Six orthodox Anglican parishes have filed a federal lawsuit alleging that their civil rights were violated by Connecticut's bishop and the head of the Episcopal Church USA. The conflict stems from the 2003 consecration of openly homosexual Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, which has divided the Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion.
The parishes had asked to be supervised by a different bishop because they disagreed with Connecticut Bishop Andrew Smith's support for Robinson. Smith subsequently seized the property and records of one of the parishes, suspended its minister and installed a pro-homosexual female priest in his place, and threatened to suspend five other orthodox priests.
Cynthia Brust with the American Anglican Council is a spokeswomen for the "Connecticut Six," a name by which the parishes have come to be known. She notes the churches have sought redress through ecclesiastical bodies, but those presentments have been ignored by the diocese and by Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold.
"Tragically, not just ecclesiastical canon law was broken, but Connecticut statutes [were as well]," Brust explains. In addition, "the complaint alleges that the civil rights of these churches, congregations, and individuals have been violated," she says.
According to Brust, the parishes had no choice but to take legal action. "These churches have suffered tremendously because of both the hostile actions and the bishop's theological stance, which is contrary to scripture, historic Christianity, and the Anglican Communion," she says. "They've lost membership, they've lost financially - it's just been a nightmare for them."
The lawsuit alleges that Presiding Bishop Griswold "aided and abetted" the Connecticut Diocese and "provided support and resources" for Bishop Smith. Brust says due to the egregious actions of the two bishops, she considers the suit against the Episcopal Church to be unprecedented.
Nigerian Prelate Threatens Split
On the international scene, Nigeria's Anglican archbishop says his churches could sever ties with the Church of England unless the mother church stops accepting priests who have homosexual partners. According to Associated Press, Archbishop Peter Akinola, who represents more than one-fifth of the world's Anglicans, told reporters, "We have not yet reached the point of schism, but there's a broken relationship."
England's bishops announced in July that homosexual priests who register same-sex partnerships under a new civil law will remain in good standing so long as they promise to remain celibate. Akinola says there is still hope to recover Anglican unity, but only if churches that have adopted liberal lines on homosexuality show "repentance."
The Nigerian Anglican church severed ties with the Episcopal Church USA after its 2003 consecration of a openly homosexual bishop, V. Gene Robinson.
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