Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Some weeks back the New York Times ran an article that touted the continuing relationship of the rector of Truro Anglican in Virginia, Tory Baucum, and the ECUSA Bishop of Virgina, Shannon Johnston.  The relationship was given credit for some positive things happening at Truro.

Frankly, I thought it placed the congregation in a very derogatory light.  There are a lot of good people in that congregation and their ordeal has been long and arduous.  The controversy that has arisen as part of the settlement with ECUSA only added to their burden.

The Rev. Baucum blew my theory about the article out of the water when he used it as one of several acts of affirmation of him and his work of reconciliation on a T19 thread. If, in fact, the article was affirmation then my deepest sympathy to the congregation of Truro.  In addition, I have some serious questions for the leadership at every level.

About two years ago Truro voted to end its litigation with the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.  No one blamed them for deciding to end the legal battle.  Litigation under the best of circumstances is hard.  When it involves where you worship, hard doesn’t begin to describe it.  There were several puzzling aspects to the settlement including the deal they struck in order to remain in the building.  The article gave us the rosy colored view since it failed to point out the high cost to the congregation for that settlement.  Truro gets to remain in the building for a time (to be determined by the bishop of Virginia) but they must pay to maintain the aging structure.  The Episcopal Church gets to add a historic site worth tens of millions of dollars to their asset column without the huge burden of maintaining it.  Just take a look around the country at other facilities where EUCSA has been successful in taking the building from congregations without the ability to maintain them with active congregations.  One particular building comes to mind that is now an Islamic Awareness Center.  All pluses and no minuses for ECUSA.  High costs with the only reward a delayed eviction notice for the congregation of Truro.

The part that I found so demeaning to the congregation came from a quote made by Truro’s Executive Director.
“You can’t have an effective church that’s going to be welcoming if it’s full of people who are angry,” said Bob Tate, the executive director of Truro. “We were angry, and we hated Episcopalians,” he said.
Hate?  If this is true, it is a side of Truro that was never made public.  We can only hope it was either a false statement by the writer or hyperbole on the part of the Executive Director.  Unfortunately, it has not been refuted.  As with everything in this article, the writer credits the relationship between the rector, Tory Baucum, and the ECUSA bishop, Shannon Johnston, as the reason the congregation was able to stop “hating.”  The relationship in question is one that has sparked more than a little controversy.  The Rev. Baucum stated in a sermon at the time of the settlement:
I reached out to Bishop Shannon over a year ago. He quickly and graciously reciprocated. In our first meetings, we did not paper over the differences between us, but neither did we exaggerate them. We began by accurately naming the cause(s) of division (i.e. it is more about anthropology than Christology) and restoring trust.
I have opened up relationships and ministry opportunities to him in the CofE. He has reciprocated by allowing me to minister in Episcopal parishes in the Diocese of Virginia as DOK Chaplain and has encouraged my relationship with VTS and Dean Ian Markham, who has invited me to teach a missions course there.
Mr. Baucum now states that he was “purposely general” and that he did not promote the ministry of Bishop Johnston.    We do know that he has given Bishop Johnston a broad audience in the Church of England and in the United States. We know that they have indeed papered over their differences as being about “anthropology and not Christology” encouraging a broad audience to ignore the real question at hand.  Ask anyone who has only seen the public promotion between the two clergy if they were told Bishop Johnston is a false teacher or just one player who has risen above an “unfortunate situation?”

It is important to remember that In March 2013 Bishop Guernsey issued a directive to the Rev. Baucum that the relationship with Bishop Johnston must not continue.  He was quite clear as to his reasoning for the directive.
I have talked with Tory Baucum about this. He is grieved over this situation and agrees with my determination that this relationship with Bishop Johnston can no longer continue. We long for the Body of Christ to reflect the unity for which our Lord Jesus prayed (John 17:20-23), but there can be no reconciliation with The Episcopal Church apart from its repentance for false teaching and practice and its return to the truth of the historic Christian faith.
The Rev. Baucum even publicly assented to the directive.
I remain committed to the Gospel imperative of peacemaking, especially as a means to biblical reconciliation but with the advice and counsel of Bishop Guernsey, I am ending this work with +Shannon.
But according to the New York Times,the Rev. Baucum is giving a wink and a nod to his Bishop’s directive.
In response, the leader of breakaway Anglicans in Virginia, Bishop John A. M. Guernsey, asked Mr. Baucum not to appear in public with the Episcopal bishop.
(The relationship has, in fact, continued, but more privately and with less frequent get-togethers.)
The mental gymnastics it takes to jump from “the relationship must end” to “not to appear in public” and “less frequent get-togethers” is simply mind boggling.
Mr. Baucum contends that because he was not reigned in by the leadership, they were affirming his actions.  If silence is consent, then he may be right.  Other than Bishop Guernsey’s ignored directive issuedafter the Crossan affair, the leadership has been unfortunately silent as this entire saga has unfolded.  Some have theorized that the reason is the Rev. Baucum’s close friendship with the Archbishop of Canterbury.  We can only pray that such is not the case because that would mean that politics was the driving factor.

I don’t know Tory Baucum or Shannon Johnston.  From all accounts both are good men.  Mr. Baucum is a talented and gifted preacher.  The only thing I know of Shannon Johnston is that he affirms and practices without reservation the policy of ECUSA and the theology (or lack thereof) of its Presiding Bishop.  In order for that theology to be correct, Scripture has to be wrong and stripped of its authority.  Let me point out that it is that very same Scripture upon which the Christology is based.  The same Christology Mr. Baucum and Mr. Johnston claim to have in common.  Either Bishop Shannon Johnston is a false teacher or he is not.

Serious questions at a serious time.  I can’t help thinking the Anglican presence in America is at a crossroads.  It should be a familiar one to those who are on it.  ECUSA travelled it and wound up taking a detour from which she has never returned.  Is that where we are now?  Will 30 years from now some mere pewsitter question why no one stood up for the Authority of Scripture when Shannon Johnston was affirmed as a brother in Christ, his ministry and theology worthy of access to the flock?  Will it be the same as when I asked my leaders why John Spong’s heresies were not quashed?  Will that mere pewsitter hear the same thing I heard, “Don’t worry about that.  Just trust your leaders.”

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