Two local parishes break Episcopal-church ties **By Janet I. Tu**
Seattle Times staff reporter
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/art/ui/dot_clear.gifSaying the Episcopal Church has strayed too far from biblical authority and church teachings, two local parishes are breaking off from the local diocese and aligning themselves with a conservative Anglican bishop in Brazil.
St. Stephen’s Anglican Church in Oak Harbor and St. Charles Anglican Church in Poulsbo, Kitsap County, announced yesterday that their parishes had voted overwhelmingly to disassociate from the Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
The two parishes have removed the word “Episcopal” from their names, replacing it with “Anglican,” and are affiliating with the Rt. Rev. Robinson Cavalcanti, bishop of the Diocese of Recife, one of seven Anglican dioceses in Brazil.
With about 2.3 million members, the Episcopal Church is part of a federation of 38 largely independent regional Anglican churches around the world. Although the Episcopal Church represents only a tiny fraction of the 77 million Anglicans worldwide, its election and confirmation last year of an openly gay bishop threatened to split the communion.
Traditionalist bishops in Africa, Asia and Latin America have been outspoken in their opposition to the confirmation of the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, and a report released Monday by an Anglican church commission reprimanded the Episcopal Church for not taking such global opposition into account when it confirmed Robinson.
The Rev. Carol Harlacher, rector of the 115-member St. Stephen’s, said Robinson’s confirmation was but the latest example of a church moving further away from what the Bible — and the church itself — teaches about homosexuality and other issues.
“It seems in our church there is not even an appeal to Scripture at all,” Harlacher said.
In a meeting described by those present as congenial, respectful, painful and sad, Harlacher and the Rev. Duncan Clark, rector at St. Charles, informed the Rt. Rev. Vincent Warner, bishop of the Olympia Diocese, of their decision. Warner was stunned by the announcement.
“I just sat there with tears in my eyes. I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I want people to be at the table and stay at the table.”
Before this, no parish had broken off from the diocese, which has about 33,000 members in Western Washington. In Southern California, though, three traditionalist parishes recently left their dioceses and aligned with a like-minded bishop from another country.
Still to be worked out here are practical matters such as whether the two parishes will be able to continue worshipping in their diocesan-owned church buildings.
“I think it’s going to be problematic,” said Warner, who has yet to discuss the matter with church administrators. “We’ve got to find a way of openness and compassion. At the same time, you can’t have it every way you want it.”
Still, Warner said he hoped for a reconciliation, saying people can disagree about interpretation of Scripture but still be faithful and part of one larger church body.
“I can’t keep people from leaving,” Warner said. “But I hope we can make something redemptive out of it and find ways to care for one another.”
*Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 *