CONNECTICUT: Outlawed Episcopalians, now Anglicans, Given Baptist Church for Free

By David W. Virtue

It took them five years of persistent prayer, fasting and believing God would answer their prayers.

This week He did just that. Trinity Episcopal Church in Bristol, Connecticut (now Holy Trinity Anglican Church), one of the original Connecticut 6 who stood up to the Diocese of Connecticut and its Bishop Andrew D. Smith and the Episcopal Church over the authority of Scripture, the public acceptance of pansexual behaviors and said “NO MORE”, unexpectedly saw God answer their prayers.

“We prayed persistently and with faith for the Holy Spirit to guide us to our future home. After 5 years in the ‘desert’ (read Forestville, Conn.), our prayers were answered. A Baptist parish about two miles from our worship home had lost all but 6 of its members and decided to close its doors. They graciously gave us his church building and property. No strings attached, no cost, no hidden charges,” said Fr. Don Helmandollar, rector of Holy Trinity Anglican.

Their minister met with Fr. Don, now an Anglican priest in the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), which reports to the Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion. CANA is a constituent member of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). Their new bishop is the Rt. Rev. Julian Dobbs.

“We were thrilled beyond words,” Helmandollar told VOL. “God has come through. The Diocese of Connecticut might have written us off and forgotten about us, but God did not.”

CANA East Bishop Dobbs, pthe diocesan bishop of Holy Trinity said, “I thank the living God for his generosity to the faithful people at Holy Trinity. Don and Fran Helmandollar and their team have sacrificially led the congregation into this wonderful new ministry opportunity. This will be a tremendous base for the church’s ministry and a new home for the congregation.”

This week the attorneys sealed the deal and the inspectors gave the 150 year old building a clean bill of health. “This is truly a Gift from God. We should be moving into our new home, the one we have prayed so diligently for God to provide us, within 4-6 weeks,” said the Anglican priest.

In 2008, after three years of legal battles and lawsuits, Fr. Don Helmandollar and his congregation walked away from their $1.2 million dollar properties to become Holy Trinity Anglican Church. “We met in a school gym for 5 years and there we prayed that God would open a door and provide us with a sanctuary of our own,” said Robert Snyder, church warden.

The congregation is over 70 strong. While some older members have passed away, quite a few new faces having joined us, he said.

“I’m sure the Episcopal Diocese has completely forgotten all about us trouble makers, but we marched out and we marched on.”

Remaining associated with the Episcopal Church USA became increasingly untenable and a decision to disassociate from the Episcopal Church was made. It was the strong desire of the parish family to continue in the Anglican tradition, but under the leadership of orthodox (meaning not revisionist), godly, leadership. Hence alignment with CANA.

At the time, the split got the attention of The New York Times which ran the headline: Parish Falls Out of Step, and Favor, With Diocese.

Connecticut’s Episcopal bishop, Andrew D. Smith, defrocked the Rev. Donald L. Helmandollar and ordered the congregation’s lay leaders “to vacate the property of Trinity Church, Bristol, and release every claim on the assets of this parish by July 8, 2007.”

Fr. Helmandollar, 68, who joined the clergy late in life, had no plans to go quietly. He said he was confident that parishioners would persevere even if they lost the right to the church, rectory and burial grounds they had held for generations in a fight that seems headed for court. “It’s the people, not the steeple,” he said, quoting Rick Warren, a popular evangelical author. He and his congregation ultimately walked.

In a testimony he wrote at the time on Why we left the Episcopal Church, Helmandollar said, “We undertake this move in response to the Diocese of Connecticut and The Episcopal Church abandoning core teachings of the Bible and of the historic Anglican Faith regarding the gospel of Jesus Christ and the authority of Holy Scripture in the ordering of our lives together in the Worldwide Anglican Communion.

“Many in the Episcopal Church, including the Presiding Bishop, openly and publicly deny the assertion of Jesus, recorded in John 14:6, where he says ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ In the Episcopal Church, at the very top of it’s clergy leadership and in direct contradiction to Scripture, Jesus is now being presented as one of several ways to reach God. This assertion flies in the face of long-held Christian beliefs and could not be overlooked by this body of Anglican believers.”

Holy Trinity was officially established on Pentecost Sunday, May 27, 2007 when it formally aligned with the Convocation of Anglican in North America (CANA). The congregation, historically known as Trinity Church Society of Bristol, Connecticut, was a pre-revolutionary war parish, established in 1747 and had a long and proud history of Anglican worship, ministry and mission in the Bristol area.

Today, Trinity Episcopal Church is dead, an empty decaying building with no congregation. There is also no longer a Bishop Seabury (Episcopal) Church either, Fr. Ron Gauss told VOL. He and his congregation departed the diocese and The Episcopal Church a year ago over its departure from the faith and they now meet temporarily in a local hotel. “I and my vestry are negotiating for a location.”

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