Effective January 1, 1994, the right Reverend Clarence Pope, Episcopal Bishop of Fort Worth, not only retired but left the Episcopal Church for Rome. He is the highest-ranking Episcopalian to leave the denomination. Bishop Pope was one of a handful of bishops willing to stand against a liberal hierarchy. As is true of many Episcopalians, he saw the church he knew and loved change its core beliefs in a quest to follow a leftwing agenda. And he is not alone. A majority of members of another parish transferred to the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese.

For years the Episcopal Church was known as the Republican Party at prayer. Its members were perceived to be part of the powerful elite, the rich and the famous. Whether this perception was ever true, it certainly is no longer accurate today. Yes, some members may be rich, powerful, and even famous. Some may even be Republicans. But not her leadership. The “Sandinistas in Sensitivity Groups,” “Marxists at EST,” “Nihilists in Nirvana,” but never the Republican Party at prayer. For the last two decades, the gospel of the 60’s has prevailed, and for the institution and those parishioners who remain, the cost has been financial ruin, moral bankruptcy, and intolerance. Even more frightening for me is the fact that every time I watch an interview of the President, or one of his deputies, I feel as if I am sitting at a diocesan meeting. Shades of an age of demonstrations, SDS, and free love. If you wonder where the age of Clinton will take us, just look at the Episcopal Church.

During the Reagan years, the clergy of my diocese received a letter. It was a tirade against Reaganomics, under which the poor suffered unendurable hardships, welfare mothers were ignored. and unemployment was rampant. In it, our Bishop commiserated with us over how difficult it must now be to afford a vacation. In the final paragraph, he told us all about his extended vacation in Switzerland.

In the entranceway to the diocesan office, a large sign lamented that the average welfare mother was only given 25 cents per meal per person by the government. At that point in my life, our family was spending an average of 11 cents per person per meal. The priest who came with me spent even less than that per meal. At that time, my children qualified for free lunches at school. While Reagan was portrayed by the bishop as the great Satan of those on welfare, no mention was ever made of the standard of living of his own priests! The welfare of priests was not part of the agenda.

Today, one of the great concerns of our President and his Lady is health care. Some 37 million (or 58 million, depending on the source) are without it, we are told. The rest of us are condemned to pay for those without. More importantly, our standard of care will be lessened, if not destroyed. Yet, like the vacationing bishop, Clinton and Congress shall never be forced to live with the same system.

“Limousine Bishops” speak eloquently about the suffering of the poor, demand redress for perceived wrongs, yet live in the best neighborhoods, travel to the nicest places, and attend the hottest parties. It is reported that the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church makes nearly as much money as the President of the United States. (His office refuses to divulge any information on his salary—yet a published report contends that it is $166,000 with a housing allowance of $48,000, making him the highest paid leader of any mainline church. It is reported that his retirement pay will be $132,000.) The median budget for a parish in the Diocese of Michigan is $86,000. The median income including housing for 1992 of Episcopal Clergy in the United States was $38,750. This is not to say that there aren’t fine bishops who are paid a pittance. There is, however, a direct relationship between salary and “advocacy of the poor” (as long as they fit the politically correct definition). Little concern is expressed for the soldiers who need Food Stamps to feed their families.

Conferences are frequently held on ministering to the poor. If one were to close his eyes, one could imagine hearing the very same exhortations at any liberal think-tank. A fellow priest attended one such conference. All day he heard how one must be sensitive to the poor and oppressed. He endured the guilt trip of being white and middle-class. At the end of the day, he drove home tired and depressed in his ten-year-old Toyota. He was passed by both “facilitators,” each driving his own Mercedes. It is not only liberal politicians whose lifestyle belies their words. The church too has its poverty pimps.

For decades, if not since the founding of this nation, the Episcopal Church had a special relationship with the military. From his years as a cadet or midshipman until retirement, an officer could be ministered to by an Episcopal Chaplain. Those who opposed the war in Vietnam have since risen to prominence in the Episcopal Church. One former officer, now a parish priest, tells the story of one less-than-pleasant demonstration in Okinawa. One of the demonstrators was the then Bishop of Okinawa, who is now the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. During the Gulf War, an Episcopal President sought comfort and spiritual direction from Billy Graham. His own Presiding Bishop denounced his “imperialism.” A recent conference in Detroit was entitled “Making the Connections Between U.S. Militarism and Urban Violence.”

The agenda of the Episcopal hierarchy seems little concerned with the spiritual well-being of servicemen and women. It is no secret that words such as “souls,” “eternal salvation,” and “holiness” are absent from the lexicon of liberal clergy. While Episcopal elites snub their noses at the military, numerous news sources report that First Daughter Chelsea refused to enter a military vehicle that was to take her to school, saying: “My mother and father don’t like the military.”

