US Episcopals divided over homosexuality
October 20, 2003
LONDON — U.S. Episcopalians who oppose plans to consecrate the first openly gay bishop next month said Friday they will form an independent network of conservative churches, even as Anglican leaders try to find ways to ease tensions. A split in the American
church appears inevitable.
Evangelicals have grown alienated from their denomination over
three decades of debate about homosexuality and also are angered
that some Episcopal bishops have been allowing blessing ceremonies
for gay couples.
Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, a leading U.S. evangelical,
said he and other conservatives feel they have enough support from
Anglican Communion leaders - called primates - to move forward with
a realignment of the Episcopal Church, which is the U.S. branch of
The 37 primates concluded a two-day emergency summit on
homosexuality Thursday by warning that the Rev. V. Gene Robinson's
scheduled consecration Nov. 2 as bishop of the Diocese of New
Hampshire will "tear the fabric" of their global association of
Robinson said in a statement Thursday that he will not give up
The leaders acknowledged they had no power to directly intervene
in the U.S. denomination since each Anglican province is
self-governing, but they did ask all the churches in the 77
million-member communion to make "adequate provision" for members
who disagree with ordaining gays.
Liberals said the statement was favorable for the church,
because it contained no formal rebuke of Robinson's election and
did not create a separate structure for conservatives.
But evangelicals said the wording signaled they can separate
from Episcopal leaders and remain within Anglicanism. Conservatives
began this process two weeks ago in Dallas, where 2,700
traditionalists, organized by the American Anglican Council,
gathered to discuss strategy.
"We could not have asked for a better description of what we
wanted," Duncan said. "We're beginning to form a network so that we
can operate together. There are parishes in every state in the
union that would want to be allied with and provided for by a
bishop that they believe is teaching the faith. They would not want
to be part of a diocese where same-sex blessings take place."
Duncan said conservatives met Friday morning with Archbishop of
Canterbury Rowan Williams, the spiritual head of the communion, to
discuss their plans.
U.S. conservatives also will share ideas with like-minded
Canadian bishops at a meeting this month, Duncan said. The Diocese
of New Westminster in Vancouver, British Columbia, has authorized
blessing ceremonies for same-sex unions and was a topic of the
The head of the Episcopal Church, Presiding Bishop Frank
Griswold, was returning Friday to the United States and could not
be reached for comment, said Dan England, a national Episcopal
spokesman. But England said Griswold was "concerned about losing
the conservative voice" in the denomination of 2.4 million people.
"He thinks it makes the church poorer," England said.
A walkout would likely also spark costly legal battles over who
owns billions of dollars of church property and other assets.
Departing conservatives want to hold onto parish buildings but they
expect a fight from national leaders.
After Griswold emerged from the primates' meeting Thursday
night, he said he intended to be in New Hampshire for Robinson's
consecration - but he said "anything could happen" before then.
Asked if he would urge Robinson to withdraw, Griswold said: "I
might do many things."
However, the Rev. Peter Moore, an evangelical and head of the
Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Pennsylvania, said a split
will occur even if Robinson stands down. He noted that the U.S. church allows bishops to decide whether to permit same-sex blessings in their dioceses and no one expects that policy to
"I think the atmosphere of distrust between conservatives and
liberals, for want of a better term, is so great at this point, I
really can't see our getting together," Moore said in a phone
interview. "I think this is a church-breaking issue." – Sapa-AP
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