This is why the altar guild gets paid the big bucks

scissor sisters2The Episcopal Church sure generates a lot of news stories. The latest came after the vestry of Colorado's largest Episcopal parish voted to leave and join the Church of Nigeria's North American mission. Associated Press reporter Colleen Slevin had a straightforward story about the move, which didn't make the Colorado bishop very happy:

Bishop Robert O'Neill rejected the church's move, dismissing the local leaders and saying the Colorado Springs parish would remain part of the Episcopal Church.

''The fact is people may leave the Episcopal Church but parishes cannot,'' O'Neill said in a statement.

The church's longtime rector, the Rev. Donald Armstrong III, who was suspended late last year, said O'Neill no longer has jurisdiction over the parish.

''He doesn't have an army. The courts will not interfere in an internal church dispute and the congregation is solidly behind us,'' Armstrong said.

Drama! Armstrong's suspension was a major story in itself. Paul Asay of the Colorado Springs Gazette had a great story a few weeks ago about some parishioners being so angry over the suspension that they had stopped tithing. I wish we could highlight more of Asay's stories. He mentions that the details of the bishop's investigation weren't shared with the congregation. What's more, a laptop with the giving records of all the parishioners was stolen from the diocese's accountant. This reminds me of the time my brother was treasurer of his congregation and had a computer glitch that caused annual giving statements to be delayed. I can honestly say I've never seen nice Lutherans angrier than the week they found out; the way they looked at my brother you'd think they were bookies and he was a degenerate who couldn't cover the vig.

The lack of trust in the Colorado story probably stems from Armstrong's being not just an average rector. He's been an outspoken opponent of the Episcopal Church and is executive director and a collegial theologian of the Anglican Communion Institute. That group has been critical of Presiding Bishops Katharine Jefferts Schori and Frank Griswold. After the last General Convention, Armstrong backed a parish statement saying the convention had acted in a way to "further strain, and perhaps dissolve, the bonds of affection among the provinces of the Anglican Communion." Prescient, that. Anyway, parishioners wonder if it was statements and views such as these that led the diocese to suspend the priest. Diocesan backers strongly disagree. But back to the matter at hand.

Senior warden Jon Wroblewski said the parish had fought for a return to orthodoxy within the denomination but has lost hope in reform.

''It's clear that The Episcopal Church no longer believes in the historic, orthodox Christian faith common to all believers. It's also clear that purported Episcopal values of 'inclusion' do not apply to orthodox believers,'' Wroblewski said in the statement.

You can go over to the Bible Belt Blogger to get parishioners' perspective on why they left. Slevin even mentioned that these debates on salvation, truth and sexuality have been raging for decades.

st  john the divineThat leads me to mention a story from earlier in the week passed on by a few GetReligion readers. The mainstream media view of the Episcopal split has been focused on sex, as we've noted before. When the northern Virginian parishes left The Episcopal Church, many mainstream reporters focused on the views African primates have toward homosexuality. It was interesting to see the importance placed on that one topic at the expense of all the other views held by African primates or all of the other concerns of the renegade parishes.

So if it's all about gay sex all the time, some readers wondered why the mainstream media wasn't paying any attention at all to a particularly odd entry in the Episcopal sex wars.

It seems that Elton John celebrated his 60th birthday on Saturday night inside of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City. This would be the same Elton John who just four months ago said he despised religion:

"I would ban religion completely," he reportedly said, adding, "Organized religion doesn't seem to work. It turns people into hateful lemmings, and it's not really compassionate."

Now maybe threats of religion-banning are not a big deal to some Episcopal churchgoers, but them are fighting words to others. I would love for a reporter to ask the folks who run St. John the Divine just what in the world they were thinking by having Sir Elton John rent the place out for a party. Maybe they could be asked what kind of message it sends to take money from someone who speaks out against you.

I didn't see any mainstream papers covering it. The New York Post did, which included this tidbit about what took place on the altar during the bash:

The altar was set up as a stage for the performers, which included the trendy rock group Scissor Sisters, Sting and Paul McCartney.

Altar-performers Scissor Sisters are named -- of course -- for tribadism, a sex position between lesbians. The lead singer is pictured above. And for what it's worth, to do a Google Images search for the band is to venture into a part of the Internet where it's best not to roll down the window. Northern Virginia parishes are asked about every statement made by Peter Akinola in Nigeria. Maybe we could get a simple statement from the cathedral's dean about whether he thinks there's any problem with selling out the cathedral for altar performances and bacchanalias.

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