At a special congregational meeting on October 8, the vestry of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Edwardsville, Illinois, announced that the parish will request Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) and seek a relationship with a bishop other than Springfield Bishop Peter Beckwith.
Senior Warden Donna Ireland said the vestry made the decision "after much prayer, thought and consultation with others," according to a news release from the parish's rector, the Rev. Virginia Bennett.
"This decision is the result of a strained relationship between Bishop Beckwith and the parish and its Rector, the Rev. Virginia Bennett, over the past three years," the news release said.
"We need a shepherd for this parish," Ireland said.
Members of the congregation attending the meeting fully supported the vestry's action.
DEPO is a plan developed by the House of Bishops to accommodate congregations that, due to theological differences, do not believe that they can "receive appropriate pastoral care" from their own bishop. The bishop delegates another mutually agreed-upon bishop to provide pastoral care. DEPO provides temporary oversight while other steps toward restoring the relationship between a diocesan bishop and parish are pursued.
The news release said that St. Andrew's rector and vestry has made "repeated efforts" to reconcile with Beckwith, who has refused to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation at St. Andrew's, and rescinded the licenses of all 15 of the parish's lay eucharistic ministers.
Beckwith has criticized Bennett and the congregation since the 2003 General Convention when she voted in favor of confirming the election of Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire, according to the news release.
Beckwith has aligned the diocese with the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes (NACDP). The network was formed about five months after the 2003 General Convention by the dioceses of Albany, Central Florida, Dallas, Florida, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Quincy, Rio Grande, San Joaquin, South Carolina, Southwest Florida, Springfield and Western Kansas.
Today, Springfield and nine other dioceses (Albany, Central Florida, Dallas, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Quincy, Rio Grande, San Joaquin and South Carolina) are listed on the NACDP website as being affiliated with the network.
Springfield is one of eight of the Episcopal Church's 111 dioceses that have requested a relationship with an Anglican primate other than the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in what is being called Alternative Primatial Oversight (APO). The others are Central Florida, Dallas (which has requested a relationship with the Archbishop of Canterbury), Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Quincy, San Joaquin and South Carolina. The bishops of Fort Worth, Quincy and San Joaquin refuse to ordain women to the priesthood or deploy women priests in their dioceses.
Only the Diocese of Quincy's convention has ratified the APO requests. Dallas, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, San Joaquin, South Carolina and Springfield all have annual conventions later this year. Central Florida's convention is set for late January.
If Beckwith refuses the parish's request for DEPO, the parish can appeal to Michigan Bishop Wendell N. Gibbs Jr., the president of Province V of the Episcopal Church. Gibbs may request two other bishops, representative of divergent views, to join with him to review the situation, to consider the appeal, and to make recommendations to all parties.
More information about DEPO is available here