American Episcopal bishop becoming a Catholic

An Oxford educated Episcopalian bishop in the US has sought permission to resign from his diocese and to be released from his vows in order to be received into the Catholic Church.

The London Times reports that Bishop Jeffrey Steenson of Rio Grande has cited his own Church's "pro-gay agenda" as his reason for the move. HIs is the most high-profile US defection to date.

Bishop Steenson said that to remain in his post in the Episcopal Church may lead him "to a place apart from Scripture and tradition".

In a statement to his fellow bishops meeting in New Orleans in an attempt to avert schism, he said: "I am concerned that if I do not listen to and act in accordance with conscience now, it will become harder and harder to hear God's voice."

He said that he had already received counsel and prayers from the Presiding Bishop, the Right Rev Katharine Jefferts Schori.

"Now I come before you, asking that you give me the necessary canonical permission to resign as ordinary of my diocese. I should like to do this by the end of this year, and afterwards, in proper order, to be released from my ordination vows in the Episcopal Church."

His defection will come as a further blow to an Anglican province already reeling from the plans of up to five dioceses to seek leadership from a conservative province outside the US. Insiders say that the small but wealthy Episcopal Church, with about one million Sunday worshippers, is losing hundreds of people every year.

The row is ostensibly over the 2003 consecration of the openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson. But observers say that in reality, it is about the wider issue of Biblical interpretation and the place of tradition in a modern church in the secular world. They believe Church will soon be divided by litigation, as many of the departing Episcopalians attempt to take their church buildings with them.

US bishop defects to Catholic Church in row over gays (Times Online, 25/9/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Episcopal diocese of the Rio Grande (Wikipedia)
Episcopal diocese of the Rio Grande

26 Sep 2007