HOUSTON, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- The Vatican says it has created what amounts to a nationwide diocese for Episcopalians who convert to Catholicism in the United States.
The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter will allow ordained Episcopalian clergy members to convert and essentially take their congregations with them. Since the Episcopal Church, the main American branch of the Anglican Communion, has leaned more liberal in recent years, many conservative members of the church are looking to leave the faith.
Recently the Episcopalian Church has allowed the ordination of female and homosexual priests as well as changes in the liturgy.
The New York Times reports priests who are married may remain married and serve the church under a 1980 exemption to celibacy made by the Vatican; however, they cannot become bishops.
The collective will have its headquarters in Houston and will be headed by Jeffery N. Steenson. Steenson, formerly a bishop and father of three, left the Episcopal Church in 2007 and became a Catholic priest in 2009.
Steenson will now report directly to the Vatican as an ordinary, and will now be a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.