The Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes stopped short of breaking from the national Episcopal church. But by formally declaring their intent to link congregations with like-minded bishops – regardless of geography – planners set the stage for what could be a nasty battle within liberal dioceses such as the Diocese of Massachusetts.
The battle was sparked by the ordination of non-celibate gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire but is rooted in differences that go back decades.
Under an increasingly likely scenario, theological conservatives will report to bishops in other parts of the country instead of to local bishops.
“It gives me great hope,” the Rev. Martha Giltinan of Christ Church in Hamilton said yesterday during a break in discussions outside Dallas. “I feel that finally I have bishops that I can look to who are going to hold the faith and who are courageous and not only godly, but pastoral and tuned and committed to the mission of the church.”
Giltinan called the meeting a “spectacular gathering” and said participants vowed to press on despite disagreement over issues such as the ordination of women.
A half-dozen Eastern Massachusetts congregations have been involved in discussions surrounding the formation of the network.
Bishops who lead the Diocese of Massachusetts could not be reached late yesterday.
The Rev. Jurgen Liias, rector of Christ Church, said in an interview that he was unsure what the future holds for his congregation or for the Episcopal Church. One likely contentious issue will be whether congregations that split with local bishops will be allowed to keep their property.
“These are scenarios. Who knows where they will unfold. My heart’s desire is the leadership in the American chuch will be gracious in allowing some kind of realignment and we have a gracious separation, not a divorce,” Liias said. “Because I’m hopeful that somewhere along the line we can reconcile.”