- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 1, 2000

Six Anglican prelates consecrated two American Episcopal priests as bishops Saturday evening in Singapore in a rite that was opposed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and applauded by Episcopal conservatives.

The consecration, which was performed by two archbishops and four bishops, was considered a daring, if not desperate, move to reform an increasingly liberal Episcopal Church that has all but adopted same-sex "marriages" and the ordination of openly homosexual clergy.

The two new bishops have been charged by the archbishops of Southeast Asia and Rwanda as ecclesiastical missionaries by supporting isolated conservative parishes in very liberal dioceses, as well as planting new churches in hostile dioceses. This is expected to create a a huge outcry among U.S. bishops, who regard their diocesan boundaries as sacrosanct.

The two men elevated to the episcopate are the Very Rev. John H. Rodgers, 69, former dean of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pa., and the Rev. Chuck H. Murphy III, 51, rector of the 700-member All Saints Episcopal Church in Pawleys Island, S.C.

A third candidate, the Rev. Jon Shuler, 54, also of Pawleys Island, dropped out about a week ago after concluding, he said, that God did not wish him to become a bishop at this time.

Contacted in Singapore, Bishop Rodgers said Episcopalians needed to take steps to stem the exodus of conservatives from their church. Since 1966, the 3.6-million-member church has shrunk by one third to 2.4 million.

"If the church repents and turns around at General Convention," he said, referring to the triennial Episcopal gathering this summer in Denver, "we'll quietly turn around and have other things to do. If it does not repent, it will be time for another province." A province is a collection of Episcopal dioceses within one country. The American church is one province.

An alternative Episcopal province could spark an ecclesiastical civil war among American bishops should the Right Revs. Rodgers and Murphy enter their dioceses to perform confirmations and ordinations. Conservatives have long charged their parishes are neglected by liberal bishops and their candidates for the priesthood are ignored.

They also say many U.S. dioceses are championing homosexual candidates for the priesthood, even after the world's Anglican bishops voted in August 1998 that homosexuality is "incompatible with Scripture." Numerous U.S. dioceses announced they would ignore the vote and within a year, two homosexual men were selected deans of Episcopal cathedrals in California and Washington state.

An elaborate consecration ceremony for one of the deans-elect is slated for Feb. 12 in Seattle. Retired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu will preach.

"I find that absolutely offensive," Bishop Rodgers said. "I can't say we'd be in communion with those who do such things. We are headed for a kind of showdown because this is a shot across the bow."

Although rumored for days, the Singapore consecrations caught more liberal sectors of the church by surprise. U.S. Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, who is on retreat, was apparently unaware of conservatives' plans. He released a statement Monday saying he was "appalled" by the consecrations.

Conservatives, he added, have presented a "caricature" of Episcopal Church as being heretical. Of the Singapore ceremony, "It came out from the middle of nowhere," Episcopal House of Deputies President Pamela Chinnis.

However, Pittsburgh Episcopal Bishop Bob Duncan affirmed the consecrations Saturday, saying the situation for conservatives in some dioceses had become "increasingly intolerable." Bishop Rodgers lives in the Pittsburgh diocese. South Carolina Bishop Edward Salmon, in whose diocese Bishop Murphy resides, refused to comment.

And Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, leader of the world's 63 million Anglicans, of which the Episcopal Church is a small part, was well aware of the pending ceremony. He sent protests to Rwanda Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini, Southeast Asia Archbishop Moses Tay and Bishop John Ruchyahana of the Diocese of Shyira in Rwanda, the three main consecrators.

Also taking part were two retired U.S. bishops: former South Carolina Bishop Fitzsimmons Allison and West Tennessee Bishop Alex Dickson, and retired South American Bishop David Pytches of the Diocese of Bolivia, Chile and Peru.

The consecrations are expected to be the chief topic of discussion when the archbishops of the world's 38 Anglican provinces meet in March in Lisbon.

"This will help (the archbishops) to take seriously the state of things when they meet," Bishop Rodgers said. "This is not an act of schism. It's an act of pastoral care for (Episcopalians) who've been hurt by bishops who've departed from orthodox faith and morals."

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