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Episcopal diocese slams church

Leaders declare confirmation of gay bishop 'null'

MONROEVILLE, Pa. — The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh accused the national church Saturday of exceeding its authority and violating its own constitution by confirming its first openly gay bishop and approving the blessing of same-sex unions.

"These acts are to be held null and void, and of no effect, in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh," read a resolution overwhelmingly approved by delegates in the western Pennsylvania diocese. The vote tally was not immediately released.

Two other dioceses, in Florida and Texas, also held meetings Saturday as part of a national drive among conservative dioceses and clergy seeking to distance themselves from the Episcopal Church for its decisions last month on the gay bishop and same-sex unions.

Members of the Episcopal Diocese of Florida, meeting in Jacksonville, discussed plans for a formal vote Nov. 15 on whether to support the national convention. Most oppose the two decisions but want to work within the church to resolve the differences, the Rev. Mark Eldredge said.

In Pennsylvania, proposals before the 20,000-member Pittsburgh Diocese on Saturday would ask worldwide Anglican leaders to intervene and to allow the diocese to withhold funds and property from the national church. The national denomination of the Episcopal Church, with 2.3 million members, is the U.S. branch of the worldwide, 77 million-member Anglican Communion.

The discontent among conservatives was fueled by an Aug. 5 vote of the national church's General Convention to confirm as bishop the Rev. V. Gene Robinson, who has lived with a male partner for more than 13 years. New Hampshire clergy and lay Episcopalians had earlier elected Robinson to be their next bishop.

During the same meeting in Minneapolis, Minn., General Convention delegates also voted to let dioceses continue to decide on their own whether to perform same-sex blessing ceremonies.

Some Episcopalians argue that the wording of the measure means the ceremonies are consistent with church teaching.

Bishop Frank Griswold, the head of the Episcopal Church, supported the decision to confirm Robinson in a letter last month to U.S. clergy and fellow Anglican leaders around the world. He said a "blessing" can come from the controversy.

Conservative leaders believe both decisions go against the Anglican Communion, and some have already taken action.

A week ago, the Diocese of Central Florida voted to repudiate the General Convention's vote on Robinson and same-sex blessing ceremonies and asked world Anglican leaders to intervene.