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Rio Grande Bishop Elect

2010 April 26
by Gordon Reid

My friend Michael Vono has just been elected Bishop of the Rio Grande, the Episcopal Diocese that covers New Mexico and a small part of Texas down to El Paso.

Already certain critics of the Episcopal Church have homed in on the fact that Michael is in favour of the ordination of women and gay people in faithful relationships. Shock, horror!

Not one of them has commented on the fact that Michael is respected throughout the American Convocation of Churches in Europe as a wise pastor, a caring priest, and one who has built up a flourishing and Christ-centred congregation in St Paul’s within the Walls, Rome.

When I was Vicar-General of the Church of England Diocese in Europe, we had consultations with the Convocation of American churches, the Spanish Episcopal Church and the Portuguese Lusitanian Church as well as the Anglican Military Vicariates in Europe to explore ways of cooperation and united action as Anglicans. We all had our separate histories and slight differences, and some of the delegates magnified these. But Michael Vono was one of those who promoted charity and unity.

Now the Rio Grande Diocese has chosen him for their new chief shepherd, and I predict that under his pastoral care they will go from strength to strength. Ad multos annos, Michael!

18 Responses leave one →
  1. Richard permalink
    April 26, 2010

    I met Bishop-Elect Vono last year when he was in Rhode Island to baptise his 2nd or 3rd generation nephew in Warwick, RI. He was a dynamic person to meet and his sermon was great. May the diocese of the Rio Grande be truly blessed with him as their bishop.

  2. April 26, 2010

    First, your points.

    Certain critics of the Episcopal Church have homed in …

    Easy answer for such: don’t belong to the Episcopal Church and leave it alone!

    Michael is in favour of the ordination of women and gay people in faithful relationships. Shock, horror!

    In short he’s an Episcopalian, shock, horror. All that’s now your doctrine. Fair enough. I defend the Episcopal Church’s rights to enforce its doctrine among its people (whether actively defined by General Convention or passively by approving someone’s consecration; your doctrine is changeable thus fallible) and to defend its property as long as Catholics have the same rights.

    What strikes me about Vono is the Episcopalians are closing or about to close their big seminaries (Seabury-Western and now General) yet are skimming liberal RC priests (my guess is Vono is at least a former RC seminarian). (Of course I’d rather they go liberal Protestant like him than stay and teach heresy as RC priests.) Like depending on middle-aged converts from other churches (‘The Episcopal Church: Get Back at the Church You’re Mad At’) rather than birth rates and/or evangelising the unchurched. Sorry but although I defend the Episcopal Church’s right to be, it strikes me as parasitic and not real growth.

    • Mike Haines permalink
      April 28, 2010

      I was hoping this was good news for RG–the diocese has suffered much! God Bless its future.

      BTW–El Paso is the northern most part of the TX part of the diocese –which is Texas west of the Pecos –2nd largest TEC diocese in geography–hate to have you leave out the metropoli of LaJitas and Marfa (one of my favorite priests in RG was from Marfa –he had been a sheep farmer before he was ordained–and was on the Addiction Recovery Committee with me a hundred years ago)

      Hope all is well at St C–all is well in St L and T E’s neighborhood


    • Franciscan Apple permalink
      May 6, 2010

      I’d rather have my ceremony be ancient than my thinking.

      God Bless Bishop Michael Vono.

  3. Hoosierpalian permalink
    April 28, 2010

    The Episcopal Church brought me to faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God when nothing else could. Plenty of people continue to criticize TEC for being a bit of a niche market, and it is true that we could be better at evangelism. But until that blessed day when we all are one, TEC’s particular charism will continue to draw in needy sinners like me.

  4. Ron Emrich permalink
    April 28, 2010

    Amen, Hoosierpalian!

  5. True Catholic permalink
    May 3, 2010

    The Episcopal Church has become little more than a postmodern neopagan sect that has foresaken Christianity. It is pagan at worst and gnostic at best.

    Homosexuality was exalted in classical paganism, and had the Church fathers not seen it as a sin they would have followed suit. I guess that there also wouldn’t be any problem in the Episcopal Church to ordaining a man in an incestuous relationship with his sister because those Biblical prohibitions are likewise outdated.

    You folks can’t pick and choose what parts of the Bible you want to apply and what you choose to ignore. If the Biblical prohibitions against homosexual sex are somehow outdated, then using the same logic, so are the prohibitions against stealing, the prohibitions against bearing false witness and the prohibition against murder.

    God doesn’t change — people do. To quote Chesterton: “Fallacies don’t cease to be fallacies just because they become fashions.”

