St. Clement’s Philadelphia makes David Virtue’s Virtue Online again

So there is the subtext for why some of the vestry had been so upset by the new priest—he’s gay.

As I said last year or the year before, I don’t think anyone could properly minister to that parish unless they were, in some measure, open to gay community issues.   I’m sure the rector (Canon Gordon Reid) also saw it that way, and so he invited in a new curate who can relate.

I appreciate David Virtue’s reporting on the story; he, essentially, is chronicling the slow decline of a denomination that used to really have its act together.   I am more to the left of Dr. Virtue, but to the right of the 1990’s incarnation of leftie political correctness on the issue.    The “orthodox” within the Episcopal Church, who now basically call themselves the “Anglican Church” here, are always shocked! shocked! that these parishes aren’t like they were in 1959 anymore.   But I see it, and have seen it, that these people should have sought out an amicable divorce a long time ago.   (I know there was a Flying Bishops deal between Bishop Bartlett and the Seven Sisters parishes of the Pennsylvania diocese, which Bennison breached, but I guess I meant it more like they really needed to focus on the “divorce” aspect.)

There is nothing wrong with having gay priests down there.   If it’s true about the curate, I’m sure he isn’t the first.   It’s probably a lot better for the parish, so people don’t have to pretend.   It’s better for people who are attracted to the high church ritual, which you can catch online nowadays, but don’t like the fact that it’s 2012 and things changed.

I noticed that the suers are all up in knots because the progressives got the better of them.   I highly doubt that they’d do any litigation in Philadelphia’s Orphans’ Court, because the cases 20 years ago, where they had their attorney say whatever to win, now block them from making the arguments that I hear they want to make!    Had they not screwed around back then about what rights you get as a member of the denomination, they wouldn’t find themselves as ex-Vestry members.  (Not all of them did, but some names are from then and now.)

Karma is a bitch, you know.

[Update 4/4/12:   The rector of St. Clement’s fills us in on what more had transpired with the old vestry majority.


  • the old vestry’s legal spending went to $53,000 when all was said and done
  • they had cut the rector’s salary, which was probably a breach of contract or a canon violation
  • they let the tax-exemption for the Anchor Foundation lapse, which means that any contributions to it last year were not tax deductible
  • they had some unrecorded assets (commonly known as a slush fund) kept secret from the accountants and auditors
  • they had checks being paid on one signature, which is a big control no-no.
  • in short, they were running St. Clement’s as if it were their own private thing—not something that they held collectively in trust.]

[Update 4/18/12: David Virtue is really going to town, in fact. And I’m not so sure it’s fair to Father Reid.]

5 thoughts on “St. Clement’s Philadelphia makes David Virtue’s Virtue Online again

  1. I appreciated your responses on David Virtue’s despicable website, which I refuse to have any truck with. Sadly, one of the malcontents at S. Clement’s posted a link to the VOL stories on fb and it came up on my newsfeed. Otherwise I would be blissfully unaware of this creative collection of half-truths, plain lies/misinformation/disinformation, and – likely willful – distortion on the part of Virtue and whatever informants he had apart from Fr Reid (if the Rector actually did speak to him, which I don’t factually know to be the case). Thanks for reflecting a bit of truth on that awful website.

  2. Dr. Ezell (Jeff), thank you for your comments. Congratulations on your election to vestry there.

    I am in a middle position w/ regard to St. Clement’s and the Virtue website. I appreciate that you would maybe make colorful reference to Dr. Virtue’s site, but he is really chronicling a following within the Episcopal denomination that . . . well, what is the word?— bemoans— the fact that “times changed” with a lot of issues concerning gender roles and sexual mores, compared to what people feel it was like in, say, the 1950’s and before. It is basically the culture wars of the 1960’s, and a catalogue of the disappointments of the losing end of that faction within Episcopalianism.

    To me, the recent vestry elections, and other developments there like the suing, reflect a parish that is coming to grips with issues that it had been, let’s say, struggling with for the past (probably) 40, maybe 50, years. I can only say, from first hand experience, the time from 1988 to about 1991 or 1992. St. Clement’s had a “Orthodox Anglican” wing at that time, and then a variety (basically, the gamut) of Philadelphia’s local gay community. From everyday people to others who followed more of the “we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it” crowd of those days—with the italics going, basically, toward you are going to submit to unwanted attention, if you are stuck in that situation.

