Dichotomy Within the Episcopal Church Continue to Exacerbate

Conservatives are unrelenting and demands a "realignment"
Oct 10, 2003 10:07 AM EDT

DALLAS - A great chasm within the Anglican community of the U.S. continue to cause stir as the polarization between conservative and liberal wings maintain a historical discord. The conservative voice of the U.S. Episcopalian Church explicitly repudiated the church's liberal party and its staunch stance on homosexuality last Thursday and demanded a "realignment" within the church to unanimously adopt the gospel as the final authority on the issue.

At a meeting here of the American Anglican Council (AAC), conservatives demanded sanctions against liberal church leaders, who in August approved the church's first openly gay bishop and allowed church blessings of same-sex unions.

The fight now moves to the global Anglican Communion. The Episcopal Church is part of the communion. If the dispute is not resolved, conservatives could split from the church and form a new denomination.

"We are not leaving - they left us!" said the Rev. David Anderson, president of the American Anglican Council. He said conservatives "are the rightful heirs" of the church's true doctrine, history and culture.

In a written statement, the council said it wants Episcopal leadership severely disciplined and urged to reverse their "unbiblical and schismatic actions." It called on representatives of 600 churches present to "redirect our financial resources" to only those churches and missions that agree with their stance on the Bible's view of homosexuality.

The meeting concluded Thursday with stinging rebukes of presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, who voted to affirm openly gay New Hampshire Bishop-elect V. Gene Robinson, and to accept blessings for gay unions.

The AAC and several African bishops say they reject these "ungodly" doctrines; they will not share the church with any bishop "hell bent on this direction," said Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh.

Griswold issued a statement Thursday telling the conservatives that all Episcopalians are "bound together by baptism" and that their "inflammatory rhetoric" was tearing the church apart.

"Division and splintering ... are not the spirit which gives life to our church," he said.

The crowd whistled cheers as Florida Bishop Stephen Jacko read a letter to Griswold accusing him of "abuse of office."

The Anglican Communion has 77 million members worldwide. There are 2.4 million Episcopalians in the USA; more than 40 million Anglicans live in Africa.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the head the Anglican Communion, has called the 38 leaders of national and regional Anglican churches, including

Griswold, to a special meeting next week to deal with the U.S. issue.

The U.S. conservatives will not have a seat at the meeting, but they are sending their position statement, signed by 2,500 people at the Dallas rally, to the meeting through sympathetic African bishops.

Duncan said Thursday if Williams and the Communion fail to acknowledge the conservatives, they would form a new group and leave behind "a devastated Episcopal Church.