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(RNS) An Episcopal Church committee voted Friday (Oct. 17) to oust more than 50 California clerics who left the denomination last year to join a more conservative province in the Anglican Communion.
The 16 deacons and 36 priests have six months to recant and return to the Episcopal Church before they are defrocked by Bishop Jerry Lamb of the Fresno-based Diocese of San Joaquin, according to Episcopal News Service.
Charged with “abandoning” the Episcopal Church, the 52 deacons and priests would no longer be allowed to function as Episcopal clergy.
Diocesan spokeswoman Nancy Key said two clergy have decided to rejoin the Episcopal Church since the committee began considering charges against them.
“It is our hope, actually, that everybody will decide to remain part of the Episcopal Church,” Key told ENS.
In late 2007, 42 of 47 parishes in the diocese left the Episcopal Church and joined the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. Bishop John-David Schofield, who seceded with his diocese, was defrocked by the Episcopal Church last January, though he remains a bishop in the Southern Cone.
The Episcopal Church has since worked to rebuild the San Joaquin Diocese, appointing Lamb to oversee the estimated 1,500 Episcopalians who stayed with the denomination.
Last month, a conservative majority in the Diocese of Pittsburgh also split from the Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and aligned with the Southern Cone. Two more dioceses — Fort Worth, Texas, and Quincy, Ill. — are poised to make similar moves next month.
Conservatives, a minority in the 2.2-million member Episcopal Church, have agonized for decades over the denomination’s liberal drift on sexual morality and biblical interpretation. The consecration of an openly gay man as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003 hastened their withdrawal from the Episcopal Church.
By Daniel Burke
Copyright 2008 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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