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Schism in the Anglican Communion over homosexuality

Events during 2006: September to December

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2006-SEP: Dissention in San Diego diocese:

Holy Trinity Church in Ocean Beach, CA voted on SEP-06 to leave the San Diego diocese and remain in its building as an independent Anglican church.

The Rev. Eric Menees of Grace Episcopal Church in San Marcos, CA, told his congregation on SEP-03 that he will be founding a new church in the area to be called the Anglican Church of the Resurrection. It will be aligned with Archbishop Gregory Venables of the Argentina Diocese.

Congregations in Fallbrook and Oceanside, CA voted to change the names of their churches from Episcopal to Anglican.

In Vista, CA, a priest has quit the Episcopal church and plans to found a new Anglican church.

A congregation in Alpine also voted to leave the Episcopal Church earlier in 2006. 1

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2006-SEP: Camp Allen, TX meeting:

Twenty two diocesan bishops of the Episcopal Church, USA met at Camp Allen in Texas to discuss "the issue" and the Archbishop of Canterbury's proposed Anglican Covenant. One bishop had to leave the meeting early; the remaining 21 signed a letter to the House of Bishops supporting the recommendations of the Windsor Report as the way to "heal the breaches within our own Communion and in our ecumenical relationships." The bishops expressed concern about what they felt was an inadequate response to the Windsor Report at the church's 2006 General Assembly. They also supported the Anglican Covenant proposal. The letter said, in part:

"We recognize that many congregations within The Episcopal Church need a safe space within which to live out the integrity of their faith in compliance with the Windsor Report.  We also recognize that there are some congregations that do not accept the provisions of the Windsor Report.  We pledge ourselves to work with our Episcopal colleagues to care for all God’s people in our dioceses."

"Within our group are needs for various levels of response to the conflicts in the church.  While here we have worked diligently to achieve unity across these lines.  We recognize the need of some among us for an alternative primatial relationship. ...

It is our hope and prayer that through our fellowship we can contribute to the renewal of our Province’s life within the Communion. We invited others who share our concern and position to join us in our common work on behalf of the church ..." 2,3

The Bishops of Durham and Winchester attended the meeting and delivered a "helpful briefing from the Archbishop of Canterbury."

Via Media USA is an Anglican organization with chapters in 12 dioceses, including the those that have requested alternative primatial oversight (APO). It is:

"... an alliance of associations of laity and clergy, is committed to promoting and protecting the faith, unity, and vitality of The Episcopal Church as the American expression of Anglican tradition. 4

Dr. Christopher Wilkins, facilitator of Via Media USA, wrote.

"The statement from Camp Allen shows Episcopalians, once again, attempting to find ways to express their longstanding commitment to other Anglican Communion provinces, to the faith we have received, and the truth to which it bears witness. It even flirts with accepting greater division in the church as the price of its continued unity, which would be difficult for the church to accept." 5

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2006-SEP: Global South Primates meeting:

Primates from 20 "Global South Provinces" of the Anglican Communion met at Kigali, Rwandi from SEP-19 to 22. The provinces represent more than 70% of the total active membership of the worldwide Communion. They support the Anglican Covenant concept and the creation of the Covenant Design Group under the leadership of Archbishop Drexel Gomez. Their statement said:

"We believe that an Anglican Covenant will demonstrate to the world that it is possible to be a truly global communion where differences are not affirmed at the expense of faith and truth but within the framework of a common confession of faith and mutual accountability." 6

They expressed concern about the new primate of the Episcopal Church, USA: Katharine Jefferts Schori at least in part because of her views on human sexuality. Not stated, but of possibly overwhelming importance, is that she is the first female primate in the history of the Communion. She was elected at the time when only a bare majority of provinces allow women to be ordained, and only a handful permit the consecration of female priests as bishops. Their statement continued:

"At the next meeting of the Primates in February 2007 some of us will not be able to recognize Katharine Jefferts Schori as a Primate at the table with us. Others will be in impaired communion with her as a representative of The Episcopal Church [,USA]. Since she cannot represent those dioceses and congregations who are abiding by the teaching of the Communion we propose that another bishop, chosen by these dioceses, be present at the meeting so that we might listen to their voices during our deliberations." 6

Having one province, the United States, represented by two of its leaders, with some primates refusing even to recognize the democratically elected primate of the Episcopal Church, USA is a major step towards a schism in the Communion.

