Split Within the Episcopal Church

DALLAS – More than 2,500 conservative Episcopalians opened a national rally in Dallas in what could mark the beginning of the end of a unified Episcopal Church, Tuesday, October 07.

The participants, including 799 priests and 46 of the denomination’s 300 bishops, led the rally with prayers, praise and messages about a break with the liberals.

"Our church has embraced schism and heresy," said Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh.

Duncan, who mentioned the temporary split the church went through during the Civil War, was just one of several speakers who delivered emotional speeches to the gathering.

Referring to the results of the national convention this summer in which the church confirmed the election of an actively gay bishop and voted to recognize the bishops are allowing blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples, the leaders emphasized a need to shape plans for Episcopalians who oppose of such actions.

"People are confused and hurt and angry and concerned and grieved," The Rev. David Roseberry of Christ Church in suburban Plano said.

By the end of the rally, participants hope to draft a declaration to the Episcopal Church with several requests including a call on conservatives to withhold money from the national church and dioceses that support the Minneapolis decisions.

The declaration will also ask the archbishop of Canterbury and the 27 other leading bishops in the Anglican Communion to create an undefined “new alignment for Anglicanism in North America.” The Episcopal Church is the U.S. Branch of the Communion.

The archbishop of Canterbury had recently called for an emergency meeting in London next week on what to do about the gay issues involving the Episcopal Church in the U.S.A as well as in the Anglican Church of Canada.

Many U.S. conservatives want their wing of the Episcopal Church to be declared the nation's only authentic branch of Anglicanism, in effect suspending or expelling the rest of the denomination.

"I think a line has been drawn in the sand," said Sharon Sproles, a 57-year-old lay person from Daleville, Va. "I don't think we can go back now."

Tim Bollinger, a 59-year-old lay person from Granite Bay, Calif., said the church was probably beyond repair.

"I think there's already a split," he said. "It's not an official split, but there's already people going in different directions."

The Rev. Susan Russell, however, said the meeting "represents a tiny but vocal minority." Russell heads “Integrity,” a caucus for 2,500 Episcopalians who support gay and lesbian rights in the church.

"The schism is infinitely avoidable," she said, "but if it happens it will be minor. The church is smarter than that and stronger than that."