NAVASOTA, Texas -- After three days of closed-door deliberations, the bishops of the Episcopal Church USA agreed to a compromised plan toward reconciliation, Tuesday, March 23, 2004, in Navasota, Texas.
The much needed conference, however, did not resolve the essential dispute between the conservative congregations that disagree with the consecration of the openly gay man Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire, and the liberal bishops who support it.
According to the Reverend Kendall Harmon, one of the leaders of the groups of conservative Episcopalians, some of the Episcopal bishops who formed a conservative network against left the meeting discouragement before the plan was approved.
The ‘new’ plan, dubbed, “Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight,” is a slightly upgraded version of the original compromise made in the effort to maintain the unity of the denomination.
The resolution calls on parishes that disagree with Robinson's consecration to meet together with thier local bishops and work on a ‘deal’ to let visiting bishops oversee the parish. If a deal cannot be made, the parishes can appeal to the president or vice president of the region of the province.
There were no essential changes to the original resolution penned at an emergency summit in October by some of the leaders of the international Anglican Communion in which the ECUSA takes part. The original resolution, which conservatives rejected, called on the ECUSA to grant “adequate provision for Episcopal oversight” to the dissenting parishes.
Bishop Frank Griswold who heads the ECUSA, said the resolutions show the hierarchy's commitment to reconcile the two sides. "We are coming to a new place of mutual discovery and trust," he said.
However, conservatives clearly saw that neither of the two plans resolved the essential reason behind the dissention: the blatant disregard for the scripture by allowing an open and active homosexual to lead the New Hampshire diocese.
Even before Gene Robinson’s consecration, conservative bishops and parishes urged for unity in keeping to the scriptures. They warned of irrevocable schisms that may occur not only within the ECUSA but also within the 77-million member worldwide Anglican Communion, as a reaction to the immoral consecration.
Since November’s “ceremony” ordaining Robinson, 13 of 38 worldwide Anglican archdiocese severed ties with ECUSA, and voiced their support for the network of conservative Anglicans that formed within the states.
Canon Kendall Harmon, South Carolina's delegate on the conservative network steering committee, said the Navasota plan is "dead on arrival. It doesn't even come close to recognizing the crisis we face."
Harmon said the views of the conservative priests and parishioners "were never sought" before the Texas gathering, in which Robinson took part for the first time as bishop.