- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Conservative Episcopalians from two of Virginia’s largest parishes will meet tonight for a “solemn assembly” that officially ends a 40-day period of prayer on whether to leave the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia over differences on biblical authority, homosexual clergy and same-sex unions.

Also this week, Bishop John B. Chane of Washington appointed the soon-to-retire Episcopal bishop of South Carolina, a prominent church traditionalist, to oversee the diocese’s largest conservative parish: All Saints Episcopal Church in Chevy Chase.

Both dioceses are wrestling with how to deal with splits in the 2.3 million-member Episcopal Church over the church’s decision in 2003 to back the consecration of V. Gene Robinson as the world’s first openly homosexual Episcopal bishop. Three Virginia churches have left the diocese in the past year over the matter, and several more are considering doing so.

Parishioners from Truro Episcopal Church in Fairfax, the Falls Church in Falls Church and several other conservative congregations will gather at 7:30 p.m. to officially close out the 40 days.

The Falls Church will have a parish meeting Nov. 12, and its vestry, or governing board, will make its recommendation after that.

Truro plans a week of prayer and fasting ending Nov. 5, after which it will conduct a series of congregational meetings to discuss the issue, according to its vestry chief, Jim Oakes. The board will make a recommendation around Thanksgiving, and the congregation will vote in mid-December on whether to remain in the diocese.

Parishioners in each church have followed a curriculum of material posted at www.40daysofdiscernment.org, developed by the two Northern Virginia churches and used by out-of-state parishes as well.

“It has been very positive,” said the Rev. Rick Wright of the Falls Church. “People have appreciated a thoughtful, prayerful and deliberate approach.”

At All Saints in Washington, in an arrangement known as supplemental Episcopal oversight, Bishop Edward L. Salmon will conduct confirmations and other rites, plus supervise parishioners who wish to be ordained Episcopal clergy. Bishop Chane will retain his canonical right to visit All Saints, which is at least once every three years.

“It has become evident in recent months that the current leaders and a substantial majority of the congregation believe that they have significant theological disagreements with me,” Bishop Chane wrote All Saints on Monday. “By initiating the invitation to the leadership of All Saints to consider supplemental pastoral oversight and by asking Bishop Salmon to assist me in this way, I have sought to provide a path toward continued relationship.”

The Rev. Al Zadig, the All Saints rector whom Bishop Salmon ordained in 1997, said that he was satisfied with the arrangement and that, despite theological disagreements with Bishop Chane, his 1,400-member church is growing.

“I am hoping to be a source of encouragement for other churches,” he said. “We’re growing. People think that if you’re theologically orthodox, there’s no way you can grow in a city like Washington, but that’s not true.”

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