Anglican Communion, but cited "foundational differences" in understanding the Church, the sacraments, and the place of tradition.
Humphrey attended GAFCON in Jordan and Jerusalem. She said she was encouraged by the ability of leaders with different expressions of Anglicanism to listen and to learn from each other. She said she was optimistic that the interplay between evangelicals, charismatics and Anglo-Catholics would bring about something very good.
"At the same time, I have wondered for several years about the possibility of our continuing together, given the recent developments, including the continuing autonomy of AMIA within the proposed new Province, suggestions that we can continue in parallel with TEC, Primatial statements that expressed satisfaction with the last Primates' meeting when it seems to contradict GAFCON, and continued attention to pragmatics rather than to the nature of the Church have been very problematic, in my view."
"All the while, I have been drawn for some time in a compelling manner towards the Eastern Christian tradition, and have gained deep appreciation for its apostolic claims, its ancient theologians, its healing disciplines, its sacramental spirituality and its rich liturgical tradition. Despite my temptation to stay and fight for the Anglican way, it seems clear to me now that I must go where the Lord is directing me."
Humphrey had held a number of high level positions in both the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church, USA. In Canada, she served on the Primate's Theological Commission for seven years and was on New Westminster Bishop Michael Ingham's Theological Commission for the "dialogue" in his parish, prior to the vote. She was also a Consulting Theologian for Essentials Canada, as well as organist/music director at St. George's Anglican Church in Ottawa.
In the US, she was a member of the Commission on Ministry for seven years. She was a founding member of Mere Anglicanism and a Deputy for the Diocesan (Pittsburgh) Convention for two years and regularly taught Sunday School and was Intercessor at Church of the Ascension, Oakland. Internationally, she was a member of EFAC consultation in Jamaica, a speaker at NEAC, a speaker at The Future of Anglicanism Conference, Oxford and a speaker at GAFCON. A second departure from TEC is that of prominent African-American Episcopalian Dr. Michael Howell. In a curt letter he wrote to The Very Rev. John L. Hartnett of St. Vincent's Episcopal Church in St. Petersburg, FL saying, "Effective immediately, I write to inform you that I am leaving St. Vincent's Episcopal Church and request the transfer of my membership to St. Nicholas Church, Diocese of Argentina, Province of the Southern Cone. Please send the appropriate documentation to The Rev. Geoffrey A. Boland, St. Nicholas Church, Haines City, FL."
A third generation Episcopalian, Dr. Howell grew up in the Diocese of Long Island. He moved about the country as a scientist working in a number of universities until he settled in Florida where he served at St. Nicholas Anglican Church in Haines.
Among his achievements, Howell served as a member on the Board of Trustees of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, in Ambridge, PA, as well as being an Academic Committee Member. He also served on the American Anglican Council as a member of the Board of Trustees.
He was also Executive Director and Co-Chancellor of Forward in Faith, North America, a delegate to the Anglican Communion Network Council (2005, 2008), Lay Delegate to the Common Cause Partnership (2007- present), Lay Delegate to the Anglican Church in North America Council and Assembly, GAFCON Delegate (June 2008) and Council Member (June - Nov. 2008).
Howell is a life member of The Brotherhood of Saint Andrew, and a member, Dallas Assembly (1988-1993) and a former National Council Member. He was a keynote speaker at a number of major Episcopal events and gatherings including the Diocese of Mississippi Stand Firm Rally (Nov. 2004); a keynote speaker, Diocese of Central FL AAC Fall Convocation (Nov. 2004);, a panelist, Diocese of Newark Forum on the Windsor Report (Oct. 2004), keynote speaker, Diocese of Texas Concerned Christian Fellowship (Oct. 2004), speaker, Lay Ministry Workshop, Search Ministries, Diocese of Upper SC (Aug. 2004) and presenter, Lambeth Commission Second Meeting, Kanuga Conf. Ctr., NC (June 2004). He also sat on the 2006 General Convention Legislative Committees - Inter-Anglican Relations.
Among his other achievements, he served on the Diocese of Southwest Florida Standing Committee, and was a Diocesan Convention Delegate and General Convention Deputy (2006).
Howell also served on the Diocese of Upper South Carolina (1993-2003) as an Alternate Deputy, 74th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, a Diocesan Convention Delegate and an invited Speaker, at the 2002 Diocesan Conference on Aging. He was also a faculty advisor - University of South Carolina Canterbury Community.
He has also served in multiple positions including Lay Eucharistic Minister, Lay Reader and Adult Server in a number of parishes including the Church of the Good Shepherd, Columbia, SC (1993-2003), Church of the Holy Cross, Dallas, TX, (1989-1993)