Skip to comments.Episcopal Church at crossroads: Consecration of gay bishop may lead to breakup of church [FL]
Posted on 11/09/2006 6:27:09 PM PST by sionnsar
PINELLAS COUNTY - Politics isn't the only place where liberals and conservatives are at loggerheads. Changes that some say are long overdue and others say are self-destructive are driving wedges between Episcopal congregations right here in Pinellas County.
Long-simmering tensions came to a head in 2003, when New Hampshire Episcopalians consecrated a new bishop, Gene Robinson, who is openly gay. Liberal congregations hailed the consecration as a milestone of human equality, but conservative congregations viewed it as a symptom of a moral decay within the church.
"St. Dunstan's is part of the orthodox side of this argument," said the Rev. A. Edward Sellers, rector of the 340-member St. Dunstan's Church in Largo, which he describes as the only conservative Episcopal congregation in mid-Pinellas. "I think the church is too liberal and is headed for a major split, which will not be good for anybody."
The Rt. Rev. John Lipscomb, bishop of the diocese that includes Pinellas, is relatively conservative and has kept the diocese from becoming too liberal, Sellers said. But Lipscomb will soon retire and Sellers fears what might happen when his replacement is chosen.
"If they elect a liberal, revisionist bishop, we're in trouble," Sellers said. "The conservatives are going to have to leave. We're not going to sink with them."
In North Florida and in other states, liberal bishops tried to seize the property of breakaway parishes and nasty turf wars ensued, Sellers said. A California court ruled that the property belonged to the parish, not to the diocese, but that victory cost the congregation hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, and Sellers isn't sure a Florida court would follow that precedent.
Sellers said he has nothing against the ordination of celibate men with homosexual tendencies, but he feels that practicing gays like Robinson have no place in the Episcopal clergy. He added that the consecration of Robinson is just the latest and most flagrant of a series of things, like the ordination of women, which indicate that the church is abandoning its orthodox roots.
"If Bishop Robinson resigned today, there would still be a major schism in the church," Sellers said.
"I believe that both sides of this issue have made terrible mistakes" by moving too far to the left or the right, said the Rev. Robert (Father Bob) Wagenseil, rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in Indian Rocks Beach. He likened the current controversy to hot-button issues that Christian congregations have faced in years past.
"Even if you wanted a woman to be a priest 100 years ago, she couldn't have been one because the law prohibited women from signing contracts," he said. "And there was a lot of debate in the Christian community over whether slavery was something God liked or something God didn't like."
Wagenseil is opposed to Robinson's consecration, not because Robinson is gay but because Robinson's supporters pushed the consecration through in a confrontational manner that created unnecessary friction in a church that should be striving to maintain its unity. But he is non-committal on the larger question of whether gays should be Episcopal priests or bishops.
"Who am I to say what's possible with a God like ours?" he asked. "Culture plays a big role. One side says that the Bible says this is the way it is and it can't be changed. The other side says 'Get over it; times have changed.' And whether you're far to the right or far to the left, once you've decided that you're right, you've decided that everybody else is wrong."
Both Sellers and Wagenseil mentioned that there are many more religious denominations today than there were a couple of hundred years ago. Those denominations were formed by splinter groups disagreeing with the direction their mother church was taking and breaking away to form their own denomination.
Sellers believes it is virtually inevitable that conservative American congregations will break away from the Episcopal Church. Wagenseil, on the other hand, believes that the church can stay together if both sides will cool the extremist rhetoric and just sit down and talk with each other.
"I personally believe the ordination of practicing homosexual persons needs to be kept on the front burner," Wagenseil said, adding that there should be a moratorium on the consecration of new gay bishops in the meantime. "We need theological, sociological and psychological discussions about the consecration of gay bishops. The Episcopate must stand for unity, not division. What we must not do is act unilaterally."
there won't be anything to split. The conservative members will have long ago left, after getting tired of all the indecisive pussy-footing around.
Rest in peace, TEC, youve talked yourself to death.
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