Breaking Up Is Hard to Do: When Congregations Leave Their Denominations[Excerpts]
More and more, conservative congregations are choosing to leave liberal denominations. Rarely does the opposite occur with a liberal congregation withdrawing to unite with a more conservative denomination.
“I think conservative Christians generally take their faith seriously,” says Dr. Jeffry Marlett, an associate professor of religious studies at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, N.Y. “They feel that it’s better to stand by their faith and not become conformed to the ways of the world, which is why you see conservative congregations leaving liberal denominations and not vice versa.”
In December 2006, parishioners of Truro Episcopal Church in Fairfax, Va., voted overwhelmingly to sever ties with The Episcopal Church (TEC), igniting a hailstorm of controversy. While church leaders pointed to TEC’s gradual shift away from the traditional teachings of TEC on the authority of Scripture and the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the core reasons for the disfellowship, the straw that broke the camel’s back was the election of Gene Robinson, a practicing homosexual, as bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire in 2003.
“That was our wakeup call,” says Warren Thrasher, executive director of Truro. Starting in 2003 and continuing over the next few years, Truro leaders had a number of meetings with TEC officials in Virginia to resolve the issue of Robinson’s election and its implications for TEC’s teachings on marriage being between one woman and one man.
Then in mid-2006, the bishops elected Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as head of TEC in America. Schori said in a Time magazine interview shortly after her election that “Christ was a vehicle to the divine – that Jesus is not unique,” says Thrasher. “Basically, she expressed the universalistic view that all religions lead to God.”
A few months later, Truro, along with eight other congregations, withdrew from TEC and joined the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), a mission initiative of the Anglican Church of Nigeria.
In today’s increasingly pluralistic society, Truro’s experience is not unique.
(Sarah Hamaker, "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do: When Congregations Leave Their Denominations," The Christian Post, Aug. 03 2011).