EPISCOPAL CHURCH Diocese moves to censure church

The national church has crossed the line, says the Pittsburgh bishop.
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh mailed six resolutions this week to local clergy and lay deputies as part of a conservative movement to censure the national church for confirming its first openly gay bishop and approving the blessing of same-sex unions.
Among the proposals made by Bishop Robert W. Duncan Jr., who heads the 20,000-member diocese in southwestern Pennsylvania, are those declaring the Episcopal Church's actions unconstitutional, asking worldwide Anglican leaders for an intervention and granting the diocese the right to withhold funds from the national denomination.
"We want the national church to come back to its senses," Bishop Duncan said Thursday.
An estimated 300 delegates will gather for a special convention Sept. 27 at St. Martin's Church in suburban Monroeville to vote on the proposals.
National movement
The resolutions are part of a national drive among conservative dioceses and clergy seeking to distance themselves from the Episcopal Church for making moves they believe go against the worldwide Anglican Communion.
The national denomination of the Episcopal Church, with 2.3 million members, is the U.S. branch of the worldwide, 77-million-member Anglican Communion.
"They've acted radically and, in some ways, we're acting radically in response," Bishop Duncan said. "But we're not acting in anger or vindictiveness. We're saying the national church has crossed the line. And we're simply not going to cooperate in the same way."
Calls to liberal parishes for comment were not immediately returned to The Associated Press on Thursday.
On Aug. 5, the Episcopal Church's general convention confirmed the Rev. V. Gene Robinson as the new bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire. The Rev. Mr. Robinson has lived with a male partner for more than 13 years.
In a letter released Monday to U.S. clergy and fellow Anglican leaders around the world, Bishop Frank Griswold, the head of the Episcopal Church, supported the decision to confirm Mr. Robinson and said a "blessing" can come from the controversy.
Bishop Griswold committed himself to "helping our church to find a way forward that both preserves the unity of the church and honors the deeply divergent points of view among us."
Archbishop's meeting
The Pittsburgh diocese is timing its vote in advance of an Oct. 15-16 meeting in London called by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to discuss the controversy. Duncan, who chairs the American Anglican Council, which represents Episcopalian conservatives, said the group had asked the archbishop to intervene.
Passage of the six resolutions would show world Anglican leaders that there's widespread support among both clergy and lay members in the United States to disassociate from the national denomination, Duncan said.
At least 52 congregations in 20 states, 320 priests and 16 bishops, including Bishopo Duncan, have endorsed a protest petition at www.communionparishes.org. The site also asks Episcopalians to consider withholding contributions from the national denomination and liberal dioceses.
The resolutions
The first resolution would declare Mr. Robinson's confirmation and same-sex blessings unconstitutional, nullifying them in the view of the Pittsburgh diocese. A second resolution would ask Anglican leaders to intervene in what it calls a "pastoral emergency."
Under the third resolution, church leaders across the nation would be asked to allow parishes and clergy to align themselves with like-minded Episcopalians in conservative dioceses such as those in Pittsburgh, Fort Worth, Texas, and San Joaquin, Calif., Bishop Duncan said.
The remaining resolutions would allow parishes to stop sending funds to the national church; give liberal congregations the right to withhold funds from the Pittsburgh diocese; and transfer control of properties from the Episcopal Church to individual parishes.
Bishop Duncan said his diocese shouldn't be forced to give $140,000 annually to the Episcopal Church if it believes it has broken with the Anglican Communion.
Jim Simons, rector of St. Michael's of the Valley in Ligonier, said the resolutions are necessary.
"I think the actions of the general convention were wrong," Simons said. "First, homosexual behavior is clearly prohibited in the Scripture. Second, and just as troubling, is that it breaks communion with the rest of Anglicanism."

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