Skip to comments.Calvary worships, considers reply [from ECUSA bishop in FL]
Posted on 08/15/2005 7:52:30 AM PDT by sionnsar
For two hours Sunday morning, the sanctuary at Calvary Church in Jacksonville was filled with praise music, Scripture reading, prayers for the sick and the occasional outbursts of restless children.
Altogether, a pretty typical worship service for this or any other church.
But Calvary's situation is anything but typical.
It is one of six North Florida Episcopal churches representing nearly 4,000 members that in June asked their bishop, the Right Rev. John Howard, to assign them a leader more in line with their views against same-sex marriage and gay ordination.
On Friday, Howard responded to the request in an 18-page letter posted on the Web site of the Jacksonville-based Episcopal Diocese of Florida, which he oversees.
"Essentially, he said 'no,'" the Rev. David Sandifer, vicar at Calvary Church, told about 120 worshipers before beginning his Sunday sermon. "It didn't come as a great surprise to us."
The other churches are All Souls and the Church of the Redeemer in Jacksonville; Grace Church in Orange Park; St. Michael's in Gainesville; and St. Luke's Community of Life in Tallahassee. A retired priest in Jacksonville also signed the June request.
They are upset that their denomination, the Episcopal Church USA, elected an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire in 2003. Their desire is to remain in communion with the more conservative Anglican Communion, an international fellowship to which the denomination belongs.
In his letter, Howard rejected the request because he said it amounted to "creating a new diocese-within-a-diocese," and he is open to discussing a less-comprehensive form of alternative oversight.
Howard's letter added that because Calvary and the Tallahassee congregation are mission churches instead of parishes -- a status giving the bishop more control over their affairs -- he would soon be calling in their priests "to discuss the future of their ministries."
"I'll let you read between the lines" about what that means, said Sandifer, whose church has 160 members.
What it means is Sandifer and the priest in Tallahassee could be removed from their churches, and the congregations' lay leadership boards could be dissolved, said Betty Collins, senior warden at Calvary.
"This is a time of real anxiety and sadness," she said.
But those emotions have not distracted the congregation from its mission of serving Christ, she said.
"We just keep on keeping on," she said.
Sandifer said he and the other priests will meet Tuesday to craft a public response to Howard's letter. He said it is likely the group will appeal the decision to the Anglican Communion.
In the meantime, Calvary Church will continue to plan and finance mission work, evangelize the community and worship in joy, Sandifer said.
"You would think in a time like this a congregation would be worried and distraught and pulled apart," he said, "but instead, there's a peace."
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