New Denomination Consecrates Former Episcopal Priests as Bishops

Episcopal News Service. April 1, 1993 [93058]

Retired Episcopal Bishop Donald Davies and bishops of so-called "continuing churches" consecrated two bishops for the recently formed Episcopal Missionary Church (EMC) in Oklahoma City on March 26, closing a chapter in a protracted struggle between a group of traditionalists and the Episcopal Church.

To fulfill an apostolic tradition that requires the participation of three bishops in the consecration of new bishops, Davies was assisted by two coconsecrators -- the Rev. Robert Kennaugh and the Rev. Stephen Clark, bishops of the Anglican Rite Jurisdiction of America, one of the so-called "continuing churches."

Davies and the bishops consecrated the Rev. S. Patrick Murphy of Houston and the Rev. Leo Combes of Richmond, Virginia -- both former Episcopal priests who had renounced their orders.

According to a press release issued by the EMC, eight bishops representing five different "continuing Anglican jurisdictions" participated in the laying on of hands for the new bishops, which was held before a congregation of 250 people in a Roman Catholic retreat center in Oklahoma City.

'Faithful remnant'

The EMC, formed when Davies and other traditionalists bolted from the Episcopal Church last November, is the latest of several groups that have separated over matters of polity, policy and resistance to changes that have occurred in the Episcopal Church, such as revision of the Book of Common Prayer and the ordination of women to the priesthood. Officials within the EMC report that it includes about 30 parishes nationwide.

In an interview with a reporter, Davies described the EMC as "the faithful remnant who are clinging to the basic teachings of our church and our Lord," in contrast to the Episcopal Church which, he said, has sold out to cultural norms. "We decided there was no future for us [in the Episcopal Church] we declared our independence."

MDA was never canonically recognized

The consecration of bishops for the new denomination opened a new chapter for the group of traditionalists that had originally tried to form a nongeographic diocese within the Episcopal Church. The organization, known as the Missionary Diocese of the Americas (MDA), was comprised of small parishes of formerly unchurched persons and inactive or disgruntled Episcopalians. The MDA was never canonically recognized in the Episcopal Church.

In a November 18 letter to Presiding Bishop Edmond L. Browning, Davies explained the reason for his departure, citing Episcopal Church canons for "abandonment of the a bishop" who formally joins a religious body not in communion with the Episcopal Church. In a December 18 letter, Browning formally suspended Davies as a bishop. According to Episcopal Church canons, Davies will likely be deposed by the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops if he does not reverse his decision to leave the church within six months of the date he was suspended.

Davies was criticized throughout the Episcopal Church when he crossed diocesan boundaries to minister to MDA parishes without permission of local Episcopal bishops -- an act that violates Episcopal Church canons. Davies admitted that the dispute was a significant factor in his eventual departure from the church. "I was breaking the canons of the Episcopal Church, which did bother me," he told reporters.

The former bishop of Dallas, first bishop of Fort Worth and director of the MDA, Davies was a retired bishop in good standing in the Episcopal Church when he broke ranks and formed the new denomination. He was elected presiding bishop of the EMC at the time of its formation last fall.

based on a report by Pat Gilliland of the Daily Oklahoman