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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, February 4, 2006

Request for different leader helps healing

 •  Dispute tears at heart of church

By Mary Kaye Ritz
Advertiser Religion & Ethics Writer

Prompted by a divergence with the Hawai'i diocese over the ordination of openly gay clergy and blessing same-sex marriages, Calvary Episcopal Church has taken the unusual step of asking for a different pastoral leader.

Under an agreement put forth by the national House of Bishops, the church was given the option of asking a different bishop to perform duties such as confirmations, which usually are done by Bishop Richard Chang of the Hawai'i diocese.

Their new choice to conduct the ceremonies is Bishop Edward Salmon of South Carolina.

However, Chang's annual visit to the church on Feb. 12 will go on as planned.

"The vestry has decided to welcome him as the celebrant and preacher at both morning services knowing that this may be difficult for some, yet knowing we wish to live into the aloha spirit of the ... agreement," wrote the Rev. Joe Carr in the February church newsletter.

The Kane'ohe church has been at odds with the Hawai'i diocese since 2003, when Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, who is gay, had his ordination consecrated at the national Episcopal convention.

About a year ago, Calvary joined forces with a network of churches protesting gay clergy and same-sex union blessings, the Anglican Communion Network. Salmon also is part of that network, explained Warren Na'ai, senior warden at Calvary.

"Bishop Salmon comes from a similar theological background as people in Calvary Episcopal Church," Carr said.

On Jan. 1, Calvary took the further step of seeking a different bishop.

While on the face of it, the move seems to be divisive, it's actually less divisive than it could be. The Kane'ohe church will remain under the jurisdiction of the bishop of Hawai'i and remains part of the Episcopal Diocese of Hawai'i.

The House of Bishops had offered a choice for churches who were "not of a common mind concerning human sexuality," an agreement that allows a different bishop to oversee church rites. Carr said Chang had produced the names of four bishops, including Salmon's. If those had been unacceptable to Calvary, Chang was also willing to look at others.

Salmon was a member of the Anglican Communion Network, but the other three weren't although they were "closer to Calvary's position," Chang said.

Both Na'ai and Carr praised Chang and called him "gracious" and "tolerant" during this trying time.

"Our goal all along is to remain in communion with other churches," Na'ai said. "We haven't said 'Fine, we're taking our toys and leaving,' (in part) because our bishop has been so gracious."

Will the reception be chilly at next weekend's visit? Not at all, Carr said.

"We may disagree, but we've known each other for a long time and there's a mutual respect," Carr said.

Chang is hopeful, too.

"The purpose of this is to continue the unity of the church and continue to work towards reconciliation," Chang said. "It's a provision that I think will help to keep the people with the life of the diocese. It's not a new thing. Before the whole thing of human sexuality, this approach was used in several diocese before (over the issue of women bishops)."