Representatives from southwest Florida's Episcopal churches voted Saturday to allow parishioners and individual churches to withhold a portion of donations that go to the national church in protest of the ordination of a gay bishop. The money withheld by the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida will be
redirected to the church's mission in the Dominican Republic and used to build churches, schools, and health clinics and aid orphans there, said Bishop John B. Lipscomb.
Lipscomb was one of 19 bishops who opposed the consecration of New Hampshire priest V. Gene Robinson, saying it is inconsistent with the teachings of the Episcopal Church. Robinson, who was consecrated November 2, has said he hopes people who disagree with his confirmation will remain with the church.
On a voice vote, the majority of the 279 clergy and laypeople serving as delegates from 79 churches approved the resolution. About a dozen delegates were opposed, some calling it a compromise that did not go far enough in expressing anger at Robinson's consecration.
They had initially considered a proposal that would have allowed Lipscomb to redirect all of the diocese's contributions currently earmarked for the national church--expected to be about $429,000 next year--to the Dominican Republic mission. Instead, a group of delegates offered the compromise that allows each of the diocese's 36,000 members the opportunity to redirect the portion of their contributions that would flow to the national church and allow individual churches to do the same.
The resolution is binding only for a year, a time in which church officials have urged there be continued dialogue about the church's stance on homosexuality and the recognition of same-sex unions.