Shortly after the last General Convention in 2003, Episcopalians in Spokane who were upset about the election of an openly gay man as bishop began meeting to discuss their options.
Should they stay? Should they go? Should they join the Catholic Church?
After about a year, about 20 of them decided to start their own church – Christ the King Anglican Church, a congregation that has no ties to the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane but is under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of the Diocese of Recife, Brazil, and affiliated with the Anglican Communion Network.
Formed in January 2004, the ACN is a theologically conservative network of parishes and dioceses in the United States and Canada formed in light of the Anglican Communion’s near civil war over homosexuality. Although some Episcopal priests belong to the ACN, they have more or less dissociated themselves from the General Convention, the governing body of the Episcopal Church.
“The Scriptures are very clear about how God views any sexual marriage outside the bonds of marriage,” said the Rev. Jerry Cimijotti, rector, or pastor, of Christ the King. “This is not a gay issue. It’s about the authority of Holy Scripture.”
The Episcopal Church has been at odds with the 37 other provinces that belong to the worldwide Anglican Communion since 2003, when the American bishops ordained V. Gene Robinson, a gay man who lives with his partner in the New Hampshire diocese.
The 20 people who founded Christ the King in Spokane wanted to be “orthodox in their theology,” Cimijotti said. “They wanted to be Anglican and, most importantly, they wanted to be focused on the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
So they started gathering every Sunday at the Manito Masonic Temple. The 10 a.m. service was led by lay members until about nine months ago, when Cimijotti responded to their need for a rector.
Cimijotti, pastor of an Episcopal church just outside Sioux Falls, S.D., not only shared their vision, he said, but also had a penchant for starting new churches. Before he was ordained a priest in 1999, Cimijotti served for a decade as a pastor for the Evangelical Free Church of America.
Like others who belong to the ACN, Cimijotti was disappointed with the decisions made at the Episcopal Church’s 75th General Convention last week. He was especially dismayed by the choice of Katharine Jefferts Schori as presiding bishop.
“They elected the most extreme bishop, the one with the most progressive theology,” he said, citing Jefferts Schori’s approval of Robinson’s elevation to bishop, and support of same-sex blessings. “It’s her theology, not her gender.”
Membership at Christ the King Anglican Church has doubled to 40 since it was established in 2004. While many were former parishioners in the Diocese of Spokane – a network of 42 congregations in Eastern Washington and North Idaho – a few had never belonged to the Episcopal Church, according to Cimijotti.
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