    There was some sort of philosophical accounting that occurred sometime in 1994, when St. Clement’s left “Episcopal Synod of America”, a Texas-based conservative alliance of Episcopal Churches, that is now called Forward in Faith. I guess that new arrangement lasted for the last 18 or so years, probably twisting and shifting as parishioners came and went, or passed away. So there did need to be some voting, and some changing around of things. Based of the experience of twenty years ago, it was very hard for me to see how Father Reid could manage a parish like St. Clement’s without being considerably open to the, well, post-1960’s changes when it concerns the gay community. It wasn’t really clear, to me anyway, how he could do his Christian ministry there, otherwise.

    So, (similarly) to me, the recent vestry results, and—basically—the kicking off of the suers are really good developments for St. Clement’s parish. Congratulations again!

  3. Thanks and let me say that I only hope we can make S. Clement’s a thriving place that serves the greater Philadelphia – esp. Centre City Philly – community. My own journey has been a long and interesting one that started in a place in which I was very much discomfited by the illicit ordinations of women to the priesthood in 1974, and dismayed by General Convention’s authorisation of such ordinations in 1976. I spent several years in a “rejectionist” Anglo-Catholic parish in Fort Worth, the Anglican Catholic Church in Colorado, and other splinters, as well as the Anglican Use/Special Pastoral Provision of the Roman Catholic Church, before I grew up, realised that neither the Papist discipline nor the Continuing Anglican Churches were – to me – acceptable in their ecclesiology and magisterium regarding human sexuality, and that – again by my lights – the rejection of the ordination of women was in the final analysis misogynist, petty and bigoted. Further, the frankly homophobic attitude of those bodies is , to me, both unacceptable and hypocritical. At times – again many years ago – I found it better to leave the Anglican sphere entirely and spend time in the Lutheran Church, where I wasn’t troubled by the controversies.

    However, by around 1990 I had come to terms with the evolution of the Episcopal Church and I must say that I have some difficulty understanding how it is that a small minority in places like S. Clement’s have so deluded themselves all these years and either not made their peace with developments within the Episcopal Church or else left for Rome, the Orthodox Churches of the East, the Continuing bodies, or elsewhere. Of course, on an individual basis, I think it’s easily understandable, and in a place like S. Clement’s one can see how a small coterie turned the place into a private club in the interest of a tiny elite. Yet, I would have been quite content to have remained quietly in the background at S. Clement’s had not the ultimate hubris and gangsterism of that group not persuaded me of the necessity of supporting the Rector.

    1. You know, I don’t enough to say, because I wasn’t connected to the parish by the time Swain became the rector. He had been curate, from about 1988 to, when?, maybe late 1993. And, of course, he is “one side of the v” in Gundlach v. Swain, which was the continuing matter from Gundlach v. Laister. (Same core issue, different party as rector.)

      It’s just my guess (and take this as the other side of the “v”), but Barry Swain struck me as a careerist priest. I am sure he took what he did seriously there, at St. Clement’s, but I think he had his eye on being a rector of a Manhattan church, or one up there near where he came from. So St. Clement’s was maybe serving time, until the better thing came along.

      He did broker some kind of change in the parish, from its “ESA” experiment (1990-1994). He and the then-vestry withdrew the parish out of ESA, but, I guess, tried to keep it as a more so-called conservative parish. Even though, as so many have said, it was more like a gay conservative parish, and I know there is a big debate about whether that can even be or not in Anglo Catholicism. It’s a debate I don’t want to get into, because I think the parish suffered a lot by pretending things they shouldn’t have.

      Swain had this objection to women priests, but I think they are pretty common in the Diocese of New York. So I don’t know if he still does the politicking about that in daily prayers.

      I am sure that he does his good Christian works, so it is not to be negative on him. Except, though, as I say, when it came to honoring denomination memberships, he didn’t follow canons when he was supposed to . . .

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