Divisions Arise Within Episcopalian Church at Home and Abroad
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JIM LEHRER: The deepening divide between the Anglican Church and its American branch, the Episcopal Church. Jeffrey Kaye of KCET-Los Angeles has our report.
SPOKESPERSON: Hi guys.
SPOKESPERSON: How are you?
JEFFREY KAYE: St. James Church in affluent, predominantly Republican Newport Beach, California, is a place one wouldn’t normally associate with rebellion and radical change.
SPOKESPERSON: How’s it going? Good.
JEFFREY KAYE: But St. James is a house of worship in revolt. In August, it severed its ties with the Episcopal Church of the United States. With its 2.3 million members, the Episcopal Church is the American branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion. For 58 years, St. James was a part of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. Now, say its lay leaders, their bishop is 11 time zones away.
JEFFREY KAYE: Where is your home now?
GROUP (All): Uganda.
JIM DALE, St. James Church: Uganda is our home. Our bishop is Bishop Kisekka. Our archbishop is Bishop Henry Orombi. We are part of the diocese of Luweero, and that’s home.
JEFFREY KAYE: Parish leaders say the Anglican Church in Africa, which they joined, is more willing to uphold what they see as traditional Christian values. They complain the U.S. Episcopal Church wants to mirror American culture.
JILL AUSTIN: In the scripture it says in Hebrew that "He is the same yesterday, today, and forever." I began to ask: Why all of a sudden are things changing? What was good 2,000 years ago is not the same today.
JIM DALE: If Christianity is going to move to the culture and flow with the culture, it’s not Christianity. It’s not Christianity.
JEFFREY KAYE: St. James is one of three parishes in southern California to formally leave the Episcopal Church. Nationwide, between 20 and 100 other parishes, depending on who’s counting, have split from the Church. That’s out of more than 7,000 parishes.
A year ago, a still photographer recorded dissenting Episcopalians as they founded "the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes." Members describe the conservative group as a "church within a church." It includes ten of the one hundred bishops who head Episcopal dioceses in this country.
SPOKESPERSON: There are 65 "yes" votes.
JEFFREY KAYE: The long-simmering revolt gathered steam in August 2003 after church leaders voted to consecrate the ordination of a gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire and to approve the blessing of same sex marriages.
SPOKESPERSON: What is one image that god has been speaking to us at St. James?
JEFFREY KAYE: The Reverend Praveen Bunyan, rector of St. James, says tolerance of homosexuality represents a symptom of a larger problem: What he sees as the Episcopal Church’s increasing failure to adhere to biblical orthodoxy.
REV. PRAVEEN BUNYAN, St. James Church: I pray for Gene Robinson. I pray for all the people. And it is nothing personal. I do not hate anybody or I do not dislike anybody. I pray for all people. But as a church, are we upholding the authority of scripture? Are we upholding the lordship of Jesus Christ? And from these two basic tenets the Episcopal Church has been going astray and going away, while the rest of the Anglican Communion had remained faithful to this historical teaching.
JEFFREY KAYE: To outside observers, there are few obvious indications of change at St. James. The liturgy and the vestments remain the same. But signs now read Anglican instead of Episcopal. And dues that once went to the head of the LA Episcopal diocese now go to Bishop Evans Kisekka, whose cathedral is in a town 40 miles from the capital of Uganda. St. James leaders say that in the global South, Anglicans practice a purer form of Christianity than the American Episcopal Church.
JIM DALE: There is nothing left here now. So let’s look overseas. Let’s look at the growth and vitality and excitement of Christianity in Africa or the southern hemisphere where Christianity is growing and exploding because we took the bible to those countries, and they believed it. And they have put that to heart and they have seen the power of the bible and the power of the gospel transforming lives in those countries. And we wanted to be a part of that.
JEFFREY KAYE: J. Jon Bruno, bishop of the Los Angeles diocese of the Episcopal Church, is on the other side of this issue.
THE RT. REV. J. JON BRUNO: I think that fundamentalism is the reason for this schism.
JEFFREY KAYE: Bruno says the interpretation of scripture must be flexible and evolutionary.
