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INDIANAPOLIS: Upset Episcopalians start their own church

Upset Episcopalians start their own church

By John J. Shaughnessy
The IndyStar

February 21, 2004

Distressed by the ordination of an openly gay bishop, nearly 60 parishioners have left the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis and will hold services in their new church today.

The move represents the first break from the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis since Bishop Catherine Waynick voted in August to confirm the Rev. V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire.

Members of the newly formed Faithful Anglicans in the Heartland also object to Waynick allowing gay couples in the Indianapolis diocese, which includes the lower two-thirds of the state, to have same-sex blessing ceremonies -- another issue that has caused division within the Episcopal Church.

"They are a group of very faithful people who feel that, in good conscience, they could not worship (as part of the diocese), given Bishop Waynick's position on the confirmation of Bishop Robinson," said the Rev. Robert Giffin, the priest leading the new congregation in Evansville.

"A number of us felt that if we sat in the pews, we were giving tacit approval to the way the Episcopal Church is going," said member Andy Ward. "My wife and I felt we couldn't do that to our children."

Instead of criticizing the move, Waynick offered a conciliatory gesture and comments Friday toward the members of the new church, who still consider themselves Episcopalians.

"We have some extraordinary circumstances where we have people who are terribly unhappy and terribly hurt," said Waynick, who leads about 12,000 members in the diocese. "We're trying to find ways to make a pastoral response that keeps our diocesan structure intact."

Waynick licensed Giffin to serve weekly Eucharist at the new church, whose members left churches in Evansville, New Harmony and Mount Vernon.

Giffin is a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield, Ill. -- a neighboring diocese led by Bishop Peter Beckwith, who voted against Robinson's confirmation as bishop.

"It was gracious of her," Ward said.

Similar to many faiths, the issue of homosexuality has been a controversial and divisive one for the Episcopal Church in the United States, which accounts for 2.3 million members of the 77 million-member worldwide Anglican Communion.

"I believe it's inappropriate that Gene Robinson be a bishop, a priest or a deacon," Beckwith said. "The largest majority of Anglicans say they dissent from a decision that is incompatible with Scripture. The choice is, 'Are we going to accept Christ's values or are we going to co-opt the values of the world?' "

Waynick said she is grateful to the vast majority of people in the diocese of Indianapolis who have stayed together during this difficult time.

"While it is clear there is a wide variety of response to Bishop Robinson's confirmation, there's also a firm determination to stay together and to go about serving the world in God's name," Waynick said.

Dissent has spread across the country. Several thousand members of the church met in Virginia in January to protest Robinson's ordination.

Members in Mississippi have debated repudiating the bishops' actions to confirm Robinson. And leaders in southwest Florida told members upset over the ordination that they could protest by withholding funds from the national church.

Beckwith and Waynick agree that the issue won't be resolved soon.

"I don't think this will go away," Beckwith said. "It needs to be resolved. For me, it's a salvation issue."

"It's very clear a number of bishops and several dioceses weren't very happy," Waynick said. "How all this will develop and find resolution, we're still not clear."

END

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