Bishop resigns from seminary board following Orlando baptism flap

The Bishop of Central Florida has resigned from the Board of Trustees of the Trinity School for Ministry (TSM)

The Bishop of Central Florida has resigned from the Board of Trustees of the Trinity School for Ministry (TSM) in the wake of the controversy over the baptism of an infant presented by a same-sex couple at the Cathedral Church of St Luke in Orlando.

On 16 June 2015, the Rt. Rev. Gregory O. Brewer met with the the Dean of TSM, the Very Rev. Justyn Terry at an Orlando airport hotel to discuss concerns raised by the board’s executive committee. At the close of the meeting Bishop Brewer, who was the sole serving Episcopal bishop on the seminary’s board, wrote to the board tendering his resignation.

Bishop Brewer, who served on the faculty of TSM twenty years ago and who continues to have close ties to the school, declined to respond to questions about his resignation. No member of the board contacted by Anglican Ink was willing to speak on the record about the incident. Dean Terry also declined to speak to the dispute, but the school’s spokesman, the Rev. Christopher Klukas, gave AI a statement on 23 June 2015. He wrote:

On Tuesday, June 16, Dean Justyn Terry met with Bp. Greg Brewer over dinner to talk about Bp. Brewer’s involvement with Trinity’s Board. Upon the recommendation of the Executive Committee of Trinity’s Board, Dean Terry asked Bp. Brewer to take a leave of absence. This leave of absence was not a disciplinary action, and it does not represent a change in our commitment to being a seminary where orthodox Episcopalians are welcome; the intention of the Executive Committee was to give both Trinity’s Board of Trustees and Bp. Brewer time and space to pray and reflect upon how to respond to gay couples who desire to have their children baptized. Instead of taking a leave of absence, Bp. Brewer chose to resign from Trinity’s Board. We have the highest respect for Bp. Brewer and pray that God would continue to bless his ministry in the months and years ahead.

The controversy that led to Bishop Brewer’s withdrawal from the board arose in early May over the delayed baptism of Jack McCaffrey, the infant son of a same-sex couple, Rich and Eric McCaffrey. The infant was scheduled to be baptized at the Cathedral’s regular Sunday evening service by a part time minister on the staff of the cathedral. As this was to be his first baptism, the minister asked for another clergyman to assist him.

The dean responded by leaving a message with the parents stating the baptism would be postponed. The dean left to attend National Guard maneuvers and did not follow up with the parents, or explain the reason for the postponement. The parents responded by taking to Facebook and accusing the dean of denying the infant baptism because they were a same-sex couple.

Liberal activists from outside the diocese took up the cause of the child “denied” baptism because of his gay parents, while conservatives applauded the dean’s “principled” stand forbidding the baptism of a child whose parents/sponsors were not committed to living lives of Christian morality in conformance to the admonitions and promises made in the liturgy.

Bishop Brewer stepped into the fray and met with the parents and the dean, later issuing a statement saying he believed it proper to baptize the child.

The controversy subsequently was discussed by members of TSM’s board. None of the archbishops and bishops present at the meeting voiced objections to Bishop Brewer’s actions — one board member recollected. Another told AI that they believed at that point the issue was closed. Differing views representing Calvinist and Arminian understandings of baptism were shared by board members, but AI was told that these were held in amicable “tension”.

Last week, however, the executive committee of the board contacted Bishop Brewer stating they would like the dean to meet with him to discuss these issues further. AI was told by one member that in his opinion, Bishop Brewer’s officiating at the baptism and his silence over the issue of whether the parent’s or sponsor’s lifestyle were at odds with the promises made in the baptismal liturgy conflicted with the school’s statement of faith.

At the Orlando meeting, Bishop Brewer was asked to step back from the board until its October meeting, where the issue would be thrashed out. A source stated that the school had sought to act with pastoral sensitivity by sending the dean down to Orlando to discuss the matter in private. However, the approach may have backfired, another board member speculated as it appeared to put the bishop on the spot.

TSM boasts a mixed student body. Drawing from the Anglican Church in North America, the Episcopal Church, overseas Anglican and continuing Anglican churches, as well as non-Anglicans. Central Florida boasts of a number of alumni amongst its clergy ranks and presently has postulants enrolled at the school.

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