National Religious Leadership Roundtable members react to reports of two Episcopal parishes leaving the Episcopal Church

December 19, 2006

Pedro Julio Serrano, Communications Coordinator


WASHINGTON, Dec. 19 — The National Religious Leadership Roundtable responded today to reports that two Episcopal parishes in Virginia seceded from the Episcopal Church to affiliate with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America. The secession occurred over what the minority of Episcopal conservatives regard as a leftward drift in the Episcopal Church and the ordination of Bishop Gene Robinson, the openly gay bishop from New Hampshire. There are 2.3 million Episcopalians in 7,200 congregations in the United States, and the congregations attempting to “leave” the Diocese of Virginia are eight out of 195 in that diocese.

Responses from members of the Task Force’s National Religious Leadership Roundtable

“Faithful lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Episcopalians are not asking anyone to leave the Episcopal Church. For many years, Anglicans have learned the fine art of agreeing to disagree with each other and still remain within the Anglican family; today should be no different. For LGBT people this commitment to our church has often come at a great price, yet we have remained even when our presence has not been welcomed. Sadly, this commitment to conversation and to mutual understanding is apparently not shared by the parishes in Virginia and elsewhere that have decided to secede from the Episcopal Church. Thankfully, the vast majority of Episcopalians — and a good many others in the worldwide Anglican Communion — appreciate the faithfulness and ministry of LGBT Episcopalians and recognize the critical importance of fighting for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender social justice. I trust that even those who now feel they must leave the Episcopal Church will come to recognize over time what so many of us have — commitment to the Christian Gospel and to LGBT people go hand-in-hand.”

— Reverend Jay Emerson Johnson, Ph.D.
Acting Executive Director
The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry

“I think it grieves the heart of God that in this week before Christmas there are congregations choosing the bias and bigotry of doctrines of exclusion over the ‘peace on Earth, good will to all’ incarnated by the baby in Bethlehem.

“What it takes to create schism is for someone to leave — and I am sick to death of the unity of this church being placed on the shoulders of those of us who have committed to stay. When are we going to hold accountable those who threaten to leave? When will we name the actions of those who have conspired with factions of the larger Anglican communion to actively oppress and marginalize its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members with what it is: fomenting schism — creating conflict — sacrificing the unity of the church to their own agenda of power, control and heterosexism?

“If schism happens — and I am not convinced it will — the blame will lie not with Claiming the Blessing, the Diocese of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson or the countless LGBT Christians living out their faith journeys in the Episcopal Church. It will lie firmly at the feet of those whose will to power is greater than their willingness to embrace the other, whose commitment to crisis is greater than their faith in the Gospel and whose singular obsession with things sexual has blinded them to the Spirit's revelation via things incarnational.”

Reverend Susan Russell
Integrity USA

“My prayers are with the Episcopal Church. The decision of congregations to leave is always disappointing, it saddens the heart, but it is no cause to lose hope. The story for these congregations and the Episcopal Church is not over. God is still speaking and God’s spirit is still working in our lives and in our world. This is a season of anticipation for Christians on the journey to Christmas. The journey isn’t always easy, but I do expect that God’s surprising newness will be born again in our midst, opening the way to extravagant welcome, radical inclusion and evangelical courage.”

Reverend Mike Schuenemeyer
Minister for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns
Wider Church Ministries, United Church of Christ

“The life and ministry of both Jesus and the early church highlight the struggle between ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’ and the power of the Holy Spirit to break in and inspire new dreams, new actions, new ways of being. In every case, it was to the Holy Spirit that both Jesus and the early church chose to cling. As followers of Jesus and as heirs to the early church, so ought we show our allegiance to the power of God to transform and make things new.

“But our brothers and sisters in Virginia have chosen to cling to the old; to the ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it.’ And this choice has led them to break covenant with the Episcopal Church and to turn away from the power of the Holy Spirit as revealed through the lives and ministry of women and of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender folk.

“As a pastor and a fellow Christian, their decision grieves my heart. It fractures the church and it distracts all of our energies from the work of justice and peace to which God calls us. Especially in a time of war and corrosive poverty all over the world, all Christians should be focused on our shared work and not on deciding which of us has God’s blessing to do this work.”

Reverend Rebecca Voelkel
Program Director
Institute for Welcoming Resources


The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.