LOS ANGELES -- In his first public statement on the current secession crisis, the national presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church yesterday criticized an Anglican diocese in Uganda for taking over jurisdiction of three conservative breakaway parishes in Southern California.
The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold, presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church, said he had written his counterpart, Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi, head of the Anglican Church in Uganda, to say he was "troubled" by the move.
"The bishops of the Anglican Communion and the primates [archbishops or presiding bishops of national churches] have made it clear that bishops are to respect the boundaries of one another's dioceses and provinces," Griswold said in a statement.
He also said he was "saddened by the action of clergy and members of the three congregations . . . and their desire to separate themselves from the life of the Episcopal Church," which is the American arm of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
Griswold's relatively mild tone, not unusual for public church pronouncements, belied the gravity with which denominational leaders view the recent events.
Within the last week, the three breakaway parishes -- St. James Church in Newport Beach, All Saints Church in Long Beach, and St. David's Church in North Hollywood -- said they had left the national Episcopal Church and placed themselves under the jurisdiction of one of Orombi's bishops, the Rt. Rev. Evans Kisekka of the Diocese of Luweero.
Tensions over differing interpretations of scriptural teachings and views of homosexuality have prompted other conservative Episcopalians to seek out sympathetic conservative Anglican bishops in Southeast Asia and South America.
But such decisions go against centuries of church tradition and law, which make the territory of a bishop inviolate.
Los Angeles Episcopal Bishop J. Jon Bruno has asked Griswold and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to intercede and request that the Ugandan church respect the sovereignty of the six-county Diocese of Los Angeles. Bruno has also warned the breakaway priests that they faced being defrocked if they did not return to the Episcopal Church.
In his pastoral statement last week, Bruno said: "The fact that a bishop from another autonomous church within the Anglican Communion has chosen to exercise oversight in this diocese flies in the face of our ethos as Anglicans and of the Catholic unity of the church."