Clerics Who Opposed Gay Bishop Return to U.S.

Three American priests who left the Episcopal Church after it appointed an openly gay bishop in 2003 have been consecrated as bishops in Africa. They're returning to minister to American congregations, but will report to conservative churches in Africa.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Debbie Elliott.

Three American priests who broke with the Episcopal Church were consecrated as bishops in Africa this past week - two in Kenya and one in Uganda. The clergymen left the Episcopal Church over its appointment of an openly gay bishop in 2003. They'll return to America, but they'll be reporting back to conservative mother churches in Africa.

NPR Africa correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton has the story.

Bishop WILLIAM LEO MURDOCH (All Saints Anglican Church): I, William Leo Murdoch, by divine permission by the…

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON: The colorful consecration ceremony of Bishops Will Murdoch of Texas and Bill Atwood of Massachusetts at All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi, Kenya on Thursday. The two have become the latest defectors to split from the Episcopal Church because of the (unintelligible) over the appointment of gay clergy.

Kenyan Anglican Archbishop Bernard Nzimbi said their decision was not intended to widen already bitter divisions over the gay issue in the worldwide Anglican Communion or to alienate the new American bishops from their original home church.

Archbishop BERNARD NZIMBI (All Saints Anglican Church): They will be called conservatives, but they - you're keeping to the word of God. You know we need to preach the Gospel the way we received it.

QUIST-ARCTON: Bishop Atwood of Massachusetts agrees.

Bishop BILL ATWOOD (All Saints Anglican Church): What I would say is that the Episcopal Church is the one who's done the breaking by making choices that are so far outside the balance of Christian teaching. What we're trying to do is reach out across the divide, proclaim the Gospel, and pray for healing.

QUIST-ARCTON: Kenya and Uganda have become the latest deeply conservative African homes away from home, after Nigeria and Rwanda for these disillusioned former Episcopal clergymen. The African wings of the church are openly and vocally anti-gay. Observers predict that the latest move by breakaway churches in Africa will likely season the fragmentation of the global church.

Reverend Jan Nunley, deputy communications chief of the Episcopal Church in the United States disagrees.

Reverend JAN NUNLEY (Deputy Communications Chief, Episcopal Church): By our latest count, we only have 32 congregations that have declared that they have left - we have 11 that have split, and we have 22 that have voted to leave. That's a total of 65 out of 7,800 congregations. I would say that's not a split that's, at most, a splinter.

QUIST-ARCTON: But what about the well-publicized and well-attended consecrations of the American Bishops held in African this week, in the presence of leading African and Caribbean clergy.

Rev. NUNLEY: Very big ceremonies do not have split make. I trust in the good sense and the good order of Episcopalians. And this is not the most important thing to know about the Episcopal Church.

QUIST-ARCTON: Meanwhile, against the wishes of the Episcopal Church, referred bishop elevated in Africa this week, John Guernsey, heads back to the U.S., but will be reporting back to the church in Uganda. He will be preaching to Episcopalians and conservative parachutes in the state of Virginia who no loners feel they can tolerate the American church's liberal stunts on homosexuality. The same goes for the congregations of Bishops Atwood and Murdoch. They will now be answerable to the church of Kenya.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Correction Sept. 9, 2007

The home states of two clerics mentioned in the story are misattributed in the audio. Bill Atwood is from Texas. Bill Murdoch is from Massachusetts.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.