Contact: Dr. Christopher Wilkins at: 412/831-1737 or 412/760-8817 (cell); or The Rev. Dr. John Sorensen at 518/569-1494

Episcopalians see hopeful signs amid loss of N.H. congregation, commend Albany and New Hampshire Bishops

Via Media USA, an alliance of groups seeking Episcopal Church unity, mourns the loss of a New Hampshire congregation but lauds efforts by two bishops who tried to prevent it.

Members of the Church of the Redeemer in Rochester, N.H., recently left The Episcopal Church because of their unhappiness that the Bishop of New Hampshire, V. Gene Robinson, is openly homosexual. A number of efforts were launched to keep the congregation together, including arrangements for oversight by the Bishop of Albany, Daniel Herzog, but to no avail.

"In spite of what has happened, there are hopeful signs in this unfortunate story," said VMUSA Steering Committee Facilitator Christopher Wilkins. "In this case, two bishops worked together to try to help one parish stay united. We at Via Media USA are dedicated to efforts to maintain unity within the church during this difficult time in the full belief that there is room for everyone at God's table. These bishops' efforts are a sign that we can and should work together."

Recognizing unrest in conservative parishes because of Robinson's election last year, the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops created a Designated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight [DEPO] plan to allow such parishes to be attended by like-minded bishops. In an effort to keep the Church of the Redeemer from splitting, Bishop Robinson made arrangements for Bishop Herzog to oversee the parish and offered to return a popular priest who had been removed by a previous bishop.

The congregation apparently was advised to accept the arrangements by Dean William Murdoch of the Northeast Convocation of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, a group unhappy with sexuality issues in the national church.

"We are pleased that there was Network support for using the very generous DEPO plan devised by the House of Bishops, and we hope that the Network will now let the disgruntled parishioners depart in peace to find a more compatible church home on their own," added Dr. Wilkins.

Via Media USA is pleased that both Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and the chair of his Lambeth Commission, Archbishop Robin Eames, were impressed with the generosity of Bishop Robinson's proposals. The alliance is particularly grateful for the role played by Bishop Herzog.

The Albany diocese, home to two Via Media groups, recently joined the Network. Bishop Herzog argued that the move was designed to preserve, not to split, the Episcopal Church.

"Bishop Herzog has shown grace and charity, seeking to use the network constructively to enable the House of Bishops' DEPO plan to provide episcopal pastoral oversight," said Fr. John Sorensen of Albany Via Media.

Concerned Episcopalians of St. Lawrence Deanery likewise commended Bishop Herzog for his "effort and cooperation" shown in the attempt to resolve the New Hampshire conflict.

"Via Media USA prays that, should a similar opportunity arise for a parish to utilize the DEPO plan, all parties involved will find a graceful way to remain within our beloved church," added Dr. Wilkins.