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Whenever a priest or a deacon in the Episcopal Church is removed from ministry, the cleric's diocese sends official notification to every active bishop. In the years since the church's controversial General Convention of 2003—a convention that, among other things, consented to the ordination of a partnered gay bishop—most notices contain a disclaimer: "This action was taken for causes that do not affect moral character." This is code language. It usually means that the priest or deacon has left for reasons of conscience.

The departures are painful to me. Many of these clergy are beloved friends, not names on a form but fellow disciples, conscientious followers of Jesus. Why do I not join them?

This question is also pondered by all theologically conservative Christians who remain in liberal denominations. I know I'm not alone, though I ask the question from a unique situation.

I am a bishop of the Episcopal Church, ordained to the priesthood in 1971 and to the episcopate in 2000. On the theological spectrum of the church, I fall clearly on the conservative side—with a catholic love for historic faith and order, an evangelical zeal for the gospel, and a commitment to the authority of Scripture.

The Episcopal Church, my spiritual home since Christian conversion as a college sophomore, has (I believe) seriously erred. We have rejected clear biblical teaching, refused to listen to the pleas of Anglicans around the world, and shattered dialogue with many of our ecumenical partners.

A recent Christianity Today editorial—"Intelligent Church Redesign"—argues that it is "a sad but necessary reality that some denominational splits are justified," and uses the Episcopal Church's crisis as the chief cautionary tale. ...

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March 2006

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