POSTED: Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - 6:34pm
UPDATED: Saturday, December 29, 2012 - 4:28pm
The Episcopal Church is in a crisis. The election of a second gay bishop has many wondering about the future of the denomination.
And now a property battle is brewing in Fort Worth.
More US Presidents have been Episcopalians than any other faith, but the modern church us splintering fast.
In 2003, the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire selected an openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, and ignited a firestorm in a denomination formed from the old Church of England right after the revolution.
“90% of the Anglican Communion is doctrinaire in faith and morals,” says David Virtue, leading church critic and editor of the website virtueonline.org. “It’s only a small cross section of pan-sexualists, liberals and revisionists who do not.”
Parishes began leaving, then whole diocese’s until over 700 have departed to form the breakaway Anglican Church of North America.
All the mainline denominations that have accepted pan-sexual behavior,” Virtue says, “will wither and die even faster than they were in the 50’s and 60’s. If you don’t have any sound theology, sooner or later you are indistinguishable from the world. In which case, why bother going to church.”
And now they’ve done it again as the Los Angeles Diocese chose a lesbian, Mary Glasspool, as Assistant Bishop.
Here in Tyler you’ll find Good Shepherd Reformed Episcopal Church. The reformed church broke away over 100 years ago. And as an Episcopalian I can tell you, we’re outnumbered. There are about 2.2 million Episcopalians in America. there are 6.6 million Jews, 16 million Southern Baptists and over 70 million Catholics. The church can’t afford to drive people away.
But they are.
And leaving can be hard.
“Unfortunately, the property issue is one of the ways the Episcopal Church has sought to deal with dissent,” says Bishop Jack Iker, who led his Diocese of Fort Worth out of the church 5 years ago, and now is in a court fight over land and buildings.
The church is saying, you want to go your own way, that’s fine. Just hand us the keys to all the churches because they belong to us.
And the whole thing will end up in the Texas Supreme Court.
“The Episcopal Church as a body has never put one dime into the purchase of any land or the erection of any one building,” Iker says. “If the people who built the church and paid for it and maintained it over all these years, wish to separate from the Episcopal Church, they certainly ought to have the right to do so.”
Other denominations have split before, the Baptists over slavery, the Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians. Even the original Catholic Church split east and west.
But with its tiny numbers dwindling, and both sides dug in, one wonders if the Episcopal Church can survive this storm.
Especially now that it’s gone from theology to real estate.