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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Then again, maybe not . . .Just in on AOL News

Updated:2006-12-17 17:01:29
Two Parishes Bolt From Episcopal Church
More May Follow in Fight Over Gay Relationships


FAIRFAX, Va. (Dec. 17) - Two of the largest Episcopal parishes in Virginia voted overwhelmingly Sunday to break from The Episcopal Church and join fellow Anglican conservatives forming a rival U.S. denomination.

Truro Church in Fairfax and The Falls Church in Falls Church plan to place themselves under the leadership of Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, who has called the growing acceptance of gay relationships a "satanic attack" on the church.

The archbishop hopes to create a U.S. alliance of disaffected parishes called the Convocation of Anglicans in North America. Truro rector Martyn Minns was consecrated a bishop in the Church of Nigeria earlier this year to lead Akinola's American outreach.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is saddened by any split from the church and will consult her advisers on how the denomination should respond, said Bob Williams, the national Episcopal spokesman.

Ninety percent of Falls Church parishioners and 92 percent of Truro members who cast ballots in the last week supported cutting ties with The Episcopal Church, parish leaders said Sunday.

Six other Virginia parishes are voting this month whether to leave.

The Truro and Falls Church break is likely to spark a lengthy, expensive legal fight over the historic properties, which are worth millions of dollars.

The Episcopal Church, the U.S. wing of global Anglicanism, has been under pressure from traditionalists at home and abroad since the 2003 consecration of the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

Theological conservatives are a minority within the 2.2 million-member U.S. denomination, but their protests have had an impact.

Episcopal researchers estimate that at least one-third of the nearly 115,000 people who left the denomination from 2003 to 2005 did so because of parish conflicts over Robinson.

Seven of 100 U.S. Episcopal dioceses have threatened to break from the denomination, but have so far stayed put. The closest any have come to leaving was a vote earlier this month in the Diocese of San Joaquin, in Fresno, Calif., endorsing a first step toward seceding. But the diocese must take a second vote next year before they can formalize a split.

The state of the 77 million-member Anglican Communion is far worse.

Most overseas Anglicans believe gay relationships violate Scripture and contend liberal interpretation of the Bible should not be accepted.

Struggling to hold the communion together, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the Anglican spiritual leader, has said that the communion may have to create a two-tier system of membership, with branches that ordain partnered gays given a lesser status.

Akinola is among the conservatives who aren't waiting for a negotiated solution.

Under Anglican tradition, his move into Episcopal territory amounts to an invasion. Archbishops agree not to plant churches outside the borders of their own regional churches.

In a statement Friday, Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, said that the archbishop of Canterbury has not "indicated any support" for the mission.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. 2006-12-17 15:26:20

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