RICHMOND, Va., Aug. 3 (UPI) -- An Episcopal bishop in Virginia has defrocked 20 priests he said "abandoned the communion" of the church, the Washington Times reported Friday.
Bishop Peter J. Lee ousted the former clergy earlier this week after they quit the denomination in December in protest of the 2003 consecration of openly gay, New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson.
Lee signed documents Wednesday defrocking the priests months after 11 churches and their clergy agreed to leave the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and the denomination.
The bishop issued an "inhibition" order in January forbidding the clergy affiliated with these churches from functioning in his diocese as Episcopal priests.
He also gave them six months to change their minds.
Sources in the Anglican District of Virginia, a new religious body formed by the departing churches, told the Times the defrocking of conservative clergy is meaningless.
"This announcement from the Diocese of Virginia is like an employer trying to fire someone who has already quit," ADV Vice Chairman Jim Oakes said.
"Our clergy have remained steadfast in their faith, and have fully embarked on their journey with the worldwide Anglican Communion by joining ADV and the Convocation of Anglicans in North America."