A January 22 "state of the church" message from Episcopal Church USA presiding bishop Frank Griswold advocated tolerating diverse beliefs among Episcopalians on questions relating to homosexuality. The message also ignored a challenge to the denomination's leadership: On January 20 delegates from 12 of the church's 107 dioceses formed the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, a protest group that says the consecration of openly gay bishop V. Gene Robinson last November violated biblical teaching.
Griswold said homosexuality "is undeniably a difficult issue for many" but that Episcopalians "live with divergent points of view regarding the interpretation of Scripture." He said the "diverse center" of the denomination accepts "the tension caused by these different points of view" as "something potentially positive and creative rather than a threat."
In other developments related to the Episcopal Church's divide over homosexuality:
The dioceses of Central Florida, with 39,000 members, and Fort Worth, Tex., with 18,000 members, became the first of the 12 dioceses to formally join the new group. Minority caucuses in six of the 12 dioceses issued a joint statement urging Episcopalians to repudiate the network and respect "multiple viewpoints and biblical interpretations."
Bishop Henry Parsley Jr. of Birmingham, Ala., who voted against confirming Robinson at a national convention last summer, denounced formation of the network as divisive and unfortunate. Forward in Faith North America, another dissenting Episcopal group representing some 100 parishes, said it will consider joining the network at a February 11-13 meeting and confer the following week with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the world Anglican leader. Forward in Faith believes women should not be priests, while most network participants favor women clergy.