NAVASOTA, Texas -- In an effort to quell the rising tension between the conservatives and liberals within the Episcopal Church USA and the Worldwide Anglican Communion in which it takes part, bishops across US gathered for a closed-door meeting focused on “reconciliation,” in Navasota, Texas, Friday, March 19, 2004.
The meeting marks the first in which Gene Robinson, the openly gay bishop whose consecration sparked the fire of dissention and controversy, attends as an ordained bishop.
Robinson’s consecration was rejected by 41 percent of bishops even from the start. Currently, 28 of the US bishops refuse to recognize him as a colleague, and 13 international archdioceses severed ties with the ECUSA for ordaining a practicing homosexual.
The bishops said they will not consider major policy decisions, nor will they hold legislative conferences. Instead, the meeting will focus purely on maintaining a unified “Anglican” front. The main issue will deal with the conservative parishes within liberal diocese that do not wish to quit the Episcopal Church, but at the same time reject the authority of local bishops who favor gay clergy.
The “proposed remedy” conjured up by the U.S. church leader Bishop Frank Griswold and his council of advisers, was to provide the conservative “dissenters adequate provision for Episcopal oversight,” hence, allowing conservative bishops from outside the diocese to minister to the parishes. However, Griswold, who also voted to consecrate Robinson, added a clause that would require that local bishops approve of the “oversight,” and allow for appeals to regional bodies in case of disagreements.
Conservatives immediately rejected the proposal since it allows the same liberal bishops veto power to any or all decisions made by the parishes. In place of this “Episcopal oversight,” the conservatives formed a new network that unites Episcopal diocese and parishes that upholds the traditional Christian teaching against same-sex relationships.
Led by bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, the Network of Anglican Communion Diocese and Parishes garnered the support and blessings from over a dozen archbishops worldwide.
According to Duncan, some of the conservative bishops are boycotting the Navasota meeting because Griswold will present a “rewritten” plan that was made without the consultation of the conservative leaders. Although Griswold did not disclose the full text to the bishops to study in advance, he mentioned that the plan will “honor” local bishops’ powers under existing church law.
Duncan himself will stay offsite and attend only sessions treating the church fracture. Duncan said the church must help conservatives because “the present course is a suicidal course, or at least a fratricidal course."
Last week, five Episcopal bishops led a confirmation service in Akron, Ohio, without the consent of the local Bishop J. Clark Grew II, a supporter of Robinson. The 110 parishioners who were confirmed, called upon the other bishops because they refused to be confirmed by any bishop who agrees to ordaining homosexuals in the church.
According to Duncan, if the Navasota meeting does not heed conservative appeals, there will be “continuing chaos” as congregations continue to protest and leave the Episcopal Church.