Two articles from the Philadelphia Inquirer

July 30 --- August 3

City & Region Wednesday, July 30, 1997

Episcopal Synod to stand its ground

The conservative group said it would resist compromise. It contends the church is not upholding morality.

By David O'Reilly INQUIRER STAFF WRITER The conservative, breakaway Episcopal Synod of America ended its three-day convention yesterday vowing to ``resist all attempts to force us to compromise,'' and promising to consecrate its own bishops if necessary.

The eight-year-old Synod, which claims a membership of 23,000 traditionalist Episcopalians, contends that the 2.5-million-member Episcopal Church USA has departed from orthodox Christianity by ordaining women and non-celibate homosexuals and failing to maintain traditional morality.

Seated in the sanctuary of Rosemont's Church of the Good Shepherd, the convention delegates voted Monday to create a separate, nongeographical "province'' within the Episcopal Church with its own traditionalist bishops and budget.

Meeting again at Good Shepherd, the delegates yesterday adopted a variety of resolutions designed to clarify their position and encourage sympathizers.

Among the resolutions adopted were those calling for: A ``special provision . . . to consecrate new bishops who uphold our theological convictions. We hope this can be accomplished by the proper canonical route, but should this be denied, we will feel compelled to act anyway.''

Creation of a registry of all clergy ordained by female bishops because in the delegates' eyes those ordinations are invalid. The registry will be made available on request.

Creation of a fund to assist parishes or priests who suffer financially for breaking from the Episcopal Church USA.

An appeal to the archbishop of Canterbury, the Rev. George Carey, and to the Rev. Frank Griswold, presiding bishop-elect of the Episcopal Church USA, asking both men to ``assist us in our efforts to maintain our continued witness.''

Their three-day convention, which drew about 100 delegates and 300 observers, was planned as a response to the Episcopal Church's triennial General Convention, which ended Friday in Philadelphia.

``We're trying to make it clear to our opponents that if they choose to press their agenda, there will be consequences,'' explained the Rev. Samuel Edwards, executive director of the Synod, which is based in Fort Worth, Texas.

As expected, the General Convention had irked traditionalists by nearly authorizing creation of a blessing rite for same-sex unions, letting stand a policy of ordaining non-celibate homosexuals, and by extending health benefits to domestic partners of gay and lesbian church employees.

The Episcopal Synod was especially incensed by the General Convention's passage of a canon law requiring four hold-out dioceses to begin ordaining and employing women clergy. The main church has ordained about 1,500 women since 1976.

``We're not letting our opponents set the agenda any more,'' declared Father Edwards.

Although the Synod has insisted Monday's unauthorized creation of its own ``province'' within the Episcopal Church does not constitute schism, many of the delegates are predicting their province will someday become an autonomous national church.

And its vow yesterday to consecrate bishops promises to set the stage for a legal confrontation and a formal break from the Episcopal Church. Under canon law, new Episcopal bishops are consecrated only after approval by a majority of the church's other bishops and following authorization by the presiding bishop.

Bishop Edmund Browning, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church USA, and David Beers, his chancellor or chief legal adviser, yesterday declined comment on the Synod's actions.

``We haven't received any communications from them,'' Beers explained. ``It would be premature to discuss a response.''

But James Solheim, news director for the Episcopal Church USA, called the Synod's decision to form a new province ``a very bold move based on years of frustration,'' but said that if it tried to become an autonomous church, the rest of the Anglican world would likely reject it.

The archbishop of Canterbury, as first bishop of the worldwide Anglican Communion, has said that the Church of England will recognize only the Episcopal Church USA, according to Solheim.

``What they're doing is very risky.''

The Rev. Philip Lyman, rector of St. John's Church in Huntingdon Valley and a Synod member, agreed.

``I don't know how all this will play out,'' he said yesterday afternoon. ``We're just trying to do what's right.''

And the Rev. David Ousley, rector of St. James the Less in East Falls, likened the Synod's moves to God's call on Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.

``We ought to respond as Abraham did: Depart first, and once we've shown we trust Him, He'll show us where we're going.''

Philadelphia Online -- The Philadelphia Inquirer, City & Region -- Copyright Wednesday, July 30, 1997


The Philadelphia Inquirer Review Sunday, August 3, 1997

CONSERVATIVE EPISCOPALIANS SET OWN COURSE

Vote by the synod delegates brings forecasts of autonomous church.

