The traditionalist Episcopal Synod of America (ESA) has offered conservative parishes an alternative to the Episcopal Church’s leadership. But few parishes appear ready to make the break. Of the 20 ESA clergy contacted in January by Episcopal Life, none said he would affiliate his parish with the new body.

In November, the two-year-old synod created the Missionary Diocese of the Americas for parishes wishing independence from the liberal bent of denominational leadership, which intends “to suppress and persecute biblical Christianity,” according to the ESA. But while ESA clergy may agree with the synod’s goals of combating liberal trends, they also face complex problems with church authority if they affiliate with the new diocese.

Under the missionary diocese plan, congregations may relate to traditionalist bishops, rather than to those bishops who head their geographical diocese. But doing so could mean local churches would lose their property to the denomination. Even conservative bishops William Wantland of Wisconsin and John Howe of Central Florida, who applaud ESA’s goals, have distanced themselves from the formation of the diocese, which transcends the authority invested in the geographic boundaries of the denomination’s 121 dioceses.

New Congregations

Retired Bishop Donald Davies, bishop-in-charge of the new nongeographical diocese, said he was not surprised by the survey in Episcopal Life.“Our priority here in the new missionary diocese is reaching out to the people who have left the Episcopal Church. There are some parishes that have long since practically withdrawn from diocesan activities. When they’re ready, I’m sure we’ll accept them. I didn’t expect a group of churches to join.”

One congregation in Houston and one ...

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