DALLAS: Conservative Bishops Not Leaving The Episcopal Church
By Michael Heidt, Correspondent
February 10, 2010
Speaking at the Anglican Communion Institute's conference in Dallas, February 5-6, Bishop James Stanton, Dallas and Bishop Bruce MacPherson, Western Louisiana, told delegates that they intended to remain in The Episcopal Church (TEC).
Despite disagreement with TEC over openly gay clergy, Stanton stated, "This diocese is not on the verge of leaving anything." However, the Dallas bishop admitted that "the bonds of communion have been stretched to breaking point" and that he was "concerned about the legal cases."
According to Stanton these are unjustified because TEC has no right to sue dioceses for acting independently. Quoting the Rt. Rev. Alexander Garrett, first Bishop of Dallas, Stanton said that a diocese is "an independent and sovereign state."
He went on to say that the organization of his diocese predated its accession to The Episcopal Church and the General Convention, "The Diocese of Dallas organized itself, set itself up as the Church in the Diocese of Dallas." It was only "later that it accedes" to the union of The Episcopal Church.
Describing the vision of the "Communion Partners", a conservative grouping of bishops, rectors and parishes, MacPherson echoed Stanton, "We were and are committed to being part of The Episcopal Church... and the Anglican Communion." McPherson claimed that the Communion Partner bishops had always believed this, stating, "From the outset the plan was birthed with the design of being relational."
MacPherson said that this entailed a "commitment not to cross borders", referring to episcopal acts by conservative bishops, such as confirmations, being carried out in pro-gay dioceses without the consent of the local liberal bishop.
Nonetheless, the Bishop of Western Louisiana wanted to remain a full member of the Anglican Communion by signing on to the Anglican Covenant, which threatens to relegate TEC to "second tier" status if it continues to promote same sex blessings, ordinations and consecrations.
With Stanton, MacPherson recognized that remaining in relationship with a denomination that advocates LGBT lifestyles might be difficult, "we will face a great tension" remaining within TEC, said the bishop.
Both Stanton and MacPherson are founding members of the Communion Partners, whose website states, "a need to maintain and strengthen our ties with the Anglican Communion: our fidelity to the canonical realities, integrities and structures of the Episcopal Church and our exercise of our office as a focus of unity."
This pledge of allegiance to TEC appears to be no guarantee against lawsuits. According to a pastoral letter dated February 9, 2010, to the diocese of South Carolina, Mark Lawrence, a Communion Partner Bishop, is being threatened with litigation by The Episcopal Church, despite his assurance to stay within its structure.
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