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Leaving A Church Behind: Congregation Prepares For A New Beginning

The Hartford Courant
Watertown – It was the last Sunday service at Christ Church. Unable to go “further in a church that continued in a false gospel,” the entire congregation, including the rector and church leaders, will sever ties with the national Episcopal Church and reform under a new name: New Hope Anglican Church.
One of the “Connecticut six,” the half-dozen churches in the state diocese that disagree with national leadership on departure of scripture, including the appointment of a gay bishop, the congregation will trade its historic building on the town green for a free community room at the Thomaston Savings Bank around the corner.
The Sunday service will be held at the bank, starting Jan. 6, until they find or build another house of worship.
“We need to celebrate today, but we need to recognize there is a dying,” the Rev. Allyn Benedict said in his final homily at the church. Reading off an overhead projector, church members sang hymns enthusiastically, clapping and raising hands in acknowledging their faith. They hugged one another, wishing peace.
The church was founded under the Church of England in 1764. In 2003, Benedict and several other Connecticut rectors clashed with Connecticut Bishop Andrew D. Smith, who supported the naming of V. Gene Robinson as New Hampshire’s bishop. Robinson is gay. Benedict and Christ Church leaders also feel the national church is rejecting scriptural authority and traditions of the church.
In cutting affiliation with the national leaders, the congregation has agreed to give up its church buildings and property, estimated to be worth $7 million, and its name, “Christ Church Parish.” The congregation also ended its participation with the other Connecticut churches in a protracted legal battle against national leadership over church real estate, deciding that “it’s not worth living under this oppression just for the property,” said Paul LePine, the senior warden. Four of the “Connecticut six” have also ended their connection to the national church, LePine said.
“It’s a tragedy when relationships fail,” LePine said. “There’s a relief of being free of that dysfunctional relationship we’ve been in for many years.”
LePine’s daughter, Rachel, 15, commented that while leaving is the right thing to do, “it is sad.”
“That’s kind of why we named it New Hope,” she said.
“We’re just moving on to where we’re supposed to be,” said Chris Varian, who was married at the church and has been a member for three years. “It’s a transition. It’s a lot of history and a lot of memories. It’s bittersweet.”
Copyright (c) 2007, The Hartford Courant, Conn.

  • Joey

    It’s sad that this whole thing is happening, and sad that they have to give up their historic church. As I’ve mentioned before, though, I think that in the end this is the right thing to do; whichever side one supports, at some point divisions become so great that the house divided cannot stand for long. Best of luck to New Hope, and God bless.

  • Henrietta22

    I feel sorry for these members of the six churches, because somewhere in these familes gay children exist and will exist in the future, they will be sadly guided for all the wrong reasons as in the distant past up to the present where science has explained the physiology of humans bodies, etc.

  • pagansister

    They will be happier without coming into the current times which include (gasp!) glbt folks. They want to interpret their scripture as one which excludes part of the human race…and will obviously be happier believing that homosexuality is abnormal and that only heterosexuals are normal.
    You stated the situation very well, Henrietta. The children who are gay will be taught that there is something wrong with them.
    As for giving up their historic buildings? They didn’t own them, so it was the right thing to do.

  • JohnQ

    Henrietta22 & Pagansister-
    I believe everyone has a right to believe what and as they will. However, you both make a great point about the children. The upside is they are in CT and CT has great support for lgbt youth and most of the people of CT are accepting of lgbt people. So at least their kids will not be trapped in hatred and fear the way they would have been a couple of decades ago….or, would be even today if they were in another locale.
    Peace & Hapy New Year!

  • CJ

    I just left the Catholic church to join the Episcopal church. It was a little sad, but, it is better for people to go where they don’t feel they are betraying themselves by staying.
    I joined the Episcopal church for some of the same reasons the Christ Church people are leaving it.
    I wish them well.

  • Henrietta22

    Title: Leaving a Church Behind, Congregation Prepares for a New Beginning
    It’s more like Congregation moves out and continues as they were. The people left behind will live a new beginning without judgment, and arguments.
    Just stopped to check for new comments, and thought the title didn’t fit the subject correctly.

  • jestrfyl

    We talk a lot about the Cost AND Joy of discipleship. I do not agree with these folks in the slightest. But at least they are willing to accept the cost rather than whining and dragging everyone in the courts as they are sure to in Virginia and elsewhere. Maybe the California and Virginia folks ought to contact these folks and form their own denomination. It would not be the first time.
    I think we are on the brink of the next great fissure of the Church. Who would have guessed it would be based on issues below the waist!? I guess it is better than arguing about dancing angels and over flowing pin heads (OK, I am resisting any comments on pin heads here – try to do the same)

  • JohnQ

    Where do these people think they are going to go? Do they think that now that they have left the Episcopal church lgbt people will no longer exist? Do they think that now that they have left the Episcopal church that somehow their prejudice, discrimination, and bigotry is somehow now acceptable?
    IMHO they simply look sillier now than they did before.

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