Church members to decide: Anglican or Episcopal?

JACKSONVILLE — Members of St. Andrews Anglican Church will vote Sunday on whether to follow their bishop, Richard Boyce, into the Reformed Episcopal Church, which is open to women priests and gay marriage.

The majority of St. Andrews likely will vote to remain in the Anglican Provinces of America, which supports the traditional Articles of Religion and 207-year-old Prayer Book, said church Rector Creighton Barnes. APA mandates male-only priests and traditional marriage.

Boyce, the bishop of APA's Western Diocese based in Seattle, tried to take his member churches into the more liberal Episcopal Church, but was opposed by Anglican Presiding Bishop Walter Grundorf.

Boyce then called for a decision this month from each Anglican church on which organization it wants to belong to.

The complex schism arose when Boyce and Grundorf organized Common Cause Partners, intended to amalgamate Anglican churches into "one voice" in the U.S. But irresolvable differences around the issues of women priests and gay marriage derailed the plan.

"The REC left because they don't agree with the changes in the Orders of the Service," Barnes said. "Scripture should judge culture. Culture should not judge scripture. Scripture is being modified to meet the requirements of culture."

The congregation will discuss the matter Sunday, after which Barnes hopes for a vote. Barnes, who favors staying in the Anglican Church, said he has not announced his choice or tried to persuade the congregation.

"The congregation is going to stay with Grundorf and the APA," predicted Barnes, "because we're very satisfied with the present Articles of Religion and don't want to expand into other areas. It's stood the test of time. The Anglican Church is the original church, the most orthodox one."

Barnes added, "The constitution says it's a male church and as long as we stay with the church, we are bound by that."

Vince LePore of Medford, past senior warden of St. Andrews, said he wanted to support Barnes and stay in the Anglican Church.

But, he added, "All these factions in our faith — it's so separating. There's a lot of discussion about women priests. I have no problem with it, personally. We are getting so picayune."

Church member Peg Riegel of Jacksonville said she has to meet with the congregation before making up her mind, and that "this thing was thrown at us, totally unexpectedly, and we can't arbitrate it or vote yes or no until we see what the consequences are."

Parishioner Jeff Cheek of Medford said he is in the minority, as he favors women priests and does not agree that gay marriage threatens traditional marriage.

"I see nothing wrong with women priests. If you look at the Bible, women come off a lot better than men," said Cheek. "And if the good Lord created all of us, he created gay people, and gay marriage is no threat to my marriage. How does that impact me?"

Barnes and his parishioners have been studying an exchange of e-mails from Grundorf and Boyce, which include charges and denials about breaking the church's constitutional rules and seizing assets of churches, if they leave the APA.

In an e-mail to Boyce, Grundorf writes, "While I support much of what the CCP stands for I, along with many others, have reservations as to what will be the final decision on the ordination of women, which most of the CCP members enthusiastically support. We have stood our ground for the last 30 plus years to the theological innovations of the Episcopal Church and I do not think we should abandon our principles at this point."

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at

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