Wednesday, October 05, 2005

a local church splits apart

Posted on Tue, Oct. 04, 2005
the Tallahassee Democrat

St. John's Episcopal splinters

Dudley, followers leave over disagreements

By Gerald Ensley


There was stunned silence, then gasps and then standing ovations at both services Sunday at St. John's Episcopal Church. It was the sound of Tallahassee's second-oldest church splitting apart.

Father Eric Dudley on Sunday told parishioners that he was leaving St. John's to start a new church because he could no longer support the national Episcopal Church and because he was "disillusioned" by the actions of John Howard, bishop of the 76-congregation North Florida diocese.

Dudley announced he would start St. Peter's Anglican Church, which will adhere to the doctrine of Anglicanism, on which the Episcopal Church is based. St. Peter's will move into a recently abandoned International Church of Christ complex at 901 Thomasville Road and hold its first service Sunday morning.

Dudley, 46, had been the pastor at St. John's for 10 years. He had been an outspoken critic of the Episcopal Church since 2003, when national controversy erupted over the ordination of a gay bishop by the Episcopal Church. But he said his decision to leave St. John's was about the national church's increasing departure from Bible-based teaching.

Dudley becomes the second Tallahassee pastor to split from the Episcopal church since the 2003 controversy. In 2004, the Rev. Dennis Ackerson left the Church of the Holy Spirit to start The Living Word Church, an Anglican-based church located at 2763 Capital Circle N.E.

"I'm not a fundamentalist. This is about more than homosexuality," Dudley said Monday. "It has to do with the fact that the Episcopal Church has turned its back on Scripture as the foundation of ethical decision-making. The national church has repeatedly made it clear that God has taught them a new truth and it contains no Scripture. We believe in the old truth of Scripture. "

Half may leave

St. John's has more than 1,500 members. It was unclear Monday how many would follow Dudley to his new church, though some members speculated the number could be as high as "half." Dudley said his two assistant pastors, Brad Page and Michael Petty, plus a dozen staff members and 12 of the 14 vestry members already have said they will join him at St. Peter's.

Dudley, a Yale-educated rector, had become popular at St. John's for innovations such as a church cafe, youth programs, an expanded Sunday School and Bible study sessions.

Dozens of his supporters swarmed around the new church Monday as Dudley and his administrators began setting up offices. The church was purchased by a St. John's parishioner, who will allow St. Peter's to use it for three to five years while the congregation raises money for a new building.

"I'm sad to go. But sometimes you've just got to part company," said Tallahassee attorney Tom Crapps, a St. John's member who will move with his wife and three children to St. Peter's. "I want to follow Scripture, and Father Eric clearly articulated that. So that's the way I'm going."

Dudley said his departure from St. John's also was spurred by disagreements with North Florida Bishop John Howard, who has supported the national Episcopal Church even while saying he did not agree with the ordination of gay priests. Howard also recently criticized St. John's for not adhering to diocese financial policies.

St. John's recently sought to add a $300,000 loan to its $450,000 debt, which is part of the church's fluctuating line of credit that began with a $1.5 million loan for church expansion in 1992. Howard said the diocese must be notified of such financial transactions. Dudley said St. John's has borrowed money and paid it off seven times since 1992 - without having to notify the diocese.

"The bishop says one thing and does another," Dudley said. "I think he cares more about the institution of the Episcopal Church than about faith and holiness."

According to the book "Favored Land," Tallahassee's first church congregation was Trinity Methodist in 1827, followed by St. John's in 1829 and First Presbyterian in 1832. St. John's first church was constructed in 1837 and later burned down. The current church, at 211 N. Monroe St., was built in 1879.

From the beginning, the St. John's congregation has included notable politicians, planters, attorneys, educators and businessmen. One of the founders was two-time territorial governor Richard Keith Call, whose great-great-granddaughter, Mary Call Collins Proctor, said Monday she and many others will remain with the church. Bishop Howard will meet with St. John's parishioners at 5:30 p.m. today to discuss the church's future.

