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Bishop to defrock three priests who opposed gay clergy ordination

Bishop to defrock three priests who opposed gay clergy ordination

Lexington, Ky., Episcopal bishop Stacy Sauls has moved to defrock three priests and one deacon who have distanced themselves from the church since the consecration of an openly gay bishop in 2003. All four have moved away from the Episcopal Church USA because of theological differences, and Sauls has ordered them to stop ministering in the diocese. The four are the Reverend Martin Gornik, who recently left Lexington's Church of the Apostles to form Apostles Anglican Church; the Reverend Anna Gulick, a deacon at the church; the Reverend David Brannen, pastor of St. Andrew's Anglican Church in Versailles; and the Reverend Alice Linsley, a former rector in Lexington who has been teaching adult Bible classes at St. Andrew's. Since August 2003, when Gene Robinson was ordained bishop of New Hampshire, 30 members of the clergy in 17 dioceses have been "inhibited," or ordered to stop ministry, for abandoning communion, Sauls said. "This is the commonly used practice throughout the Episcopal Church," he said. Brannen has been inhibited for allegedly acting as a priest in the diocese without the bishop's permission. He leads St. Andrew's Anglican Church, which was formed after Sauls fired the leadership of St. John's Episcopal Church in Versailles. His case could result in a church trial. Gornik, Gulick, and Linsley have been inhibited for allegedly abandoning communion with the Episcopal Church. They could be permanently barred from office unless they can show within six months that they have not abandoned the church, Sauls said. The inhibitions, which were handed down January 20, are expected to have little impact on the clergy members who have been told to stop ministering. Each of them said they plan to continue and that Sauls can do nothing to stop them. "There is no practical effect," Linsley said. "It's only intended to intimidate. I have every intention to continue working in ministry." She resigned from her position as rector at Lexington's St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in 2003, after a disagreement with Sauls and her congregation. Sauls supported Robinson's ordination. But the clergy members who have been inhibited did not. They said they think the church is drifting away from biblical teachings. "They're here absolutely acting without oversight, and we've got to acknowledge that," Sauls said. "They may not like me. They may disagree with me. The Gospel imperative is that we keep working to reconcile." Sauls said it's important for local bishops to maintain oversight of the clergy in their areas "in order to protect the faithful." But the Reverend Canon David Anderson, president of the conservative American Anglican Council, said it's fairly unusual for a diocese to have four inhibitions at once. He said that before members of the clergy began seeking oversight from foreign bishops, such inhibitions were reserved for those who left for different denominations. Anderson said he thinks Sauls is targeting specific members of the clergy. "He is absolutely desperate to stamp out anyone who disagrees with him," he said. The members of the Church of the Apostles, which Gornik helped found, voted January 16 to leave the Episcopal Church. They have formed a new church, Apostles Anglican. Gornik and Gulick said they are now under the authority of a foreign bishop, who has not been named. (AP)

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