Splitting church members: Not News

Why isn’t this getting more national press?  Splitting church members say they will keep peace. 

St. Nicholas’ Episcopal Church parishioners peacefully worshipped together Sunday, even as the congregation is splitting over denomination politics and biblical teachings, resulting in the charter of a new Midland church.

… Almost 90 percent of members and their pastors were ordered by the Northwest Texas Diocese to leave St. Nicholas’ for dissenting with the Episcopal Church’s stance on homosexuality by naming a gay bishop in New Hampshire, among other things.

"But the homosexual issue is just a small part of a greater crisis," said the Rev. Jonathan Hartzer, associate rector. "The greater crisis is cultural accommodation at the expense of biblical Christianity."

Support for the ousted Midland congregation has come from all over the world, Hartzer said, and vast numbers of believers from afar are expected travel here to attend the last service of the full congregation May 29.


Conservative pastors trying to oust a couple of Kerry voters (which is stupid and wrong, BTW) were headline news on CNN, but the vast majority of a congregation being kicked out of a church because of ‘cultural accomodation(s) at the expense of biblical Christianity’ hasn’t been Big News yet.

Why?  It’s not even my church, and I wonder.


  1. The ‘ousted’ church members clearly have views that differ from the traditional beliefs of the Episcopalian church. It would be outrageous to expect the entire Episcopalian demonination to alter their biblical belief system. But forming a new church to accomidate their cultural differences is part of a natural evolution of church growth, and was in fact the foundation of the Episcopalian church itself. It’s all natural, really, and I find, not very noteworth news.

  2. LibraryGryffon says:

    Actually, it is my understanding from reading the article (and from following the church’s politics as a member) that the “ousted” members are the ones who are staying truer to the traditional teachings of the church. There have been a few parishes which have left the Episcopal Church as a complete congregation over this. The Episcopal Church in the U.S. itself has been asked to take a leave of absence from the world-wide Anglican Communion because of the gay bishop, among other things.

    We are having these discussions at parishes here in CT too. There is a local Anglican church in Mystic, and it has found its membership increasing, as those who feel that the American Episcopal church has lost its way try to find a congregation which shares their beliefs, and which they feel is truer to biblical teaching.

    I left the Roman Catholic church in the 1980s and became an Anglican (I was living in Ireland at the time). I myself am now doing a lot of soul searching, as I feel strongly connected to my congregation, but I am equally unhappy with the changes in teaching and politics.

    And there was at least one commentator I read who suggested that, never minding the new bishop’s sexual orientation, if he had left his wife for another woman, he would likely have NOT been eligible for episcopal status, and asked why should we give him a pass, just because he left her for a man?

  3. I think the difference here is between religious dogma and politics. I think a church has the right to choose what it believes in and to what extent it will accept dissension in its ranks. You may not like it but such is freedom of religion. While I disagree with it, I respect it’s right to oppose abortion and gay rights.

    When a church starts kicking out people based solely on who they vote for, I find that more problematic, as they are inserting themselves directly in politics.

    Of course it is a fine line. Saying, for example, that Catholic politicians must oppose abortion or good Catholics can only vote for pro-life politicians comes pretty close to that line, but stops short of openly advocating for specific candidates or parties.

  4. LibraryGryffon has it right. The “ousted” members are the “conservatives”, that are sticking with traditional Anglican and scriptural teaching.

    They are being “ousted” because they declared their intent to leave the Episcopal Church (ECUSA). The church property is held in trust for the Diocese of NW Texas, probably in the Bishop’s name; the Bishop is entirely within his (legal) rights to tell them that if they don’t want to be Episcopals, get out of his building.

    Contrast this with Christ Episcopal Church in Overland Park, Kansas — they also recently voted to leave the ECUSA, but they kept the church property.
    See http://www.episcopal-ks.org/news/Finalannouncement.html

    What’s the difference? The Kansas church had a huge mortgage, so the diocese let the parishoners keep the property and the debt, along with an agreement to pay the diocese $1M over 10 years. In Texas, I believe the property had already been paid off by the parishoners — so the Bishop is kicking them out and keeping the property free & clear.

  5. No one is being “ousted”; the Episcopal Church is about the last one that would try to enforce some doctrinal purity. But factions of a congregation (and their sympathetic clergy) who don’t want to accept their bishop’s authority don’t get to keep the building and align themselves with some other dissident bishop. They’re free to go, of course, and they’re also free to remain inside the Episcopal Church and argue as loudly and forcefully as they can for their position. I’m the husband of an Episcopal priest, a non-believer myself but one whose reading of Scripture as an ex-Catholic educated by Jesuits is that Jesus would have little patience with those “Christians” who cite Gospel passages selectively and out of context to shun any fellow human seeking love, commitment and a full, meaningful life.

  6. GruntDoc says:

    Thanks to all for the comments, but my question was: why isn’t this getting a broader exposure?

  7. Because, I’d suggest, it’s not unique or news. These kinds of messy congregational divorces have happened in the Episcopal Church all over the U.S. and, in several cases, been adjudicated in the courts when the defecting pastor and flock tried to lock out the local bishop and those who supported her. “Her” being an operative word — that was one of their beefs. It happens every time the Episcopal Church votes at its democratic (small D) General Convention to do something that rankles traditionalists — like ordain women, or subsequently allow them to be elected bishops. Now it’s New Hampshire’s overwhelmingly popular (locally) choice of a gay bishop who’s honest and open about it instead of lurking in the traditional closet that has upset some Anglicans. And that has certainly been news. But make no mistake, there have been plenty of gay clergy throughout history and in every denomination. Meanwhile, only the sort of contortion that would land one in your ER could twist the ho-hum Midland story into a parallel with that pretty outrageous North Carolina story. Although I’ve no doubt our media are up to it.