ECUSA’s troubles continue with three parishes seceding

Published October 1, 2004

Emphasizing the Anglican primates’ agreement that “bishops are to respect the boundaries of one another’s dioceses and provinces,” Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold of the Episcopal Church of the United States (ECUSA) has sent a letter of concern to Ugandan Archbishop Henry L. Orombi after three Southern California congregations aligned with the Ugandan diocese of Luweero.

Meanwhile, former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey on Sept. 15 confirmed hundreds of adults and children from two conservative parishes in Virginia, which are opposed to their diocesan bishop Peter Lee because of his support for the consecration of gay bishop Gene Robinson.

Archbishop Carey conducted the confirmation services at the invitation of Bishop Lee. “Lord Carey is coming at my invitation as an expression of pastoral outreach from the office of the bishop,” Episcopal News Service (ENS) quoted Bishop Lee as having said. “My hope is that this pastoral gesture will be seen as a way of accommodating people who have differing views within the diocese of Virginia.”

Archbishop Carey’s visit had been initially reported by London newspapers as reflective of the growing schism within the Anglican Communion, which is particularly acute in ECUSA.

Bishop Griswold, meanwhile, said in a statement released to media, “I am saddened by the action of clergy and members of three congregations in the diocese of Los Angeles and their desire to separate themselves from the life of the Episcopal church.”

The three parishes strongly opposed to the ordination in New Hampshire last year of Bishop Robinson, a non-celibate gay man, announced their intention to leave in August.

“The bishops of the Anglican Communion and the primates in their statement of last October have made it clear that bishops are to respect the boundaries of one another’s dioceses and provinces,” said Bishop Griswold.”Living in communion with one another involves not only the sharing of a common faith in the Risen Lord but how we treat and respect one another in the Body of Christ.”

Bishop J. Jon Bruno of Los Angeles has consistently affirmed the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the life of the church, including the consecration of Bishop Robinson.

Bishop Bruno declared that priests who aligned themselves with Uganda — Praveen Bunyan, William Thompson, Richard Menees, Jose Poch and deacon Kathleen Adams — “abandoned the communion of this church” by their action. He added that Mr. Bunyan, Mr. Thompson and Mr. Menees refused to meet with him.

The third parish to leave, St. David’s, informed Bishop Bruno of its decision in a letter hand delivered by its rector, Mr. Poch.

The diocesan standing committee later ruled that there was “sufficient evidence” the four had abandoned ECUSA.

Among ECUSA’s 7,300 congregations nationwide, fewer than 10 are known by ENS to have formally left the church.

Meanwhile, attempts to rebuild ECUSA’s shattered relations with the overseas church were rebuffed in August when an American delegation returned home empty handed from a visit to East Africa.

Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi told the delegation that Kenya was in “impaired communion” with the Episcopal church. ECUSA, he said, would have to apologize for consecrating Bishop Robinson, and would have to take affirmative steps to remedy the situation for there to be any reconciliation, sources at the meeting told Church of England Newspaper.

Leading the delegation, Bishop John Lipscomb of Southwest Florida said he was making the journey to heal “the growing divisions” that have arisen because “our decisions and actions in the United States have created a situation in which we struggle with what it means to live in strained or impaired communion with many of those who have been our partners in mission.”

Though not an official delegation from ECUSA, the trip was taken “with the full knowledge and support of our presiding bishop,” Bishop Lipscomb said, with the flights and some expenses paid by the national church.

In their visit to Rwanda, the delegation met Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini and Archbishop Yong Ping Chung, who was visiting the province at the time. According to a Rwandan spokesman informal meetings took place, which were cordial, but did not change Rwanda ‘s declaration of broken communion with ECUSA.

The group then moved on to Burundi, then Nairobi for a “pleasant” but unproductive series of meetings with Archbishop Nzimbi of Kenya and five other Kenyan bishops. A source in Nairobi told Church of England Newspaper the bishops “stepped into a buzz saw.”

The delegation was told that the U.S. church’s actions were responsible for the state of broken communion.

In a statement released upon their return to the United States, the delegation acknowledged the deep divisions between the U.S. and African churches but stated they felt “the personal meetings with church leaders at this sensitive time were helpful, that good relationships were formed, and that the conversations were fruitful.”


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