Episcopalians in N. Florida to vote on gay bishop fight

Published: Friday, January 30, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 30, 2004 at 12:56 a.m.
JACKSONVILLE - North Florida Episcopalians, many of whom are opposed to the naming of a gay bishop, will consider a resolution this week on whether the diocese should join a new nationwide organization that plans to fight the Episcopal Church over the issue.
The resolution calls for Bishop John Howard and the church council to consider and decide by March 1 on provisional affiliation with the Network of the Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes.
It will be considered this week at the 161st annual meeting of Diocese of Florida in Jacksonville.
The network vows to fight Episcopal Church actions it says "departed from the historic faith and order and have brought immense harm" with the ordination of openly gay bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.
Howard, who took office Thursday night, told reporters he has some concerns about the resolution, including the March 1 deadline.
"Regardless whether it passes or not, I will be talking and praying and listening," Howard said, adding that he has friends on both sides of the issue.
Network leaders contend they're not leaving the Episcopal Church, but that the church left them when it began allowing gay clergy and blessings for same-sex couples.
The Rev. Jim Needham of St. Luke's Community of Life Church in Tallahassee, who attended the network meeting in Plano, Texas, likened the proposed resolution calling for a provisional affiliation to a marriage proposal where "you know who you are going to be committed to" but all the details still have to be worked out.
The network has characterized the new group as a "church within a church."
The convention delegates also will consider several other resolutions, with at least two of them expected to cause some heated discussion.
One resolution calls for withholding all the funds from the diocese to the national church and making local decisions on which ministries to support.
Another resolution, opposed by the bishop, calls for changing the articles of re-incorporation so that Diocese of Florida is not affiliated with the national body of the church.
Jim Hampton, a lay person with the Church of the Holy Spirit in Tallahassee, introduced the resolution and sees it as a way to show those upset with the ordination of Robinson that the church is taking action. It would take votes in two conventions to implement it.
"A tremendous amount of people have left the church and more will leave if this resolution is not passed," he said.
"Either follow God or follow the world," Hampton said.
Church officials, however, said it would upset the hierarchy of the church structure.

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