RICHMOND, Va. – Episcopal leaders are moving to strip clergy members at breakaway conservative churches of their licenses to practice in the Diocese of Virginia.
They warn that such clergy members have six months to reverse their decision to abandon the church before they are removed from the Episcopal ministry. The breakaway churches have cited disagreements with the denomination's liberal views on homosexuality.
Bishop Peter Lee has "inhibited" — or officially warned — 21 clergy members from Virginia churches where the majority of congregants have voted in the last year to leave the Episcopal Church, the diocese said Tuesday in a statement.
Jim Pierobon, who has acted as spokesman for the breakaway churches, said he didn't think the diocese decision would matter much.
Eleven churches in the diocese, including two of its most prominent, have voted to leave the Episcopal Church and align with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, established by the Nigerian archbishop. Four others have voted to join the Church of Uganda.
Last week, the diocese said it would take legal action to secure land and buildings from the breakaway churches, believed to be worth tens of millions of dollars.