Skip to comments.6 churches await decision on oversight [today? ECUSA, FL]
Posted on 08/12/2005 12:35:02 PM PDT by sionnsar
Uncertain but prayerful, six conservative Episcopal churches might learn as early as today if Bishop John Howard will grant their request for temporary oversight from another bishop.
Howard, bishop of the Jacksonville-based Episcopal Diocese of Florida, can approve or reject the request. If the request is denied, churches will appeal to the archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, said the Rev. Jim McCaslin, rector at All Souls Church in Mandarin.
The North Florida congregations, plus an emerging group called the Jacksonville Anglican Fellowship, made the request for "alternative episcopal oversight" in writing and in a meeting with Howard on June 16 in Jacksonville.
They are alarmed that their denomination, the Episcopal Church USA, appears to be moving toward approving same-sex unions and ordaining active homosexuals.
Their goal is to be aligned with a bishop who holds their orthodox views and who will guarantee not to reduce their status from parishes to missions.
The priests and their congregations asked that Howard respond within a month, but he later said he would make his decision by today.
A diocesan spokesman said Wednesday that Howard's decision could come today or early next week.
"It's hard waiting," McCaslin said. "There's just kind of a pall hanging over everything."
The churches who made the request are All Souls and the Church of the Redeemer, and Calvary Church, all in Jacksonville; Grace Church in Orange Park; St. Michael's in Gainesville; and Community of Life in Tallahassee.
What's harder still, McCaslin said, is wondering if Howard will take additional action against the churches, such as removing their priests and dissolving their lay leadership councils.
Some of the priests have consulted with attorneys who are members of their parishes to determine what their options are if Howard seizes their church properties.
"We've done that primarily to find out our status on canonical issues and property issues, but we're hoping not to get involved in any legal process," said the Rev. Neil Lebhar, rector at the Church of the Redeemer.
The group has not identified or spoken with any other bishops who might agree to lead them if Howard grants their request, Lebhar said.
Most provinces of the Anglican Communion, an international fellowship to which the denomination belongs, has declared itself in broken communion with the Episcopal Church since an openly gay man was elected bishop in 2003.
A subsequent Anglican report called for the denomination's repentance and outlined a process -- including appeals if rejected -- by which individuals and parishes could seek alternative oversight from like-minded bishops.
However, the process is not binding on Howard or other bishops.
The seven Florida churches want alternative oversight to further distance themselves from the denomination until its next conference in 2006.
"We continue to hope that the bishop will grant us alternative Episcopal oversight until we get closer to resolution in both the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion," Lebhar said.
"If it's no," McCaslin said, "we'll appeal to the archbishop of Canterbury and see what he has to say."
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