- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 14, 2004

FAIRLAWN, Ohio (AP) — Six conservative Episcopal congregations yesterday held a confirmation service led by bishops acting without permission from the Diocese of Ohio, opening another front in the Episcopal Church conflict over an openly homosexual bishop.

Under Episcopal law and liturgy, confirmations are performed only by local bishops or visiting bishops approved by the diocese’s head — in this case, Bishop J. Clark Grew II of Cleveland.

“This business against the diocesan bishop is simply defiant, and that’s why it’s troubling,” said Daniel England, a church spokesman. “It violates our constitution and canons.”

The six congregations are part of a protest movement nationwide of conservative Episcopalians who oppose homosexual activity on biblical grounds.

The issue exploded last year when the church’s national convention approved the elevation of the denomination’s first openly homosexual bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

Bishop Grew of Cleveland joined a majority of Episcopal bishops in voting for Bishop Robinson, and yesterday’s service marked one of the largest snubs to date of a pro-Robinson bishop’s authority.

A message left yesterday seeking comment from Bishop Grew was not returned.

As the rift over homosexual clergy has deepened in the Episcopal Church, conservatives are demanding substitute leadership from outside their dioceses, bypassing the resident bishop. Conservatives say bishops rarely have provided such alternative oversight.

The issue of oversight will top the agenda when the nation’s Episcopal bishops meet behind closed doors at Navasota, Texas, starting Friday.

The confirmations of people of varying ages, performed in an Eastern Orthodox church 25 miles south of Cleveland, were conducted by five retired Episcopal bishops and one bishop from abroad.

“We want to emphasize that the heart of the matter is not sexuality or sexual orientation, but rather Holy Scripture and the life of the church,” said the Rev. Maurice Benitez, the retired bishop of Texas.

Joining Bishop Benitez were the Rev. C. FitzSimmons Allison, retired bishop of South Carolina; the Rev. William Cox, retired assistant bishop of Oklahoma; the Rev. Alex Dickson, retired bishop of western Tennessee; the Rev. William Wantland, retired bishop of Eau Claire, Wis.; and the Rev. Robinson Cavalcanti, bishop of northern Brazil.

The presence of Bishop Cavalcanti underscored that in the international Anglican Communion, of which the Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch, most bishops back the traditional Christian condemnation of homosexual activity.

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