January 15, 2004

Dear fellow Episcopalians in West Tennessee,

As the Bishop of The Diocese of West Tennessee, it is my privilege to serve beside you in witness to Christ. In this particular circumstance, I do so now as one who must uphold the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Church I have sworn to defend.

No matter what one's opinions are about the more controversial decisions reached at our last General Convention, one has to admit that they were done publicly and above board. Using the long established means to reach decisions as a Church gathered in Convention, the outcome and resulting actions were literally done before the eyes of the world.

Loyal opposition and honest dissent to such actions are legitimate and should be honored by all. I have been careful to do so. However, deceitfulness and subversive sabotage justified in the name of serving Christ cannot be overlooked. To this point, I direct your attention to an article in the January 14, 2004 issue of The Commercial Appeal outlining publicly the American Anglican Council's "confidential" game plan for the destruction of The Episcopal Church U.S.A. by becoming a "replacement" jurisdiction, even if it means "disobedience of canon law on a widespread basis" as deemed "necessary." At this time I have in my possession the full text of the "confidential" letter cited in the article. In as much as what has been done in darkness has now been brought into the light, I urge you to read for yourself this document that lays out the American Anglican Council's plan of destruction.

I do not endorse, nor will I have this diocese in any way associated with this effort, and I will use all the power of my office to see to it that our clergy and congregations will not be in any formal membership arrangement with this or any other such group seeking to destroy the Episcopal Church. To this end, I am taking the following initial steps:

First, I am posting in its entirety on our diocesan web page the letter from the American Anglican Council's representative, the Rev. Geoffrey W. Chapman, who writes "on behalf of the American Anglican Council and their Bishop's Committee on Adequate Episcopal Oversight." It is their response letter to Episcopal congregations across the country who have requested what they describe as "Adequate Episcopal Oversight." Specifically, this letter refers to oversight by a bishop who has bought into the American Anglican Council's plan to sabotage The Episcopal Church. This secret plan is very different from AAC's public statements to the effect that it would work within The Episcopal Church under its Constitution and Canons to bring about change in Church policies.

Second, I have called a special meeting of the Standing Committee. I am asking for its advice and counsel concerning what next steps need to be taken by my office regarding our clergy and congregations formally affiliated with the American Anglican Council and, implicitly, with its agenda.

Third, while it may be obvious from the tone of this letter, I want to go on record in saying that I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of the American Anglican Council. Further, I do not endorse, support or condone their plan to methodically create anarchy in the Church.

Fourth, until the American Anglican Council made explicit what many already thought was their real agenda, I have spoken with respect for the bishops, members of the clergy and lay persons who have found in this organization a place to express their honorable dissent and loyal opposition. It is to you that I address the following:

It is my firm belief that most of you who have associated with the American Anglican Council did so for honorable reasons with no idea that their avowed actual goal is to destroy The Episcopal Church as it currently exists. However, according to their own documents, they seem to advocate whatever means necessary to "innovatively move around, beyond or within the canons" to do so.

I know that not everyone associated with the American Anglican Council is of one mind. However, these revelations that have just come to light may help clarify your thinking about their agenda. As such, I hope that you will see this as an opportunity for you and your congregation to rethink and officially disassociate with this organization.

I ask your prayers for our Church, our Diocese and for our clergy and lay leaders who will be asked to help me be faithful in accomplishing this ministry for Christ's witness and love. To that end, I remain

Faithfully yours,

The Rt. Rev. Don E. Johnson
Bishop of West Tennessee

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