Caught in Episcopal dispute, Kentucky parish loses most of its members

Posted: Friday, February 06, 2004

VERSAILLES, Ky. (AP) Only 60 people attended the three services at historic St. John's Episcopal Church on Sunday, while some 180 departing members held the first formal service of their new conservative congregation, St. Andrew's.

The split occurred when Bishop Stacy Sauls and diocesan leaders ousted the parish's governing board and took control of the building and bank accounts worth $1.87 million.

The St. John's board opposed Sauls' support for the consecration of openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson, but the diocese said it removed the board for breaking rules in seeking a new minister.

Sauls said the diocese feared that the board, or vestry, might take the parish out of the Episcopal Church. Vestry members denied this, but said they wanted oversight by a conservative bishop from outside the diocese, rather than Sauls.

In other matters related to the Episcopal dispute over gay clergy:

The 887-member St. John's Church in Melbourne, Fla., voted to leave the Episcopal Church and join the Anglican Mission in America, a 2000 breakaway of 63 conservative congregations sponsored by Anglican churches in Africa and Asia.

The Diocese of Florida took no action on joining a conservative protest group, although it was among 12 dioceses with delegates at a convention where the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes was established on Jan. 20.

After sifting 22 resolutions, a Virginia Diocese convention directed Bishop Peter James Lee, who voted for Robinson, to name a reconciliation commission to keep the two sides talking. The diocese reaffirmed ''lifelong, heterosexual and monogamous marriages'' as its norm.

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