CoE Newspaper 2.01.08 p 5: A new wave of parish defections has washed across the Episcopal Church with congregations in Tennessee, Pittsburgh and Central Florida quitting the national church in protest to its leftward drift.
The response to American church secessions however, has differed from past battles with a premium being placed on an amicable parting of the ways.
The new wave of defections has also come from “Windsor Dioceses”—dioceses whose leaders have been opposed to the innovation in doctrine and discipline made in recent years by the national church’s leadership.
While united in their opposition to the actions of the last two General Conventions, conservatives have been divided on what tactical programme to purse. With the breakaway groups now soliciting defections from conservative dioceses, traditionalist leaders within the Episcopal Church are concerned that turf battles over the remaining conservatives may weaken the remaining Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic witness within the Episcopal Church.
In the Diocese of Tennessee the bulk of Trinity Church in Winchester on Jan 6 quit the diocese for CANA, while the rector and members of Holy Cross in Murfreesboro announced that day they had joined the Church of Uganda.
Bishop John Bauerschmidt lamented the secessions, saying they were unnecessary as “Tennessee has on several occasions committed itself to the recommendations of the Windsor Report.” He noted that he was “committed to the Camp Allen principles of compliance with the recommendations of the Windsor Report” articulated by Archbishop Rowan Williams in his Advent letter.
The Bishop of Central Florida, the Rt. Rev. John W. Howe told his diocesan convention on Jan 25 that eight congregations, including the diocese’s second and fourth largest parishes, were withdrawing from the Episcopal Church.
Bishop Howe told The Church of England Newspaper the last three months had been the most difficult of his life, and the negotiations had left him exhausted. However “we have done something that has not been accomplished anywhere else. We are on the best of terms with all those leaving. And we are committed to rebuilding where there have been losses.”
In his Convention address Bishop Howe stated he understood there were some who for reasons of conscience had to withdraw. “I understand that. I don’t agree, but I don’t believe we should punish them. We shouldn’t sue them. We shouldn’t depose the clergy. Our brokenness is a tragedy. The litigation that is going on in so many places is a travesty,” he said.
“And although some seem to be trying to do so, I don’t think you can hold a Church together by taking everybody you disagree with to court,” he said.