The Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida voted Saturday to halt its convention, hoping to calm fears of a mass exodus from the national church over the election of an openly gay man as bishop. Since the confirmation of the Reverend Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire at this summer's national church convention, there has been a growing schism between those comfortable with Robinson and those who believe his confirmation violates Anglican traditions.
"In light of the rapidly unfolding events that surround us, I ask that we break and reconvene," Bishop John B. Lipscomb told 500 delegates attending the diocese's meeting in Punta Gorda. The diocese plans to reconvene in what it terms a "timely fashion," possibly six to eight weeks. The diocese is scheduled to give $428,000 this year to the national church, but some at the convention were opposed to that because of the gay issue. "Now is not the time to declare our lives cut off from one another," Lipscomb said. "What we do need is constructive engagement with one another. Our primary concern must remain the mission of the church at home and abroad."
The break in the convention coincides with a special meeting requested by the Archbishop of Canterbury in London this Wednesday and Thursday. Primates of the Anglican Communion will meet to discuss Robinson's election and the performing of same-sex blessings, also approved at the summer convention. The Episcopal Church is a part of the Anglican Communion, a global community of 70 million Anglicans in more than 160 countries. In the United States, the Anglican Communion is represented by the Episcopal Church, which has 2.5 million members.