What next for the Episcopal Church?
The next few months will be crucial for the new, conservative denomination formed last week. They hope to gain the blessing of their spiritual leader, the Archbishop of Canterbury, but the request is highly unusual. "That would be unprecedented, for two churches in the same geographical region - not in communion with each other - to be in communion with Canterbury," explains The Reverend Jo Bailey Wells, director of the Anglican Episcopal House of Studies at Duke Divinity School. "You might think of it like a couple who divorced who continue to want to be members of the same golf club. And who determines who should remain member and who should leave? Do they have to work out it themselves or is it the club that determines? And of course the club would be the Anglican Communion with the archbishop of Canterbury as leader among leaders." Wells says whatever the Archbishop decides, the divisions have had a lasting impact on local congregations. "The pressures have been financial because many people have left the Episcopal Church over this issue - whether they've split off to join other churches or they've just left the church," says Wells. "I don't know of any local congregation that has not felt the pressure." But she says there have also been people joining the Episcopal Church in recent years, because they're pleased to see it welcome gays and lesbians.