The Deacon's Bench

While most of the press coverage has been devoted to Episcopalians eager to leave the Anglican Communion, New Jersey has at least one church this is probably going to stay put:

For five years, members of Saint Anthony of Padua in Hackensack, a church in the liberal Episcopal Diocese of Newark, have sought spiritual guidance from a bishop in a socially conservative diocese in South Carolina.

The reason? They oppose the liberal tendencies of the Newark diocese and their national church, which in 2003 seated an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire over conservative opposition. The following year, St. Anthony’s began periodically hosting Bishop William J. Skilton from Charleston, S.C.

laffjpg-14cfc9db9ee02b0b_medium.jpgThe arrangement helps explain why parish members probably will not accept the Vatican’s special offer, made last month, to allow dissatisfied Episcopalians and Anglicans to convert to Catholicism, said the Rev. Brian Laffler, the pastor. The Episcopal Church USA, with 2.1 million members, is part of the 77 million-member worldwide Anglican Communion.

“We have a satisfactory situation,” Laffler said. “We have the pastoral care of an authorized bishop who is sympathetic to our situation.”

While significant numbers of Anglicans in Britain are expected to accept it, many Episcopalians in the United States who staunchly oppose their national church’s stances on sexuality and gender already have been severing ties within the Anglican Communion, church observers say.

Other parishes besides Saint Anthony of Padua have formed relationships with like-minded conservative bishops. And approximately 20 parishes in Canada, and the bishops and many members of four dioceses in Illinois, Texas, Pennsylvania and California, have left the Episcopal Church and aligned themselves with the Southern Cone of the Americas, an Anglican province in South America.

“Conservatives who are leaving, most of them have left the Episcopal Church already,” said the Rev. John Donnelly of Saint Michael’s Church in Wayne. “Those of us that are staying — and there are significant numbers of conservatives who have stayed — we’re staying.”

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