The controversy at Colorado Springs' Grace Episcopal Church and St. Stephen's Parish is the latest in a tense dispute among Episcopalians and their fellow Anglicans worldwide over how they should interpret what the Bible says about sexuality and other issues.
The leaders of Grace and St. Stephen's voted to join the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, a missionary diocese of the Church of Nigeria led by Archbishop Peter J. Akinola.
Armstrong has led the 2,500-member congregation for 19 years. The diocese said in a statement Jan. 3 that he had been placed on 90-day leave the previous week, following a nine-month review of the church's finances. It did not release details of the allegations against him.
Parish leaders cited the handling of Armstrong's suspension, along with the denomination's rejection of the "historic faith," as reasons for the vote.
Senior warden Jon Wroblewski said the parish had fought for a return to orthodoxy within the denomination but has lost hope in reform.
"It's clear that The Episcopal Church no longer believes in the historic, orthodox Christian faith common to all believers. It's also clear that purported Episcopal values of 'inclusion' do not apply to orthodox believers," Wroblewski said in the statement.
Several Virginia Episcopal churches voted late last year to align with Akinola, including prominent congregations in Fairfax and Falls Church. Clergy in the breakaway churches were warned by Episcopal leaders that they could be removed from the ministry.
The Episcopal Church is the U.S. wing of the 77 million-member Anglican Communion, a fellowship of churches that traces its roots to the Church of England.
Anglicans have been debating for decades how they should interpret Scripture on salvation, truth and sexuality. Those divisions reached the breaking point in 2003 when Episcopalians consecrated the church's first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.
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