MONROEVILLE, Pa. – Clergy and lay members of the theologically conservative Pittsburgh diocese voted overwhelmingly Saturday to break from the liberal Episcopal Church, with which it differs on issues ranging from homosexuality to biblical teachings on salvation.
Assistant Bishop Henry Scriven said the vote means the Pittsburgh diocese is now more firmly aligned with the majority of the 77 million-member worldwide Anglican Communion, which is more conservative than the communion’s 2.2 million-member U.S. church.
“I am delighted,” Scriven said, “that what we have done today is bringing the Diocese of Pittsburgh back into the mainstream of worldwide Anglicanism.”
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the U.S. church, criticized the vote, saying, “There is room in this Church for all who desire to be members of it.”
She also said schism is not an “honored tradition within Anglicanism” and is “frequently been seen as a more egregious error than charges of heresy.”
The votes were 240 in favor of leaving the church and 102 against.
The Diocese of San Joaquin, based in Fresno, Calif., was the first to leave the national church, in 2006. Dioceses based in Quincy, Ill., and Fort Worth, Texas, also are set to vote next month. The Pittsburgh diocese was led for 11 years by Bishop Robert Duncan. He was removed from office by the national church’s House of Bishops last month.
Many who opposed the split said the national church erred by disciplining Duncan before the vote, and Simons said it “created enormous sympathy” for those voting to split.
Duncan is among the leaders of a national network of theological conservatives who are breaking away from the liberal denomination in a dispute over Scripture. The long-simmering debate, similar to others going on in the mainline Presbyterian, Methodist and Lutheran denominations, erupted in 2003, when Episcopalians consecrated the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.