By David O'Reilly, Inquirer staff writer

They didn't call it a schism, and no one nailed 95 theses to the door of any cathedral. But the conservative Episcopal Synod of America's break last week with what it calls the "radical" Episcopal Church USA was the stuff of drama, nonetheless.

Meeting in convention at the stone, gothic-style Church of the Good Shepherd in Rosemont, the 100 synod delegates voted overwhelmingly Monday to form an autonomous province within the Episcopal Church USA, whether that church approves or not. "There are two churches. There are two religions," Bishop Jon-David Schofield, diocesan bishop of San Joaquin, Calif., told the convention.

The eight-year-old conservative synod, which says it has a signed membership of 23,000, vigorously opposes the ordination of women and noncelibate homosexuals.

Its quarrel with the larger church came to a head during that body's General Convention here from July 16 to 25. The convention directed four holdout dioceses to begin ordaining and employing women clergy. (Since 1976, the Episcopal Church's 96 other dioceses have ordained about 1,500 women. The holdout dioceses -- San Joaquin, Quincy, Ill., Fort Worth, Texas, and Eau Claire, Wis. -- argue that women are not called to the ministry because Jesus did not name any female apostles.)

The convention also came within one vote of authorizing creation of a blessing rite for same-sex unions, and it let stand a church practice of ordaining noncelibate gays and lesbians.

"The institution constituted and defined by the General Convention has now become the Unchurch," synod president Donald P. Moriarty told about 400 delegates and observers at the opening of the Good Shepherd convention last Sunday evening.

In creating its own national province, with its own bishops and budget, the conservative synod invited parishes disenchanted with the "General Convention Church" to seek "alternative Episcopal oversight" with the conservative synod.

Nine parishes in the 177-parish Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, which serves greater Philadelphia, are synod-affiliated. Since 1989, Bishop Allen Bartlett, bishop of Pennsylvania, has allowed a retired conservative synod bishop, the Rev. Donald J. Parsons of Quincy, Ill., to provide Episcopal oversight to these nine.

The Rev. Charles E. Bennison, coadjutor bishop of Pennsylvania and Bishop Bartlett's designated successor, has said he would discontinue that arrangement, but several local conservative synod rectors have vowed to bar Bishop Bennison if he attempts to preach at their churches.

The nine synod parishes are: All Saints Church in Wynnewood; Church of the Atonement in Morton; Good Shepherd in Rosemont; Church of the Redemption in Southampton; St. James the Less in East Falls; St. John's in Huntingdon Valley; St. John's in Norristown; St. Luke's in Newtown; St. Paul's in Chester; and St. Stephen's in Whitehall.

Member dioceses of the synodical province will cease all financial contributions to the New York-based Episcopal Church USA, which has 2.5 million members, and refuse to recognize the authority of the presiding bishop or the church's lawmaking body, the triennial General Convention.

On Tuesday, the final day of its convention, delegates also agreed that the conservative synod would ordain its own bishops if the main church does not.

Although the synod says its decision to create its own province is not a schism, many of the delegates (they included six active or retired bishops and about 40 priests) predicted the day would come when their body would become a fully autonomous national church, recognized by the 34 other national churches of the International Anglican Communion, such as the Church of England and the Church of Canada.

Officials of the Episcopal Church USA declined comment on the synod's moves until the church receives a formal communique. However, Jim Solheim, the Episcopal Church's news director, last week called the synod's action "very risky."

While acknowledging the conservatives' years of frustration with the church over women's ordination and sexual morality issues, Solheim said the Episcopal Church would fight any attempt by synod-affiliated parishes to claim buildings, real estate or other assets belonging to the local diocese.

A showdown between the synod and the church seems inevitable, but no one seems to know where or when. Although he speculated that there is likely to be some legal wrestling over property, "we haven't a clue what's next," said James Thrall, deputy news director for the Episcopal Church.

The Rev. Samuel Edwards, the synod's executive director, predicted the first confrontations were likely to occur in dioceses such as Pennsylvania, whose bishops do not share the synod's views. Nationally, most of the 73 parishes affiliated with the synod are in a dozen dioceses sympathetic to its views.

"I look at [ the Diocese of ] Pennsylvania as one of the points where we'll see the most pressure," he said. "The [ synod ] rectors seemed determined and the numbers of parishioners are large."

[Comment: This article is a bit overdrawn.  The ESA has not yet totally rejected the authority of General Convention, but only in those matters in which it violates Biblical faith and practice. And the aim is not to form a separate province autonomous from the Episcopal Church, but rather to form a non-geographical province, which can  become autonomous if required.  E. Fox.]
 

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