14. Southwest Florida Episcopal Convention halted over Gay Issue
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Mon Oct 13 12:09:57 EDT 2003
Southwest Florida Episcopal Convention halted over gay issue
The Associated Press
PUNTA GORDA, Fla. The Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida voted to
stop a convention already in session, hoping to calm fears of a mass
exodus from the national church over its decision to name an openly gay
Since the national church convention elevated a gay priest to bishop of
New Hampshire this summer, there has been a threat of a divide between
those who are comfortable with the election of Gene Robinson and those
who believe it violates Anglican traditions.
"In light of the rapidly unfolding events that surround us, I ask that
we break and reconvene," Bishop John B. Lipscomb told 500 delegates
attending the diocese's meeting Saturday in Punta Gorda.
The diocese plans to finish the convention in what they termed a
"timely fashion," possibly six to eight weeks. The diocese is scheduled
to give $428,000 this year to the national church, but some at the
halted convention were opposed to that because of the gay issue.
"Now is not the time to declare our lives cut off from one another,"
Lipscomb said. "What we do need is constructive engagement with one
another. Our primary concern must remain the mission of the church at
home and abroad."
The break in the convention coincides with a special meeting requested
by the Archbishop of Canterbury in London on Wednesday and Thursday.
Primates of the Anglican Communion will meet to discuss the Robinson's
election and the approval of same-sex blessings at the summer
The Episcopal Church is a part of the Anglican Communion, a global
community of 70 million Anglicans in more than 160 countries. In the
United States, the Anglican Communion is represented by the Episcopal
Church, which has 2.5 million members.
Episcopal diocese funds may be withheld
By JENNY LEE ALLEN
PUNTA GORDA -- Episcopalian leaders of Southwest Florida will hold a
special meeting as early as next month to decide whether congregations
upset over the appointment of the first openly gay bishop can withhold
money from the national church.
At the Diocese of Southwest Florida annual convention Saturday, leaders
from at least a handful of the diocese's 79 congregations indicated
they were ready to allow congregations to withhold funds from the
Episcopal Church USA and instead redirect that money to ministries in
the Dominican Republic.
"Coercion ... is a very undesirable course of action," said the Rev.
Dennis Kezar of the Christ Episcopal Church of Bradenton, who said
parishioners should be able to decide where their money goes.
Leaders from the Church of the Redeemer in Sarasota and Church of the
Holy Spirit in Osprey also spoke in favor of the idea.
Others among the roughly 300 delegates opposed the resolution, with one
reverend even calling the proposed option "financial blackmail" and
saying they would be "jumping the gun" to approve it Saturday.
Said the Rev. John Adler of Iona-Hope Episcopal Church in Fort Myers:
"There are legitimate means for change, and this isn't one of them."
The debate at the Charlotte Memorial Auditorium Saturday was an
indication that church leaders in Southwest Florida, like their peers
across the nation, are grappling with how to respond to the August
confirmation of the Rev. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire as the church's
first openly gay bishop.
Ultimately, delegates postponed a vote on the resolution until the
convention reconvenes this year. A date for the special meeting will be
released within two weeks, but some leaders said they expected to
gather again in late November.
The Rev. John Lipscomb, bishop of the Diocese of Southwest Florida that
represents about 40,000 church members from Brooksville south to Marco
Island, urged parishioners Saturday to remain faithful to the church
and not make hasty decisions about their future involvement out of
frustration or anger.
"There is still much to unfold before we will know what it will mean to
be a member of the Episcopal church or the Anglican Communion," said
Lipscomb, one of 43 members of the House of Bishops who voted against
Robinson's appointment at the national convention in Minneapolis.
Lipscomb drew a standing ovation Saturday when he announced that he
would stay on with the church, despite his differences with leaders who
He later added: "Without providing for a time of healing and
discernment, there will be no hope of living through this present
moment without a shattering of our common life."
But the controversy continues to fracture churches across Florida and
Three weeks ago delegates with the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida
voted to repudiate national church leaders over the confirmation of the
openly gay bishop. They also agreed to withhold funds from the national
church, barring a special request from a congregation.
Days later, the second highest-ranking member of the diocese resigned
over the widening split between his congregants and the national
And more than 2,500 conservative church leaders meeting in Dallas last
week repudiated the American church and perhaps laid the groundwork for
a new church growing out of the Episcopal church.
In Southwest Florida, the concern is tangible, some leaders said.
The Rev. Fred Robinson of the Church of the Reedemer in Sarasota said,
since the appointment, he has spent at least an hour a day talking with
concerned parishioners. Robinson said some parishioners could not "in
good conscience" send money to the national church, "which they
perceive to be, correctly or not, part of the problem."
Primates of Anglican provinces around the world will meet for an
emergency session next week to discuss the recent actions of the
Episcopal Church's General Convention. Later this month, 18 bishops who
opposed Gene Robinson's election, including Lipscomb, will attend a
meeting in Toronto.
On Saturday, the delegates approved the Southwest Florida Diocese's
2004 budget -- which includes a $428,731 contribution to the national
church -- on the condition that it can be amended during the upcoming
Each congregation gives 10 percent of its total budget to the diocese,
which in turn gives between 18 to 20 percent to the national church,
said Jim DeLa, spokesman for the Southwest Florida diocese. For every
dollar given to a congregation, 2.1 cents goes to the national church,
The Episcopal Church, with 2.3 million members, is the U.S. branch of
the 77 million-member Anglican Communion.
Staff writer Michael A. Scarcella contributed to this report.
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