    • Bromartin permalink
      May 4, 2010

      Thank-you, TC. You’re statement is the ultimate. The “minor” difficulties that we see, within “TEC,” are no longer serious obstacles, either theologically or even by discipline. There is complete disorder, and, it is apparent, license to live and practice as one pleases, in this world, has become “cool.” Obviously there are no obstacles to those of heterosexual orientation living together, regardless of circumstances, which completes your list. (etc. etc. adinfinitum. What ever happened to the “line in the sand” thing?)

      No accountability…no responsibility ! Why did God give us “free will?” Why did he offer us ground rules. Why did He send us OLJC, our Saviour and perfect example? What is the Holy Catholic Church all about. It seems that “The Episcopal Church” is not willing to live according to any of these terms!

    • May 10, 2010

      One doesn’t want to give the modernists too much of a defense, but this kind of overstatement simply plays into their hands. In the first place, if you are polling the pews, the statement is surely false. Most laymen can say the Nicene Creed without having to cross their fingers. In the second place, if you’ve been paying attention, one line of progressive argument is that the biblical references said to be to homosexuality are nothing of the kind. I don’t necessarily agree with that, but in that wise there’s no picking and choosing of scripture going on. And in the third place, as someone else has already written, there’s no compelling reason to transfer rejection of interpretation of one part of scripture to interpretation of the whole thing.

      That the modernists consistently fail to follow through on the logic of this is sufficient proof that it isn’t compelling; it should be taken as a str0ng sign that it isn’t compelling because it isn’t sound.

  6. James Dominic James permalink
    May 5, 2010


    The orders of creation and redemption cannot contradict one another. Each is a reflection of the wise, loving plan God is. It is impossible for the Holy Spirit to intend us to receive a meaning by way of scripture that is at odds with truths concerning creation. Truth is one. On this point, I bet we agree.

    If scripture gets taken by us to mean something that contradicts what we know about creation, we must be mistaken about scripture. In that case, we must make a reinterpretion and get ourselves back into harmony with God. On this point too, I bet we agree.

    But in what follows, I’m not so sure we will agree.

    Now it is an empirical matter whether gay acts necessarily destroy human capacities to be just, support what is weak, nourish what is strong, and contemplate truth, all with promptness, ease, and joy. Because people do not observe that in all cases gay acts destroy these capacities, they no longer say that gay acts are bad in themselves. And because of this knowledge of creation, these same people are reinterpreting the Bible so as to bring it into line with what God reveals to us in creation.

    If TEC gets that, then good for them.

    • Chris Jones permalink
      May 8, 2010

      The orders of creation and redemption cannot contradict one another … It is impossible for the Holy Spirit to intend us to receive a meaning by way of scripture that is at odds with truths concerning creation.

      This is very confused thinking. The contrast between creation and redemption is not the same as the contrast between natural and revealed theology. It is not as if nature tells us only about creation and revelation tells us only about redemption; God’s revelation tells us plenty about creation, and about the relationship between creation and redemption, that we could not know from nature and reason alone.

      In your schema of “creation and redemption,” what we think we know about creation trumps what God has revealed through the Scriptures and the Church. In reality it ought to be the other way around: when we observe God’s creation and attempt to discern spiritual and theological truths from it, our reasoning and discernment must be normed by what has been revealed to us in Holy Scripture, and by the Church’s rule of faith. Otherwise we have no business claiming that the “truths” we draw from creation are in any sense Christian doctrine.

      That is what Martin Luther meant by having one’s “conscience captive to the Word of God.”

      • May 10, 2010

        Chris, thanks for taking this up. I’m trying to puzzle some stuff out. You write: In your schema of “creation and redemption,” what we think we know about creation trumps what God has revealed through the Scriptures and the Church.

        I see it differently. I’m backing us up to the stage at which we are looking at what a text says and trying to figure out what it means. By contrast, in your summary above, we already have what it means.

        If I know what it says but don’t yet know what it means, then I’m not in a position to use what it means to measure what reason and experience tell me about creation.

        For example, Scripture *says* that “the sun rises.” As I try to figure about what that *means* I cannot say, “whereas God means the sun rises and science disagrees, science must be wrong, because God knows more.” To do that, I’d need to be in possession of God’s meaning already.

        So when Scripture says “the sun rises” does it *mean* that in fact the sun rises? No. What is intended by the Holy Spirit cannot be that the sun rises. And this is so because the sun does not rise.

        And how do I know that? I know that because of my knowledge of creation. I use my knowledge of creation to reject the interpretation that the Holy Spirit is here teaching us that the sun rises. But I don’t use my knowledge of creation to reject the Holy Spirit teaching us that the sun rises. Knowledge of creation is not being used to trump what God has revealed. What is finite is not being used to measure the infinite.

