Epis­co­pal dio­cese splits from na­tional church

Pa. dio­cese OKs split over Bi­ble, gays

The Covington News - - Religion - By Joe Man­dak

MON­ROEVILLE, Pa. - Clergy and lay mem­bers of the the­o­log­i­cally con­ser­va­tive Pittsburgh dio­cese voted over­whelm­ingly Satur­day to break from the lib­eral Epis­co­pal Church.

Of 159 clergy who voted, 121 fa­vored leav­ing and 33 op­posed, with five vot­ers ab­stain­ing or cast­ing dis­qual­i­fied bal­lots. The lay vote was closer, with 119 of 191 lay deputies vot­ing for the split, 69 vot­ing against and three ab­stain­ing.

Asst. Bishop Henry Scriven said the vote means the Pittsburgh dio­cese is now more firmly aligned with the ma­jor­ity of the 77 mil­lion-mem­ber world­wide Angli­can Com­mu­nion, which is more con­ser­va­tive than the com­mu­nion’s 2.2 mil­lion-mem­ber U.S. church.

“I am de­lighted that what we have done to­day is bring­ing the dio­cese of Pittsburgh back into the main­stream of world­wide Angli­can­ism,” Scriven said.

But the Rev. James Si­mons, who pas­tors one of at least 16 Pittsburgh-area churches that plan to re­main in the Epis­co­pal Church, called it a “sad day.”

“A ma­jor­ity of deputies to the dioce­san con­ven­tion voted for the schism. They took the con­ven­tion’s theme, ‘A House Di­vided Against It­self Can­not Stand,’ and to­day caused the Epis­co­pal Church in Pittsburgh to be di­vided in­deed,” Si­mons said.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jef­ferts Schori, pre­sid­ing bishop of the U.S. church, crit­i­cized the vote in a state­ment, say­ing, “There is room in this Church for all who de­sire to be mem­bers of it.” She also said schism is not an “hon­ored tra­di­tion within Angli­can­ism” and is “fre­quently been seen as a more egre­gious er­ror than charges of heresy.”

The Pittsburgh dio­cese is one of sev­eral that dis­agrees with the U.S. church on Bib­li­cal teach­ings on sal­va­tion and other is­sues, in­cludi n g ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity.

The Dio­cese of San Joaquin, based in Fresno, Cal­i­for­nia, was the first to leave the na­tional church, in 2006. Dio­ce­ses based in Quincy, Illi­nois, and Fort Worth, Texas, also are set to vote next month on leav­ing.

The Pittsburgh dio­cese was led for 11 years by Bishop Robert Dun­can. He was re­moved from of­fice by the na­tional church’s House of Bish­ops last month.

Many who op­posed the split said the na­tional church erred by dis­ci­plin­ing Dun­can be­fore the vote. The Rev. James Si­mons — pas­tor of one of at least 16 Pittsburgh-area churches that plan not to break away — said it “cre­ated enor­mous sym­pa­thy” for those vot­ing to split.

Dun­can is among the leaders of a na­tional net­work of the­o­log­i­cal con­ser­va­tives who are break­ing away from the lib­eral de­nom­i­na­tion in a dis­pute over Scrip­ture. The long-sim­mer­ing de­bate, sim­i­lar to oth­ers go­ing on in the main­line Pres­by­te­rian, Methodist and Lutheran de­nom­i­na­tions, erupted in 2003, when Epis­co­palians con­se­crated the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robin­son of New Hamp­shire.

Clergy and l ay mem­bers on both sides were im­pas­sioned be­fore Satur­day’s vote. Sev­eral op­posed to split­ting from the na­tional church ac­knowl­edged dis­agree­ing with its more lib­eral teach­ings — in­clud­ing a more “in­clu­sive” sal­va­tion that doesn’t rely on Christ’s cru­ci­fix­ion alone.

The Rev. Philip Wain­wright, an Epis­co­pal priest who op­posed the split, said the per­sonal sal­va­tion of those re­main­ing in the na­tional church is not com­pro­mised by its more lib­eral teach­ings, which can only be changed by re­main­ing in the church.

“If the gates of hell can­not pre­vail against this church, then a gay bishop and those who con­se­crated him can­not ei­ther,” Wain­wright said.

But those vot­ing to leave ar­gued they’re not be­ing ex­treme, just faith­ful to Bib­li­cal teach­ings.

“The church be­came as gray as the cul­ture,” said Ali­son McFar­land, who voted for the split. “Un­de­fined Chris­tian­ity be­came the prob­lem, and now the church is in­dis­tin­guish­able from the world.”

Pittsburgh dioce­san spokesman, the Rev. Peter Frank, said the break­away dio­cese is led by a stand­ing com­mit­tee which is for­mally ex­pected to elect Dun­can as its bishop in Novem­ber.

The break­away dio­cese will align with the like-minded Angli­can Prov­ince of the South­ern Cone in South Amer­ica, which al­ready rec­og­nizes Dun­can as a bishop and has wel­comed the San Joaquin dio­cese into its fold.

Con­ser­va­tives like Dun­can and the Pittsburgh dio­cese are in the mi­nor­ity of the U.S. church but con­sti­tute a ma­jor­ity in the Angli­can Com­mu­nion.

Dun­can ex­pects 54 of the Pittsburgh-area’s 74 con­gre­ga­tions will be part of the break­away dio­cese, while Si­mons said as many as a third — or 25 — might even­tu­ally re­main. Some con­gre­ga­tions may end up split­ting them­selves over the is­sue, Dun­can said. On the Net: Epis­co­pal Church: http://www. epis­co­palchurch.org Dio­cese of Pittsburgh: http:// www.pi­tan­gli­can.org

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.