The conservatives tried unsuccessfully to work the system by proposing resolutions at diocesan conventions to distance the diocese from the national church. Then Lebhar and other priests began to take their congregations out of the denomination.
Other Anglican bishops, mostly from Africa and South America, extended oversight to those congregations and clergy who had departed.
Lawsuits over property ensued.
“It was a painful and disillusioning time,” Lebhar said.
The diocese successfully sued Lebhar’s parish to establish the precedent that departing congregations cannot remain on church property.
Bruce Dougherty, senior warden at All Souls Anglican, said many in the congregation were devastated to leave behind the facilities they’d held dear for nearly 30 years. Many continue to grieve.
At Grace Episcopal, member Richard Cobb, 66, was one of 35 who remained behind on the 7-acre, 21-building campus in 2006. He said it caused him “great sadness” to see hundreds of friends abandon the parish and denomination.
In April, Howard rescinded the holy orders of Lebhar and 21 other priests and deacons, many of whom already had led their congregations out of the diocese months or years before.