I am a big fan of our bishop in Arizona. I was therefore pleased to see that Father Nicholas Knisley had convinced Bishop Kirk Smith of Arizona to join the blogosphere. His new blog can be found here.
As one of his first posts, he discusses the issues with Christ Church
of the Ascension in Paradise Valley:
Ever since I began my time as bishop, I have tried to make it clear to the unhappy members of that parish that I valued their presence in the Diocese, and that they were welcome to their own theological understandings. You have heard me say many times that our church is a big tent, and that anyone who wants to be an Episcopalian should be!
One of the ways I did that was to arrange for them Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) in which I invited the Bishop of the Diocese of the Rio Grande to become their Episcopal visitor. This system worked for a while.
However, with the announcement by the rector, Fr. Ken Semon, that he was leaving to take an interim position in that Diocese, things quickly changed. Many vestry members resigned, a new “moderate” vestry was elected, and a small group of about 75 people (out of a 1000 member parish) announced that they were leaving their home on Lincoln Drive to start a new church. This group, calling themselves “Christ Church Anglican,” has affiliated with an Anglican archbishop in Africa, in violation of not only the Windsor Report, but also the ancient canons of the church. I am sorry that they felt they had to take such a drastic step, but I wish them well in creating a place where they no longer have to feel angry and oppositional to the mission of the church.
Back at Christ Church of the Ascension, parish life continues. I have appointed the Rev. Philip Jackson, formerly leader of one of the largest and fasted growing parishes in Detroit, as Priest in Charge Under Special Circumstances, which means that after one year the vestry may, if its wishes, call him as their permanent rector. Fr. Jackson is traditionalist in his thinking, but he is also loyal to the Episcopal Church. He began his duties on this past Monday, October 1st. My assumption is that his parish will continue to be a home for those who describe themselves as conservative, but who value their historic connection with the Diocese, as I value their connection with us.
It is always sad when members of the family leave home—and I want to say to them again “the door is always open.” But I am also heartened to know that Christ Church of the Ascension has begun a healing process that will allow it to remain an important part of our Diocese as we work together to do the Lord’s work.
Father Phil Jackson was an interim associate at Trinity. He is a wonderful priest, and seems to be a good fit for this new assignment. He is indeed orthodox in his thinking, and has the pastoral skills to make this difficult assignment work.