CLEVELAND – The five churches that led their own confirmation service in rebellion against their pro-gay bishop in Ohio has banned the bishop elect from their churches for the same reason, April 15, 2004. Instead, the churches have been assigned their own bishop for spiritual oversight by a network of conservative Anglican churches.
These five churches, which asked the bishop-elect of Ohio Mark Hollingsworth Jr. to stay out of their churches, are among hundreds of parishes considering a similar move at a nationwide scale.
"Bishop Hollingsworth faces an uphill battle to avert the crisis and curb the mounting membership and money losses in the diocese," said Rev. R. James Tasker, pastor of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Bay Village. "It will take nothing less than a return to biblical faith to restore trust and any sense of normalcy."
Hollingsworth as well as several other bishops in the Episcopal Church, provoked a worldwide schism in the 77-million member Anglican Communion, by consecrating the openly gay Gene Robinson as bishop to New Hampshire. To date, 13 of 38 archdioceses around the world, representing more than half of the Anglican family, has rebuked the Episcopal Church USA for the consecration, and severed ties with the American branch of the Anglican Communion.
Last month, the Episcopal House of Bishops approved a compromised plan to provide ‘adequate Episcopal oversight’ to conservative parishes that disagree with their bishop’s support of Robinson’s consecration. This plan allows the individual parishes to receive spiritual guidance from biblically sound bishops outside of their region, but still gives room for their bishop to reject it. While some conservative churches agreed to the proposed plan, many others rejected the plan since it ultimately gives authority to their local bishop.
In the letter to Hollingsworth, the five churches: Church of the Holy Spirit and St. Luke's, both in Akron; St. Anne in the Fields in Madison; St. Stephen's in East Liverpool and St. Barnabas, asked the bishop-elect to avoid "extreme pain for everyone involved" by canceling his planned visit to those churches. The name of the bishop who will oversee them has not yet been released.
The Episcopal Diocese of Ohio has about 24,000 members in 103 churches in northern Ohio.