Skip to comments.[San Diego] Episcopal bishop bids goodbye to congregants
Posted on 12/10/2006 5:03:37 PM PST by sionnsar
RANCHO PENASQUITOS ---- In what may be described more as an amiable parting than a stormy divorce, two priests from St. Timothy's Episcopal Church turned in their keys Wednesday night and left the local diocese to begin a new church.
The parting, marked with a ceremony led by Bishop James Mathes of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego, was in sharp contrast from similar splits that have happened in North County and throughout the country this year.
With the resignations of the Rev. Russell Martin and the Rev. Larry Eddingfield, who expect the majority of their 200-member congregation to follow them, St. Timothy's becomes the fifth Episcopal church in North County affected by a nationwide schism that has seen priests and congregations leaving.
"Tonight, I acknowledge the depth of a division that we just cannot bridge," Mathes told the congregation Wednesday at a Service for the Ending of a Pastoral Relationship, a ceremony usually reserved for priests who are moving away or retiring. The service was attended by about 60 people.
The schism has affected churches in Fallbrook, Oceanside, San Marcos and Vista, where priests and congregations have left without first notifying the diocese.
At St. Timothy's, Martin said he met with the bishop and other representatives of the diocese on Nov. 29. While Mathes said he tried to talk him into staying, Martin said he felt it was time to go. He had contemplated the decision for almost a year, he said.
"I just felt that the Lord, who had led me to this parish, would tell me when it was time to move on," Martin said.
Martin and Eddingfield will lead the Anglican Church of Sts. Timothy and Titus, which will meet at Resurrection Community Church in Poway until finding its own home.
Like other churches that have broken away, theirs will be aligned with a foreign diocese of the Anglican Communion, which includes 38 worldwide branches called provinces The Episcopal Church USA is the American province of the worldwide communion.
A growing split in the church grew more heated in 2003 when the Episcopal Church USA ordained an openly gay bishop. After church leaders this year elected Katharine Jefferts Schori as the first female presiding bishop, some conservative Episcopalians felt the church had finally gone too far.
At the Wednesday ceremony, Mathes made one final plea for congregants to stay in the church, which he said was welcoming of diverse perspectives. Turning to Russell and Eddingfield, Mathes said, "This is a source of great sadness to you, I know, and it brings me great grief."
With "unspeakable pain," Mathes said he accepted their resignations.
Pastors who have left the Episcopal Church in the past have said the church was preaching heresy and was no longer orthodox. Speaking to the congregation Wednesday, Mathes was able to have the final word on the subject.
"I am not naive," he said. "I know those leaving have asserted we are no longer orthodox. Let me be clear. The Episcopal Church is orthodox. The Episcopal Church is about following Christ."
Mathes also told congregants he had four things to tell them.
"For whatever ways I have failed you and hurt you, I ask your forgiveness," he said. In return, Mathes said he forgave them as well.
Third, Mathes said he loved them.
"I love you in the name of Jesus Christ, and even as you depart, I beg you to stay."
Finally, Mathes said, "The fourth is the hardest thing to say. Goodbye."
Contact staff writer Gary Warth at (760) 740-5410 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Well yeah, AFTER they turned in the keys to the property!
He got the property without a fight; he can afford to be generous. Let's see what he does when the church tries to take the property with it.
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