- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Episcopal Church has one last chance to back down from its consecration of an openly homosexual bishop, thereby sparing the worldwide Anglican Communion from a potential split, say conservatives at an Episcopal bishops’ conclave this week in Salt Lake City.

The meeting today and tomorrow will deal with the “Windsor Report,” a lengthy document issued last fall blaming the nation’s 2.2-million-member Episcopal Church for potentially splitting the 70-million-member Anglican Communion over the consecration of V. Gene Robinson.

Unless the Americans show some willingness to suspend homosexual ordinations and same-sex blessings, conservative bishops say a showdown is expected next month at a gathering of the world’s Anglican archbishops in Ulster, Northern Ireland.

In a letter dated Jan. 4, Central Florida Bishop John Howe told fellow bishops there would be a “pastoral disaster” in the church if bishops come up with “an unclear or ambiguous response” to the report.

“Even worse would be for us to create the perception that we are dodging the report altogether or trying to ‘buy time’ by employing delaying tactics,” he wrote.

Ten Episcopal bishops have aligned themselves with the Network of Anglican Dioceses and Parishes, which represents about 10 percent of the denomination, to oppose the November 2003 consecration of Bishop Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire.

The letter suggests Episcopal bishops collectively express “regret” for their actions and agree to a moratorium on consecrating more homosexual bishops and allowing same-sex blessing ceremonies in their dioceses until the entire Anglican Communion agrees both are legitimate.

Those bishops who believe these actions are legitimate must also present their case to the rest of the Communion, he wrote, and the several dozen bishops who took part in the Robinson consecration ceremony should refrain from representing the church at international gatherings.

Bishop Howe’s letter may have little effect because among the bishops who took part in the consecration is the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Frank Griswold.

The Robinson consecration appears to have spurred defections from the denomination. Statistics released by the church in November show a drop of 35,988 members from the denomination in 2003 — more than four times the 8,000 Episcopalians who departed in 2002.

Episcopal Church attendance on Sundays also was down nationally to 823,017 in 2003 from 846,640 in 2002, and 85 churches closed in 2003.

However, the three largest parishes — all in Texas — saw an increase in members. St. Martin’s in Houston, with 7,365 members, increased by 228 in 2003; St. Michael’s & All Angels in Dallas, with 7,243 members, increased by 77; and the evangelical/charismatic Christ Church in Plano had 1,975 members in 2003, up from 1,933 the year before.

The average financial pledge from parishioners also rose from $1,723 in 2002 to $1,791 in 2003.

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