Episcopal congregations seek new diocese

Episcopal leaders are scrambling to address the requests of two New Hampshire churches to become part of another diocese, following the ordination of an openly gay man as bishop of New Hampshire this week.

Robert Newton, a lay leader at St. Mark’s Church in Ashland, said he already spoke to the conservative bishops at the diocese of Albany, N.Y., who have agreed to give his church an “oversight” and supervise his congregation.

Bishop Douglas Theuner, who will continue to serve the diocese of New Hampshire until his retirement in March, said he and incoming Bishop Gene Robinson would be happy to consider alternative pastoral care for congregations within their diocese.

However, pastoral care is not the same as "oversight," which removes a church from the leadership of its original diocese and places it under the leadership and care of another.

Oversight is traditionally not allowed under Episcopal church law. However, Newton hopes the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowam Williams, leader of the Anglican Communion, will intervene to allow churches to affiliate outside of the New Hampshire diocese. However, Episcopal leaders are concerned about the "patched" dioceses that oversight could create and opponents to Robinson's ordination could spark in their desire to seek alternative leadership.

The conservative Church of the Redeemer in Rochester also sent a letter to the diocese of Albany. The community was told plans are being discussed, but that the church would likely fall within the Albany diocese if a new system of oversight is created.

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