A split at St. Michael's Episcopal

Published: Saturday, January 7, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 7, 2006 at 1:46 a.m.
There will be services Sunday at 10:30 a.m. at St. Michael's Episcopal Church, but the former pastor and members of the congregation will be gathering across town that afternoon, starting a new church.
The Rev. Alex Farmer resigned as rector of St. Michael's on Monday, and in a letter posted on the church's Web site announced he and members of the congregation would be beginning a new ministry, Servants of Christ Anglican Church, that will meet at the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, 3536 NW 8th Ave., at 5 p.m. Sunday. St. Michael's is part of the Episcopal Church USA, which is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion. It is one of 77 congregations in the Episcopal Diocese of Florida, which is based in Jacksonville, and was one of six churches that petitioned the Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Samuel Johnson Howard, to find a new bishop to oversee them.
A key issue with the churches was the disagreement with the Episcopal Church USA upholding the ordination of an openly-gay bishop in New Hampshire.
"I feel the Episcopal Church USA has left the Anglican tradition," Farmer said.
In November, Farmer said he hoped to be able to stay in the building at 4315 NW 23rd Ave., but he said Howard was not sympathetic to that request.
"The church is the people, it's the congregation, not the building and grounds. We felt like to do what was best for the congregation, the people, this is what we had to do," he said. "I feel we can begin to put this behind us as a congregation, and we can begin to move forward with ministry."
Farmer said he expects about 95 percent of the congregation will be making the move to the new church. Betty Hurst is one those staying.
"We're staying there because we feel the Holy Spirit is at St. Michael's, and that's where we want to be," said Hurst, who has been a member for nearly 25 years.
"It's a very frustrating time and a very sad time. I've seen my friends leave, and they are my friends," Hurst said. "They're like a family. It's almost like a family breakup."
Farmer said a specific bishop has not yet been assigned to oversee the new church, but it has been received into the Anglican Church of Kenya.
Gary Kirkland can be reached at 338-3104 or kirklag@gvillesun.com.

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