Episcopal bishop issue stirs up schism fears
Gay, lesbian among 5 candidates for local post
A gay man and a lesbian are on the short list to be the Bay Area's next Episcopal bishop, but many Episcopalians said the 77 million Anglicans worldwide might split permanently if a gay person is selected.
The California Diocese's nomination of the two, along with three other candidates, defies the worldwide Anglican Communion's 2004 recommendation that the Episcopal Church in the United States put a moratorium on ordination of gay and lesbian bishops who are in active same-sex relationships.
That order came after the Rev. Gene Robinson was appointed bishop in New Hampshire in 2003, the first Anglican bishop to acknowledge being in a same-sex relationship...
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But the real question is whether conservative Anglicans (Episcopalians) really have the fortitude to go ahead with a schism. History tells us "no." The nature of the Episcopal Church is to go along to get along, and it's the Liberals who have proved to wear the pants in this denomination. What usually happens is this. Liberals hint at doing something "progressive." Conservatives then cry foul, correctly point out the moral and theological problems associated with it, and threaten a schism if it happens. Liberals call their bluff and go ahead with the "progressive" action and conservatives fold. On those rare occasions where conservative Anglicans have actually carried out their threat, it's usually only in small numbers. Schism has been threatened in the Episcopal Church for decades, but most liberal Episcopalians know that most conservatives don't have the guts to go through with it. It's just a lot of hot air. Case in point; the appointment of Gene Robinson (a practicing homosexual priest) to the office of bishop was seen as the linchpin that would set into motion a major schism in the Episcopal Church (ECUSA). Conservatives threatened it, and liberals called their bluff. Instead what we got was some wimpy conservative network operating within the denominational structure of the ECUSA.
Back in the 1970s, a small group of Episcopalians split away from the main denomination (ECUSA) over the ordination of female priests. But these small schismatic groups never amounted to anything significant. Today they struggle to survive financially, disorganized and divided among themselves, and really have no significant impact on the mainstream Christian landscape of America. Conservative Episcopalians just can't seem to get their act together and liberal Episcopalians know it. They take advantage of it at every opportunity. Thus the liberal agenda continues to move forward in the ECUSA. Conservative Episcopalians like to threaten schism frequently, but after years and years of example, it appears a real big schism is the last thing the ECUSA has to worry about. If anything the denomination may crumble away over time, but an actual split of significant size is not likely.
I think the reasons why conservative Episcopalians can't seem to get it together is because they generally don't have anything positive to unite under. Their entire movement is reactionary in nature, and therefore doomed to failure from it's very start. There is however one beacon of hope for conservative Episcopalians out there -- the papacy! A small group of conservative Episcopalians in Texas separated from the ECUSA back during the 1980s. What made their exodus different was what they did immediately after. They joined the Roman Catholic Church and petitioned to preserve their old Anglican liturgy under a restored Anglican Rite within the Roman Catholic Church. Pope John Paul II responded not by restoring the original Anglican Rite, but he did set up a "Pastoral Provision" which allows these ex-Episcopalians to practice their own unique liturgy under the banner and protection of the Roman Catholic Church. It's called the "Anglican Use" liturgy, and it serves as a precursor to the eventual restoration of a full-fledged "Anglican Rite" as soon as the movement is mature and ready.
The Anglican Church (Church of England) was united with Rome for nearly 1,000 years during the middle ages, and ecumenical reunion has been the stated goal of the denomination for at least half a century now. In other words, even conservative Episcopalians get jazzed up at talks of reunification with Rome. The Texas group was one of the smallest schismatic groups to ever leave the ECUSA, but it has since become the fastest growing. They're literally thriving! If conservative Episcopalians are really serious about breaking away from the liberal ECUSA, than they ought to break away on a proactive note -- not just reactive. By that I mean conservative Episcopalians have the opportunity to make history in our generation. They can put an end to the schism between Rome and Canterbury forever. They can experience growth and excitement in their churches the likes of which haven't been seen in decades. Best of all, they can look forward to their Anglican traditions being preserved and faithfully practiced under full protection of the pope of Rome.
Word has it that Rome is poised to help Anglicans do this if only they will indicate they want to. I have no doubt in my mind that if enough Anglicans were to break away from the ECUSA, 'cross over the Tiber' (i.e. become Catholic), and insist on a full restoration of the "Anglican Rite" within they Catholic Church, they would most certainly get it. Furthermore, I am convinced that if such a full-fledged rite were created, the number of it's adherents would quickly outnumber the entire membership of the ECUSA within a decade. It would effectively become the Anglican voice of America, while the liberals controlling the ECUSA would become irrelevant within the same time frame. It would be nice to see something good come out of this whole tragic situation in the ECUSA. I believe the potential exists, if only conservative Episcopalians are willing to seize it.