Clergy attached to the Virginia congregations that left the Episcopal Church were warned Tuesday that if they do not reverse their decision to "abandon" the church, they will be removed from the Episcopal ministry.
Virginia Bishop Peter Lee agreed to a determination that inhibited 21 clergy canonically resident in the Diocese on Monday, meaning the leaders that voted to split from the Episcopal Church were barred from performing any priestly duties in the Diocese. The breakaway Anglican leaders received the warning in a letter on Tuesday and were given six months to reverse their decision.
When congregations from 15 churches voted overwhelmingly in December to sever ties with the Episcopal Church, they had already removed themselves from the Episcopal ministry and identified with the Church of Nigeria.
The Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns of Truro Church, one of the largest churches that voted to leave, now heads the Convocation of Anglicans in North America - an outreach initiative of the Church of Nigeria.
Although the Episcopal diocese warned clergy, including six more in other dioceses, of their current "inhibited" status, Jim Pierobon, spokesman for the breakaway churches, says that the clergy and other church leaders are still acting in all of their same roles within the worldwide Anglican Communion.
"[The Rev.] John Yates is still the rector of The Falls Church, Rick Wright is still the associate rector, and so on. We're simply not doing that inside the Episcopal Church anymore," said Pierobon.
The Diocese had declared last week the Virginia churches that broke ties "abandoned" and is now taking steps to recover church properties - a move that halted negotiations.
Tuesday's letter brought other efforts by the Anglican churches to a halt. Pierobon said that at The Falls Church, a megachurch that split, they were preparing a proposal to Lee in which the church would provide a means for an Episcopal service through a senior clergy member who had disagreed with the majority vote.
Last week, Lee had called for the pastoral care of the small number of parishioners who did not vote to leave and remained in the Episcopal Church.
"But you know what? The letter yesterday ended that and made that effort moot," Pierobon told The Christian Post on Wednesday.
"It's very frustrating."
The Diocese defended its latest decisions by stating that the majority membership of the 15 churches voluntarily chose to sever their ties with the Diocese and thus renounced the doctrine of the Episcopal Church. "In doing so, they abandoned the property for the purposes for which it was set aside, namely the mission of The Episcopal Church and The Diocese of Virginia."