The Anglican District of Virginia is planning approximately 30 trips with 100 to 200 Virginian missionaries in 2007. Its focus is aiding people's practical needs. Each trip will last one to two weeks. One church may sponsor the trip while members from other congregations can join it.
Fairfax and Falls Church missionaries have been making trips to New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005.
"There are tens of thousands still homeless down there and we need to help them," said Oakes, a member of Truro Church - an Anglican church in Fairfax.
This summer, Truro is again sending its team to work in Anglican Rev. Jerry Kramer's flooded city. The Anglican Church is also sending teams to Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya in East Africa to provide help with schooling and provide educational services. Locations are chosen based upon the church's historical tie with the region.
"We look for relationships and existent structures with which we can work versus just blunder in and about in these places," Oakes said.
Oakes has personally been on eight African mission trips. He has never felt danger.
"Our hosts are looking out for our welfare and will never let us go into dangerous places," he said.
In Kenya, the church's "Five Talents Missionary" will set up small micro-businesses. Africans will be lent $100 in start-up money to buy tools, for instance. The goal of the mission is to teach basic business skills.
The Lakota Sioux in South Dakota are also being helped.
"They are very needy," said Oakes. "We will provide food, training, coats, encouragement and Bibles. In South Dakota it gets very cold during the winter months."
In Ohio, mission teams will be building houses, in undisclosed locations, for battered women.
Although the mission trips are moving forward, the church's ongoing legal battle is still an issue.
It began with the 2003 ordination of the Rev. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire, making him the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church's history. Robinson was elected with a simple majority of 62 of the 107 votes needed to be confirmed.
Opponents of Robinson's appointment warned his ordination could split the 2.3 million-member U.S. church from the Worldwide Anglican Community, which numbers 73 million members.
"Episcopalians have fuzzy logic and post-modern beliefs, and by Episcopalians I do not mean the good people sitting in the pews, I mean their leaders," said Oakes. "We concluded we needed to sever our ties with the Episcopal Church in order to retain our identity as Anglicans and Christians."
"We believe the Episcopal Church has gone off the rails and has departed from the Christian belief that homosexuality is contrary to scripture," said Oakes. "Homosexuality is a sin and a person practicing it is not capable of holding a high church office. This, in the eyes of the scripture and of Jesus Christ, is the same as having an openly adulterous relationship [which is also sinful]."
Oakes said the Episcopal Church nationwide is hemorrhaging its membership and many Episcopalians are joining Anglican congregations.
According to Father Cuthbert H. Mandell, the priest at Stafford's Aquia Episcopal Church, his church is not breaking away.
"Mr. Oakes states the position of the Anglican District of Virginia, but is tars the Episcopal Church with a rather broad brush," Mandell said. "His comments do not apply to Aquia Episcopal Church at all and other Episcopal Churches. We are not fuzzy in our logic. We opposed in a written resolution to the Episcopal diocese, after the fact, the ordination of Bishop Robinson. We said his ordination was not in compliance with scripture, but we were not going to break away."
Mandell said that the litigation going on with the break-away churches is "unfortunate," and taking away people's time serving the Lord and money from the church. He also noted that the scriptures state, "we are not supposed to sue one another."
"We are all part of a greater church and it's called the Anglican Communion. Any talk of leaving the church then leaves them with the question, 'Where are you going to go?'" Mandell said, adding that this is not to say the congregations leaving made a wrong decision.
The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church is trying to stop Anglicans from severing their ties.
They are suing the Anglican congregations of Truro, Falls Church and nine other congregations stating that the Episcopal Diocese owns the properties upon which Anglican churches sit so they cannot leave the denomination.
The first hearing on the issue is set for November 2007.
Anglicans use the same prayer book, sing the same hymns and use the same order of worship as do Episcopalians. Both churches allow women to participate in the worship service and become ordained ministers. The Anglican Church embraces Protestantism, Catholicism and the entire 2000-year history of the traditional Christian Church.
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