Wednesday Word: Welcome to the spat

Welcome to the spat

Forewarning: Today's Wednesday Word is much longer than normal.

I was approached by several parishioners over the course of this past weekend asking, “Did you see the article in Friday's paper?”

Unfortunately I don't currently receive the paper, and I don't often browse through what's available on their internet site. So, no, I didn't see the article; but I did find and read it on Sunday.

The article in question was written by Janet Heim and told the story of Fr. Justin Clemente, a 35-year old priest serving the evangelical congregation of New Creation Church. You may have seen their billboards that were up along Leitersburg and Sharpsburg Pikes for several months. You may also have noticed that it billed itself as an Anglican church.

What especially brought this article to these parishioners attention (which then was brought to my attention) was this line: As the founding pastor and parish priest for New Creation Church on Leitersburg Pike north of Hagerstown, the Rev. Justin Clemente leads the only Anglican congregation in Washington County.

That was news to us.

The article also states that they are members of the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic and the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).

In short, ACNA was created after the election of Bp. Gene Robinson (the first openly gay man to be so elected). What arose was a family spat about who could and could not be a bishop in the church, who could and could not get married, the place of women in the church (Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori was a particular thorn in their side), who took Scripture more seriously, legal battles over who owned the property, and a whole host of other issues. Several dioceses voted to remove themselves from the Episcopal church (San Joaquin, Ft. Worth, and S. Carolina were three).

ACNA was primarily based in the Global South (Africa and S. America), led by African bishops several US bishops, and funded by the Americans. It began to claim itself as the rightful heir to Anglicanism since we (the US and eventually Canada, New Zealand, Scotland, and even England) were “walking away from the plain teachings of Scripture and traditional Church teachings.”

Part of their plan was to claim the name “Anglican” in the hopes that people would either confuse the two churches or at least see them as legitimate heirs of that name. Another part of their plan was to establish “missionary churches” in the United States, thinking that if they could establish enough churches then the Archbishop of Canterbury and the rest of the Anglican Communion would have to recognize their validity simply by sheer numbers.

You can see this in the article when it is claimed that New Creation Church is the “only Anglican congregation in Washington County.” You can also see it when Fr. Clemente states, “I said I think the Lord is calling me to service in a certain way – planting Anglican churches,” as well as his goal of moving NCC to downtown.

I don't begrudge anyone for finding a place where they are fed spiritually and where they can worship God faithfully. However, part of my job is keeping the people of St. John's informed, and I feel that you need to be informed about this particular priest and parish – a group that sees themselves as the only valid Anglican church in the area.

The article can be seen here:

We are Episcopalians. We were formed by missionaries of the Church of England. We continue to be a sister church of the CofE and remain in full communion with her. Our bishops trace their lineage back to the Archbishop of Canterbury and beyond. We are Anglicans in every sense of the word.

I hand delivered a letter to the editor yesterday morning, and have included it in full below. Among other things, it is intended to inform the readers of the Herald-Mail that the six Episcopal churches in Washington County are, indeed, Anglican.




To the Editor:

In Janet Heim's article of July 27, 2018, about Fr. Justin Clemente, this statement was made: “New Creation Church . . . [is] the only Anglican congregation in Washington County.”

Whether made by Ms. Heim or Fr. Clemente, this statement is factually untrue.

Anglican refers to those churches in communion with, and recognizing the leadership of, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Anglicanism is the system of doctrine and practices possessing a religious and theological outlook differing from Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, or Protestantism. An Anglican church, therefore, is one of a particular theology and polity which has roots in, and is in communion with, the Church of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

There are six Anglican churches in Washington County, as well as one school and chapel: St. John's, Hagerstown; St. Andrew's, Clear Spring; St. Thomas, Hancock; St. Mark's, Lappans; St. Paul's, Sharpsburg; St. Anne's, Smithsburg; St. James' Episcopal School, Hagerstown. All seven congregations were established in the 1800's and continue today as members of the Anglican Communion in what Presiding Bishop Michael Curry calls, “The Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement.”

Words and definitions matter. On behalf of my fellow Episcopal clergy and all those who worship with us, I felt it necessary to bring this to the attention of you and your readers, especially in these current times where lies and untruths are spoken with unchecked regularity.


The Rev. Todd Young, Rector

St. John's Episcopal Church, Hagerstown

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