Anglican group defies church to fight gay ordinations

EPISCOPAL conservatives in the US who are bitterly opposed to same-sex blessings and the ordination of gay clergy have launched a nationwide organisation that plans to defy church leaders and may well wrestle with them for control of parishes and dioceses.

Rather than a schism or breakaway, the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes vows to fight Episcopal Church actions it says “departed from the historic faith and order and have brought immense harm”.

“This has been, for us, a glorious and historic day,” said Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan, elected as network leader after delegates gave a governing charter unanimous approval.

Under the charter, the network’s core will be the 12 dioceses in nine states that sent delegates to a meeting at a suburban Dallas church. They must now return home and ask for formal diocesan approval to join the network.

These dioceses include roughly one-tenth of the Episcopal Church’s membership of 2.3 million, though some parishioners in those dioceses will undoubtedly oppose the new group. The Episcopal Church is the US branch of the international Anglican Communion, which consists of denominations stemming from the Church of England.

Network leaders contend they’re not leaving the Episcopal Church but say the church left them when it began allowing gay clergy and blessings for same-sex couples. November’s consecration of openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire brought the situation to a crisis point.

Daniel England, a national church spokesman, said the network “would be a lot more troubling if their numbers were stronger”.

The network has characterised the new group as a “church within a church” and talk of schism was downplayed during the two-day meeting. Parishes would likely be forced to surrender their properties if they leave.

The network says it will “operate in good faith within the constitution of the Episcopal Church” as “a true and legitimate expression of the worldwide Anglican Communion”.

A large majority of overseas Anglican leaders insist on the traditional Christian teaching against same-sex activity, but that is a minority view among US Episcopal leaders. The network wants to get recognition from those overseas Anglican leaders.

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