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From Canterbury to Constantinople

Frank Lockwood

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Recently, former Lexington Episcopal priest Alice Linsley left the Anglican Communion and became a part of the Orthodox Church, which traces its roots to the Apostles via Constantinople. I asked Linsley to describe the experience.

Linsley: On Sunday, February 18, I was received into the Orthodox Church, having been "chrismated" with oil in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. I had been baptized as a girl in the Baptist Church. The pastor dunked me under three times, following the ancient Trinitarian pattern. The Orthodox priest questioned me on this matter because baptism in the Episcopal Church would possibly have required that I be re-baptized. (The Orthodox recognize that The Episcopal Church has strayed from the Trinitarian faith of the Apostles.) I was not required to say an oath, only to recite the Nicene Creed, which is a sufficient outline of the Christian faith, and which I am able to recite without reservation. And I did vow to continue steadfast in the faith of the Apostles.

Question: Why did you pick the Orthodox Church, as opposed to Catholicism or one of the many evangelical churches or new Anglican bodies?

Answer: I was seeking the Church in its fullest and least distorted expression. In my opinion, the Roman Catholic Church has departed from the ancient pattern of worship and has introduced numerous innovations that the Apostles would find strange: such as the immaculate conception of Mary and purgatory. Most Protestants and Evangelicals define their beliefs largely in opposition to Roman Catholicism, which causes a distortion also. The Orthodox Church holds the Bible to be authoritative for the Church and as an expression of the Apostles teaching and supported by the writings of the Early Church Fathers. Orthodoxy has refused to allow innovations and therefore represents the ancient pattern in worship, doctrine, order and spirituality. Orthodoxy is hierarchical but doesn't have a Pope and rejects papal claims of priority and infallibility. The more I looked into the Orthodox Church, the more I realized that this is the Ecclesia the Apostles would recognize.

Q: You were the first woman to become a priest in Lexington?

A: No, I don't believe I was. If so, I never knew that.

(Editor's note: The first woman priest to be ordained in Lexington was Mary Purcell, who also renounced her priestly orders shortly after the consecrtation of V. Gene Robinson.)

Q: When and why did you decide that the Episcopal Church was no longer the right place for you?

A: When my bishop told me with pride that he was one of the co-sponsors of a proposal for same-sex ceremonies in The Episcopal Church.

Q: If I remember correctly, you were rector of a parish in Lexington. Can you tell me where you served and when?

A: I was Rector at St. Andrews Episcopal Church on the corner of 4th and North Upper streets from October 2000 through November 2003. I served as a bi-vocational priest, as the parish couldn't afford fulltime clergy. St. Andrews is an historic congregation, the first Episcopal mission to blacks in the state of Kentucky. The parish was established for the servants of the whites who attended the cathedral up the street. I loved the people dearly, and still do. In the 3 years I was there, we were able to fullly renovate the parish hall, including the installation of HVAC and new windows, paying for the improvements as we went so that the church never had to borrow money. At the beginning of my third year, Bishop Sauls placed a female deacon at St. Andrews to assist me with the ministry. She was a caring person and we came to love her. It later came out that she was a lesbian, but we loved her and she wasn't the only homosexual at St. Andrews.

After General Convention 2003, the climate in the parish changed because the approval of the consecration of V. Gene Robinson polarized the church. Activists started turning up the heat to move me out of their way. Certain individuals framed The Episcopal Church's radical social agenda in the language of the Civil Rights Movement and many people were fooled, but not all. Today some members look back on what happened and see the manipulation. I submitted my resignation and celebrated my last Eucharist on the Sunday that Gene Robinson was consecrated bishop of New Hampshire.

I was tired and I'm sure that I could not have sustained a long struggle within the parish or diocese. I'd been working two fulltime jobs for 6 years. I held on for as long as I could, and the Lord assured me through prayer that He would guide me. After a time of prayer, fasting and scripture reading I was given clarity that the first Sunday in November 2003 was to be my last. I was so busy putting out fires in the parish, and trying to help people see what was happening, that I never realized that the first Sunday in November was the day of V. Gene Robinson's consecration. It is good that I didn't know because I may not have had the courage to obey, given the attacks and harassment that followed that decision.

Read the entire article on the Bible Belt Blogger website (new window will open).

Posted: 15-Mar-07



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