|My Confrontation With Bishop Rabb on
November 9, 2003 at St. Timothy's Episcopal Church
Copyright 2003 by William Meisheid (11-13-03)
When I discovered that Bishop John L. Rabb, Suffragan Bishop of the Diocese of Maryland, was making the annual diocesan visit to St. Timothy's, I knew I had to confront him over the election, confirmation, and consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, a practicing homosexual who openly lives with his male partner. I had originally planned on confronting him at the discussion forum after the service, however, events transpired that changed my mind.
In mid September, St. Timothy's had split over the Robinson affair and the rector, senior warden, and over half the church left to form a new church plant, Emmaus Anglican Church. They applied for admission into the AMiA, and one of the mission's Bishops, Thaddeus Barnum, was at Emmaus for the weekend and was speaking on the AMiA. So, on Saturday evening, November 8th, I went with my wife, a member of Emmaus, to hear his presentation.
For me, the important aspect of Bishop Barnum's talk was his classification of Presiding Bishop Griswold's religion as essentially pagan and no longer Christian. He also considered all those who had taken part in Bishop Robinson's confirmation and consecration as now pagan. But the thing that hit home was when he said anyone in communion with them, was in communion with darkness and that any communion table of those so joined was itself pagan and the table of demons, not the table of Jesus Christ. He used 1 Corinthians 10:14-22 as his text. His message was both compelling and disturbing at the same time.
I approached him at the reception after his presentation and explained the situation I would encounter the next day at St. Timothy's. With great intensity he directly challenged me to not receive communion from Bishop Rabb for the sake of my soul. I explained that was no longer an issue for me, but I was not sure what to do for the rest of those remaining at St. Timothy's. Both he and Steve Randall, Emmaus' rector, prayed that God would direct my actions.
My wife and I went home, knowing that I had to confront Bishop Rabb over the Robinson issue sometime before the communion portion of the service. I spent several hours reading, studying, and praying before going to bed and then rose several hours early to prepare myself for what needed to be done. Up to the moment I walked out the door I was not sure what I was going to say, but I did take along several copies of my "Under the Gown of Jesus" article, possibly to give to anyone interested in reading it. Not everyone has Internet access, especially some of the older members of the parish. I had not been this nervous in a long, long, time.
I arrived at the Church about five minutes before the service and instead of sitting in the rear, as was my custom since the splitting of the church, I went up to a front pew that had been shortened to allow for installation of the sound board. I didn't want anyone to sit in the pew with me and this pew was small enough to accomplish that. I then went over to Catherine Bellis, a 92 year old saint of God who had been at St. Timothy's her whole life and asked her to pray for me, explaining that I had to confront the Bishop over the Robinson consecration before communion. She was the only one who knew what I intended to do.
As I sat in the pew during the early portions of the service and the sermon by Bishop Rabb, I slowly decided on what to say and wrote down a few notes on the back of one of my articles. I was afraid that if I didn't write it down, I would falter when I finally got up to speak. I was extremely nervous, knowing this was the end of my time at St. Timothy's and that I would probably alienate most of those who were at the service. I felt I had no choice, since I believe God called me as a watchman to the congregation and the enemy was in the camp.
Father Woolley, the Locum Tenens (priest in charge since the resignation of Steve Randall), said that the Bishop would address the congregation after the announcements and I decided to use that time, which was just before the passing of the peace and the beginning of the Eucharist, to challenge the Bishop.
It had been a long journey for me, arriving at this moment, this nexus point in my life at St. Timothy's. I had been a member for over 27 years. I was married and received there. My daughter was baptized there and she and my wife were confirmed there. I had taught, lead bible studies, participated in ministries, served on the vestry, and preached in that church, the last time being on August 18th, and on of all things, the Eucharist. When the initial split occurred, I remained, hoping to stand for the faith and find a way to bring St. Timothy's out of the cesspool that the Episcopal Church had become. That was not to be. Everything that was being done by the new leadership was predicated on protecting the property and maintaining the church family that had existed there since 1854. Yes, everyone agreed that our Bishops were wrong for supporting this consecration, but they thought we could still be our island of conservative witness in the midst of this ocean of filth. So did I, until I was confronted by Bishop Barnum.
After the announcements, the Bishop came forward and thanked the church for its unique witness and ministry in the diocese and talked about how we could all work through the issues facing us. As he closed and turned to give back the microphone, I stood and called out his name. He turned to me and said, "Yes." I told him I had two questions I needed to ask him and he said, "Alright."
I asked him if he acceded to the consecration of Gene Robinson, a practicing homosexual, as the Bishop of New Hampshire. He replied that he had voted for Robinson's confirmation, so yes he did, and why was I asking that question now. I explained that Robinson's consecration had occurred the previous Sunday and since the Bishop was here and would officiate the Eucharist I needed to ask him another question. He said, "Alright."
I asked him if he repented of his support of Robinson's consecration. He said he stood by his original action and saw no reason to change his position. I said that I needed to tell him and the congregation that the religion of Presiding Bishop Griswold, his own, and of all of those who supported and participated in the consecration of Robinson was no longer Christian but pagan. I told him that since he was to be the celebrant at Eucharist this morning that I needed to warn him and the congregation of what the Apostle Paul had said in 1 Corinthians 15:-21, which I read. "I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf. Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons." I told him I could not receive communion from him on peril of my soul.
I then went on to read a section from the last paragraph of my "Under the Gown of Jesus" article. I told him that "God will not be mocked and that the abomination of desolation has entered the sanctuary and pretends to administer the sacred sacraments. Deceit has corrupted truth, and those who call evil good have asserted their will and called it the will of the Most High." I turned to the congregation and said, "We must put on the full armor of God and resist the devil. To quote Edmond Burke, "All that is required for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing." Good men and women of Jesus Christ, get down on your knees to repent and pray and then rise up and do something." I closed by telling the Bishop "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
He had graciously stood while I said my peace and then he thanked me for my concerns and said we could all work together, so on and so forth. At that point, with my whole body vibrating almost out of control, I picked up my things and walked out of the church. As I exited, a man sitting in the last pew got up and followed me out. He said he was a reporter for the Baltimore Sun and he wanted to ask me a few questions. His article was published the next morning.
After giving him about five minutes, I proceeded down the road to Emmaus Anglican Church, arriving just before Bishop Barnum's sermon, which is available on the church's website. Thankfully, I was able to receive communion at Emmaus that morning, as I was in dire need of spiritual sustenance.
This week I officially resigned from the parish of St.
Timothy's. Here is my letter of resignation.
Please pray for me, those left behind at St. Timothy's, and for Emmaus
Anglican Church. May God have mercy on us all.