'Middle way' Episcopalians who oppose conservatives plan national meeting

Posted: Friday, February 27, 2004

PITTSBURGH (AP) They're Episcopalians caught in the middle of the fight over gay clergy church members who support the majority position in favor of allowing an openly gay bishop to minister, yet they worship in conservative dioceses.

And now they've formed their own movement, which plans to meet March 25-27 in Atlanta. It consists of 13 local groups in conservative dioceses that are known by the name ''via media,'' Latin for ''middle way.''

These organizations are at odds with the conservative Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, established in January by Episcopalians who oppose openly gay bishops and clergy. The network is led by Pittsburgh's Bishop Robert Duncan, and the first ''via media'' group formed in his diocese.

The Rev. George Werner, president of the denominational House of Deputies and former dean of Pittsburgh's cathedral, said members of the Episcopal Church's executive council will attend the Atlanta event as observers, not participants, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

In other Episcopal developments:

A convention of the 28,000-member West Texas Diocese declared opposition to the denomination's approval of a non-celibate gay bishop, supported the sanctity of lifelong heterosexual marriage and gave congregations and members the option of withholding gifts to the national church.

The Central Florida Diocese sued for control of the property of the Church of the New Covenant in Winter Springs, Fla., which quit the denomination over the gay bishop issue last month. The congregation says it has spent $2 million on construction.

Indianapolis Bishop Catherine Waynick licensed a priest from the neighboring Diocese of Springfield, Ill., who is ministering to conservative dissenters in her diocese. The move could ease tensions with those who disagree over church policy.

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