Features

The Sunday after

National

Issue: "Class warfare on vouchers," Aug. 23, 2003

Hurting and disgusted, Episcopal bishop Peter Beckwith of the Diocese of Springfield (Ill.) packed his bags three days early and drove home from Minneapolis. Hours before, his fellow bishops had voted 62-43 to confirm the election of V. Gene Robinson, an open gay living with a male partner, as a bishop (WORLD, Aug. 16). Bishop Beckwith told his clergy back home the "dichotomy" didn't make sense: "If [Rev. Robinson] were a priest in this diocese, I'd refer him for trial for conduct unbecoming a priest."

Across the country, bishops and parish rectors (pastors) scrambled to contain the damage on the first Sunday following the Episcopal Church (ECUSA) decisions to confirm Rev. Robinson and recognize same-sex blessings as being "within the bounds of our common life."

At 4,000-congregant Christ Church in Plano, Texas, Rector David Roseberry delivered a rousing sermon condemning the votes. "There are things in the Bible that are not up for grabs," he declared, prompting a thunderous ovation.

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At 1,200-member St. James Church in Newport Beach, Calif., the congregation cheered when Rev. Praveen Bunyan declared: "The love that people should have for one another does not mean condoning what Scripture contradicts." Rev. Bunyan invited ex-gay Dennis Conneen to speak briefly. "I didn't need a priest to tell me what I was doing was OK," he said. "I needed what I received here-someone to love me on one hand and correct me with the other."

At many churches, clergy read aloud letters from conservative bishops. The bishops renounced the Minneapolis votes, encouraged discussion of the issues, and, in some cases, set up special diocesan meetings to draft recommendations regarding relationships with ECUSA. Leaders at scores of churches circulated a "Statement of Repudiation and Disassociation" for members to sign. Many churches vow to slash financial support for the national church.

ECUSA bishops, clergy, and lay leaders in the evangelical-oriented American Anglican Council (AAC) counseled their church members to sit tight for now while leaders thrash out plans for the future.

In hopes of keeping the Anglican Communion together, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams called an extraordinary special meeting of Anglican primates for Oct. 15-16 in England. The AAC will hold a summit Oct. 7-9 in Plano, Texas, to draft proposals for the primates' agenda.

Meanwhile, Rev. Robinson sat in the pews at a church in Concord, N.H. A reporter asked about the disunity his election was causing. He replied: "If anyone leaves the church it's because they've chosen to.... I don't hold the future of the Anglican Church on my shoulders."

Edward E. Plowman
Edward E. Plowman

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