Updated: 04/28/2008 07:06 PM
BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -- The Church of the Good Shepherd was built in the 19th century and has since been a place of worship for its 80-plus members.
"We had generations and generations of people who had come to this church and have put their hard-earned money into maintaining it and keeping it and occupying it," said Matt Kennedy, the Church of the Good Shepherd rector.
But soon, they may all be evicted as the church is being sued by their former denomination, the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York.
The issue traces back to 2003, when the Episcopal Church consecrated a gay bishop and allowed others to perform same-sex blessings. Churches like the Good Shepherd stand firm that the Bible states this is a sin.
"There's Leviticus Chapter 18 verse 22 in which God says men are not to lie with other men as they would with a woman," said Kennedy.
But the diocese says that the Bible needs to be matched with the changing cultural context.
"The scriptures for instance assume that the Earth is flat. That's the assumption of the scriptures, that's the world view in which people had. But we know that's not true and so when we get new scientific knowledge along the way, one goes back to the scriptures and say okay we have a new awareness," said Gladstone Adams, the Episcopal Diocese bishop.
They also believe that one does not choose their sexual orientation, therefore stating that homosexuality is not a sin. It's this great divide that triggered the separation.
Good Shepherd since joined the Anglican Church of Kenya and extended two separate offers to keep their building. Both were rejected and in turn, the Diocese proposed to give them up to a year to find a new location. But there was no answer.
"We took their non-response to be a rejection and so we had then to protect the assets of the Episcopal Church, which includes the buildings and other things of the church that we needed to file that complaint with Broome County," said Adams.
The Episcopal Diocese filed its lawsuit on April 15th, giving the Church of the Good Shepherd 20 days to respond. Which now leaves less than a week for a course of action to be determined.
"We just want to keep our building and we're trying to defend ourselves to the best of our ability and to this day, we continue to say to the diocese ' please we'd like to talk and keep this out of the courts," said Kennedy.
While the Diocese says they're willing to compromise on time limits, they remain adamant that Good Shepherd will eventually have to move out.
A similar fate was almost met last year by the St. Andrew's Church in Vestal but they decided to relinquish their buildings. They now share a building with the Memorial Baptist Church.
Fr. Matt Kennedy comments:
Leaving aside his "flat earth" comment, Bishop Adams says that we did not respond to his offer of one year to vacate the property. This is a falsehood. We did respond. We asked for more time to decide. Twice. In response we were served with the lawsuit. All of this will be documented publicly in due course.
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