WISCONSIN: Nashotah House Battles Episcopal Bishop of Milwaukee Over Sunday Mass

A VOL EXCLUSIVE

By Mary Ann Mueller and David W. Virtue
www.virtueonline.org
May 31, 2010

Rumors are flying, e-mails are zipping across cyberspace, and letters are being written between two Episcopal bishops over a Sunday worship service being re-established at Nashotah House an Anglo-Catholic seminary in The Episcopal Church.

“The rumor mill is running-and it’s out of control.” blogs the Very Rev. Robert S. Munday, dean of Nashotah House Seminary as he tries to stem the tide of misconstrued information.

On April 22, VOL first learned about the Sunday community worship in an e-mail from Andrew Johnson, president of the Board Southeast Wisconsin Chapter of the American Anglican Council (SEWAAC), when he noted in a SEWAAC Update, “Just this past Sunday, April 18, saw the start of a traditional Anglican worship service being conducted at Nashotah House. These 10:00 AM Sunday morning services are open to the public and fill a void for those of us who have been looking for a traditional Anglican worship service that is not part of the Episcopal Church. This is the start of new Orthodox Anglican congregation being called St. Michael’s at the Mission. We are truly thankful for Nashotah House and all they do.”

Last week the Rt. Rev. William Wantland, retired bishop of the Diocese of Eau Claire and a frequent visitor to Nashotah House, commented on his May trip back to Wisconsin’s oldest institution of higher learning to witness this year’s graduation, hear former Rochester (UK) Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali’s commencement address, and attend the spring meeting of the Nashotah House Board of Trustees, “Nashotah graduation was great, with a good sermon from Bp. Nazir-Ali but with the Bishop of Milwaukee raising Hell over The House having a Sunday morning Mass (as it has done at least three times in the past), which he sees as an attempt to start an ACNA parish.”

That in a nutshell is the point of contention between Nashotah House and the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee. Is the new Sunday worship service at Nashotah House in reality the beginning of a SEWAAC-supported ACNA parish or is the newly re-instituted Sunday worship service a living laboratory where Nashotah students can learn firsthand about the inner workings of parish life and worship through hands-on experience?

On April 28, a meeting took place in Milwaukee among Milwaukee Bishop Steven A. Miller; Nashotah’s Dean Munday; and the Rt. Rev. Edward L. Salmon, Jr., retired Bishop of South Carolina and chairman of Nashotah’s Board of Trustees, to hash out the parameters of the new Sunday worship experience at The House.

In a copy of the two letters between Bishop Salmon and Bishop Miller leaked to VOL, the two bishops demonstrated their deep difference of opinion on how the late April meeting went and what it means to have the new community worship service starting at The House.

“I think it was helpful to acknowledge that the relationship of the bishop of Milwaukee with Nashotah House is fractured at best,” writes Bishop Salmon in his one page letter. “While Nashotah House is an Episcopal-related institution, it is not under the authority of a diocesan bishop, it is our obligation to maintain a gracious relationship.”

Bishop Miller does not agree that there is a gracious relationship between his Episcopal Diocese and The House. He believes he was blindsided.

The Milwaukee bishop charges in his two-page response that Bishop Salmon’s letter to him was first made widely available to the Nashotah House community. As the Episcopal Bishop of Milwaukee he first learned about Bishop Salmon’s letter via e-mail before the Nashotah letter was even in his hands.

“I don’t know whether you are aware that copies of your letter were released within the Nashotah House community …I had seen a copy of the letter forwarded to me by e-mail last weekend,” writes Bishop Miller in his May 6th letter. “I would have preferred to received your letter and respond to it before it was distributed more widely.”

Although the Nashotah letter was mistakenly dated May 29 rather than April 29, 2010, the envelope apparently bears a May 4th postmark. It was not delivered to Bishop Miller’s Milwaukee office until May 5.

“The most urgent matter we discussed had to do with the accusation that the laboratory worship service that Nashotah House had begun two Sundays ago was actually an ACNA congregation,” writes Bishop Salmon to the Milwaukee bishop. “Various documents by related individuals seemed to establish that.

“I have met with SEWAAC representatives this morning and confirmed with them that Nashotah’s House’s Sunday morning worship service is a laboratory for seminarian training and is related only to Nashotah House,” Nashotah’s Trustee Chairman continued. “It is a service for anyone interested to attend, and is in no way related to being in opposition to the diocese or any local congregation.”

“While I am grateful for your concern about the ‘fractured’ state of the historic relationship between Nashotah House and the Bishop of Milwaukee, we agreed that this fracture began long before I become bishop of this diocese,” Bishop Miller wrote. “However, my primary concern is about clarity of understanding regarding the canonical implications of the beginning of what, from all outward appearances, is a congregation, and not just a lab setting for liturgy…”

Bishop Miller is not only concerned about the new Sunday worship service becoming the nucleus of an ACNA congregation. He also fears that as the premier Anglo-Catholic seminary, Nashotah House draws in the crème de la crème of Episcopal and Anglican clerics to its hallowed halls including Bishop Nazir-Ali who is from Church of England, as well as Keith Ackerman, the retired Bishop of Quincy, and Bishop Wantland — both of whom have close ties to Nashotah and are now associated with the Anglican Church in North America.

Bishop Ackerman holds an earned degree from Nashotah while Bishop Wantland has an honorary degree from the same Wisconsin seminary. There are also other Nashotans who have aligned themselves with ACNA or another Global South Anglican providence.

Some of the other living bishops in The Episcopal Church who hold earned Nashotah degrees include bishops William Love, Albany; Russell Jacobus, Fond du Lac; Charles Jenkins, retired-Louisiana; Paul Lambert, suffragan-Dallas; Edwin Leidel, retired-Eastern Michigan; C.W. Ohl, provisional-North Texas (Ft. Worth); Peter Beckwith, Springfield; Robert Shahan, retired-Arizona; Francis Gray, retired-Northern Indiana; Richard Grein, retired-New York; Dabney Smith, Southwest Florida; G.W. Smith, Missouri; Arthur Vogel, retired-West Missouri; Keith Whitmore, assisting-Atlanta; Jeffery Lee, Chicago; and Robert Witcher, retired-Long Island.

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