A dozen rectors and priests in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh went public this week with their disapproval of the diocesan bishop's effort to leave the national church.
In a letter mailed to the diocese's 66 churches on Tuesday, the 12 conservative clergy said they have "determined to remain within" The Episcopal Church rather than realign out of it, according to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Some of the clergy met Monday with Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan, who is discontent with the national church's liberal direction on Scripture and homosexuality, to inform him they will be going public.
The announcement comes after the Pittsburgh diocese overwhelmingly voted last November to leave The Episcopal Church. A second and final vote of approval for secession is expected later this year at the annual Pittsburgh convention.
While the 12 clergy who signed the recent letter oppose the ordination of openly gay clergy and conducting same-sex blessings, much like Duncan and the majority of the diocese, and say they support the reformation of the Episcopal Church, they do not believe a split is necessary.
"The bishop has made a mistake," said Father Quinn, a priest in the diocese and one of the 12 signers, according to the local Gazette. "He seems to be going in a different direction than we are."
But Bishop Duncan believes the dissenting clergy will be terribly disappointed in their line of action, said Peter Frank, a spokesman for Duncan.
"The place that the majority of the diocese is at is a different place than these priests are ending up," Frank told The Christian Post. "That's difficult where most of the Diocese of Pittsburgh say 'let's get on with ministry and not continue what has been a 30-year losing struggle to reform The Episcopal Church from within.'"
The clergy's public statement this week about was not unexpected, said Frank. The 12 - out of 180 clergy in the diocese - were part of the minority who did not favor leaving The Episcopal Church during last November's vote. Discussion with the dissenting group began last summer and the diocese has been aware of their stance, according to Frank.
Why the group went public this week has not been specified.
Duncan remains a leading conservative in The Episcopal Church and is currently heading an alliance of biblically traditional dioceses and parishes called the Anglican Communion Network. He and several breakaway and conservative bishops have begun talks to create a separate Anglican body in North America.
After decades of struggle, Duncan has expressed little hope The Episcopal Church – the U.S. branch of Anglicanism – will get back in line with traditional Anglicanism and the Bible. The Episcopal Church heightened controversy when it consecrated openly gay bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire in 2003.
Earlier this month, senior bishops in The Episcopal Church certified Duncan as having "abandoned the Communion of this Church." Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori warned Duncan he could be banned from his office unless he draws back from his current efforts.