Monday, March 15, 2004

Fourteen Episcopalians in the Diocese of Virginia have been named to a “reconciliation commission” to work out theological differences arising from the consecration of an openly homosexual bishop in November.

The Rev. Andrew Merrow, rector of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Arlington, will head the commission, which includes one of his parishioners, Stephen Bevis, who works in public relations in the District.

The commission, which was established at a diocesan convention in January, met for the first time yesterday at Trinity Episcopal Church in Fredericksburg. It aims to avert splits in the diocese after the consecration of V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire.

Members were handpicked by the Right Rev. Peter James Lee, bishop of the Virginia Diocese, the country’s largest, with more than 89,000 members.

“When the bishop asked me to chair the committee, there was a little silence at the end of the line,” said Mr. Merrow, who calls himself a church centrist.

“But when your bishop calls, you try to serve as he sees fit. You trust his judgment and you step up.”

About the Robinson consecration, Mr. Merrow said: “I would have preferred the Diocese of New Hampshire would have looked to the larger Anglican Communion before they acted.”

The only other Episcopal congregation with two members on the commission is the Church of the Apostles in Fairfax, one of several parishes withholding funds from the denomination in protest over the Robinson consecration. Its rector, the Rev. David Harper, and parishioner Hugo Blankingship, a Fairfax lawyer who is an authority on canon law, are members of the reconciliation commission.

Other members are the Rev. Charles Alley of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Richmond; Jo Belser, a member of Grace Episcopal Church in Alexandria; Don Boileau, a professor at George Mason University who is a member of Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Burke; the Rev. Margaret Faeth of Immanuel-on-the-Hill Episcopal Church in Alexandria; the Rev. Jeffrey Fishwick of Christ Episcopal Church in Charlottesville; Donita Greene, a public school teacher who attends Meade Memorial Episcopal Church in Alexandria; James Hartz, a former NBC-TV anchor who attends Christ Church in Alexandria; Paul Julienne, the senior warden of Truro Episcopal Church in Fairfax and a research physicist for the U.S. government; the Rev. Paul Miller, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Goochland; and Trevor Potter, a member of Grace Episcopal Church in The Plains and a lawyer working in the District.

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