SPECULATOR, N.Y. (AP) The Episcopal Diocese of Albany has voted to join a conservative network of American Episcopal churches that formed after the denomination consecrated its first openly gay bishop last year.
Albany is the eighth of the 107 Episcopal dioceses nationwide to join the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, which was created six months ago as a ''church within a church'' in opposition to denominational leaders.
American network organizers hope they will be recognized by international Anglican leaders as the true Episcopal representatives in the United States. Currently, the Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
A year ago, the Diocese of New Hampshire elected as its bishop V. Gene Robinson, who lives openly with his longtime male partner. He was confirmed at a national Episcopal convention and consecrated last fall, sparking protests from many in the Anglican world.
Albany Bishop Daniel Herzog emphasized that the vote last Saturday at the diocese's annual convention does not mean the diocese is splitting from the national church.
''The bishop said this is designed to keep us in,'' said Canon Kay Hotaling, a spokeswoman for the diocese. ''We're joining a network, a network that will remain Christ-centered in the Anglican church.''
But opponents believe the network is laying the groundwork to split from the denomination.
''We see something a little more unsavory going on,'' said the Rev. Keith Owen, rector of St. Paul's Church in Albany. ''Some in this network have made it clear that their agenda is to overthrow the Episcopal Church.''
Herzog was among the founders of the network.
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