22 priests deposed in Florida

The Florida Times-Union of Jacksonville, Florida reports on the deposition of 22 priests in the Diocese of Florida by Bishop Samuel Howard.

A Jacksonville bishop has sacked 19 priests and three deacons from his Northeast Florida diocese, saying they abandoned the Episcopal Church by joining or starting parishes aligned with theologically conservative bishops in places as far away as Africa and South America.

The March 25 action may largely represent the culmination of nearly five years of discord between Howard and theologically conservative Episcopalians who have joined a national movement abandoning the denomination since an openly gay New Hampshire priest was elected a bishop in 2003.

Being deposed means the ministers can no longer function as clergy in any Episcopal church and that they can no longer contribute to the denomination’s pension fund, Howard said.

The Rev. Neil Lebhar, one of the deposed priests, said the ministers can both still draw their pensions and contribute to retirement funds created for ministers who have left the denomination.

Howard said he was merely making official what the ministers have done by aligning themselves with Anglican bishops. He inhibited, or suspended, the clergy six months before deposing them to give them time to reconsider.

“They did not desire to remain in the Episcopal Church and this just makes it official,” Howard said. “Not one of them came to me and said: ‘I want to be an Episcopalian.’ “

Read the article here.

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