434 Downing Place
Lancaster, Ohio 43130
The Rt. Rev. Herbert Thompson, Bishop
Dear Bishop Thompson,
I received today an informational copy of your letter dated August 2, 2004 to the parishioners of St. Paul's, Chillicothe and felt that I must respond. I first must say that I have never met Father Terry but have had the opportunity to speak with him via phone regarding mission projects. I know of his heart for evangelism and mission and his desire to preach and spread the gospel to all nations.
I believe you are absolutely correct in assuming that his resignation has nothing to do with the issue of human sexuality, or with your position or theology on this subject now or in the past. Without even discussing his resignation I feel confident that it centers around two much more significant issues that I hope to be able to identify.
First is the direction The Episcopal Church of the United States is headed. You point out that The Lambeth Conference of 1998 stated quite convincingly that the Church's teaching on this matter is not to change. Then with no consultation with the greater Anglican Communion or the worldwide Christian Community, ECUSA at its General Convention displays extreme hubris by its action. To make things worst, those promoting this "new theology" base their beliefs on "new revelation" from God. If God has revealed this change from scripture, what is next? And it's not just the direction of the national church. Look what has happened here in our diocese just on this issue. True, you voted as a diocesan bishop against confirmation of a practicing homosexual yet seven out of eight of your delegates voted against you on the same issue. Bishop Price does not share your theology on this issue. The majority of the delegates of our diocesan convention voted to endorse the actions of General Convention and then refused to even permit an alternate resolution to even be placed on the floor, let alone debated and voted upon. No, it's not about human sexuality and it's not about you, it's about which direction this train is headed and, is it better to jump off now at the speed we are going, jump later when it has picked up speed, or wait for the crash!
Second is the authority of scripture. I wanted to believe that our church would never ordain or confirm to the episcopate an unrepentant sinner. Scripture for 2000 years has been very clear on this issue so I had to question how in the world anyone, theologian or not, could possibly twist the interpretations to justify or condone such behavior. When I asked this of Bishop Price last fall, he directed me to the "most comprehensive, well thought out bible study" on this topic, that of Bishop Michael Curry. I obtained a copy off the internet, read it, reread it and couldn't believe what I was reading. I wrote to him to tell him that the catechism that I studied years ago for confirmation does not allow me to come to the conclusions that he did. Additionally, I question if he may have had his fingers crossed at his ordination and confirmation! Nonetheless, if this is how The Episcopal Church is now regarding the authority of scripture it is no wonder that an orthodox priest such as Father Terry would leave. On this topic of authority of scripture I find it curious that you make your theology clear regarding sexual matters, assuming it is based on scripture, yet you permit, and even advertise on the diocesan website, the speaking engagement of an apostate bishop who denies major portions of scripture.
A couple of more points please. You mention in your letter that Mr. Terry needs to examine his conscience and recall his ordination vows and that he has abandoned the people of St. Paul's. I'm quite sure that Father Terry has agonized and possibly "sweat blood" over this issue and come to the decision that he must follow that first vow that he took, to be a dedicated follower of Jesus, his Lord. I'm sure that he believes that if there has been any abandonment it is the Episcopal Church abandoning him and many others. I feel for him and will pray for him wherever God calls him to preach the gospel and witness to his Savior.
I write these words with all due respect for both you and your position as my bishop. I can only attempt to empathize with the ordained clergy during these times because for this layman it has not been easy. For now, my wife, Jean and I are "staying the course" because we feel we are called to support our priest, Bill Pursley. If, for some reason, he would decide to leave we would most likely find another place to worship. This would not be without the greatest of emotional strains since we have been at St. John's for 35 years, children baptized, confirmed, having served at the altar and married here and both of us serving in just about every capacity available. However, reflecting on last week's readings, that's all "stuff" and "vanity" when compared to following our Lord and Savior, Jesus!!!!
In His Service,
Thomas E. Hammer
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