Conservative Episcopalians’ steady exodus from the Episcopal Church accelerated before Christmas as eight Virginia congregations—including two large, historic parishes—voted to leave the national body.
The Diocese of Virginia has lost 12 congregations and about 18 percent of its average Sunday worship attendance in recent battles over homosexuality and the authority of scripture, according to figures provided by the diocese.
The size of the breakaway parishes, their historical importance and their success at starting new congregations all sent shivers through the Episcopal Church, said influential conservative theologian Kendall Harmon. “This is terribly significant,” said Harmon of South Carolina. “When you lose large churches, you don’t just lose an individual parish, you lose a great big part of the family.”