Concerned about their fracturing denomination, about 150 Central Florida Episcopalians packed the sanctuary of St. Richard's Episcopal Church on Saturday.We have previously noted the letter of concern regarding the diocesan request for AlPO sent by 32 priests to Bp. Howe. With that many priests and 23 congregations voicing their dissent, it appears that Central Florida is a good candidate for some kind of arrangement that allows those who so choose to remain in TEC if the diocese decides at some later date to become officially under the authority of some offshore bishop.
"We take no position on Scripture or theology or morals," said Donna Bott, a leader of a group called Episcopal Voices of Central Florida, which sponsored the meeting. "We are just Episcopalians."
More than anything else, the crowd was determined that the 44,000-member Diocese of Central Florida not break away from the Episcopal Church, USA, over the issue of sexuality.
The crowd represented 23 area congregations. Nearly 20 priests also attended the meeting, which drew many more people than sponsors expected.
There is another reason to consider Central Florida as a good location to test such an arrangement. In light of our previous discussion, I'm convinced that Bp. Howe's style of leadership is quite different from other Network bishops, such as Bps. Iker and Duncan. His response to Saturday's gathering is indicative of this difference:
...Reached in England, Howe said in an e-mail message that Saturday's meeting did not trouble him.This is a good pastoral response by the bishop, although I wish he would have refrained from repeating the "walk apart" cliche. The ploy of thinking if you repeat something long enough it will become true is becoming tiresome.
"These are good people who love the Episcopal Church -- as do I," he said. "They do not want to be separated from it -- nor do I."
But Howe disagreed with Episcopal Voices' analysis of the dispute.
"It is The Episcopal Church (as a whole) that has chosen to 'walk apart' from the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion."
That last quote does invite a certain amount of speculation regarding Bp. Howe's current activities. Was his trip to England official or recreational?