July 11, 2005
ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. -- Some worshipped in the tiny, historic Episcopal church that has been their home for years.
Others worshipped in a plain theater lobby adorned with little religious decoration beyond the makeshift altar table, topped by a lace cloth and two candles.
They were worshipping barely a block apart, reading from the same Bible passages, reciting virtually identical communion liturgies -- and each pledging a renewed beginning.
Yesterday marked the first worship services since a split in the historic Christ Church of Elizabethtown, prompted largely by the international controversy that has followed the 2003 ordination of an openly gay Episcopal bishop in New Hampshire.
"We are today birthing a new church," the Rev. Kent Litchfield told approximately 90 worshippers at the new Holy Apostles Church. . . .
"Welcome to the Diocese of Bolivia!" the church bulletin of Holy Apostles proclaimed, quoting that diocese's bishop, Frank Lyons, with whom the congregation has aligned. Other foreign bishops have similarly taken breakaway American congregations under their wings.
Litchfield said the congregation is a part of the Anglican Communion and that the Episcopal Church has abandoned its historic faith and connections to that communion by its actions.
But Bishop Gulick [head of the Episcopal Diocese of Kentucky] said in an interview last week that under church laws, bishops cannot adopt congregations outside their territories. A landmark Anglican report last year criticized such practices while also rebuking the Episcopal Church for causing disunity.
Gulick declined to say whether Litchfield would face discipline, saying he "would hope for an amicable solution." Bishop Stacy Sauls in the neighboring Diocese of Lexington has prohibited four clergy members there from doing official Episcopal ministry after they took similar breakaway steps.
Gulick said the church would continue to have substitute priests lead communion services until it finds a new pastor.