Episcopal Rift Becomes Wider

| Sun Dec. 17, 2006 8:14 PM EST

With the withdrawal of eight Virginia churches from the American Episcopal Church, the divide caused by ordination of gay priests and bishops becomes more pronounced. These churches have chosen to align with the Anglican church, and will have to be adopted by conservative Anglican congregations in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The congregations of two large Episcopal churches in Virginia are voting on whether to align with a church in Nigeria. If they do so, they will be answering to an archbishop, Peter Akinola, who believes it should be illegal for homosexuals to form oganizations, read gay literature and eat together in public places.

The Diocese of San Joaquin, California has already split from the American church, and a half dozen other dioceses are expected to follow suit. Three years ago, the Rev. Gene Robinson was elected Bishop of New Hampshire, and there has been nothing but conflct ever since. Such conflict is nothing new; several churches split from the organization when the Episcopal Church began ordaining women as priests and bishops. Then there is the issue of blessing gay unions, which, obviously, is also opposed by the Anglican-leaning congregations.

A key player in the Virginia action is the Rev. Martyn Minns, rector of Truro Church in Fairfax. Minns has been appointed a "missionary bishop" by Archbishop Akinola, with a mission of establishing a branch of the Nigerian church in the U.S. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who is head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, has made it clear that the Communion does not support what Minns is doing.

Speaking on NPR today, the new Presiding Bishop of the U.S., Katharine Jefferts-Schori, said that the Episcopal Church continues to recognize those congregations that have split from the organization.

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