2-day convention produces plan that could lead to separation from denomination in 1 year, despite plea from Bishop Stanton to stay put
DALLAS The Dallas diocese of the Episcopal Church is staying in the denomination for now instead of splitting over same-sex marriages and the ordination of gay priests.
Diocese leaders listened to a plea from their bishop to stay in the church, but at a two-day annual convention that ended Oct. 21, they approved a process that could lead to leaving the denomination next year.
According to a survey commissioned by Bishop James Stanton, more than half of local church leaders believe the denomination has gone seriously wrong by ordaining gay priests and blessing same-sex unions.
About 42 percent said they were ready to leave over the issues. Almost a third want to remove “Episcopal” from church signs and letterhead.
Only a fourth of the more than 700 leaders surveyed said that the Episcopal Church had not gone seriously wrong.
Many of the delegates hope that delaying action by a year will give the international Anglican Communion time to create a new home for conservative American Episcopalians. The communion, based in England, has no provision for accommodating dissident groups within national churches.
“Separation is never a strategy,” Stanton told the local church leaders, who met at Southfork Ranch. “Those who depart the church are not, I think, fulfilling Christ’s call but are fulfilling the expectations the world has about the church, that we cannot really get along.”
The largest Episcopal church in the area, Christ Church of Plano, pulled out last month. Another, St. Matthias of Dallas, did not send representatives to the convention.
In 2003, the denomination confirmed its first openly gay bishop and allowed local bishops to bless same-sex unions. This year, the church elected a new presiding bishop who supported both decisions.
The Episcopalians are one of several denominations struggling to agree on what the Bible says about gender and sexuality. Some Episcopal leaders in Texas, including Bishop Jack Iker of Fort Worth, object to the ordination of women, which the denomination approved in 1974.
The Dallas diocese reaches from Texarkana to Waxahachie and is among the fastest-growing in the church, up 13 percent over the past 25 years the national church shrank by a quarter.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, October 27, 2006.