Monday, December 18, 2006

Episcopal bishop: Church torn apart

By Brian C. Rittmeyer
Monday, December 18, 2006

The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh said Sunday he was not surprised by the decision of two prominent Episcopal parishes in Virginia to leave the church and join fellow Anglican conservatives.
"These congregations represent the same kind of faithfulness and Christian orthodoxy we represent here in Pittsburgh," Bishop Robert Duncan said. "All of this is part of what's happening in the Episcopal Church as many seek to stand where the church has always stood."
Parishioners at Truro Church in Fairfax and The Falls Church in Falls Church voted to cut ties with the Episcopal Church. They plan to place themselves under the leadership of Anglican Archbishop Peter Akniola of Nigeria, who has called the growing acceptance of gay relationships a "satanic attack" on the church.
Four other Virginia parishes have left, and eight more are voting or will vote soon whether to follow suit, according to the Virginia diocese.
The Episcopal Church, the U.S. wing of the global Anglican Communion, has been under pressure from traditionalists at home and abroad since the 2003 consecration of the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. Nationally, Episcopal researchers estimate that at least one-third of the nearly 115,000 people who left the denomination from 2003 to 2005 did so because of parish conflicts over Robinson.
Robinson's appointment and the blessing of same-sex unions have torn the church apart, said Duncan, who has forbidden such services in the diocese's 66 parishes, which serve 20,000 people.
"It's the innovation that's torn the church apart. All of this gets blamed on the conservatives. The conservatives haven't changed. We're standing where we always stood," he said.
Duncan said the number of local congregations wanting to move in the direction of the national church has fallen from 13 to nine, and he expects more to have second thoughts. No local parishes have broken away.
"The Christian faith, being a revealed religion, you cannot change its faith or its ministry," he said. "Any church that turns away from it finds itself in deep trouble."
Seven of the 100 U.S. Episcopal dioceses have threatened to break from the denomination but have so far stayed put. Duncan said there has not been consideration of the Pittsburgh diocese's breaking away.
"Our view is that the national church has left its own constitution and we're standing where we always stood," he said. "We are the Episcopal Church here. We have not changed our beliefs or the way in which we stand."

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