(Photo: Reuters/Andrew Winning)
A Maryland congregation belonging to The Episcopal Church has voted to leave the denomination and join the Roman Catholic Church.
St. Timothy's Church of Catonsville, a small but historic congregation, voted overwhelmingly on Sunday, Feb. 10, to leave the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland and join a Roman Catholic Ordinariate.
Created in 2012, the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter is a Catholic body created for Episcopalians and Anglicans that want to leave the Anglican Communion yet retain their liturgy and tradition.
This Ordinariate is specifically for Anglican congregations in North America. Other Ordinariates have been created for Anglicans in Australia and England.
The Rev. Terry Sweeney, rector of St. Timothy's Church, told local media that he will retire as an Episcopal priest on April 1 as part of the transition process.
Sharon Tillman, communications director for the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, provided The Christian Post with a statement released yesterday that included remarks by the Rev. Scott Slater, canon to the ordinary for the diocese, regarding the news.
"This has been a thoughtful, prayerful and respectful process," said Slater, who was present for the congregation's vote.
"While the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland is saddened when any of its members leaves one of its parishes, we rejoice that several members of St. Timothy's have found a new spiritual home and we wish God's blessing on them."
St. Timothy's Church is not the first Maryland congregation to opt to leave The Episcopal Church for the Catholic Ordinariate. Christ the King Anglican in Towson, and Mount Calvary Episcopal in Baltimore joined last year.
Fr. Jason Catania of Mount Calvary told The Christian Post that he was "delighted by the decision of St. Timothy's to join the Ordinariate."
"I have been in close communication with their rector during the past year, so I know what a careful and thoughtful process it has been," said Catania.
"I congratulate them on having made such a momentous decision, one which sadly includes abandoning their property, as the Diocese of Maryland seems to be unwilling to reach a settlement as they did with Mount Calvary."
When asked if he felt other Maryland congregations would follow suit, Catania told CP that he was unsure but that it was not impossible.
"I was asked this same question after Mount Calvary's decision, and the time said that I didn't think there would be any more Episcopal parishes in Maryland that would seek to join the Ordinariate. Clearly I was wrong," said Catania.
"But at this point, I can't really think of any other congregation that might follow this course, though there could well be individuals or groups from particular parishes that might do so. It is curious how Maryland seems to have become such a hotspot for the Ordinariate in North America."
According to the press release given to CP by the Episcopal diocese, the vote involved 80 of about 100 members present of whom 55 could vote. Six abstained while 83 percent voted in favor of leaving the Episcopal diocese and 76 percent voted in favor of joining the Ordinariate.
St. Timothy's Episcopal Church in Catonsville did not return comment to The Christian Post by press time.