Connecticut Episcopalian Dissent Unresolved

The Episcopal bishop in Connecticut and six dissident priests failed to resolve their differences regarding the election of an actively gay bishop Monday evening, leaving open the possibility of the priests’ suspension.

Bishop Andrew D. Smith met for four hours with six conservative priests who had refused his oversight and halted offerings to the diocese since the ordination of an actively gay bishop in New Hampshire. Smith was among the majority of Episcopal bishops who voted for the gay bishop’s election, stirring unrest across the worldwide Anglican sphere and across the US Episcopal Church.

The six priests are only a handful among hundreds more conservative leaders who decided to decrease or eliminate the offerings they give to the national church each month because of the gay fray.

Last month, the diocese told the priests they had “abandoned the communion” of the church and said they could be suspended or even defrocked for it. Bishop Smith set a deadline of last Friday for the priests to tender their opposition, but extended the deadline and offered to meet with the priests himself yesterday.

According to the statement released by Smith Monday evening, little progress was made toward reconciliation, and the priests may be defrocked if matters are not quickly resolved.

“By leaving the meeting tonight without acknowledging my authority as their bishop they have placed themselves under threat of inhibition by refusing to live within their vows. I regret that we were unable to reach accord this evening,” Smith wrote.

The priests, meanwhile, declined to comment outside the diocesan headquarters in Hartford, the Associated Press reported.

``Six priests have welcomed this opportunity to meet with the bishop,'' said The Rev. Allyn Benedict of Christ Episcopal Church in Watertown, one of the affected priests. ``There's nothing we can say right now that would be helpful.''

The other priests facing removal are the Rev. Mark Hansen of St. John's Church in Bristol, the Rev. Ronald Gauss of Bishop Seabury Church in Groton, the Rev. Gilbert Wilkes of Christ and the Epiphany Church in East Haven and the Rev. Don Helmandollar of Trinity Church in Bristol.