And so we continue to have schizm with the Anglicans and Episcopals. And it looks to get ugly, in a legal way if nothing else.
Two Southern California Episcopal parishes announced Tuesday that they had broken with the national church over the issue of homosexuality, placing themselves under the jurisdiction of a conservative Anglican bishop from Africa. The announcement by All Saints Church in Long Beach and St. James Church in Newport Beach escalated a confrontation in the Episcopal Church over the role of gay clergy and the interpretation of Scripture.
The move marked the first time any of the 147 parishes in the six-county Los Angeles Episcopal Diocese had made good on threats to pull out of the 2.3-million-member national Episcopal Church. Conservative leaders in Washington and South Carolina said Tuesday that the Southern California developments had broad implications. "It's only the beginning," said the Rev. Canon Kendall Harmon, a theologian in the Diocese of South Carolina who has frequently defended the cause of "biblically orthodox" Episcopalians.
In Washington, Cynthia Brust of the conservative American Anglican Council estimated that 45 to 50 and perhaps as many as 100 Episcopal parishes nationally had left the church in one way or the other. There are 7,305 parishes in the United States.
The Episcopal Church is the U.S. member of the worldwide Anglican Communion, which claims 77 million members. Debates over homosexuality have increasingly split the communion, with many churches in the United States and Western Europe accepting gay clergy and same-sex weddings, while churches in Asia and Africa uphold the authority of biblical verses that condemn homosexual relations.
The latest move could lead to a legal battle, including a dispute over who owns the church buildings and property — the parishes themselves or the diocese.
The move by the two churches caught Los Angeles Episcopal Bishop J. Jon Bruno by surprise, he said. Bruno said Tuesday that he had served notice in a letter to the African bishop, the Rt. Rev. Evans Koseka of the Diocese of Luweero in Uganda, that he had violated church law by intervening in the affairs of the Los Angeles Diocese. Bruno also said he was not ceding his authority over the two parishes. [...] The 12-member boards of directors, or vestries, of both parishes voted unanimously to break with the Anglican Communion, the two priests said. Then, in meetings they described as joyous, parishioners backed their vestries' decisions in overwhelming votes Monday night. Thompson said the vote at All Saints was 131 to 10, with three abstentions. Bunyan said the vote at St. James was 280 to 12, with possibly one abstention.
I continue to be astonished that schizm hit the Anglicans first, and over that particular issue. The fundamental differences between papal dictats and Catholics at large would seem to be far greater and have far more applicability to more people's daily lives. Add to that the not-yet-ceased drumbeat of the discovery of clerical misconduct, and you would think that Catholics would really and truly be angry to the point of schizm.
Interestingly, both of the LA churches seem to be quite small, at least as judged by the number of voting members. Either that, or a quite small minority dictated a rather major policy change, and that would have its own consequences.
I have to admit, I do find one statement thoroughly amusing:
Members of St. James, including Eric Evans of Costa Mesa, said they saw the developments not so much as leaving the Episcopal Church as remaining within what they called the Anglican mainstream. "The Episcopal Church has left the traditional values to chase after a liberal agenda and stay within a pagan religion. We have freedom from an oppressive church for oversight by a Bible-believing, born-again bishop," Evans said.
The concept of the Archbishop of Canterbury as a pagan is nearly as funny as the concept of him as a liberal. Any minute now, he'll be painting himself with woad and conducting ceremonies at Stonehenge.Posted by iain at August 18, 2004 11:07 AM