Conservatives in the Episcopal Church USA say a theological dispute is becoming personal. Connecticut Bishop Andrew D. Smith removed a Hartford priest from St. John's Church on July 14, changed the locks, appointed Susan McCone, executive director of the pro-gay Affirming Anglican Catholicism group as interim priest, and shut down the church website.

The priest, Mark Hansen, is one of a group of six orthodox leaders whose dissent began after Smith supported the 2003 ordination of a practicing homosexual, Gene Robinson, as bishop of New Hampshire.

The congregations served by these six clergy have stopped sending financial support to the diocese and have sought alternative oversight. They accuse Smith of violating his ordination vows, departing from traditional Anglican teaching, and abandoning scriptural authority and biblical norms.

The bishop charged the "Connecticut Six" with "abandoning the communion of the church." Smith has threatened to remove the rest of them.

But Smith told CT that his actions at St. John's were "neither theological nor personal." Abandoning communion is cause for dismissal, but Smith is hoping for reconciliation. He said Hansen had taken an unauthorized sabbatical and stopped paying back the diocese loan, of which $77,000 remains outstanding, for the St. John's building.

Hansen has said publicly that he discussed his sabbatical arrangements with an assistant bishop, and sent Smith a letter in March about it.

Don Helmandollar of Trinity Church in Bristol and one of the "Connecticut Six" told CT that the basis for the conflict is theological.

"Our biggest heartache with this whole thing is the misuse of Scripture," he said.

Related Elsewhere:

Weblog recently commented on Mark Hansen's ouster.

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