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Church 'storm' of mass defections brews

The Episcopal Church is on the verge of a mass exodus if it doesn’t repent of its approval of homosexual relationships, warn the leaders of three dioceses that signaled their intent this week to leave the 2 million-member denomination.

The dioceses of Fort Worth, Pittsburgh and Quincy, Ill., have stated that if they don’t receive assurances by Sept. 30 that the House of Bishops will reject the consecration of bishops living in a same-sex relationship and same-sex blessings, they are prepared to cut themselves off from the Episcopal Church in the USA.

The Episcopal Church is a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion, which, led by bishops in Africa and Asia, largely has maintained traditional doctrines.

“The Episcopal Church now faces potentially large numbers of departures that would make what has happened until now look like the calm before a storm,” said Ralph Webb, director of Anglican Action for the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a non-profit group seeking renewal in mainline denominations.

Noting a trend that has developed over more than three decades, Webb said the denomination “has moved so far away from Scripture, Christian tradition and reason that many faithful Christians feel that they can no longer stay within the Episcopal Church and be faithful.”

“The Episcopal Church so far has downplayed the impact of the thousands of Anglicans who have left the denomination,” he said.

Initially, denominational leaders such as Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori claimed the numbers of people leaving were so small they weren’t newsworthy, Webb pointed out.

“Then, as more and more parishioners left, they revised their claim to emphasize parishes instead of people,” he said. “They have ignored the loss of congregations with some of the largest numbers of parishioners in the denomination.”

The outcome of the House of Bishops fall meeting, Sept. 19-25, will “make the difference between whether thousands of Episcopalians stay within the denomination or leave it,” said Webb.


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