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Local Episcopal church watches quietly as fallout continues over gay bishop

Local Episcopal church watches quietly as fallout continues over gay bishop

By Jayson Larson
Athens Daily Review

Wait-and-see mode. That's how the Rev. Don Hickman, rector at St. Matthias' Episcopal Church in Athens, describes the attitudes of his congregants lately.

"I think there's still a feeling that that's (all happening) back east and we're here in East Texas," the Rev. Hickman said. "We'll see what happens."

The fallout continues from the national church's election last summer of an openly homosexual clergyman. A conservative branch of the church has expressed opposition over the election of Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, leaving in its wake talk of a split in the church.

On Tuesday, an orthodox faction of the church created the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes. Leaders of the faction say the network does not represent a split, but in fact will be a part of the Episcopal Church operating in communion with the Anglican Communion and with the Archbishop of Canterbury. The network will operate within the constitution of the Episcopal Church.

"At no time was the suggestion made or considered that the network would work outside the constitution of the Episcopal Church," Bishop James Stanton said in a statement released Wednesday on the Dallas Diocese Web site. "My hope is that the network will become a resource to all of us as we seek to move forward as the church we are and which our constitution proclaims us to be."

Essentially, the network will give orthodox church members another branch of Anglicanism to which they can turn if they don't agree with the ordination of the Rev. Robinson. Gay bishops will not be allowed in the network.

The Dallas Diocese is a co-founder of the network and St. Matthias' is a member of that diocese. The Rev. Hickman says he would guess a majority of members of his congregation are supportive of the conservative stance that states homosexuality and sodomy are condemned by Holy Scripture. However, he said there are a few homosexuals in the congregation and also some families with homosexual members.

Talk surrounding the controversy has remained just that here.

"We have some people supporting what was done with the ordination of the gay bishop, and we have some people who have expressed total opposition," the Rev. Hickman said. "There's been no movement either way."


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