- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia has threatened to defrock the priests of 11 congregations that voted to leave the denomination.

Virginia Bishop Peter James Lee mailed a letter Monday to 21 priests with the departing churches, notifying them that, according to church law, their actions constitute “abandonment.”

In the past month, the 11 churches voted to leave the Episcopal Church, the American branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and to affiliate with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), a mission sponsored by the Anglican Church of Nigeria.

The priests have six months to retract their abandonment or risk removal from the ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church, according to Episcopal canon.

Bishop Lee’s decision comes from a recommendation by the diocese’s Standing Committee, a 12-member advisory group to the bishop, which met last week to discuss the status of the churches’ clergy.

Information wasn’t available yesterday regarding the priests’ ordination status under CANA. The Right Rev. Martyn Minns, rector of Truro Church in Fairfax and CANA’s missionary bishop, was traveling out of the country yesterday.

The potential removal of ordination status will affect the small minority of congregants who voted to remain with the Episcopal Church at the historic Falls Church, said Jim Pierobon, a spokesman for the Falls Church and Truro.

The Falls Church had been planning to offer services, presided over by an Episcopal priest on staff, for the 127 parishioners who voted to stay with the denomination, Mr. Pierobon said.

“Peter Lee has now cut off our ability to accommodate those whom he says need pastoral care,” he said. “Once again, Peter Lee appears to be working at cross-purposes.”

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