Three breakaway Episcopal parishes in Southern California proceeded with services despite moves by the Episcopal bishop of Los Angeles to regain control over the congregations after they linked with an Anglican diocese in Uganda. The decision to secede was cemented by the Episcopal Church's confirmation in August 2003 of openly gay bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.
The division has been denounced by Bishop J. Jon Bruno, who has indicated that the dispute could end up being resolved not in church but in court. Last week he assigned two assistant bishops to serve the congregations and said he would appoint new lay governing boards. He also blasted the seceding parishes for their literal interpretation of the Bible.
The Reverend William Thompson of All Saints' Church in Long Beach said after Sunday services that since the early 1960s the Episcopal Church has been "veering away from historic Christianity.... We felt that perhaps things couldn't be reformed. The church had taken a position that was counter to the teachings of the Holy Scripture."
But the Reverend Praveen Bunyan of St. James in Newport Beach said the Episcopal Church's stance on homosexuality is not the main reason for seceding. "The central core issue is about upholding Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior and upholding his work and the Holy Scripture," Bunyan said.
There are an estimated 2.3 million Episcopalians in the United States, with about 85,000 in the Los Angeles diocese, which spans six Southern California counties. The Episcopal Church in the United States is part of the 77 million-member Anglican Communion, a global association of churches.