From the Hartford Courant:
Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision this week not to hear the case of a conservative Episocopal parish in Groton, Conn. that split from the larger church, Connecticut’s Episcopal bishop said Wednesday that the diocese is trying to reconcile with the breakaway congregation.
The high court said Monday that it would not hear arguments about whether the Bishop Seabury Church in Groton should have to return property to the Episcopal diocese, which it left in 2007. The state Supreme Court ruled last year that the 136-year-old parish had to return the property — the 6.5-acre church site, the sanctuary and its contents.
Bishop Ian T. Douglas of the Connecticut Diocese said Wednesday that of the five other parishes in the state that broke from the church, two have closed down, two have rejoined the church under his supervision and another is negotiating its return under supervision.
“The rate of parishes leaving has been in decline,” Douglas said. “If anything it’s been just the opposite, parishes seeking to have reconciled relationships.”
The Episcopal Church has more than 170 parishes in Connecticut.
Douglas said he is now starting talks with the leader of the Groton congregation, Father Ronald Gauss, about five options the parish has for returning to the church.
Those options could allow the parish to be overseen by Douglas or another bishop within the Episcopal Church. The Groton parishioners also could become part of the Catholic Church but still be affiliated with the Episcopal Church and then rent their current building from the Episcopal diocese.
The Groton parish could even incorporate as a congregation separate from the Episcopal Church, but Douglas said renting buildings to groups that do that has been “generally discouraged” across the church, meaning Seabury would likely have to move from its current premises.
Or, Douglas said, the Groton parishoners could simply leave the Episcopal Church and worship elsewhere.
But he said the diocese would not object to having a parish that disagrees with some of its policies, such as ordaining homosexual bishops, if its members hold the same core Christian beliefs.
“We do not all march to the exact same tone in the way that we subscribe to our faith, yet we all would subscribe to the same creedal foundations of the faith,” Douglas said.
If Bishop Seabury Church in Groton were to reconcile with the Diocese, Gauss would most likely have to leave, as he was deposed of his standing in the Episcopal Church when his parish broke away. Read entire story here.