The ordination of openly gay ministers and the blessing of same-sex unions are merely the “trip-wire issues” for Trinity and the five other Connecticut churches at odds with Bishop Smith and the Episcopal Church, Helmandollar said Wednesday.
“The defining issue for us is the absolute revisionist view of Scripture within the Episcopal Church, the idea that man wrote the Bible, so man can change it, ” Helmandollar said. “You’ll hear such things from the Episcopal Church. We firmly believe we do not have the authority to do that. We firmly believe it is the word of God and it’s not to be changed.”
Trinity and the other five churches sued Smith in federal court two years ago, claiming he violated their civil and property rights when they asked to be placed under the authority of a bishop from another state. The lawsuit said the priests were wrongly charged with being “out of communion” with the bishop, putting their positions in jeopardy, and that they were denied due process.
The lawsuit was dismissed last year by a federal judge and the parishes are appealing.
The six parishes also brought ecclesiastical charges against Smith, accusing him of “apostasy” for voting to approve the election of New Hampshire’s openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson, in 2003. Those charges were dismissed by a review committee on April 11.
Smith could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Karin Hamilton, spokeswoman for the Episcopal Diocese in Connecticut, said Smith was not prepared to speak publicly about Trinity’s defection until he has had an opportunity to talk at length with Helmandollar.
The pressing issue for both the diocese and Trinity, now that the split is formal, is whether the diocese will force church members to worship elsewhere.