ATLANTA – Despite what seems to be intolerable differences in views and beliefs within the Episcopal Church USA, biblically-sound lay leaders and clergy across the nation made yet another effort for unity at a meeting at Atlanta, Saturday, March 27, 2004.
The meeting was attended by liberal and moderate Episcopalian clergy and laypeople from conservative dioceses in California, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, New York, Illinois, Texas, South Carolina and Florida, who do not agree with the consecration of Gene Robinson – an openly gay man – as bishop to New Hampshire. Robinson’s consecration, along with the frequent blessings of same-sex “marriages” has caused a huge rift within both the domestic and international church; nationally, churches who disagree with the consecration formed its own network of believers, internationally, a third of the archdiocese leaders severed ties with the ECUSA for its betrayal of Anglican beliefs.
The leaders of the Anglican Communion in which the ECUSA takes part, have tried, though unsuccessfully, to prevent the schism. Last October, before Robinson’s consecration, the liberals who agreed with the consecration and the conservatives who defended the Anglican beliefs by rejecting it, met at a closed door to promote ‘unity.’ The plan adopted by the meeting however, failed to adequate accommodate for the differences in views; they eventually settled with a plan of ‘Episcopal oversight,’ in which parishes and congregants who did not agree with their local bishop’s support of Robinson, would receive guidance from bishops elsewhere who rejected the blasphemous consecration. The plan, with its many flaws and conditions, failed miserably.
Similarly, at the much anticipated, closed-door, three-day conference at Atlanta last week, conservatives came face to face, this time the liberal supporters of the gay bishop and Robinson himself. Not surprisingly, the bishops’ meeting proved fruitless, with conservative bishops walking out before the conference’s end in disbelief. The result of the conference was a similar “tweaked” Episcopal Oversight plan, which did not address the true issue at hand – the sin of promoting homosexuality by consecrating and galvanizing Robinson. In fact, despite the countless outcries of conservatives and even many biblically-rooted liberals and moderates, the ECUSA gave an Robinson an honorary scholarship to the church’s divinity school, the EDS.
The most recent meeting in Atlanta has yet to play out. At the meeting, Episcopalians from California, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, New York, Illinois, Texas, South Carolina and Florida discussed specific concerns in their dioceses. Under the title “via media,” which means, “middle way,” the gatherers discussed ways to promote church unity, while still rejecting Robinson’s consecration.
"There is a place for everybody in this church," said the Rev. Michael Russell, rector of All Souls' Episcopal Church in San Diego. "Because a vote was taken that a group doesn't like isn't a reason to leave the church. It's a reason to stay together in conversation."
Via Media has clergy and laypeople from the nation’s most conservative dioceses who oppose Robinson’s consecration, but also support churchwide unity.
Leaders of the via media groups say they represent a majority of parishioners who don't necessarily agree with the church's decisions but believe that the denomination can support diverse viewpoints.