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Episcopalian Church Remains Open after Vestry Leaves

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    Friday, June 25, 2004 Church Remains Open after Vestry Leaves Episcopal News Service By Matthew Davies Parishioners and vestry members from the Church of the
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 26, 2004
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      Friday, June 25, 2004
      Church Remains Open after Vestry Leaves
      Episcopal News Service
      By Matthew Davies

      Parishioners and vestry members from the Church of the Redeemer,
      Rochester, New Hampshire, decided June 23 to leave the Episcopal
      Church rather than acknowledge the authority of the Rt. Rev. V. Gene
      Robinson as their bishop. The parishioners' decision to break away
      from the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire followed more than two
      hours of debate with Robinson at the church.

      Robinson, who became the first openly-gay priest to be elected bishop
      in the Anglican Communion last November, said he was "heartbroken"
      with their decision despite his ongoing attempts to reach

      Supporters of the action described current provisions for delegated
      Episcopal pastoral oversight (DEPO) as inadequate, citing concerns
      about the "hurt, frustration and distress" that some parishes are

      Requesting oversight

      According to Robinson, the congregation has a decades-long history of
      conflict with his three predecessor bishops. Most of the congregation
      have been overtly opposed to Robinson's consecration and consistently
      refused to accept his jurisdictional authority, requesting that a
      bishop from another diocese be invited to provide oversight.

      "I went to the congregation April 5 to hear from them what it was
      they wanted in terms of delegated Episcopal pastoral oversight,"
      Robinson said. "I waited until after the House of Bishops meeting [in
      March] so that we would have a process."

      Robinson sent 22 names of bishops whom he knew to be conservative on
      the issue of sexuality or had voted "no" at General Convention on
      consent to his consecration. "The only thing I was asking was the
      smallest thread of a relationship because DEPO is founded on the
      notion that this is a temporary measure in order to restore
      reconciliation between the bishop and the congregation; and that kind
      of reconciliation can't happen if we never meet," he said.

      The vestry demanded that Robinson either give them and a conservative
      Anglican network complete control of the church or force them to
      resign. Robinson refused to force their resignations while, he said,
      also "upholding my vows as a bishop and my responsibilities under the
      canons of the church" by not delegating all authority to a visiting
      bishop from the conservative network.

      Robinson offered to invite Bishop Daniel Herzog of Albany, New York,
      a member of the recently formed conservative network, to assume
      pastoral leadership of the parish with the provision that Herzog "not
      do anything to undermine my authority as the bishop diocesan of New
      Hampshire and do nothing that would assist Redeemer in leaving the
      Episcopal Church." In conversations prior to the meeting, Robinson
      said that Herzog had expressed "his willingness to work with me on
      meeting the needs and desires of Redeemer."

      Robinson also offered to reinstate their former priest-in-charge, the
      Rev. Don Wilson of Maine, whose license to officiate was revoked by
      Robinson's predecessor, retired Bishop Douglas Theuner. Wilson had
      expressed a willingness to agree to the terms of the proposal. "It is
      clear to me that Don loves and cares for the people of Redeemer,"
      said Robinson, adding that Wilson had also agreed "to take my calls
      and speak with me."

      Highest level of communion

      In his proposal, Robinson requested the "highest level of communion
      possible," adding that he was hopeful that an arrangement could be
      reached "so that you and I may stop spending time on our divisions
      and get on with bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to a world
      that needs and longs to hear it."

      In exchange for inviting Herzog and reinstating Wilson, Robinson
      asked that the parish allow him to fulfill his canonically required
      responsibility to visit the parish at least once every three years
      and to consider meeting informally with him once a year for a "pot-
      luck supper" or other non-liturgical event to provide opportunities
      for establishing a relationship.

      The DEPO document states that "We expect that the first priority in a
      relationship between a diocesan bishop and a congregation is striving
      for unity. As such, it is incumbent upon both the bishop and the
      rector of the congregation to meet, to find ways to work together."

      Robinson described how it had become very clear over the course of
      the evening "that they were not even willing to settle for the
      tiniest thread of a relationship and so I pointed out to them that
      what they were saying to me is that they didn't want to be
      Episcopalian." He noted that "we are called the Episcopal Church
      because we have bishops and we are an association of congregations
      through the bishop. Without a relationship with the diocesan bishop,
      it's not the Episcopal Church."

      Referring to support he had received from the Archbishop of
      Canterbury and Archbishop Robin Eames, Primate of All Ireland and
      Chair of the Lambeth Commission, in response to his offer of 22
      names, Robinson said that he had wanted them to know that what they
      had been told--that liberal dioceses were persecuting conservatives
      within their diocese--is simply not true.

      Cynthia Brust, director of communications for the American Anglican
      Council (AAC) said that the actions taken by the Church of the
      Redeemer are "a local response to their hurt, frustration and
      distress in inadequate episcopal oversight." She added that the AAC
      is "very sympathetic to the difficult experience of Church of the
      Redeemer and has maintained--since General Convention--that episcopal
      oversight must be adequate in the eyes of those who are to receive

      "We have consistently said that if local bishops have veto power, the
      concept of Adequate Episcopal Oversight is pointless," Brust
      said. "We are distressed that the crisis in ECUSA is resulting in
      congregations leaving and pray the Primates will address the dire
      situation in which we find ourselves."

      Brust said that the AAC will not be issuing any statement as this was
      a meeting between the Church of the Redeemer and Robinson.

      Dean William Murdoch of the Northeast Convocation of the Network of
      Anglican Communion Parishes and Dioceses (NACPD) also offered support
      to what he called a "beleaguered" parish.

      Exciting possibilities

      As for the future of the parish, Robinson said, "I don't worry for
      the future of Redeemer; this is God's church and God will take care
      of the future. All we have to do is follow him as closely as we
      can ... Now we can move ahead with the reinvigoration of that

      Robinson announced that Sunday services will be held this week at
      Redeemer and invited former members and persons seeking an open and
      affirming church to "come back" to the parish.
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