NEW YORK (AP)--The irregular elevation of two conservative American priests to the rank of bishop in the Episcopal Church was denounced Monday by church leaders who apparently fear the move will worsen a right-left split.
Defying church procedure and protocol, six bishops joined to consecrate the two Americans in a Saturday ritual at Singapore's St. Andrew's Cathedral. Those participating were the archbishops who lead the Anglican branches in Southeast Asia and Rwanda, two retired bishops from the U.S., and two other bishops.
Under Anglican rules, one national branch does not interfere with the hierarchy of another branch. Under Episcopal Church rules, bishops are elected by a region's clergy and lay delegates, then endorsed by vote of the full U.S. hierarchy.
The head of the Episcopal Church, Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold, sent a statement to all U.S. bishops and Anglican leaders internationally, declaring that he is ``appalled by this irregular action.''
The Anglican Communion's world leader, Archishop of Canterbury George Carey, issued a statement through his London office regretting that the two bishops had been elevated prior to a scheduled meeting of the heads of all of the independent Anglican branches March 23-28 in Oporto, Portugal.
He declared that the Singapore consecrations are ``irresponsible and irregular and only harm the unity of the communion.''
The newly elevated U.S. bishops are the Rev. Charles H. Murphy III, rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pawley's Island, S.C., and the Very Rev. John H. Rodgers, Jr., dean emeritus of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pa.
Murphy is a leader in the First Promise organization and Rodgers in the Association of Anglican Congregations on Mission. Both groups oppose liberal trends in the Episcopal Church and have appealed to overseas Anglicans for help.
Rodgers said he and Murphy would organize those who believe ``the authority of Scripture and the historic creeds are central to our faith, conduct and unity as Anglicans.''
``We are committed to lead the church, not leave it,'' Murphy stated.
The most emotion-laden issue for Episcopal and Anglican conservatives is the commitment of some U.S. bishops to ordain gay and lesbian clergy and allow blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples.
At an international conference of Anglican bishops in 1998, a strong majority endorsed a policy statement that ``abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage'' and ``rejecting homosexual practices as incompatible with Scripture.''
The statement said the world Anglican hierarchy ``cannot advise the legitimizing or blessing of same-sex unions, or ordination of those involved in same-gender unions.''
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