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Second Montgomery, Ala., Episcopal congregation breaks with national church

Second Montgomery, Ala., Episcopal congregation breaks with national church

For the second time in less than six months, a Montgomery, Ala., Episcopal church has split from the national church over its appointment of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire. Nearly 80% of the Church of the Ascension's 1,600-member congregation, including two of its three priests, decided Sunday to leave the church and form a new parish in the Anglican Communion called "Christchurch," the Montgomery Advertiser reported Monday. The new parish will meet at a Montgomery Presbyterian church until a permanent location is found. "This is one of the most difficult decisions my family has ever had to make. There is hardly a person in the parish, including those staying behind, who has not touched our lives in some respect," said Mark Wilkerson, who was a senior warden at the Church of the Ascension and is a member of the Christchurch executive committee. There has been a split in the Episcopal Church since 2003, when the church made V. Gene Robinson bishop of New Hampshire. Robinson is the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church. During that meeting, the church also approved a resolution recognizing the blessing of same-sex unions as "within the bounds of common life." In January the Reverend Doug McCurry resigned from Christ the Redeemer Episcopal Church in east Montgomery in response to the church's appointment of Robinson. Nearly 90% of the congregation left with him. The Reverend Henry Nutt Parsley, Episcopal bishop of Alabama, said the decision by several Church of the Ascension leaders to leave and form a new parish is disappointing. "The Church of the Ascension is a very fine Episcopal parish, and I believe that they will move forward from this with faithfulness and grace," Parsley said in a written statement. The Reverend John-Michael van Dyke and the associate rector for discipleship, the Reverend Robert L. DeMoss II, turned in their resignations to Church of the Ascension officials earlier this week. They will lead services at the new parish. The Church of the Ascension offered some 30 ministries, including prison outreach, support of missions in Uganda and Honduras, a prayer-quilt ministry, and a national award-winning puppet team. Many of the people supporting those activities, such as Wilkerson, left Sunday, church leaders said. "I am looking forward to worshipping without the internal politics of the Episcopal Church, and I suspect that everybody is looking forward to concentrating on the Great Commission," Wilkerson said. "God loves those who feel like in good conscience that they must leave, and God loves those who choose to stay." (AP)

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