Dr. Christopher Wilkins, facilitator of Via Media USA, in comparing the Camp Allen and Kigali statements, said:

"By contrast, and as though in rebuke, the Global South Primates' Kigali Communiqué is a breathtaking rejection of the entire Episcopal Church, except for those segments of it that the signatories consider truly faithful."

The Episcopal News Service stated:

"Wilkins said that an Anglican Communion province in North America founded in opposition to the Episcopal Church, which the Kigali statement envisions 'would be a mistake'."

Wilkins continued:

"No matter how many people might cheer for it, or believe their Christian faith to require it, it would be a church founded in large measure on the exclusion and rejection of a certain kind of human being -- a gay or lesbian human being -- and of anyone (and, indeed, an entire church) who sees Christ's face and faith in such persons. Can this truly be how we live out Christ's love in our time? ... As it has been framed, such compliance would diminish the faithful and distinctive witness that has characterized the Episcopal Church since its founding. We, surely, can do better." 5

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2006-NOV: Churches and a diocese moving towards schism:

Two historic congregations in the diocese of Virginia are tending towards separating from the Episcopal Church. The vestries of Truro Church in Fairfax, VA, and in the Falls Church in Falls Church, VA, have voted to recommend the split. The membership of the congregations will vote between DEC-10 and DEC-16 whether to approve the break.

As noted above, San Joaquin diocese in Fresno, CA, is moving towards a break. The membership will vote on DEC-01/02 whether to fully break with the denomination. If they approve the measure, they will be the first diocese to do so. San Joaquin is one of the very few diocese who refuses to ordain women.

Between 2003 and 2005, the Episcopal Church, USA has lost about 5% of its membership. Speculation is that the main reason is disagreement with the church's policies of equality for women and homosexuals. They now have about 2.21 million members. 7

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2006-DEC: Eight Anglican churches in Virginia vote to leave:

Concerned about the Episcopal Church, USA's policies on sexual orientation, eight congregations in northern Virginia voted to leave the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. In the 275 year old Falls Church, the vote was 1,228 to 127 to leave the diocese, and 1,279 to 77 to try to keep control of the congregation's property. The Rev, John Yates said: 

"God is going to lead this church forward in ministry. This whole situation isn't about us. It's about the next generation and the next and the next ... For the sake of the children, we must be faithful to Christ."

Kim Cooke, a former vestry member, said:

"I wasn't at all surprised. This church has always made a point of being faithful to the Scriptures and God. When faced with a choice between man and God, it was an easy choice."

The Washington Times reports:

"Most of the departing churches will affiliate with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), a Fairfax-based organization under the Anglican Diocese of Nigeria, headed up by Archbishop Peter J. Akinola. Martyn Minns, the rector at Truro Church in Fairfax, was appointed its bishop and will head its approximately 25 U.S. congregations."

Tom Wilson, senior warden at the Falls Church said of Mr. Yates and Bishop Minns:

"This was the fruit of those two rectors tending their vineyards. By standing in their pulpits for many years, teaching the Bible to their congregants, when it came to this crisis, their congregants responded with an overwhelming vote." 8

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References:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Gary Warth, "San Marcos priest leaves Episcopal church," Orange County Times, 2006-SEP-06, at: http://www.nctimes.com/
  2. Steve Waring, "Bishops release Camp Allen statement," 2006-SEP-22, at: http://www.livingchurch.org/
  3. "Episcopal bishops meeting in Texas send letter to House of Bishops," Episcopal News Service, 2006-SEP-22, at: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/
  4. [http://viamediausa.org].
  5. Mary Frances Schjonberg, "Observers respond to Kigali, Camp Allen statements," Episcopal News Service, 2006-SEP-22, at: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/
  6. Text of the Kigali Communiqué issued by the Global South Primates Meeting on 2006-SEP-22, at: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/
  7. "Conservative Episcopal parishes, diocese moving toward break with church," Townhall, 2006-NOV-16, at: http://www.townhall.com/
  8. Julia Duin, "8 Virginia flocks break away," The Washington Times, 2006-DEC-18, at: http://www.washtimes.com/

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Copyright © 2006 & 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2007-FEB-26
Author: B.A. Robinson

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