Wisconsin priest forms splinter group in protest of gay bishop
July 21 2004 12:00 AM ET
A Milwaukee priest has formed a splinter congregation of the Episcopal Church to oppose the church's ordination of an openly gay bishop. The Reverend Tere Wilson is renting a meeting room at the Pettit National Ice Center to hold services for "Light of Christ Church, an emerging Anglican mission." Wilson, who had been filling in for Milwaukee-area parish priests, said he wanted to offer an alternative until opponents of the church's positions on homosexuality have a permanent alternative. "There was a group of people who have felt abandoned by the Episcopal Church, as I do," said Wilson. "The Episcopal Church seems to have kept the trappings, the package, but they've thrown out Jesus and the Bible, as far as what I can see."
About 30 people are in the breakaway congregation, and average Sunday attendance is about 18 adults and children, mostly from Trinity Episcopal Church in Wauwatosa. That church was the scene of heated disputes last year over the national church's actions. About 30 parishioners left. Episcopal diocese bishop Steven A. Miller called the splinter congregation "a very small group of people who have chosen to worship together." Miller has appointed a task force on human sexuality to find common ground in
the diocese, which covers the southern third of the state. But the splinter congregation--believed to be the first in Wisconsin--highlights the continuing challenges for the Episcopal Church, which represents
the worldwide Anglican Communion in the United States. Some wonder whether more of the church's 2.3 million members might leave or be ejected.
At least nine of the country's 107 Episcopal dioceses and dozens of individual congregations have joined the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, a conservative group formed this year to oppose the national church's stance on homosexuality. Miller said his job as bishop is to foster dialogue and counsel people on both sides of the issue. "I would say that we have people on both sides of this issue who are seeking to be faithful to God as God reveals himself to them in Christ Jesus and that we have a majority of people who want to get on with the business of the church, which is to reconcile and restore to unity all people to God in Christ," Miller said.
Last year the Episcopal Church's national governing body approved the consecration of openly gay bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire and approved the blessing of same-sex unions. Orthodox Episcopalians last year formed what is believed to be the first breakaway congregation in Illinois in a rented church in Evanston. At Trinity, parishioners had planned a vote on the national church's actions,
but it was tabled for a year after Miller intervened, saying it would be divisive.