For those who have been paying attention, the sad internal strife at Grace Church has been enough to make a heathen shudder.
As of Easter Sunday, the highlight of the Christian calendar, the Grace members who feel loyal and committed to the Episcopal Church of the United States found themselves unwelcome at their own church building. Instead, they had to celebrate Easter in exile at Colorado College's Shove Chapel.
Meanwhile, the secessionist portion of Grace's parishioners gathered, with the Rev. Donald Armstrong presiding, at the property that has been the church's home for 112 years. For some reason, most of that group including Armstrong, who shouldn't be called rector anymore didn't seem to mind having evicted literally hundreds of their brethren, including many whose families have been faithful Grace members for generations.
Imagine having your own church hijacked, supposedly for "theological" reasons but also amid a growing scandal over alleged misuse (or, at least, unexplained spending) of money, amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
And people wonder why churches aren't as large or influential as they once were. Especially when a congregation as established and deep-rooted as Grace's can split in such a deplorable manner with the "breakaway" group seizing control of the church complex and embracing a Nigerian archbishop who believes homosexuals and their supporters should be imprisoned.
Let's be more specific. Archbishop Peter Akinola supports the idea of Nigeria's government making same-sex relationships criminal. He also favors Nigeria outlawing positive publicity for homosexuals "through the electronic or print media, physically, directly, indirectly or otherwise," meaning up to five years in prison for the Independent staff or any media giving favorable coverage to, say, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance or Southern Colorado AIDS Project.
That's beyond religious bigotry. It's fanaticism. And it's scary for one of Colorado Springs' most historic churches to be so fractured with so many embracing another group of Anglicans with such outrageous stances.
Here are some of Akinola's own words in a "message to the nation" of Nigeria, just last September: The Church affirms our commitment to the total rejection of the evil of homosexuality which is a perversion of human dignity and encourages the National Assembly to ratify the Bill prohibiting the legality of homosexuality since it is incongruent with the teachings of the Bible, Quran and the basic African traditional values.
Nigeria's government still is considering that "Bill," despite condemnation and disgust around the world, inside and outside the church. In case you didn't know, simply being homosexual is already illegal in Nigeria, with punishments (depending on the region) ranging from 14 years to death. Yes, death.
That's definitely fine with Archbishop Akinola and the Anglicans of Nigeria.
From all indications, it'll also be fine with Grace Church of Colorado Springs if (or when) its members vote to approve the split.
Surely, some (or many) of Grace's members haven't looked closely enough at exactly what Akinola and the Nigerians are espousing.
Surely, some (or many) of those Grace secessionists might learn the sordid truth about Akinola and rethink their plan to divide their church.
What's the solution? Simple, really. The intolerants at Grace are free to separate themselves, but they should consider two basic options: Form a new church, which wouldn't be Episcopal and certainly shouldn't be at the Grace property on Tejon Street because they can't have their communion wafers and eat them, too. Or, they could join another local church with similar beliefs.
They could start by checking out New Life Church. In fact, perhaps Father Armstrong might find a job there. As far as we know, New Life still hasn't replaced Ted Haggard, and contributions have been down in recent months. Some of those deep pockets from downtown could alleviate that problem in a hurry.
That still doesn't settle Grace's money troubles, including who will pay the multi-million mortgage at $21,000 a month that so few members knew about until now.
Who knows, perhaps Peter Akinola could pick up that tab. Or, if not him, New Life Church.