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Md. Episcopal church to become Catholic

Washington Post / June 7, 2011

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WASHINGTON — An Episcopal church in Bladensburg, Md., has decided to become the first in the country to convert to Roman Catholicism under new Vatican rules, the Episcopal Diocese of Washington announced yesterday.

St. Luke’s, a small, tightknit congregation founded in 1895, had been thinking about becoming Roman Catholic since 2009. Last year, in the wake of a remarkable bid by the Vatican to reach out to disaffected Anglicans, it made an overture to the local Catholic Archdiocese.

The church has more than 100 members and a tradition dating back to the turbulent Anglican separation from the Roman Catholic church during the 16th-century Protestant Reformation.

The conversion helps “bridge and heal a wound that has existed between Rome and Anglicanism for nearly five hundred years,’’ the rector at St. Luke’s, the Rev. Mark Lewis, said on the church’s website.

In January, the St. Luke’s vestry affirmed a decision to become Catholic, and on Sunday the parish community voiced its approval. Only one family expressed reservations, Lewis said.

The transition was made possible by the Catholic Church’s creation in 2009 of “ordinariates,’’ separate units designed to receive Anglicans into the Catholic Church while preserving their liturgy and spiritual heritage, including married priests.

At the time, the Anglican Communion had been racked by years of conflict over the ordination of female and gay clergy and other scriptural disagreements. Those conflicts prompted some conservative Episcopal congregations in the United States to break away from the denomination and led to lengthy court battles over church property.