Who are they? The worldwide Anglican Communion consists of about 80 million people and includes the Episcopal Church USA. The departing theologically conservative people in the United States and Canada call themselves Anglicans.
What’s it about? The San Joaquin diocese, with 47 parishes, split into two factions: The Episcopalians kept about six parish properties and established other small parishes, while the departing Anglicans left the national church with about 40 parishes and the vast majority of the parishioners. There are two parallel San Joaquin dioceses, one Episcopal and one Anglican, and each has its own bishop.
The great divide: The national Episcopal Church became more liberal in its theology, ordaining gay clergy and with national leaders stating that Jesus is not the only way to salvation/heaven and that the Bible is not the inerrant word of God. Hundreds of theologically conservative parishes and four dioceses across the country disagree and decide to leave the national church. Unlike all other major Christian denominations, which have splintered more than once over similar issues, this is the first split of the Episcopal Church.
The argument: The Episcopal Church has sued all departing parishes and dioceses, saying that the property was established to serve as Episcopalian bodies. The Anglicans said the property was held under the bishop’s ownership and that under California’s neutral property laws, the bishop and parishes had the right to leave the national church and take the property with them.
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By the numbers: The Episcopalian diocese said it has 19 parishes and slightly more than 2,000 parishioners. The Anglicans report 42 parishes with more than 5,000 members and an average Sunday attendance of about 3,000.
Postscript: The Rev. Gene Robinson was installed as Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire in 2003. He was the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church, and his elevation to that post sparked the nationwide split. On May 5, the Episcopal News Service reported that Robinson, now retired, announced that he and his husband, Mark Andrew, are getting a divorce.