Gay Bishop Issue Drives Further Episcopalian Dissention

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Two more Episcopal dioceses that consider gay relationships sinful are distancing themselves from the denomination by seeking oversight from fellow Anglicans overseas instead of the American church.

The Dioceses of Springfield, Illinois, and Central Florida have joined four other dioceses in rejecting the authority of the Episcopal presiding bishop-elect — a step short of schism — and asking Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to assign them another leader. The other dioceses are Pittsburgh, South Carolina, San Joaquin, California, and Fort Worth, Texas.

Springfield Bishop Peter Beckwith said in a statement Friday that his diocese objects to Nevada Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who will be installed Nov. 4, because she supports ordaining partnered gays and blessing same-sex couples, among other reasons.

The New York-based Episcopal Church, with more than 100 dioceses, is the U.S. branch of the global Anglican Communion, the association of churches that trace their roots to the Church of England.

As the communion's spiritual leader, Williams has been struggling to keep the fellowship unified despite deep differences over the Bible and sexuality.

He said this week that the divisions have become so deep that member churches who support ordaining gays may have to accept a lesser role in the communion to prevent a permanent break.