Priest Resigns, Cites Gay Bishop as Reason; Episcopal Church Faces Schism

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 10, 2003 | Go to article overview

Priest Resigns, Cites Gay Bishop as Reason; Episcopal Church Faces Schism


Byline: Julia Duin, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A Maryland clergyman is the first Episcopal priest in the nation to resign in response to the denomination's approval last month of its first openly homosexual bishop.

The Rev. Steven R. Randall's resignation, effective Monday, came in a four-sentence letter addressed to his bishop, the Rt. Rev. Robert Ihloff. His farewell sermon at St. Timothy's Church, a historic parish in downtown Catonsville, Md., will be Sunday.

"I can no longer submit to the heretical authority in the Episcopal Church," he said yesterday..

Mr. Randall delivered a dramatic Aug. 10 sermon disassociating himself from the denomination. His actions landed him on several radio and TV shows, highlighting the rift in the church over homosexual clergy.

Diocese of Maryland officials, who remember the sermon, which compared their church with a hijacked airliner, would not comment on the resignation.

"We don't use the media to discuss church matters," one official said. The diocese is expected to replace the departing priest.

Mr. Randall's resignation may be the first of many clergy departures from the 2.3-million-member Episcopal Church, whose leaders on Aug. 5 confirmed the election of Canon V. Gene Robinson as the new bishop of New Hampshire.

Most Episcopal conservatives, however, are awaiting the outcome of an emergency session of the world's 38 Anglican archbishops in London before deciding whether to leave the denomination. The Episcopal Church is part of the 70-million-member Anglican Communion.

But Mr. Randall said he could wait no longer. On Sept. 21, he will inaugurate services at his new congregation, the Anglican Church of Greater Baltimore at 2001 Frederick Road.

It will be in the gym of neighboring Bishop Cummins Memorial Church, a part of the Reformed Episcopal Church that split from the Episcopal Church in 1873. Its pastor, the Rev. Paul Schenck, offered the space after seeing an article about Mr. Randall in The Washington Times.

Mr. Randall estimates that half his 200-member congregation at St. Timothy's may follow him. Eighty-five persons attended two informational meetings about the new congregation.

Since his sermon, several parishioners have left the denomination.

"It's pretty volatile here," he said. "A significant number of people want to stay and fight for the buildings. One woman told me, 'I'm not up for this.' Others said they were leaving, then decided they wanted to be buried in the church. When people have been here six, seven, eight, nine decades literally, they are not ready for a change.

"Emotions are very, very high here and it's very stressful."

Mr. Randall said he has received support from outside the church and has had overtures from the Anglican Mission in America, a breakaway Episcopal group headed by Anglican bishops in Rwanda and Singapore. …

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