Wednesday, October 8, 2003

DALLAS — An excited and determined band of conservative Episcopalians rallied here yesterday, sending a clear message to the denomination’s leadership that the church was far too liberal for them to accept.

The conservative American Anglican Council (AAC) charged that the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) believed more in “political correctness” than Christian beliefs.

The Dallas conclave began with a rousing rendition of the hymn, “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus, Ye Soldiers of the Cross,” from an estimated 2,500 attendees.

The three-day meeting is the largest of its kind ever, with growing dissent from Episcopalians — the American branch of the Anglican Church — after an openly homosexual clergyman, Canon V. Gene Robinson, was elected bishop of New Hampshire in August.

Also repugnant to the AAC is the church’s edict recognizing — though not condoning — same-sex “marriages,” another decision from the August conference of Episcopalians in Minneapolis.

The Rev. David Roseberry, 48, founder of the 4,000-member Christ Church Episcopal of suburban Plano, Texas, said he originally planned this AAC gathering as a strategy meeting for 200 to 300.

Yesterday, he and other leaders were elated to greet 10 times that many, including at least 45 bishops and more than 500 Episcopal priests from all 50 states.

“We have two to three weeks to see the future of the Episcopal Church in America,” Mr. Roseberry said in opening remarks. “We are prepared, and preparing, for what God is going to do next.”

All eyes are on the Oct. 15-16 meeting of the Anglican world church in London. The archbishop of Canterbury, leader of the Anglican Church, has summoned representatives from all over the world to deal with this and other concerns of the church.

Conservatives here say they hope that the fervor of this session will translate into meaningful consideration of their complaints — possibly even including negation of the appointment of Mr. Robinson and reversal of the same-sex “marriage” edict that has fostered the current turmoil within the U.S. church.

The Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan, bishop of Pittsburgh, in a presentation interrupted more than once by loud applause, told how liberals controlled the August convention.

“The church’s mission was, of course, sidetracked once again by the sexuality issue,” he said, “which has become the only issue for which the Episcopal Church is now known in the United States.” He called the outcome “political correctness.”

Bishop Duncan called leaders of the American church “dysfunctional” and accused them of endangering the very existence of the church in the United States.

“A vibrant, healthy and confident-in-the-Gospel Anglicanism has yet to appear in the United States in our generation,” he added. “What didn’t happen at the Episcopal Church could happen beginning here.”

The Rev. Martyn Minns, rector of Truro Church in Fairfax, Va., told the crowd that after the national convention he called a meeting of his parishioners, expecting a small gathering, but 600 showed up.

“And they came not with anger, but with profound grief,” he said. “Some people have left, because of a feeling of abandonment.”

He said a staff member who worked with teenagers came to him dejectedly one day, saying, “I can’t do it. I can’t do it.” He said the female staffer told him: “I’ve been talking to all the parents … and they won’t let that man lay his hands on their children.”

The staffer “was referring to our bishop,” explained Mr. Minns.

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