Faith at Altitude

Religion and spirituality in the shadow of Pikes Peak

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Fractures and fissures

The Episcopal Church U.S.A., in the midst of a slow-motion crisis over human sexuality, is losing constituents. About 115,000 members have left the denomination since 2003, when it installed the actively gay Rev. Gene Robinson as one of its bishops. Now, many parishes are mulling a split, and the Diocese of San Joaquin (Calif.) is working toward a formal break with the denomination.

The San Joaquin action is a big deal: The diocese represents nearly 50 parishes in central California, and the Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church U.S.A., responded with much sadness and a hint of menace.

"I deeply lament the pain, confusion, and suffering visited on loyal members of the Episcopal Church within the Diocese of San Joaquin, and want them to know of my prayers and the prayers of many, many others," Schori said. "I continue to consult with others involved in responding to this extracanonical action."

In Colorado Springs, the debate is calmer. While one local parish recently shut its doors at least partly over the issue, Bishop Robert O'Neill said its the only one in the state to do so, and he has previously said he'll stay with the U.S. denomination. Grace Episcopal Church and St. Stephen's -- Colorado's largest Episcopal congregation and among its most conservative -- will let the debate play itself out.

" ... we have no intention of running off into (a) sort (of) alternative relationship to the communion," said the Rev. Donald Armstrong. "The one we have through our own bishops remains the most complete and catholic way to be an Anglican Christian available to us."


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