Pa., Texas Dioceses Condemn Episcopal Church for Confirming Gay Bishop

Episcopal dioceses in Pennsylvania and Texas accused the national church Saturday of exceeding its authority and violating its own constitution by confirming its first openly gay bishop and approving the blessing of same-sex unions.

"These acts are to be held null and void, and of no effect, in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (search)," read a resolution approved 239-69 by delegates in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

Clergy and lay delegates of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth (search) in Texas conducted a similar vote as part of a national drive among conservative dioceses and clergy seeking to distance themselves from the Episcopal Church (search) for its decisions last month on the gay bishop and same-sex unions.

"We are here to take a stand for the gospel of Jesus Christ in a time of great dissension and confusion in our church," said Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker.

Members of the Episcopal Diocese of Florida (search), meeting in Jacksonville, discussed plans for a formal vote Nov. 15 on whether to support the national convention. Most oppose the two decisions but want to work within the church to resolve the differences, the Rev. Mark Eldredge (search) said.

Both the Texas and Pennsylvania dioceses called on the Anglican Communion (search) to recognize those who oppose the gay bishop and same-sex blessings as "the legitimate expression" of the Episcopal Church.

Delegates in Pennsylvania also approved a resolution that would allow parishes to withhold money from the national church.

The national denomination of the Episcopal Church, with 2.3 million members, is the U.S. branch of the worldwide, 77 million-member Anglican Communion.

"We are dealing with the consequences of that body's schismatic — literally unity-breaking — acts," said Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan. "We are trying to call the Episcopal Church back to its senses, and asking the worldwide Communion to help us."

The discontent among conservatives was fueled by an Aug. 5 vote of the national church's General Convention to confirm as bishop the Rev. V. Gene Robinson, who has lived with a male partner for more than 13 years. New Hampshire clergy and lay Episcopalians had earlier elected Robinson to be their next bishop.

During the same meeting in Minneapolis, Minn., General Convention delegates also voted to let dioceses continue to decide on their own whether to perform same-sex blessing ceremonies. Some Episcopalians argue that the wording of the measure means the ceremonies are consistent with church teaching.

Bishop Frank Griswold, the head of the Episcopal Church, supported the decision to confirm Robinson in a letter last month to U.S. clergy and fellow Anglican leaders around the world. He said a "blessing" can come from the controversy.

Conservative leaders believe both decisions go against the Anglican Communion, and some have already taken action.

A week ago, the Diocese of Central Florida voted to repudiate the General Convention's vote on Robinson and same-sex blessing ceremonies and asked world Anglican leaders to intervene.

The Diocese of Albany, N.Y., also rejected the decision on Robinson and same-sex blessings and asked Anglican leaders to decide whether the national convention votes "exceeded the limits of Anglican diversity."

A handful of other dioceses have planned special meetings in response to the General Convention in the weeks ahead. Some dioceses and parishes have already decided for now to withhold payments that would have gone to national church headquarters.

Episcopalians who oppose Robinson's confirmation will gather Oct. 7-9 in Dallas, at a meeting organized by the conservative American Anglican Council, to decide their collective response.

Some Anglican leaders overseas say they are also considering severing ties with the Episcopal Church over its decision to approve Robinson.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion, has called world Anglican leaders to an unprecedented meeting Oct. 15-16 in London to discuss fallout from the decision.

U.S. conservatives say they want Williams to authorize a separate Anglican province for them in North America.