The military (for the Episcopal left and apparently for our President) is merely a laboratory for social experimentation. The only time they take an interest in the well-being of soldiers is when they have the opportunity to speak of “gender-neutral” policies, or of the admittance, retention, and promotion of gays. The same Presiding Bishop who condemned the Gulf War applauded the Democratic President’s initial policy toward gays, sending a memo to Episcopal Chaplains encouraging them to support and promote the new policy. All this despite the fact that Scripture, tradition, and even the canons of the Episcopal Church are not value-neutral on the subject of homosexual behavior. It is a sin. Individual sin, however, is not part of their vocabulary (although “corporate sin” is a popular term).

One cannot help but wonder if we are not still experiencing echoes of the Chicago Convention when police officers were “pigs” and soldiers were “killers.” How does one minister to those whom one holds in contempt? Likewise, how does a President command a military that he abhors?

Nowhere is the agenda so focused as on the issues of feminism and homosexual rights. Opponents are removed and silenced whenever possible. They are excluded from positions of power, denied ordination, and actively harassed. There are even documentable cases of attempts to blackmail priests into silence on these issues. This in a church that presents itself as inclusive and diverse!

It began with the ordination of women. The Episcopal Church has held itself up to be a member of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. In the early 70’s, pressure began to mount to ordain women priests. The other branches of the Catholic Church begged us not to break with tradition. For those in favor, it was a matter of principle, of equal rights, of theology. At a debate on the issue in Philadelphia, a rather scholarly priest argued that Scripture and the traditions of the church were against ordaining women. His opponent, who was later elected the first female “bishop” in the church, stated: “All that Father says is true. However, it doesn’t matter.” Only the agenda mattered.

Yet, the truth is that it is a fundamental change in the theology of the church. If anyone believes otherwise let him read the book Ungodly Rage. A recent press report reproduced part of a prayer developed at a “feminist” meeting. The Sophia prayer, developed by feminists, reads: “Our maker Sophia, we are women in your image With the hot blood of our wombs we give form to new life. . . . With nectar between our thighs we invite a lover. We birth a child; with our warm body fluids we remind the world of its pleasures and sensations. . . . We celebrate the sweat that pours from us during our labors.” Can anyone familiar with the Our Father read this and contend that the feminist agenda is not a threat to Christianity?

While the provision for the ordination of women was permissive—meaning that it might be done, not must be done—those who oppose it have found themselves anathematized. Over and over the bishops of the church, nationally and internationally, promised that no discrimination would occur. Yet, in practice, men are denied admittance to Holy Orders if they oppose the ordination of women. Experienced priests are denied positions in the church. There are dioceses that have stated in writing that “no one who cannot accept the ordination of women” is welcome. In Kansas, two priests, the Dean of the Cathedral and his assistant, were told that while they could believe anything they wanted, their “behavior” must reflect acceptance of the ordination of women. Priests who quietly, prayerfully, and passively refused to accept communion at a service celebrated by a woman were publicly censured as “demented misogynists.”

It is said that a deal was struck at the General Convention that passed the ordination of women. It was struck between the feminists and homosexuals. Admittedly, in many cases they may be one and the same. The latest agenda item is homosexuality. A number of bishops have already illegally ordained practicing homosexuals and authorized priests to bless homosexual unions. Feminist “theologians” are even beginning to discuss the “sin of heterosexuality.” When traditionalists question these actions they are told to “hear” one another and be “sensitive” to the feeling of both sides. Yet, “sensitive and caring” bishops, men who can furrow their brows and make their lips quiver as they declare “I feel your pain,” go steamrolling ahead with the agenda. Sound familiar?

Perhaps the most interesting transformation for these 60’s liberals is their use of power and authority. Those who once held that authority was evil and power corrupt have become adept at tyrannical centralization. Property which was once held by both parish and diocese is now also held by the national church. Any parish that disagrees with the shenanigans of the hierarchy is welcome to leave, but its property and assets will stay with the church. Any parish that attempts to take its property is met with an immediate lawsuit, and usually its priest is deposed. Even dioceses on the brink of bankruptcy will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to protect the franchise. The wishes of the parishioners are of no consequence. Property rights (of the diocese, that is) must prevail. Strange for an ideology which held property in contempt and advocated the destruction of institutions. Even stranger for those who contend that people are always more important than property (at least after a riot occurs).

Clergy deployment has also been centralized in the national church. A computerized system “matches” the profiles of clergy with the perceived needs of the parish. Yet, in many dioceses, the matched names are screened at the diocesan level. While the computer may match 100 names, the parish may be given only five, and these five names often reflect “gender and racial criteria.” Many parishes are not allowed to look at candidates who do not meet the approval of the bishop or his staff. Political correctness is of greater importance than meeting the needs of the parishes and their parishioners.

These individuals who are so concerned with the feelings and needs of the oppressed seem to care little about the vast majority of their flock. In the last ten years, the Episcopal Church has lost over a third of her members. In the Diocese of Michigan, 57.5 percent of her members have left since 1970. The loud sucking sound heard throughout the United States is that of lifelong traditional Episcopalians leaving the church they love and cherish. As heartbreaking as is their plight, it is happiness itself compared to what awaits all Americans—for in the coming years, they will not even have the luxury of leaving.