The largest parish in the Episcopal diocese of eastern Kansas has agreed in principle to separate from the diocese and the national Episcopal Church USA because of disagreements over several issues, including the ordination of an openly gay Episcopal bishop in New Hampshire.
The proposed separation of the Christ Episcopal Church of Overland Park was announced Sunday by the church and Kansas diocese.
The Overland Park church's governing board voted February 28 to recommend approval of the agreement, and parish members will vote April 3 on the separation. The diocese's Council of Trustees approved the agreement Tuesday.
The Episcopal Church, with 2.4 million members, is the U.S. branch of the 77 million-member Anglican Communion, which traces its roots to the Church of England. The church has been roiled by controversy since the ordination of a gay bishop in 2003, and other churches throughout the country have severed ties with the national church.
An announcement of the proposed agreement was made to the suburban Kansas City church Saturday, said Melodie Woerman, spokeswoman for the diocese. A pastoral letter from the Right Reverend Dean Wolfe, Episcopal bishop of Kansas, was read to the diocese's 50 other parishes on Sunday.
In the letter Wolfe said the differences between the diocese and parish center on "theology, the interpretation of Scripture, and the doctrine and the discipline of the Church."
The Overland Park church decided to withhold some of its financial commitment to the diocese after the ordination of V. Gene Robinson, who lives with his male partner, as bishop in New Hampshire. "This decision served effectively to sever Christ Church from their responsibilities for the common ministry of this diocese," Wolfe said in the letter.
The Reverend Ronald McCrary, rector of Christ Episcopal Church, told the Associated Press that the church's vestry--its governing body--unanimously supported the proposed separation. "The Episcopal Church and the diocese are pulling away from historical Anglican teachings," he said. "The Robinson case is the tip of the iceberg, but the substance of it is theology." (AP)