The second-highest-ranking official in the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida has resigned over a rift developing between the local diocese and the national church regarding the ordination of gays. The Reverend Ernest Bennett circulated an E-mail to other ministers in the diocese on Tuesday citing his "deepest pain" over the direction he believes the diocese is heading. Delegates at the diocese's convention last weekend deleted the words "Episcopal Church" from a resolution pledging diocesan unity with the worldwide Anglican Communion and the See of Canterbury. The revised resolution was in response to national Episcopal leaders' vote last month confirming the election of the Reverend Gene Robinson of New Hampshire as the church's first openly gay bishop.
As a delegate to the national convention, Bennett voted against Robinson's confirmation and a resolution reading that same-sex blessing ceremonies are consistent with church teachings. But he said the vote last weekend in Orlando takes the diocese "to a place I cannot go.... I am a priest in the Episcopal Church, and I intend to stay," he said.
Bishop John Howe acknowledged that Bennett's departure is a sign of strong differences within the diocese. Neither he nor the diocese have any intention of leaving the Episcopal Church, Howe said. "There is division throughout the whole church, that's the problem," Howe said.