NPR Morning Edition, August 25

From: George Conger
Subject: Transcript of NPR story from Monday

Morning Edition (10:00 AM ET) - NPR

August 25, 2003 Monday

LENGTH: 904 words

HEADLINE: Conservatives in the Episcopal Church revolt against confirmation of Gene Robinson




Conservatives in the Episcopal Church are staging a determined and potentially costly revolt. Costly, that is, to the Episcopal Church of the United States, which recently confirmed Gene Robinson to be its first openly gay bishop. NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty reports.


The symbolism is hardly subtle, an Episcopal Church in Catonsville, Maryland, draped its building in purple, a sign of mourning. A rector in Ft. Worth, Texas, began the Sunday service by hurling the denominational flag to the ground and then walking over it as he preached. Some priests were more measured, but just as serious.

Reverend JOHN GUERNSEY (All Saints Episcopal Church): Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus and said, 'Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.' Well, God's church grieved the Holy Spirit this week.

HAGERTY: John Guernsey, at All Saints' Episcopal Church in Dale City, Virginia, began a recent sermon by declaring that the confirmation of Gene Robinson contradicted the Bible and church teaching. He told his congregation of 550 that they could restrict their donations to make sure that it would only go to the local church and its ministries. Guernsey says if he didn't create a way to bypass the diocese and the national church, many people would stop giving completely.

Rev. GUERNSEY: Our outreach ministries would have to take huge cuts. Our work with the homeless in the community, our support of economic development in Uganda, our help for the persecuted church in Sudan--How could we possibly jeopardize all of that in order to force people to support what they know to be wrong?

HAGERTY: Guernsey says 40 percent of the people have restricted their giving in the first week and he expects the figure to grow, which could be a significant blow, since All Saints gives the diocese and national church more than $150,000 a year.

Mr. DONALD ARMSTRONG (Director, Grace Church): There are parishes all over the country doing this.

HAGERTY: Donald Armstrong is director of the Anglican Communion Institute and rector of Grace Church in Colorado Springs. Armstrong set up a Web site right after the general convention in August, advising churches how to tell their parishioners how to redirect their funds. In the first two weeks, he says 10,000 people visited the site. Armstrong says conservatives are sending a message to church leaders.

Mr. ARMSTRONG: If you guys aren't going to be doing the work of God, if you're going to be causing this discord and division in the church, then you're going to pay for doing that.

HAGERTY: Steven Duggan, a former treasurer of the national church, says this is economic blackmail. And he says the ones who will be hurt are not the leaders of the Episcopal Church USA, but the people the church helps.

Mr. STEVEN DUGGAN (Former Treasurer, National Church): When you starve the national church, you starve the church in Cuba, you starve the church in Navajo land, you starve the church in El Salvador and Liberia. It's not going to change people's minds. It's not going to change the minds of those who voted at general convention.

HAGERTY: Conservatives say they know that, but they can't support what they see as an attack on marriage. How much money is at stake is still unclear. Many churches are waiting to see what action the leaders of the worldwide Anglican church will take when they have their emergency meeting in October. In fact, several bishops are parking the money for their entire diocese in escrow accounts for the time being. But Louie Crew, a gay activist and a member of the Episcopal Church's Executive Council, says no one at the Episcopal Church is losing sleep over the threat of economic boycott.

Mr. LOUIE CREW (Episcopal Church's Executive Council Member): We are a very privileged group of people with an enormous wealth in our endowments and in our contributions generously given by the diocese that do, and we will be able to survive.

HAGERTY: He says a lot of conservative churches long ago reduced their contributions and, anyway, Crew says, the church's stand on homosexuality is attracting many people who call up the churches and ask questions.

Mr. CREW: 'What time are your services? I want to come.' And these are not necessarily gay and lesbian people. These are just people who thought, 'My goodness, I didn't believe a church could be responsive to the modern world.'

Mr. ARMSTRONG: Louie is the king of fantasyland, it seems to me, about this issue.

HAGERTY: Donald Armstrong in Colorado Springs. He says many of the churches that are unhappy have disproportionate economic leverage. For example, just three evangelical churches in Virginia pledged more than $400,000 this year. The average Episcopal Church gives about $11,000. He says of course there are big liberal churches out there that will continue giving.

Mr. ARMSTRONG: The majority of the large churches are in Texas, Alabama, Colorado, places where people are conservative, and these churches have grown, because God has blessed their faithfulness to the Gospel. And these are the churches with all the money.

HAGERTY: He and others say if the leaders of the Episcopal Church think that the conservatives will eventually get over their anger and fall into line, they're making a serious miscalculation. Barbara Bradley Hagerty, NPR News, Washington.

LOAD-DATE: August 25, 2003

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