Dis­si­dent Epis­co­palian broke away from church


Los Angeles Times - - OBITUARIES - By Steve Chawkins steve.chawkins@la­times.com Twit­ter: @schawkins

Robert Sher­wood Morse, a dis­si­dent cler­gy­man who ob­jected to changes in tra­di­tional Epis­co­palian prac­tice and urged fel­low re­li­gious con­ser­va­tives to leave a main­stream he likened to the Bi­b­li­cal “flesh­pots of Egypt,” has died. Hewas 91.

Morse, who helped found and was se­lected as arch­bishop of what be­came know­nas the Angli­can Prov­ince of Christ the King, died of pan­cre­atic can­cer May 28 at his home in Berke­ley, ac­cord­ing to Monty Stan­ford, a spokesman for the San Fran­cisco-based or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Though small next to the main­stream Epis­co­pal Church of the USA, the prov­ince has 46 parishes across the U.S., in­clud­ing 16 in Cal­i­for­nia.

One of a num­ber of break­away groups, it had its roots in dis­sat­is­fac­tion ex­pressed by Morse and other cler­gy­men over what they saw as un­set­tling the­o­log­i­cal changes in the church to which they had com­mit­ted them­selves. In 1976, Morse told The Times that a mil­lion con­gre­gants had left Epis­co­palian­ism in the pre­vi­ous 10 years, up­set by prospec­tive re­vi­sions in the 1928 Book of Com­mon Prayer and the pos­si­bil­ity of or­dain­ing women as priests.

The church ap­proved fe­male priest­hood at a Min­neapo­lis con­clave in Septem­ber 1976. The fol­low­ing year, Morse and other out­raged Epis­co­palian lead­ers gath­ered more than 1,700 fol­low­ers in St. Louis to lay the ground­work for a new church.

In a fiery ser­mon ti­tled “The Long March into the Desert,” Morse told the group that the main­stream church had “aban­doned the fam­ily and given its peo­ple stones and scor­pi­ons in­stead of bread to strengthen men’s hearts.”

“Our Church has been stripped over the years, in gen­eral con­ven­tion fol­low­ing gen­eral con­ven­tion, of any and all moral stan­dards with which we can deal with the gamut of mod­ern moral is­sues run­ning from di­vorce to de­monology!”

Morse faced dis­ci­pline in ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal courts for his op­po­si­tion to women priests — a po­si­tion, he said in in­ter­views, that did not re­flect his views on women’s rights.

“What peo­ple don’t un­der­stand about the whole con­cept of the or­di­na­tion of women is that it was never a ques­tion of equal­ity but of the­ol­ogy,” he told In­sight mag­a­zine in 1992. “The no­tion hasa lways been of Je­sus as the bride­groom and the church as his bride. You sim­ply can­not have Je­sus as the bride.”

Born April 10, 1924, in San Fran­cisco, Morse grew up in the sub­urb of Burlingame and served in the Army Sig­nal Corps in World War II.

Agrad­u­ate of Pa­cific Col­lege (now Uni­ver­sity of the Pa­cific) in Stock­ton, he at­tended Se­abury-West­ern The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary in Chicago and was or­dained a priest in1951.

As a stu­dent, he got to know Alan Watts, an Epis­co­pal priest who left the church and later be­came a popular au­thor and lec­turer on Zen Bud­dhism.

In his 1972 mem­oir, “In My Own Way,” Watts praised Morse for his “ir­re­press­ible and per­fectly un­ma­li­cious hu­mor” and de­scribed him as “one of the few peo­ple who gen­uinely be­lieve that Godis ex­u­ber­ant love.”

Morse held posts at churches in the Bay Area, and es­tab­lished Epis­co­pal chap­lain­cies at both Stan­ford and UC Berke­ley. He also helped found the York School, an Epis­co­pal prep school for boys in Mon­terey, and from 1966 to 1984, was rec­tor of St. Peter’s Church in Oak­land.

He also es­tab­lished a sem­i­nary in Berke­ley and rented rooms to mem­bers of the uni­ver­sity’s crew team. Five weeks be­fore his death, he cer­e­mo­ni­ally poured cham­pagne over the team’s new boat, which was named in his honor.

Morse is sur­vived by his wife, Nancy Bur­kett Nickel, whom he mar­ried in 1957; chil­dren Nina Gladish and John Nickel; nine grand­chil­dren; and four great-grand­chil­dren.

Angli­can Prov­ince of Christ the King

RE­LI­GIOUS CON­SER­VA­TIVE Robert Sher­wood Morse was se­lected as arch­bishop

of the Angli­can Prov­ince of Christ the King.

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