THE RT. REV. J. JON BRUNO: We’re making assumptions that our way is the right way. We even did that with, in this country, with slavery, when we tried to prove the importance of how the white majority had privilege because it was intended by God.
But I do believe that the worldwide consensus of fundamentalism that’s having a rise is a major problem. If Jesus gave us memory, intellect, and reason, shouldn’t we use all those things and not just go by a book, road map, that is so rigidly interpreted by some people that it leaves a gulf between us?
JEFFREY KAYE: The gulf is deep, dividing the Anglican Church, which has more than 70 million members throughout the world, most in the southern hemisphere. The Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. is one of 38 provinces, or divisions, within the worldwide Anglican Communion.
Since the Robinson consecration, 22 of the 38 provinces, including Uganda, have denounced or broken ties with American Episcopalians. And in October, a report issued by international Anglican leaders asked the U.S. Episcopal Church to express regret for selecting an openly gay bishop and to stop blessing same sex unions.
SPOKESPERSON: We pray for unity in your holy church.
JEFFREY KAYE: Last month, a group of conservative Episcopalians held a vigil outside a Salt Lake City hotel where 140 church leaders attended a semi-annual bishops’ meeting. The dissenters stood in the cold to show support for the conservative bishops inside.
THE REV. MARTHA GILTINAN, Hamilton, MA: The incarnation really kind of called us to kind of make our presence here with them to say we’re here to support you and to pray for you, and to pray for this whole process.
JEFFREY KAYE: Inside the closed door meeting, conservative bishops pushed for a formal statement, one which would have apologized for appointing a gay bishop and would have declared a moratorium on blessing same-sex unions. But after the meeting, Church leaders announced those demands would be discussed at a later time.
The bishops issued a carefully worded apology: "We as the house of bishops express our sincere regret for the pain, the hurt, and the damage caused to our Anglican bonds of affection by certain actions of our church," they wrote. Church leaders called the statement an "act of repentance."
JEFFREY KAYE: What are you repenting for?
THE RT. REV. CHARLES JENKINS, Episcopal Bishop, Louisiana: Well, now, we are repenting for the hurt that we have caused one another.
JEFFREY KAYE: Are you repenting for the consecration of Bishop Robinson? Are you repenting for blessing of same-sex unions?
THE RT. REV. CHARLES JENKINS: No.
JEFFREY KAYE: No.
THE RT. REV. CHARLES JENKINS: That was not what we said.
THE MOST REV. FRANK GRISWOLD, Presiding Bishop, Episcopal Church: I think the regret we can offer wholeheartedly and as a unified body is regret for the consequences our actions have had in other context. But that does not mean that we necessarily regret the action itself.
Certainly, I, having participated in the ordination of the bishop of New Hampshire, do not regret having done so, though I recognize the complexities that that action has had in other places and regret the pain that it’s caused other people.
JEFFREY KAYE: Bishops who lead the conservative Anglican network said the meeting left them both hopeful and disappointed.
THE RT. REV. ROBERT DUNCAN: Many of our people in the non-network dioceses are just holding on by their fingernails. And the more that this house of bishops could have said, the better they’d be able to hang on. The fact that we have said we’re sorry, that will be some encouragement to us and to the rest of the world, but it’s actually not — it’s not enough to hold our people to stop this hemorrhage.
JEFFREY KAYE: For his part, LA’s Episcopal bishop remains unrepentant.
THE RT. REV. J. JON BRUNO: Repent means turn around, walk in a different direction and say that the acceptance of people who are gay, the acceptance of women, the acceptance of people who are divorced, the acceptance of people because of differing ethnicities is wrong. I refuse to do that. I think that God has room for all of us in this world and in this church.
JEFFREY KAYE: The dispute between Bruno and the three churches that have broken away from his diocese goes beyond the theological.
SPOKESMAN: They are not justified in claiming property and assets that have been put in their trust by the Episcopal Church in the diocese of Los Angeles.
JEFFREY KAYE: He is suing them for taking property, which he says belongs to the diocese. The churches argue they own the buildings and their contents.
While the legal arguments will be made in a California court, the venue for the theological dispute moves next to Belfast. That’s where, starting Feb. 20, leaders of the worldwide Anglican Church are scheduled to meet to further debate how Anglicans should treat homosexuals.