When Fred Clark married his bride, Claudia, nearly 40 years ago, they stood before the deep blue and purple stained-glass windows that line the stone wall behind the altar at Trinity Episcopal Church in Bristol.
Together they baptized three babies, mourned the death of one of those children – 6-year-old Allison – and celebrated the marriage of another daughter at that same altar.
The church is far more than a place to worship for the Clarks, of course. It is like a second home.
But the Clarks – along with the vast majority of the congregation – have decided to risk their long association with Trinity by voting to split from the Episcopal Church over differences of opinion about Scripture that have manifested themselves in public squabbles over the ordination of gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex unions.
With Trinity’s decision, the split within the Connecticut Diocese begins to resemble the increasingly contentious struggles going on in other Episcopal dioceses around the United States. It is no longer simply a war of words over theology but a pitched battle over buildings, property and money.
The split has united conservative congregations in the U.S., like Trinity, with like-minded African churches that believe the Episcopal Church’s liberal position on homosexuality goes against the Anglican beliefs inherited from the Church of England.