Why Episcopal Conservatives Won't Split

Others disagree. Allen Guelzo, an Episcopal Church historian at Eastern College in St. David's, Pa., said the Third World alliance may give dissidents the leverage they need to actually split the Worldwide Anglican Communion.

"People in Africa don't have this American clubbiness," Guelzo says. "They'll walk. They are the majority. So that gives an entirely new heft to dissident protests. If the African bishops really do proceed as they have threatened, then we have introduced an entirely novel situation.

"All bets are off," he said, "And no one knows where this takes them."

But that doesn't mean the conservatives will leave their denomination. Instead, they will try to have the Episcopal Church forced out of the Anglican Communion.

Next Moves?

At a meeting in Virginia last month, 23 bishops from eight countries issued a statement saying that if Robinson were confirmed as bishop, the action would "separate" the Episcopal church from "historic Christian faith and teaching," and "alienate it from the fellowship and accountability of the worldwide Anglican family."

Bishops from Africa, Asia and Latin America, representing more than one-third of Anglican Communion members worldwide, earlier this year announced they were severing relations with a diocese that authorizes same-sex blessings — the Diocese of New Westminster, based in Vancouver. One of the leaders in that split was Akinola.

In the days before the vote, AAC president Canon David Anderson said that if the Episcopal Church confirmed Robinson, "The Anglican Communion will see one of its family members leave the fold. As for the AAC, we are committed to remaining very much a part of the Anglican family. We're staying."

He said the AAC will hold an "extraordinary meeting" in October to decide its next move.

After Monday's vote, conservatives appealed to overseas bishops to "intervene in the pastoral emergency that has overtaken us."

What the conservatives plan is unclear, however. Some parishes could, for instance, split from their dioceses and refuse to recognize more liberal Episcopalians, yet stop short of schism.

Ultimately, conservatives and liberals alike will pray, cry, and yell at each other. They'll hold meetings and caucuses and issue pronouncements. There will be a gay bishop in the Episcopal Church and conservatives won't like it. But the most likely outcome is that all of them — conservative, moderate, liberal, gay, and straight — will remain in the same church.

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