|A spiritual house
Split: Members of St. Timothy's Episcopal Church
upset by the installation of an openly gay bishop form a new
By Frank Langfitt
Originally published November 10,
After nearly 27 years as a parishioner, Bill Meisheid
left St. Timothy's Episcopal Church yesterday.
Communion, he stood up in the Catonsville church and asked
Maryland's Suffragan Bishop John L. Rabb, who was visiting, if he
rejected the recent consecration of a gay man to serve as a bishop
in the Episcopal Church.
said he did not and soon afterward, Meisheid walked out. Then he
drove a couple of miles to worship at a gymnasium with dozens of
former St. Timothy's members who had left the parish and the
Episcopal Church in protest earlier this fall.
"There is no
chance for dialogue on this issue," said Meisheid, 56, a technical
writer from Oella, during coffee hour after the service in the gym.
"It's black and white; it's right and wrong."
journey yesterday provides a glimpse of what a divided parish can
look like in the Episcopal Church, which faces one of its toughest
challenges in years. This month, the church consecrated Bishop V.
Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, to lead the diocese of New
The move has infuriated tradition-minded
Episcopalians, who say that Scripture clearly opposes homosexual
behavior. Some Episcopalians have vowed to leave the church, setting
the stage for what could be a costly legal battle over church
St. Timothy's is one of the most conservative
churches in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland and is the only one to
split over the issue of Robinson's ordination. Members such as
Meisheid have left to form a new parish -- Emmaus Anglican Church --
with their former rector, the Rev. Steven R. Randall. They have made
no claims to St. Timothy's property and meet each Sunday in the
gymnasium of nearby Bishop Cummins Memorial Reformed Episcopal
More than 160 people attended the 10 a.m. service
yesterday at Emmaus, some of them Episcopalians from other parishes
angered by Robinson's consecration. Sitting on folding chairs
beneath a pair of Plexiglas backboards, parishioners read from
Bibles they had brought from home and sang hymns projected on a
screen in front.
"Everything we have is borrowed," said
Randall, who resigned from St. Timothy's a couple of months ago
after giving a sermon in which he compared the Episcopal bishops who
supported Robinson to the hijackers of 9/11. "We left with nothing,
just a few old hymnals."
Perhaps 70 people attended St.
Timothy's 9 a.m. service yesterday, a considerable drop from average
attendance earlier this year.
A vestryman politely requested
that a reporter not interview parishioners and leave the property.
He said the congregation had suffered through a difficult split, and
members didn't want to talk.
Rabb said his visit was
unrelated to the dispute over Robinson and had been scheduled long
ago. He said the parish is trying to rebound.
"There is a lot
of commitment and energy in that congregation," said Rabb in a phone
interview afterward. "They've been through pain, but they are not
dissuaded and they aren't giving in."
The Rev. Arthur E.
Wooley Jr. is leading St. Timothy's as interim rector. Rabb said the
parish would issue a mission statement soon charting its
In some ways, Emmaus is already moving ahead.
Yesterday, Randall announced that the fledgling parish would join
the Anglican Mission in America, a missionary organization that was
established in 2000 and has 50 churches.
The Episcopal Church
represents the U.S. branch of the 75 million-member Anglican
Communion. The Anglican Mission works to create new U.S. churches
separate from the Episcopal Church, but loyal to Anglican
archbishops in the developing world.
The Anglican Mission is
an outgrowth of a theological division between the Global North --
the United States, Canada and Western Europe -- and the Global South
-- parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America -- which tend to be more
traditional and conservative on issues of scriptural interpretation
Yesterday, one of the Anglican Mission's
U.S.-based bishops, the Rt. Rev. Thaddeus Barnum, spoke to Emmaus
parishioners about the importance of sticking to their principles
when other dissident parishes have declined to break with the
Episcopal Church for fear of losing their property.
children are watching and wondering: 'Does anyone stand for the
truth today?'" Barnum preached. "My children need to see leaders who
will lead to the path of righteousness."
Several former St.
Timothy's parishioners said they were sorry to leave their church
behind, but said that their faith was more important than real
"We are the church," said Nancy Brown, 65, a Woodlawn
resident who had been a member of St. Timothy's since 1978. "You can
worship the Lord anywhere."
Copyright © 2003, The Baltimore
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Rev. Steven R. Randall , Rt. Rev.
Thaddeus Barnum (Sun photo by
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