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Episcopal brass to mull special bishop postings

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Episcopal Church headquarters said Tuesday that its hierarchy's closed-door March meeting will discuss whether — and how — to provide special visiting bishops to serve conservative parishes that oppose their regular bishops.

That announcement confirmed a report from the American Anglican Council, a conservative group that has pushed the idea since 1999. It surveyed leaders of 8,000 parishes last month on whether they want such special treatment.

National Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold notified the bishops Dec. 13 that the House of Bishops' March 7-12 meeting at Camp Allen, near Houston, would discuss schism threats and proposals for "sustained pastoral care" for "congregations that feel removed from their bishop."

The Church of England has long provided visiting or "flying" bishops for congregations that oppose women priests, and some U.S. Episcopalians also oppose women clergy. But the greater concern among U.S. conservatives involves the church's policy on letting bishops and dioceses take their own stand on homosexual clergy and blessings for same-sex couples.

Last year, Griswold and the other 37 leaders of world Anglican branches, known as "primates," endorsed "sustained pastoral care." Conservatives said that committed Griswold to the visiting bishops idea, but Griswold later insisted it did not.