A Bishop of the Anglican Church of North America has advised the Rev. Dr. Tory Baucum, Rector of Truro Anglican Church, Fairfax, VA, to terminate the dialogue with the Episcopal Bishop of Virginia, the Rt. Rev. Shannon Johnston. Baucum has complied and ended the dialogue.
This comes after the two of them appeared together at a peacemaking and reconciliation conference at Coventry Cathedral, which was highlighted by Archbishop Justin Welby as an example of reconciliation.
Baucum claims that two events changed his mind: the ordination of partnered lesbian to the priesthood by Bishop Johnston and talks by New Testament scholar John Dominic Crossan at parish and diocesan events.
But at the end of the letter. Baucum’s bishop, John A.M. Guernsey advised him to break of the relationship, which he did.
Here is the letter Baucum wrote to his congregation:
I believe peacemaking is a Gospel imperative and a defining characteristic of Christian faithfulness and virtue (Matt 5:9). It may lead to reconciliation, but they are not to be equated. Reconciliation is a gift of the Holy Spirit in the truth and authority of Jesus Christ. This week two events were revealed that have challenged the two principles upon which my peacemaking work with Bishop Shannon Johnston was based.
First, Nicene Christianity is the basis upon which I have related to him as a brother in Christ and to work for the healing of the Church. Like Augustine, I don’t believe Nicene faith alone can hold the Church together. (Most Donatists were Nicene believers but they were also schismatic and heretical). However, Nicene faith may be sufficient for Christians in a divided church to find common ground for peacemaking. That was, and remains, my hope.
The second principle upon which our peacemaking work was based is that the “imago dei” in every person, even our theological opponents, is the definitive reality which should guide our conduct in conflict. God’s image in us and Christ’s love for us must govern how we treat others in this, or any, conflict.
This week I learned of two events in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia that have challenged those principles of Christian peacemaking.
First was the ordination of a non-celibate lesbian in the former home of the Falls Church Anglican parish this past December. This was a problem of both menu and venue, of what and where it was done. This kind of ordination, which violates scriptural teaching, caused the Anglican schism in the first place. I believe that holding the service at the Falls Church shortly after they lost their building showed a disregard and lack of respect for the good and godly pastor and the people of the Falls Church. This was a failure to treat others in a way that honors the imago dei in each of us. It was extremely painful to learn of this action and my full sympathy is with John Yates+ and his congregation.
Even more egregious was a series of talks given by John Dominic Crossan at a church in the Diocese of Virginia. I believe that Crossan’s work is a contradiction of Nicene faith and events like this undermine Nicene Christianity. Avoiding this kind of aggravating damage is foundational to our efforts at peacemaking. Crossan has appeared in debates with Christian scholars like N.T. Wright to fully and completely debate his theories, which have largely been found in extreme want of support in fact and scholarly analysis. But he appears to have come as a Christian teacher. He is not.
I was waiting to speak to Bishop Shannon personally before issuing this statement. All of the above and, its implications, I have shared with him yesterday. I know he will be issuing his own response soon. I pray the Holy Spirit’s guidance and wisdom upon him as he seeks to repair the damage done by these two actions.
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.
Finally, to the good and wonderful people of Truro and its vestry: I am grateful for your trust in me and your prayers and love to Elizabeth and our family.
Bishop Guernsey’s letter does not mention the ordination, as Baucum’s does, but points to Crossan’s presence in the Diocese of Virginia.
Bishop Johnston’s action is unconscionable. In spite of his assurances to Tory that he believes the Nicene Creed, he welcomed Crossan, who denies the bodily resurrection of Jesus and says that Jesus’ body was eaten by dogs, and he permitted him to speak unchallenged to clergy in his diocese.
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.
Guernsey’s directive, coming on the heels of Archbishop Justin Welby’s conflict conference, is an example of the need for the ACNA bishop to police the relationships of their clergy. In reining in Baucum’s work, which was seen by many in the denomination as a betrayal, ACNA sends the message that they are not really serious about being Anglicans unless they get to set the rules.
Bishop Johnston has issued a statement focused on the Crossan event.
…I will not be a censor of ideas, a roadblock to inquiry that is grounded in a search for “God with us.” The Holy Spirit is still at work with and within the Church and, in my view, we cannot shut down that which pushes our limits. Many times in human history, we have seen how the Spirit has pushed the Church beyond itself.
I give thanks for scholars, like John Dominic Crossan, who are part of that work that challenges us, even if it turns out to be an occasion to return to our own orthodox convictions with stronger roots. No less do I give thanks for scholars, like N.T. Wright, who keep us grounded with such compelling integrity. …