Episcopalian Parishes Split Over Gay Bishop

In a move signaling a deeper break within the national Episcopal Church, two Southland parishes said today they are leaving the church and severing ties with the Diocese of Los Angeles because of the denomination’s consecration of an openly gay priest as bishop in New Hampshire.

The announcement by All Saints Episcopal Church in Long Beach and St. James Episcopal Church in Newport Beach marked the first time that any parish in the six-county Los Angeles Episcopal Diocese had made good on long-standing threats to pull out of the 2.3-million member national Episcopal Church. The two churches said they intended to place themselves under the jurisdiction of an Anglican bishop in Africa.

Their move could precipitate a legal battle over ownership of the two church’s buildings and property. The Los Angeles diocese has long held that the diocesan bishop holds title to parish property. But the two congregations were expected to say today that they have the legal deeds, setting up a possible court fight.

There was no immediate reaction from the Los Angeles diocesan bishop, the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, who has made unity a central theme of his administration

The national Episcopal Church threw the 77-million member worldwide Anglican Communion into turmoil last year when it approved the consecration of an openly gay priest as Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson.

The action, taken despite objections from African archbishops as well as the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowen Williams, has brought the communion to the brink of schism.

The archbishop of Canterbury appointed a high-level panel, known as the Lambeth Commission, to take testimony and listen to arguments from opposing sides of the dispute over homosexuality in the church in an effort to head off a schism.

The panel hopes to find some organizational mechanism to accommodate both sides while holding the worldwide communion together. It is expected to report to the archbishop of Canterbury in October.

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Los Angeles Times, USA
Aug. 17, 2004
Larry B. Stammer, Times Staff Writer

Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday August 18, 2004.
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