Fledgling groups advocating unity within the Episcopal Church have taken a more active stance as conservative groups continuously move toward a dichotomized denomination.
Last month, the conservative American Anglican Council created a network of parishes and diocese separate from the national Episcopal leadership, in a reaction against the increasingly pro-gay stance taken by the church. The 2.3 million-member Episcopal Church – the U.S. branch of the global Anglican Communion, consecrated an openly gay man as bishop and acknowledged the blessings given to gay couples by their priests, despite warnings of the eventual split within the member body.
However, recently, a third group of Episcopalians sprouted out with a different solution: a unified Episcopalian Church, with neither a wholly liberal nor conservative stance.
"There are so many people in so many pockets who do not want to leave the church that I want to find a way to bring them together," said Nancy Key, a lifelong Episcopalian who’s main goal is to keep the denomination united.
Key ‘s group, named, “Remain Episcopal” is not the only group advocating such unity. There are several others in Fort Worth, Texas; Albany, N.Y.; and Pittsburgh, home of the leader of dissenting conservatives, Bishop Robert Duncan. Other groups are becoming active in Springfield, Ill.; South Carolina and Florida.
Organizers say they represent both liberals who support the consecration of V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire and moderates who might disagree with ordaining homosexuals but don't want the denomination to break apart over the issue.
While these organizations have little funding and no formalized membership, their supporters are reportedly beginning to grow; members range from 80-300 per group.
Among the many activities the new advocacy groups are undertaking is monitoring claims by the council and others about the size and scope of the conservative movement.
One group, Albany Via Media (which means "middle way" in Latin), is checking that its diocese is making its promised payments to the national denomination, said the Rev. James Brooks-McDonald of Schenectady, N.Y. Another group, Fort Worth Via Media, has started a fund that could help cover legal costs if the diocese or individual parishes try to leave the denomination and take their property with them.
Another way the groups help is through emotional support. In their stance, zealous conservatives and liberals are many times outspoken, and can alienate those wishing to stay together with the denomination. Ironically, conservatives and liberals both express the same complaint.
“Who do you go to for pastoral help when your clergy and your bishop, you don't feel like they want to be a part of your life?" asked Barbi Click of Fort Worth Via Media.