Discord haunts ECUSA

Published May 1, 2004

Dissension over the issue of homosexuality continued last month to mark life in some areas of the Episcopal Church of the United States (ECUSA).

On March 14, five conservative retired Episcopal bishops, one bishop from Brazil and 110 laypeople took part in a confirmation service in Akron, Ohio, that was held without the permission of the local diocesan bishop.

The diocese of Ohio’s delegation to ECUSA’s General Convention last July approved the election of Bishop Gene Robinson in New Hampshire, who is in a long-term relationship with another man. One of the bishops participating in the Ohio confirmation service, Maurice Benitez of Texas, said the service was “an essential and imperative response to a pastoral emergency in northern Ohio.”

The bishop of Ohio, J. Clark Grew II, said “there is no crisis in the diocese of Ohio, except the one created by a group that hopes to hold on to attention that is slipping away as time passes.” Bishop Grew and ECUSA Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold said the service was an attempt to co-opt a national meeting of bishops scheduled to take place a week later.

At the end of that six-day meeting in Texas, the bishops released a plan for dealing with conflict between bishops and congregations. The plan recommends that bishops and congregations that disagree find ways to work together. If that is not successful, the next step is “to implement a plan for delegated oversight.” The diocesan bishop may appoint another bishop, but (unlike a plan proposed by a bishops’ task force in Canada) the visiting bishop would not have jurisdiction, that is, power to conduct confirmations or hire clergy.

Shortly after the bishops’ meeting, representatives of 12 Episcopal church groups met in Atlanta to promote unity within the national church. Calling themselves Via Media (the middle way) USA, members said they may not be in complete agreement about matters of sexuality, but they are committed to preserving the church and its traditional openness to differing interpretations of Scripture, tradition and reason. with files from Journal wire services



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