Diocese votes to leave Episcopal Church

Dec. 8, 2007 at 6:24 PM

FRESNO, Calif., Dec. 8 (UPI) -- An Episcopal diocese in California voted overwhelmingly Saturday to leave the church, becoming the first in the United States to make the drastic move.

The diocese of San Joaquin plans to align with the Anglican province of the Southern Cone, which includes Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, Episcopal Life reported. The diocese would remain "a constituent member of the Anglican Communion and in full communion with the See of Canterbury," the resolution approved Saturday said.

San Joaquin is one of three dioceses in the Episcopal Church that refuses to ordain women. But the breaking issue was homosexuality, especially the decision in 2003 to consecrate Gene Robinson, an openly gay man in a committed relationship, as bishop of New Hampshire.

"This is a historic moment, a vote for freedom," Bishop John-David Schofield said.

The vote was 103-10 among lay delegates to the convention and 70-12 among the clergy.

The diocese has 47 congregations with about 8,500 members. Schofield said he expects five congregations to choose to remain with the Episcopal Church.

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