Vermont church remains unified after Episcopal vote

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(Host) The leader of Vermont’s Episcopal Church says there’s no indication that last week’s controversial decisions at the church’s General Convention are creating serious divisions among Vermont Episcopalians.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) Leaders of the American Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Church are concerned about the fallout from two decisions made at last week’s convention. One confirmed the election of the church’s first gay bishop.

Church leaders also passed a resolution giving church approval for the blessing of same sex unions. The resolution leaves the decision to permit the blessings up to the bishop in each diocese. Vermont’s Episcopal clergy has conducted same sex ceremonies since the passage of the civil unions law.

Bishop Thomas Ely says the decision to bless same sex relationships lies with clergy in each of Vermont’s Episcopal parishes. He says he is not aware of any local parishes that have refused to bless same sex unions, although a number have never been asked to. Ely says he hasn’t heard of anyone planning to leave the church as a result of last week’s decisions.

(Ely) “At this point I haven’t gotten that. No one has said, ‘I’m out of here.'”

(Zind) But Ely says he has heard from unhappy parishioners and welcomes the chance to talk to any members of the church who questions last week’s decisions.

(Ely) “I have to say that the expressions of support for the decisions of General Convention have been more in terms of number. But I’m not dismissing the fact that there are within Vermont parishioners who are very concerned about the decisions that were made. Time will tell what the impact of all this is on life in the Episcopal Church in Vermont.”

(Zind) Reverend Jeanette Tweedy of Saint Andrews Church in Saint Johnsbury says her congregation generally supports the decisions reached at the General Convention. She says that where there are differences within the church, she hopes they can be reconciled as they have in the past.

(Tweedy) “We’ve moved through these similar situations before with the ordination of women and full inclusion of persons of color and women and remain hopeful.”

(Zind) Garret Keiser is the local priest at Christ Episcopal Church in Island Pond. A majority of people in the parish are supportive of the decisions

(Keiser) “I recently had one person, though not a year round member of the parish, approach me and say she’s disturbed enough about this to consider leaving the church.”

(Zind) The Island Pond Church is among the smallest Episcopal churches in Vermont. While summer visitors increase attendance, the year round congregation numbers in the twenties. Thomas Ely says in addition to the controversial decisions made at last week’s convention, Episcopal delegates also passed a resolution Ely helped write that is designed to help strengthen small churches.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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