N.Y. Parishes Want Withdrawal from Episcopal Church

Two Episcopal churches in New York plan to split from the national denomination if the church body remains supportive of ordaining homosexuals and blessing same-sex unions.

"Given the Episcopal Church is not willing to abide by the ruling of the Anglican Communion, we're going to withdraw and go with another body (within the communion)," said the Rev. Anthony Seel, pastor of St. Andrew's in Vestal, according to Binghamton's Press & Sun-Bulletin. "On Sundays, we keep our focus on worship, but it's demoralizing to go through something like this."

Anglican leaders from the Anglican Communion issued a communiqué in February calling for a moratorium on the consecration of gays and the blessing of same-sex unions. The global body gave the Episcopal Church – the U.S. wing of Anglicanism – a Sept. 30 deadline to respond to what many are calling an ultimatum that may determine the church's continued or broken communion with Anglican churches worldwide.

In recent weeks, however, leaders in the Episcopal Church, which consecrated an openly gay bishop in 2003, have expressed their desire to support the "full inclusion" of gays and lesbians over remaining within the Anglican Communion. While U.S. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has called for a period of restraint, she has also indicated that the Episcopal Church is not willing to "pay the price" of rejecting homosexuals to participate fully in the church, including in ordained ministry.

St. Andrew's and Church of the Good Shepherd in Binghamton are reportedly talking with officials at the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York about withdrawal and affiliating with an orthodox Anglican body. The two parishes contend that ordaining gays and blessing homosexual unions are contrary to the canon law that governs churches and clergy who are members of the Anglican Communion, according to Press & Sun-Bulletin.

Central New York Bishop Gladstone "Skip" Adams had written to diocesan clergy that he will not "sacrifice" gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people "for the sake of an unjust unity."

"I will not ask gay and lesbian people to go to the back of the bus for a time. The gifts of God's GLBT people will continue to be welcome in this Diocese," he wrote in a letter, according to the local news service. Adams also acknowledged that such a stance could result in the departure of some churches but indicated his unwavering stance on homosexuals.

The withdrawal of the two churches would follow December's exodus of parishes in Virginia. The split included two of the largest of most historic congregations in the Diocese of Virginia that overwhelmingly voted to leave the Episcopal Church over the denomination's departure from Anglican tradition and scriptural authority.

Good Shepherd cited the same reasons for its decision to affiliate with another Anglican province.

"The Episcopal Church is no longer respecting the authority of Scripture or the traditions of the church," said the Rev. Matthew Kennedy, pastor of Good Shepherd, Press & Sun-Bulletin reported. "We cannot follow in that direction."

Talks with the Diocese of Central New York are currently on hold while national leaders study their response to the September deadline from the communion, said the Rev. Canon Karen C. Lewis, assistant to Adams, according to the local news agency.

Episcopal leaders are currently at Camp Allen in Texas discussing their response to the communiqué.