Note: This story was written without knowledge of Fort Worth leaving pecusa. That makes four, not three, dioceses that have left. ed.
From the Chicago Tribune via TitusOneNine:
Diocese of Quincy splits in alignment with conservatives
By Margaret Ramirez | Tribune reporter
November 17, 2008
Just before the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy voted Nov. 7 to break away from the U.S. Episcopal Church, the faithful debated their future. The final speaker, a woman, touched on a theological nerve that seemed to seal the decision.
"We need to make a choice. Is Jesus Christ our Savior or not?" she said.
Last week, Quincy became the third diocese to leave the Episcopal Church, the latest development in an escalating dispute over the Bible, homosexuality, the ordination of women and other issues. The disagreement reached a crisis with the 2003 consecration of New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay man in a long-term relationship.
San Joaquin, Calif., and Pittsburgh have separated from the Episcopal Church and, like Quincy, have aligned themselves with the theologically conservative Anglican province of the Southern Cone based in Argentina. On Saturday, members of the diocese in Ft. Worth, Texas, voted to leave.
"We feel the Episcopal Church has been on a fast, major drift away from scriptural authority and historic Christian teaching," said Rev. John Spencer, spokesman for the Quincy diocese and vicar of St. Francis Church in Dunlap. "We could not continue to drift away with them and go in the direction that they've gone theologically."
The departure of Quincy and three other conservative dioceses raises questions about the future of the Episcopal Church. The church, led by Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, represents the U.S. branch of the 77-million-member worldwide Anglican Communion. However, leaders of the conservative breakaway dioceses are pushing for a second province in North America. Approval of an additional province by the archbishop of Canterbury would be unprecedented and pose a strong challenge to the Episcopal Church.
"You have some significant, traditionalist Episcopal dioceses that no longer feel that they have a future in the Episcopal Church. That's a tragedy," said Rev. Kendall Harmon, a theologian in the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. "Now, we also have a bigger group that's trying to organize, link with the Global South and compete as Anglicans within the same territory. It will be interesting to see how the leadership of the Anglican Communion responds to this."
Quincy's departure from the 2-million-member Episcopal Church also brings complicated questions on the how the new Anglican diocese will operate. Some of Quincy's 24 churches are reportedly discussing whether they will affiliate with the South American Anglican province or remain part of the Episcopal Church. St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral in Peoria is expected to announce its decision Dec. 4.
Other unresolved issues include the selection of a new bishop to lead the diocese, following the unexpected resignation of Rev. Keith Ackerman because of health reasons. Rev. Edward den Blaauwen, rector of Christ Church in Moline, is the newly appointed vicar general.Legal battles are also likely to erupt over control of millions in church property.
After the Quincy diocese , which includes about 1,800 parishioners, voted to leave the Episcopal Church, leaders passed a provision for a nine-month grace period during which any congregation or clergy member could petition to remain part of the U.S. church.
Rev. John Throop, an Episcopal priest in Peoria, anticipated Quincy's departure and transferred to the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago last year.
"I've seen this coming for a long time," said Throop of the LaSalle County Episcopal Ministry. "I don't consider myself ultraliberal or anything. But I want to affirm what I'm for and not what I'm against."
With each diocese that separated, the move resulted in further schism between liberals and conservatives. In California, there are two bodies claiming to be the Diocese of San Joaquin. Two dioceses also exist in Pittsburgh.
"Governing is a whole lot harder than campaigning," Harmon said. "They're all talking about how great it is to be out. Now they have to get organized. They're finding that to be much more difficult."
Schori said: "The Episcopal Diocese of Quincy remains, albeit with fewer members, and we are working to assist in the reorganization of diocesan affairs."
After San Joaquin seceded, legal fights began over rightful control of millions in property and assets. Similar lawsuits could follow in Quincy.
"People cannot simply leave and go to a foreign province and take the property with them," said Rev. Charles Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop. Spencer, the Quincy spokesman, said the Episcopal Church has no legal right to their property. All church property is vested in the name of the person or people on the deed. In most cases, the property is owned by the local congregation.
Though impossible to predict the long-term impact on the Episcopal Church, the immediate result is a smaller denomination with fewer theologically conservative voices.
"For those of us who are still in the Episcopal Church, we will feel the loss of those dioceses acutely," Harmon said.
Others, like Throop, are more optimistic. He said the rocky reorganization could lead to a smaller and more focused Episcopal Church.
"This could offer the Episcopal Church a chance to refocus its ministry," Throop said. "It could be a wonderful opportunity."