June 25, 2012

Priest Recalled from Sudan to Lead Worship at Falls Church Episcopal


CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post identified Stanley as “openly lesbian”. Rev. Stanley has written to clarify that she is heterosexual (see comments section below).

The continuing Episcopal congregation of the Falls Church (TFCE) has invited an Episcopal priest who was famously recalled from the Sudan in a controversy over same-sex blessings to lead services on July 1.

The invitation comes one month after TFCE assumed control of the historic property following a court ruling against the departing Anglican congregation. The Anglican congregation (TFCA) voted overwhelmingly to separate from the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia in 2006 following disagreements about the authority and interpretation of scripture.

Stanley’s invitation to TFCE follows the diocese’s first ordination of an openly lesbian clergywoman earlier this month. On June 2, Assistant Bishop Edwin F. “Ted” Gulick Jr. ordained Jo Belser of Alexandria, VA to the transitional diaconate in a service at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Burke, VA. As a layperson, Belser served as an official with Integrity Virginia, the diocese’s unofficial homosexual and transgender caucus.

(Photo: Episcopal News Service)

Stanley is best known for her four year missionary assignment at Renk Theological College in Sudan. In March of 2009, Stanley was recalled to Virginia by Bishop Peter Lee at the request of Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul Yak. The head of the Sudanese church acted after the Virginia clergywoman made public comments at Diocesan Council defending a resolution opening the door to the blessing of same-sex unions. Responding to concerns that such a resolution would do irreparable harm to the long-standing mission relationship between the Diocese of Renk and the Diocese of Virginia, Stanley insisted that the Sudanese did not care. Archbishop Deng Bul Yak told Bishop Lee that Stanley’s comments were offensive.

In December of 2011 the Episcopal Church of the Sudan publicly revoked an invitation to Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori, citing the U.S.-based church’s liberal stance on sexuality issues. The Sudanese church simultaneously recognized the Anglican Church in North America, while stating that they would continue to work with some individual churches and dioceses within the Episcopal Church.

Following termination of her work in the Sudan, Stanley was stationed as an Episcopal Church missionary in the Diocese of Haiti, the largest in the U.S.-based Episcopal Church. That assignment also ended with Stanley being recalled after only a year. Stanley is currently listed as a doctoral candidate at Virginia Theological Seminary and is described as “Priest, Preacher, Consultant, Visionary.”

Formed soon after the Anglican congregation split from the Episcopal Church, TFCE has been led by an interim priest-in-charge for the past year. Unlike the Anglican congregation, the significantly smaller Episcopal congregation has remained comfortable with the theologically liberal direction of the diocese. In 2010, an alternate Lay delegate from the church, Doug Hansen, spoke before the Resolutions Committee Open Hearing at Diocesan Convention in support of Resolutions R-3 (Inclusiveness in Ordained Ministry Regardless of Sexual Orientation) and R-4 (Authorizing Rites of Same-Sex Blessings).

The congregation’s vestry recently announced that the Rev. John Ohmer of St. James Episcopal Church, Leesburg, VA, has been called to be Rector of the church. Ohmer, a former aide to then-Senator Al Gore, serves alongside Stanley as a staff writer for Center Aisle, the Diocese of Virginia’s General Convention opinion journal.

9 Responses to Priest Recalled from Sudan to Lead Worship at Falls Church Episcopal

  1. Please do not refer to any parish of The Episcopal Church” as a “continuing church”. That title was adopted back in 1977 by the original “Anglican Church in North America” enshrined in the “Affirmation of St Louis” and today in known as “The Anglican Catholic Church, Original Province” headed currently by Archbishop Mark Haverland of Athens, Georgia not to be mistaken for the current “Anglican Church in North America” headed by former TEC bishop Duncan of PA. Respectfully (The Rev’d) Kenneth Bradley.

