Friday, February 15, 2013

The Nicest Thing I've Been Told

about The Rt Rev Robin Connors is that he was an egomaniac. He is most pertinent to our story as Bishop of the ACA Diocese of the West from 1994 to 1999, when he resigned amid controversy at that year's diocesan synod. He was ordinary for St Mary of the Angels during a fairly quiet time in the parish's history, but his own history during the last years of his career is anything but quiet. However, I believe he's important here less for what he himself was than for what it says about Louis Falk, whom I'm increasingly convinced is the shadow man behind this whole sorry story.

Connors first appears as Priest in Charge of St Francis Anglican in Spartanburg, SC, an American Episcopal Church parish since 1970. The AEC, founded in 1968, was an early breakaway from The Episcopal Church, predating the "continuing Anglican" movement derived from the St Louis Declaration; it appears to have been a reaction to the centrist liberalism of TEC in the 1960s, and it appears to have had a component of segregationism, since TEC banned segregation in its parishes in 1964. By 1986, St Francis Anglican Spartanburg had become an Anglican Catholic Church parish, with Connors its rector. Connors was consecrated an ACC bishop in 1988, along with Richard C Willars, who died of AIDS at St Mary's in 1993.

In 1991, the Anglican Church in America was formed as a merger of the AEC and the ACC, although most of the ACC stayed out. It's plain that Connors was of the ACA faction under Falk: he next appears as one of the eleven original bishops of the ACA consecrated in 1991. His title was "Assistant Bishop to the Metropolitan", who of course was none other than Louis Falk. It appears that Connors remained at Spartanburg as rector as well as an ACA bishop, but St Francis Anglican Spartanburg was, I'm told, a "peculier" directly under Falk and not a parish within the ACA Diocese of the Eastern United States. Connors's consecration as an early member of what appears to have been an ACA clique, and the status of his parish as a special case, suggest that he had some measure of favor from Falk.

In 1993, under a new title of "Executive Director of the International Anglican Fellowship", he went to South Africa to start the TAC franchise there, returning to Spartanburg after about a year. (The International Anglican Fellowship, which describes itself as the missionary arm of the Traditional Anglican Communion, has on its website a message indicating "The IAF is down to two months of operating funds"; the fundraising plea is from a former executive director and successor to Connors, located in Victor, MT.)

According to the South African account, Connors returned to Spartanburg in 1994. However, that year he emerged as Louis Falk's preferred candidate for ACA Bishop of the West at that year's diocesan synod, succeeding Bishop Mark G. Holiday, another of the ACA founding clique. St Mary of the Angels, which since the 1991 formation of the ACA had been a "peculier" and not a parish of the diocese, was nevertheless ordered by Falk to send a delegation to the synod in San Jose and ordered specifically to vote for Connors. Connors, from South Carolina, had had no prior connection with the Diocese of the West.

I'm told by a source who was present that Connors did not come off well; the entire St Mary's delegation found him egotistical and abrasive. The delegation, after meeting with Connors, went to Falk to complain, but Falk countered that Connors was a better candidate than his opponent. "It's not the devil you know, it's the devil you don't know," Falk is reported to have responded. "I can control Connors. I can't control the other guy." He reiterated his order to vote for Connors; even so, at least one member of the St Mary's delegation voted against him. Naturally, with delegates instructed by Falk on how to vote, Connors was elected, and in fact he was consecrated at St Mary of the Angels in 1995.

There's more to come on Connors. The takeaway here, though, is that I don't think anything happens in the ACA or the TAC that doesn't still have Falk's tacit support. This most certainly includes the campaign of legal harassment and character assassination against Fr Kelley. I believe that if Louis Falk were to oppose it, it would immediately stop.

"Archbishop" Falk?