- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 9, 2003

DALLAS — Conservative Episcopalians yesterday wrapped up a three-day meeting with a declaration accusing their governing body in the United States of unbiblical actions on homosexuality that have divided the church.

The declaration pleads for help from the worldwide Anglican Communion in the “realignment of Anglicanism” in the United States.

It also urges its own members to give no financial support to the Episcopal Church of the United States (ECUSA), which the declaration says now stands “under God’s judgment” and must repent for ratifying an open homosexual as bishop of New Hampshire.

“This is a defining moment in Christian history,” said Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan after the gathering sponsored by the American Anglican Council, adding that the issue is “life-threatening” for the Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of Anglicanism.

“This is your hour. This is your destiny,” Canon David C. Anderson told a cheering throng as the gathering sponsored by the American Anglican Council wound down.

At its convention in Minneapolis in August, the ECUSA’s General Convention confirmed the election of Canon V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire, and also acknowledged that some bishops are allowing the blessings of same-sex unions.

The conservatives’ declaration repudiates those actions, saying they broke “fellowship with the larger body of Christ.”

“There is nothing in the Bible that supports the confirmation of an election of a bishop living with a man outside of marriage,” said the Rev. Dale Coleman, of Santa Fe, N.M. “There is nothing that supports it. It is ripping the church apart.”

The Dallas meeting, with more than 2,700 present, including 800 priests and 45 bishops, came as a response to those decisions, with many conservative Episcopalians saying they could no longer function within the present structure. They say the ECUSA’s actions constitute heresy, and that conservatives represent the historical Anglican faith.

“This is your church,” Canon David Anderson, American Anglican Council president, told the audience. “We are the legitimate Episcopal Church of our fathers and mothers.”

Virtually all the 2,700 Episcopalians present stood to endorse the declaration, titled “A Place to Stand, A Call to Action,” and then signed individual copies to be sent to the London meeting.

Bishop Frank Griswold, the presiding bishop of the ECUSA, who backs the established church and will represent the U.S. denomination in London, issued a statement yesterday lamenting what he called the “inflammatory rhetoric” and “ultimatums” coming from the meeting.

“In such a climate, mutual pursuit of ways to build up rather than tear down is made more difficult,” Bishop Griswold said, though the church must take seriously the conservatives’ “grief and anger.”

“Regardless of what has been said or concluded, those gathered in Dallas are our brothers and sisters in Christ,” Bishop Griswold said.

Yesterday’s declaration urges the leaders of the 38 branches of the Anglican Communion, who meet next week in London in an emergency session with the archbishop of Canterbury, to repudiate what ECUSA did in August at its General Convention in Minneapolis.

Although yesterday’s declaration does not explicitly form a new church, the statement also asked the Anglican leaders to “guide the realignment of Anglicanism in North America,” including allowing orthodox bishops to act across diocesan boundaries and “support isolated and beleaguered parishes and individuals in their life and witness as faithful Anglican Christians.”

The statement deliberately left open what a realignment of the church should look like, leaving it up to the leaders in London to decide.

Several bishops from Africa and Asia — who strongly back the historic Christian teaching that homosexual activity is a sin — have in recent years ordained orthodox bishops to lead groups of conservative parishes in United States.

Such consecrations are contrary to the customary practice among bishops, and an endorsement in London would be a major rebuke for the ECUSA and other liberal-minded denominations.

Another part of the declaration called for withholding financial support from offending dioceses and the ECUSA.

“We’ve all decided we’re going to stand on these principles,” said the Rev. David Moyer of “Forward in Faith,” another conservative group, but added, “also it is a call to go forward. We have to be clear about what we believe to be essential, and then go forward.”

A poll of the Episcopalians at the Dallas conference said the issue would be a deal breaker for the Anglican faith in the United States.

“When asked to characterize the crisis for the Episcopal Church, 97 percent of us said it is likely to split the church,” reported the Rev. John Guernsey of All Saints Church in Dale City, Va.

“Asked what you would do if nothing really changed in the next few months,” he said, “58 percent said they would definitely or probably leave the church.”

Less than 8 percent, he added, said they would remain in the church no matter what.

The Rev. Jim Parker of Moultrie, Ga., said homosexuals are welcome as members in the Episcopal faith, but they must follow the same teachings as everyone on the reserving of sex for marriage.

“We have all sorts and conditions of men and women in each of our congregations and we’re to love and care for each of those people — but at the same time, we don’t normalize sin,” he said.

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