Press release from The Institute on Religion and Democracy, published Dec 18, 2006:
Yesterday’s announcements of the departure of (so far) eight churches from the Diocese of Virginia reveal a seismic shift within The Episcopal Church. This is particularly true since the churches together have a combined average Sunday attendance greater than many Episcopal dioceses.
IRD Anglican Action Director, Ralph Webb commented:
It is sad, but not surprising, that The Episcopal Church’s own self-inflicted wound continues to cause the denomination to bleed. The Episcopal Church was warned by many heads of Anglican Communion provinces not to proceed with the consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire. These leaders said that it would tear the very fabric of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Tragically, this has proven true. The departure of the Virginia parishes is only one of many negative effects caused by The Episcopal Church’s actions.
While Gene Robinson’s consecration heightened the issues within The Episcopal Church, it is in no way the main issue for the churches that are leaving. It provides one example of how The Episcopal Church has drifted away from its Scriptural foundations, but only one. Beyond wanting to be faithful to Scripture, the churches felt that their mission work was impaired by remaining within The Episcopal Church. Perhaps most importantly of all, they felt that they could not be faithful Anglicans while remaining in The Episcopal Church.
We at the IRD support the faithful Anglicans in the Diocese of Virginia who have now left The Episcopal Church. We recognize that their decisions were made soberly and only after much prayer and deliberation. They face a new day before them, a day full of many challenges but also many opportunities.
We also recognize that, in responding to God’s call, some faithful Anglicans will remain within The Episcopal Church. Their call is no less one from God, and we support them in their mission of renewing the denomination.
The Episcopal Church now needs to ask itself some tough questions. If this many churches leave a diocese regarded as moderate like Virginia, what will happen in other dioceses that are progressive in their theology and social witness?
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