    • jeffreywalton says:

      Thank you for the clarification, Fr. Bradley. The terms “continuing” and “departing” are used to differentiate between the two congregations and their status in relation to the Episcopal Church (TEC). You are certainly correct that TFCE has no connection to the “continuing church” movement. When IRD writes “continuing” in this instance, we mean “continuing as a part of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.” The alternative is to use the term “shadow congregation” but it comes across as derogatory. Additionally, it is a bit outdated, as TFCE now meets on the historic property and isn’t “shadowing” anyone. Clergy and laity in the two congregations have a cordial, if distant, relationship with one another.

  2. The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley says:

    Dear Mr. Walton:
    Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Imagine my surprise when I found your article here and on virtueonline.org. I am not surprised that you are writing a round-up story about the goings-on at The Falls Church Episcopal. I am, however, surprised that your reporting contains a major error, which I believe you know is an error, and that you reported it anyway.

    I am an Episcopal priest. I was an Appointed Missionary in Renk, Sudan. I was asked to leave by Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul. I will be preaching at The Falls Church Episcopal. All those are true; congratulations on getting those facts correct.

    However, and you know this part: I am heterosexual.

    Not that my sexual orientation should matter to you. After all, we are all created in the image of God. Which leads me to wonder: Have you forgotten that basic belief of the Church? Or have you decided that you know more than God?

    I also wonder about anyone who does reporting who knowingly reports falsehoods just to get a headline. If you do so concerning me and my personal life, what other “facts” are you reporting that are not, in fact, facts? You can see where this slippery slope leads: “Ah,” says the discerning reader, “he got that salient point wrong. I wonder if he is wrong about …?” Pretty soon, we will be left doubting anything and everything you report – and I do not want that to happen to you.

    So let’s get this one fact correct: I am not an “openly lesbian priest.” I am a priest who happens to be heterosexual.

    There. It is now on the record. You cannot deny this any longer.

    For the sake of your reporting career, I hope you pay attention to this.

    Blessings and peace,
    The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley

    • jeffreywalton says:

      Rev. Stanley, I regret and offer my apology for this major error. I have immediately removed the sentence in the TFCE story that incorrectly states you are “openly lesbian” and have placed a correction at the top of the article referencing your full comment posted alongside. I will also contact virtueonline and any other news service that picked up the posting in order to offer a correction there as well.

      The basis for my mistake was a 2010 report entitled “Lesbian priest recalled from Haiti.” http://diocny.blogspot.com/2010/06/lesbian-priest-recalled-from-haiti.html

      This report, alongside several other mentions online, including your involvement with Integrity Virginia, was why I mistakenly identified you as such. I do not list these in order to deflect from my responsibility of getting the story right, but to explain how I arrived at the error. Please accept my apology and know that this major error was unintentional.

      • Lauren R. Stanley says:

        Dear Mr. Walton:

        Again I bid you grace and peace in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

        Thank you for making the correction. I am aware that over the years, people have made this statement about me, and each time, a correction has been requested. I applaud you for being so gracious and open to correcting errors.

        I recall that in the last two years, one writer (I cannot call him a “reporter,” for he made no attempt to report anything) decided that I was a lesbian because I keep my hair cut very short. And indeed, I do. Because in 2004, I made a promise to a Marine serving in Iraq, and I am keeping that promise until all of our troops are home from war.

        We may not agree on all issues theological and probably political. But a devotion to the truth does unite us.

        I do hope that virtueonline.org and The Christian Post manage to follow your lead.

        I will grant that we differ on the reason I spoke at Diocesan Council, and that the context in which I made my remarks are not in agreement with your interpretation (after all, I was there, and I made my remarks), but that is a discussion we must have personally.

        I bid you my peace and God’s peace, and remain

        Your faithful servant in Christ,

        The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley

  3. Lauren R. Stanley says:

    Dear Mr. Walton:

    One more quick thing: My blog has not been “silent” since 2010. Apple changed its mobile.me account, so my web page migrated to WordPress, and can be found at http://gointotheworld.net. It was a technical thing …

  4. […] control of the historic Falls Church property in May, the Virginia congregation has made a few changes that would not have occurred under the departing Anglicans. A court order directed the outgoing […]

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