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Episcopalians get their own seminary track

Episcopalians get their own seminary track

Episcopal parish 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)

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