Picayune Church Members Break Away - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

11/19/03

Picayune Church Members Break Away

The decision to allow an openly gay priest to become a bishop continues to make waves in Episcopal Churches across the nation and here at home. St. Paul's in Picayune is the latest to feel the effects. Several members, who say the church has become far to liberal, broke away from St. Paul's and started their own church.

Rosalie Smith showed off her new church home to her grandson Tuesday morning. She was a member of St. Paul's for more than 21 years. In fact, she helped organize the church's construction.

"I have always gone to the Episcopal Church and yet the Episcopal Church went into such a liberal side that I could no longer go along with that. I have to go with God's words and not what man's leadership would lead me into," Smith said.

Smith and about 20 others left St. Paul's and started St. Barnabas Anglican Church not to far away from St. Paul's. One of the main reasons was the Episcopal Church's stance on elevating an openly gay New Hampshire priest to Bishop this summer.

"We felt that confirmed what we already knew in our hearts. That the traditions of the Church were being watered down to focus on what is accepted as politically correct, rather than what is accepted as scriptural and morally correct," Former St. Paul's Member Suzy McDonald said.

"The church may change its outward shade, but the church of Jesus Christ will not go under" Father Bronson Bryant said.

Bryant is the interim priest at St. Paul's.

"They think our church has interpreted scripture wrongly and is not standing in a good place now, and so they've left. And I can only say, you have to go where your conscious leads you."

Ironically, the new St. Barnabas congregation will meet in Picayune's first Episcopal Church, which was constructed in 1928.

"This church makes a statement in this community. It's a solid building, it has withstood hurricanes. We've taken the mortar off the walls, we're taking the paint out of the outside so that it's back down to the church it was meant to be, and that's a statement. We're standing on the traditions that were valid then, that are still valid today," Smith said.

The renovation work is continuing at St. Barnabas while church members hold services there. They started out with just seven members, and have already grown to 28. Last Sunday, 50 people attended services.

by Al Showers

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