December 5, 2008 [LINK / comment]

Episcopal schism deepens

In another step toward a full-scale rupture of the Anglican Communion in North America, conservative leaders of the Episcopal Church meeting in Wheaton, Illinois have voted to establish a separate branch of Anglicanism. The main issue dividing the church is on the proper role and status of gay people, and whether they should be ordained as priests or consecrated as bishops, such as the controversial Rev. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. Conservative Bishop Martyn Minns, from Virginia, said that women will be allowed to serve as deacons and priests, but not as bishops. The conservative faction will seek official recognition from other Anglican church authorities around the world, but leaders of the Episcopal Church U.S.A. insist that they are the only recognized Anglican church in this country. See Washington Post. It's like an exclusive franchise, in other words, and there's a good reason for that. For those churches which place a high value on religious doctrine, liturgy, and authority -- such as the Roman Catholics or the Anglicans -- any muddying of the waters about who belongs to whom is simply not tolerable.

It is likely that similar episodes will continue for the foreseeable future, because of a tragic lack of mutual understanding between the leaders of the two religious factions. As I wrote on July 6, "Even though I am inclined toward the traditional, conservative side on most social and religious issues, I am appalled at the idea of breaking up the Church over such issues." But then, I'm a die-hard voice of reason and reconciliation within the Republican Party, and look at the situation there. Perhaps the idea of unity is simply not feasible in either case...