“What do you do with the hundreds of thousands of Episcopalians who say, ‘I can’t go there’?” asks the Rev. Russell Levenson, rector of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, the largest Episcopal church in the United States. “We have to find a way to allow both groups to live with their own convictions within the body of Christ.”
Depending on the bishops’ response, some foresee a “pulling apart” of many additional congregations, spurring divisive and costly battles over property.
On Thursday, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and a committee of global Anglican leaders will meet with the House of Bishops in New Orleans to discuss the crisis. Most observers expect the bishops will not make the commitments the Anglican leaders have requested, but will say instead that they alone cannot speak for the church ”“ that the general convention involving lay people and clergy must give any official response. The convention doesn’t meet again until 2009.
“Those who pushed for this response knew it would be difficult to deliver on those requests,” says the Rev. Ian Douglas of Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass. “They are hoping, I suspect, this is another line in the sand.”