Amid anger over the confirmation of the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, a group dissatisfied with the direction of the church has formed a new parish in New Hampshire.
About 40 people, who began meeting at the Durham Evangelical Church in January, have established the Anglican Church of the Resurrection, spokesman Richard Ellwood of Merrimack said Thursday. The group originally met as the Seacoast Missionary Fellowship and is affiliated with the new Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes. The national network, organized by conservative Episcopal clergy, formed in response to the election of Bishop V. Gene Robinson, who is openly gay.
"We are purposely not a part of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire because we stand in opposition to how the national Episcopal Church has split away from scripture," Ellwood said in a statement.
In a statement from the New Hampshire Diocese, Robinson said he welcomes any church, of whatever denomination, that seeks to help "people experience the saving grace of Jesus Christ.... While the new Church of the Resurrection has no relationship to the Diocese of New Hampshire, we wish them well and will hold them in our prayers as they seek to do God's will."
Ellwood later said by telephone, "This is not really about Gene Robinson, whether he's gay or not gay. We think the issue here is far greater than whether Gene Robinson is bishop. He is only one example of the direction of the national church. I think perhaps this would have happened even if they had picked a nongay bishop. [He] was sort of the flash point."
Robinson's selection last year as bishop of the New Hampshire Diocese caused an uproar in many parishes around the country, whose members felt that the church was acting in violation of scripture. Ellwood said a parish in Versailles, Ky., was the first to break away from the national Episcopal Church and establish a new church under the network, and he expected many more. "I guess it's a movement. There's definitely a groundswell," he said. "There will be many, many churches of the resurrection, not by that name but by intentions."
Without naming them, he said several other parishes in New Hampshire are considering such a move. Both the Church of the Redeemer in Rochester and St. Mark's in Ashland have taken steps to affiliate with the new conservative network of churches and parishes as have parishes in other parts of the country.