[I eat at their cafe often. yeaterday it was like eating at a funeral, there!
"they say" that 60 to 70% of the church people have left.

the main issue was not even "homosexuality" but that the governing body of the
headquaters more or less says that the Bible is not inspired writing and that Jesus is only a man, not God incarnate!
So 60% of the people will have now a new church with a fundamentalist way of life.

I feel "chilled"! 38 degrees and rain! How even can a sinner be saved if he cannot even be made to feel welcome as a human being, in their new church?!

I wrote out this "letter", below, and i intend to give to them a copy of it!



At coffee this Wednesday morning, at Goody's, I was thinking of the three cross that were involved with Jesus's crucifixion.

One for Jesus.

Second cross for the thief that He saved.

Third cross for the thief that was not saved.

I will write a bit about this "third cross". For me, this cross represents the Lamb that wandered off lost
down the hill and the Shepard left his 99 sheep to go fetch this lamb. This is the "unsaved yet soul": ALL of them, the
souls that came after Jesus that wander around yet unsaved.

---This is a term that I learned about, when living with my sister in the Mountains, where there were a lot of Fundamentalist churches.
Some used this term "Shunning". This is where they "shunned the unbelievers", shunned not only the worldliness of
materialisms, but that they made friends only with other saved people, did business with only other
business people who were saved, and generally kept themselves away from anyone who was not saved.

The newspaper, "SWORD OF THE LORD", the main newsletter for the Church of Christ, had a very very good article criticizing this way of life!
The write posed the question: "what would have been the result if Jesus had no dealings with the woman of the Well of Samaria, a prostitute,
the lowest of the lowlife as seen by that culture of that day?!! Suppose Jesus had no dealings with *anyone* who Sins?!
Then, who would have ever ever become saved?!
Thus this writer says that Shunning is an abomination, as this way of life cuts off the people of that church that follows this path, from contact with the greater outer world
of the unsaved masses of people! How can an unsaved person become saved unless he gets, from outside of himself, the Message
of Salvation? Thus no unsaved, sinning, person can ever go into this church, as a visitor seeking a new church for to call "home",
and then receive a feeling of "welcome" from everyone if the church people shunned him? Thus such a church could end up
where the minister Truly is "preaching to the choir", as everyone in this church is a fundamental believer and is saved!

This is why, according to the "three Cross way", all sinners must be made welcome to come to church!

Somewheres Jusus says, [ i am not good at "Bible verses] , ........"that if just ONE sinner is saved, by your actions, then "it" is all made worth while
as this sinner is now on the Rolls of heaven for Eternity". Thus if a church welcomes people of all colors, of all ways of life, of all incomes,
then these people are exteriorly exposed to the word of God, and thus this can sink into their hearts where Jesus can now speak inwards to them.
Thus, I feel, that a church should thus welcome these people, and then deal with their *Sins*, not the Sinner, in "critiques"!
Then welcome this lost lamb back up the hill into the sheepFold. But these "worldly" sinners need that saying
that is painted on the mural wall of the Tallahassee Homeless Shelter, which says...
Thus it is not only Jesus and the Word of God, the Bible, that helps a sinner get free of his sins, it is the social aspect of the people of the church, the body of
believers, who befriend and help this person.

The problem, as I see it, with a strict fundamentalist church attitude, is that sinners who visit this church, sinners who have *any* type of sin;
is that they are often not made to feel welcome.

[the mule responds better to a Carrot dangling on a stick in front of its face, instead of a whip applied to its rear end, to get it to pull its load forwards!]

In short, sinners must be made welcome to any church. We all, each of us, was one of Them, Sinners, once!

in closing, a parable: a man came up to a farmer who was hitting a rock with a large hammer and in one blow this rock split apart. The visitor
says, "nice blow there".
The farmer replied, "ah....But you did not see the other 19 blows that I had to hit onto the rock, before you walked around the bend!
Those 19 blows made cracks all through that rock, the 20th blow did it in".
---the "20th blow" is Jesus, the "19 blows" is all the actions of the church and the other members of this church, that Paves the Way
for this sinner to hear and then to ACCEPT that Jesus has something Vital for him to accept!

but if this sinner is not even made to feel welcome in the church, there will not even be ONE BLOW made upon that stubborn rock
of sin-heart!

freestone Wilson