ELM GROVE, WI: Anglican Parish Retaken by Episcopal Diocese Lies Empty

By David W. Virtue
www.virtueonline.org
February 2012

For 65 years, four generations of priests have faithfully preached the gospel to 3,400 Episcopalians at St. Edmund’s Episcopal Church. It has been no small achievement. Elm Grove is not one of the highest density populations in America, but its bucolic setting in Waukesha County has a population of some 6,500, most of them Christians of one denominational stripe or another.

On January 31, the congregation’s world came to a shattering end. The priest, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Scheibler was removed from his church buildings at 14525 West Watertown Plank Road, Elm Grove, by judicial order. It was a devastating moment for the priest who has served the church for more than 3 years.

The Episcopal Church has taken a theological and moral turn for the worst and advocates a gospel that is no gospel at all, as well as a sexual pathway that this and many Episcopal churches across the country find totally unacceptable. They have declared themselves in broken communion. Hundreds of churches have left The Episcopal Church along with tens of thousands of parishioners. It has been a journey without end.

The Rt. Rev. Steven Andrew Miller, the eleventh bishop of Milwaukee, completely bought into The Episcopal Church’s liberal positions and was not prepared to negotiate for the property. Today the church stands empty.

“We are a high church evangelical congregation with a deep commitment to Christ and his gospel,” the Rev. Dr. Samuel P. Scheibler told VOL. “The loss of this uniquely styled modern church campus with its strong emotional ties yet sincere spiritual appeal was great. It’s a huge loss for the loving investment of time and energy of our people over the years to a place dedicated to the glory of God, but we leave taking the gospel with us. We will more than survive the loss. Ultimately, God dwells in temples not made with hands.”

The church has been renamed St. Edmund’s Anglican Church (CANA) under the sacred care of the Convocation of Anglican Churches in North America (CANA), a branch of the Anglican Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and a constituent member of the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA). Its bishop is the Rt. Rev. Julian Dobbs.

In 2008, St. Edmund’s became the first congregation in Wisconsin to withdraw from the Episcopal Church and joined the “Anglican Realignment” movement. Unlike its Episcopal Church counterpart, these now orthodox Anglicans defend the supreme authority of Holy Scripture and with it Scripture’s unequivocal stand on faith and morals.

Bishop Julian Dobbs, who oversees the Wisconsin church, described St. Edmund’s rector as being a “shepherd with utmost integrity, clarity and complete dependence upon Almighty God.

“For the people of St. Edmund’s Anglican Church the issue never concerned the buildings but rather the unchanging and unchangeable nature of the Word of God. We do not believe that the ‘Faith once and for all delivered to all who believe” (Jude 3) is merely a starting point for discussions about belief, morality and Christian practice but is a sure and unshakable foundation from which we cannot and shall not be moved. We did not leave the Episcopal Church; they left us,” said Scheibler.

“We honestly believed that under Wisconsin statutes the fact that the property deeds registered in Waukesha County for the church and rectory are solely in the name of the congregation and that a warranty deed was registered in 1955 by the Diocese of Milwaukee guaranteeing the congregation’s ownership of the property meant that the congregation owned the property. We did not want to create conflict, but sincerely believed that we were defending the higher ground in a matter of moral principle. The Waukesha County Court interpreted Wisconsin law differently. This part of our journey of Faith is over and we have moved on.”

Dr. Scheibler said he is saddened that the attorney for the Episcopal Church, Mr. Adam M. Chud, in addressing the Court on 15 December, stated that “our congregation should be expelled immediately (Christmas, weather, our Preschool and other considerations notwithstanding ‘as Episcopalians waiting for the building have been more than patient’) only to discover that the Diocese of Milwaukee has no plans to hold services on the site in the near future. In his announcement of the Court decision, Bishop Steven Miller of Milwaukee stated that he was ‘glad that the property would be returned to its intended use…” We were told to “quit” the property by 7:00 pm on 31 January or several of us would face arrest for trespassing. The property now sits empty. For this, we grieve.

“The Village of Elm Grove has suffered a loss. A vital and vibrant community of Faith with a growing and compassionate Christian School, Preschool, and Daycare is gone and a derelict building lies still. St. Edmund’s Anglican Church (CANA) is healthy, secure and still serving Elm Grove from our new ‘home’ with our brethren at Elm Grove Evangelical Lutheran Church. A parish of the Anglican Communion is still holding weekly services in Elm Grove. The Episcopal Church took our buildings, but we kept the Faith. We are grateful to be a Parish of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA).”

Dr. Scheibler also told VOL that the week that he and the church were sued in 2009, Elm Grove Evangelical Lutheran Church (LCMS)’s entire Board came to their church office after Friday morning Bible Study and said, “We’ve been praying for you and if you need a place to go, come to us.”

“That was three long years ago…and now we are at home with them,” concluded Dr. Scheibler. In the words of St. Paul, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

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