priest Bill Murdoch watched the developing split in his
denomination over homosexuality and thought, In a
denomination where the majority of seminaries are
liberal, conservatives need to look for a way to
move forward on their own. So he approached the
country's two most conservative Episcopal seminaries
with a proposal: an academic partnership with
Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Hamilton,
Mass.--even though he hadn't asked Gordon-Conwell yet.
The result is a
new concentration in Anglican-Episcopal studies that
gives traditionalist Episcopalians a place in one of the
nation's best-known conservative seminaries at a time
when many don't feel at home in their own church.
"We're at the edge of the knife," said Murdoch, a
Gordon-Conwell alumnus from West Newbury, Mass. "If the
church divides, there will be a need for courageous,
well-trained young leadership. Conservative orthodox
seminaries will birth, if you will, conservative folks
to serve in parish life and ministry."
With more than 2
million members, the Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch
of the global Anglican Communion. It has long been divided
over how to interpret the Bible on various
issues, including gay clergy and same-sex unions.
Conservatives hold to the traditional belief that the
Bible prohibits gay sex, while liberals believe the
overwhelming message of Scripture is acceptance and
love of all people.
The 2003 election
of an openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson in New
Hampshire, intensified the divide. Some conservative
parishes have left the denomination, and several
dioceses are now considering breaking away. (AP)