Originally published on Advocate.com September 30 2003 12:00 AM ET
Episcopal dioceses in Pennsylvania and Texas accused the national church of exceeding its authority and violating its own constitution by confirming its first openly gay bishop and approving the blessing of same-sex unions. "These acts are to be held null and void, and of no effect, in the Episcopal
Diocese of Pittsburgh," read a resolution that was approved 239-69 by delegates in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Clergy and lay delegates of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth in Texas conducted a similar vote as part of a national drive among conservative dioceses and clergy seeking to distance themselves from the Episcopal Church for its decisions last month regarding the gay bishop and same-sex unions. "We are here to take a stand for the gospel of Jesus Christ in a time of great dissension and confusion in our church," said Fort Worth bishop Jack Iker. Members of the Episcopal Diocese of Florida, meeting in Jacksonville, discussed plans for a formal vote November 15 on whether to support the national convention. Most oppose the two decisions but want to work within the church to resolve the differences, the Reverend Mark Eldredge said.
Both the Texas and Pennsylvania dioceses called on the Anglican Communion to recognize those who oppose the gay bishop and same-sex blessings as "the legitimate expression" of the Episcopal Church. Delegates in Pennsylvania also approved a resolution that would allow parishes to withhold money from the national church. The national denomination of the Episcopal Church, with 2.3 million members,
is the U.S. branch of the worldwide, 77 million-member Anglican Communion. "We are dealing with the consequences of that body's schismatic--literally unity-breaking--acts," said Pittsburgh bishop Robert Duncan. "We are trying to call the Episcopal Church back to its senses and asking the worldwide communion to help us."
The discontent among conservatives was fueled by an August 5 vote of the national church's General Convention to confirm as bishop the Reverend V. Gene Robinson, who has lived with a male partner for more than 13 years. New Hampshire clergy and lay Episcopalians had earlier elected Robinson to be their next bishop. During the same meeting in Minneapolis, General Convention delegates also voted to let dioceses determine for themselves whether to perform same-sex blessing ceremonies. Some Episcopalians argue that the wording of the measure means the ceremonies are consistent with church teaching.
A week ago the Diocese of Central Florida voted to repudiate the General Convention's vote on Robinson and same-sex blessing ceremonies and asked world Anglican leaders to intervene. The Diocese of Albany, N.Y., also rejected the decision on Robinson and same-sex blessings and asked Anglican leaders to decide whether the national convention votes "exceeded the limits of Anglican diversity." A handful of other dioceses have planned special meetings in response to the General Convention in the weeks ahead. Episcopalians who oppose Robinson's confirmation will gather October 7-9 in Dallas at a meeting organized by the conservative American Anglican Council to decide their collective response.