        And now people want to do for sodomy what I just did for the sun.

        I get the feeling that I still sound like a liberal who makes the baby Jesus cry, and that I am not really changing any minds. I’m stuck here though. This still seems reasonable to me. But here is one scenario that would cause me to give up my approach.

        I’d give it up if we had an oracle that did two things. First, this oracle would infallibly judge the meaning of Scripture based upon what Scripture says and based upon a list of all true propositions and a perfect understanding of each one of them and their relations. Second, it would produce infallibly in each listener the correct understanding of the oracle’s infallible judgment of the meaning of Scripture. If that’s in place, then yes, let the oracle measure our knowledge of creation for cases in which Scripture makes a claim about creation.

        Is an oracle like that now available to us?

  7. James Dominic James permalink
    May 5, 2010

    If the Biblical prohibitions against homosexual sex are somehow outdated, then using the same logic, so are the prohibitions against stealing, the prohibitions against bearing false witness and the prohibition against murder.

    When making a point like this, people think they are sticking up for rationality, for being consistent. I understand the appeal. But look at this:

    If the Biblical command to stone disobedient kids is somehow outdated, then using the same logic, so are the prohibitions against stealing, the prohibitions against bearing false witness and the prohibition against murder.

    When you make the “drop one thing, and then we’ve got to drop everything” point, things get crazy. Going forward, you’re going to need a response to the stoning thing. People will bring it up.

    I think the thing to do is to say that the Holy Spirit in this case intends to show us what people took God to be saying at some point in history. The Holy Spirit is telling us a truth about people who lived at one point in time and how these people saw God, kids, and naughtiness. The Holy Spirit is not showing us what to do to disobedient kids. Scripture still communicates truths, but different ones than which people had thought.

    So if the gay thing changes, people will say that the truth intended by the Holy Spirit has always been the same–God does not change–but that our understanding of it has changed. People will still be able to celebrate the consistency of God. Everything will be fine.

  8. Stephen permalink
    May 6, 2010

    If you don’t pick and choose when it comes to the precepts taught in Holy Writ, TC, allow me to offer my congratulations. You are probably the first person in all of salvation history about whom that could be honestly said! According to the good Sisters who taught me religion, the reason we needed a Saviour was not just because of the fall of Adam and Eve, but also because humans consistently failed to keep the Old Covenant. I hope you’d see Saint Paul as a “True Catholic” and he said in Galatians that the whole law is summed up in the command to love our neighbours as we love ourselves!

    • Bromartin permalink
      May 6, 2010

      So, it’s LOVE and PEACE, without qualification…or by any means necessary…or…?

      Saint Paul said many things, which were often critical (for the moment) to the Church group that he was speaking with or writing to.

  9. Clint permalink
    May 9, 2010

    Jesus himself picked and chose, and that’s the entirely canonical untouched-by-the-Jesus Seminar Jesus. Jesus is also recorded as saying “Even the Devil can quote Scripture”. If that doesn’t say that Scripture isn’t the most reliable transmission of divine revelation, then what is it saying? John’s Gospel doesn’t say “The Word became a Book and was distributed among you.” When Jesus confronts those who would stone the adultress, even they said “but Moses said…”, they didn’t say “but God said…”, which are two entirely different things.

    My point is that Scripture is not to be privileged above all else when deciding what to believe. Secondly, Jesus did not promise that the Holy Spirit would give us everything at one particular point in time, and that alone is to be delivered and transmitted in a neat little theological and moral package. We want it to be easy and ready to go, we want to be told what to believe and be told that what we have just been told to believe is correct. In other words, we want..we want…we want….and such a certainty as rigid orthodoxy promises is as much a spiritual laziness and self-centeredness as relativism. There is a narrow road that has none to do with either, and it must be found for everyone’s sake. God isn’t going to get mad at us for doing the best we can, and damn us for eternity thereby. What damns us, according to Jesus, is the suffering we sow, and the indifference to the suffering we can help alleviate.

  10. Jennifer permalink
    July 17, 2010

    HI there, I don’t know if anyone will get this but I thought I would try anyway! I did a google search for a friend of mine…Michael Vono, and ran into this! I sure would like to get a message to him. I was part of his congregation in MA before he was sent to ROme I believe, and have wondered ever since what became of him! My name is Jennifer and my husband’s name is David …I am thankful to say that through his leadership, my husband and I both trusted in Christ for our salvation. He baptised one of my children , Max. If there is any way you can get this to him, I would be so grateful.
    I would like to point out that we did not agree with many of the Episcopal teachings, so we left….um, kind of an easy solution, don’t you think? LOL
    Sincerely, Jennifer †

    July 17, 2010 6:06 AM

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