Epis­co­pal bishop de­frocks 20 over anti-ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity stance

The Washington Times Weekly - - From Page One - By Ju­lia Duin

Vir­ginia Epis­co­pal Bishop Peter J. Lee has ejected 20 of his for­mer clergy from the priest­hood af­ter they quit the de­nom­i­na­tion in De­cem­ber over the 2003 con­se­cra­tion of New Hamp­shire Bishop V. Gene Robin­son, who is openly ho­mo­sex­ual.

In a doc­u­ment signed Aug. 1, the bishop de­frocked 18 men and two women, say­ing they had “aban­doned the com­mu­nion of the Epis­co­pal Church.”

The widely an­tic­i­pated doc­u­ment came seven months af­ter 11 churches — along with their clergy — voted to leave the dio­cese and the de­nom­i­na­tion. Bishop Lee re­tal­i­ated Jan. 22 by is­su­ing an “in­hi­bi­tion” or­der for­bid­ding 21 clergy af­fil­i­ated with th­ese churches to func­tion in his dio­cese as Epis­co­pal priests and giv­ing them six months to change their minds.

Al­though their health ben­e­fits were ter­mi­nated Jan. 31, they were al­lowed to re­tain their pen­sion ben­e­fits, al­though as of last week they may no longer con­trib­ute to them.

One of the 21 clergy, the Rev. Ni­cholas Lubelfeld of Falls Church, Va. is re­main­ing in the de­nom­i­na­tion. He will be trans­ferred to the Epis­co­pal Church of Our Re­deemer in Aldie, as an as­so­ci­ate priest.

Pa­trick Getlein, the dioce­san spokesman, said the priest changed his mind af­ter a con­ver­sa­tion with Bishop Lee and re­tracted his de­ci­sion to leave in a June 30 let­ter to the dio­cese.

Mr. Lubelfeld could not be reached for com­ment, but the Rev. John Yates, rec­tor of the Falls Church, said Mr. Lubelfeld never left the de­nom­i­na­tion in the first place.

“When we voted to leave the Epis­co­pal Church, he did not sup­port that de­ci­sion,” Mr. Yates said. “He wanted to stay in the Dio­cese of Vir­ginia. We were all shocked when his name was among those in­hib­ited, but Bishop Lee said Ni­cholas was an em­ployee of a Nige­rian church so he had no choice but to in­hibit him.”

The Falls Church had of­fered to re­serve one of its Sun­day ser­vices — with Mr. Lubelfeld of­fi­ci­at­ing — for about 127 parish­ioners want­ing to re­main Epis­co­palians, the rec­tor added, “but the bishop said ‘no.’ ”

Most main­line Protes­tant de­nom­i­na­tions, in­clud­ing the United Methodist Church and Evan­gel­i­cal Lutheran Church in Amer­ica, take the op­po­site tack by de­frock­ing sex­u­ally ac­tive ho­mo­sex­ual clergy. Sources in the Angli­can Dis­trict of Vir­ginia (ADV), a new church body formed by the de­part­ing churches, said the Epis­co­pal de­frock­ing of the­o­log­i­cal con­ser­va­tives will have no ef­fect.

“This an­nounce­ment from the Dio­cese of Vir­ginia is like an em­ployer try­ing to fire some­one who has al­ready quit,” said ADV Vice Chair­man Jim Oakes. “Our clergy have re­mained stead­fast in their faith, and have fully em­barked on their jour­ney with the world­wide Angli­can Com­mu­nion by join­ing ADV and the Con­vo­ca­tion of Angli­cans in North Amer­ica.”

The lat­ter, known as CANA, is un­der the aus­pices of the Angli­can prov­ince of Nige­ria. On July 23, Nige­rian Arch­bishop Peter Aki­nola wrote the soon-to-be-de­frocked clergy, say­ing Bishop Lee’s ac­tion “is mean­ing­less and ap­pears to be rather mean spir­ited.”

He added, “Th­ese are very strange times and sadly, this let­ter is one more ex­am­ple of the con­fu­sion in our beloved church.”

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