Ohio's Episcopal bishop-elect has been barred from five northeast Ohio churches that disagree with his support of openly gay bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. Mark Hollingsworth Jr. was asked Wednesday to stay out of the Ohio churches. He's scheduled to be consecrated the 11th bishop of the diocese of Ohio on Saturday. In an act of independence, the churches have been assigned their own bishop for spiritual oversight by a national network of conservative churches, said the Reverend R. James Tasker, pastor of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Bay Village.
The same five churches last month defied church law by leading a confirmation service near Akron without authorization. They brought in conservative bishops because they disagreed with the support for Robinson. The majority of Episcopal bishops and delegates to the church's national convention last year favored Robinson's elevation to New Hampshire bishop, but approximately 15% of the denomination is deeply opposed to gay clergy. Division over the issue has threatened to split the church. "Bishop Hollingsworth faces an uphill battle to avert the crisis and curb the mounting membership and money losses in the diocese," Tasker said in a statement. "It will take nothing less than a return to biblical faith to restore trust and any sense of normalcy."
In recent interviews and in a talk with diocesan priests last week, Hollingsworth said he will do all he can to respect the diversity of opinion on sexuality while preserving unity in the diocese. Hollingsworth was scheduled to visit St. Barnabas, Church of the Holy Spirit, and St. Luke's in the month following his consecration. Those appearances were planned several months ago. In a letter to the bishop-elect, the conservative churches asked him not to visit in order to avoid "extreme pain for everyone involved," Tasker said. A diocesan spokesman said Hollingsworth has not decided whether to continue with the visits.