The Dallas Diocese of the Episcopal Church during its annual convention, Friday, became the latest diocese to join the growing network of conservative Episcopalians that reject the denomination’s approval of an openly gay bishop. The vote, which was cast by a show of hands, placed the Dallas Diocese under the jurisdiction of the Anglican Communion Network, but still allowed the 40,000-member diocese to remain a part of the Episcopal Church (USA).
The Anglican Communion Network was formed last year following the consecration of Gene Robinson – an actively gay man – as the bishop of the New Hampshire diocese in the ECUSA. The network has since grown to include 10 dioceses (including Dallas), thousands of churches and several hundred thousand members.
Prior to the vote during the diocesan annual convention, Dallas Bishop James Stanton – one of the founders of the Anglican Communion Network – made a personal appeal to the representatives.
"It is not, at heart, a political decision," he said. "It is a pastoral and theological decision."
Bishop Stanton explained that formally joining the Anglican Communion Network does not in any way mean that the diocese would be leaving the ECUSA.
"I would not allow the diocese to leave the Episcopal Church," he said.
The motion, which was approved by the vast majority of the 219 lay members and 125 clergy present at the assembly, specified that the bishop would pull out of the Anglican Communion Network should it violate the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church.
Despite the support the decision received, some members warned against joining the Network, saying that such a move would be no different than walking toward a path of “divorce.”
"We are starting on a path that is something like entering temporary orders in a divorce proceeding," said Susan Calhoon, a member of Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Dallas. "If you start on a path like that, it is very hard to turn around."
The ECUSA’s decision to consecrate Robinson stirred tension outside of its own 2.5 million domestic members as well. Some 22 of the 38 provinces of the global Anglican communion of which the ECUSA takes part have already declared that they are in “impaired communion” with the ECUSA. In some regions, including most of Africa, the provinces even refused to accept the ECUSA’s donations and missionaries.
The Anglican Communion Network was established to replace the connections that were broken between the ECUSA and the global communion; in most cases, the international archbishops applauded the Network and have supported its decision to maintain traditional Anglicanism in the States.
The nine other dioceses that have joined the network are: Albany (New York), Central Florida, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Quincy (Illinois), Rio Grande (West Texas and New Mexico), San Joaquin (California), Springfield (Illinois), and South Carolina.