Conservative Anglicans worldwide gained one of their most important political victories in 1998 when bishops voted that homosexual practice was "incompatible with Scripture."

But the aftermath of the historic vote at the once-per-decade Lambeth Conference near Canterbury, England, last August (CT, Sept. 7, 1998, p. 32) has accelerated and intensified conflict among Anglicans, especially within the Episcopal Church, USA, the American branch of the 70 million–member world wide Anglican Communion.

Nearly a year later, American Episcopalians in 100 dioceses across the country are polarized, by default becoming people of two faiths in one church institution.

ROCKING THE BOAT: The Lambeth vote established no legal mandate, as the council is an advisory body made up of all Anglican bishops worldwide.

Despite its advisory status, the measure has met official rejection in the United States. The Diocese of Olympia, which includes Seattle, and several other dioceses have endorsed Bishop John S. Spong's Statement of Koinonia (1994), which favors the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of noncelibate homosexual priests who are in long-term monogamous relationships.

The Olympia experience provides a good window into the impact of Lambeth on local American churches. For Tom Bigelow, the rector (priest in charge) of Saint Luke's in Renton, a Seattle suburb, a vote for or against the Statement of Koinonia presented him with an intense personal and professional dilemma.

Bigelow has been a priest in the diocese since the 1960s, once serving beside the late Dennis Bennett during a lengthy revival that among charismatic Episcopalians is equivalent to the historic 1906 Pentecostal revival at Azusa Street in Los Angeles.

In contrast to the ...

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