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New Anglican Denomination Seats Diocese In Amesbury01:42
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Bishop Robert Duncan welcomes attendees to the first worship gathering of the new Anglican Church in North America, held at the Wheaton Evangelical Free Church in Wheaton, Ill., on Dec. 3, 2008. (AP)
Bishop Robert Duncan welcomes attendees to the first worship gathering of the new Anglican Church in North America, held at the Wheaton Evangelical Free Church in Wheaton, Ill., on Dec. 3, 2008. (AP)

Amesbury is a quintessentially beautiful New England town.

A river passes over rocks and runs through the downtown area, where there's also a converted mill, an array of restaurants and coffee shops — and now, a new cathedral.

On Thursday night, a religious denomination called the Anglican Church in North America will hold a Mass to proclaim that cathedral, the All Saints Cathedral, as the seat of its New England diocese.

The church's members broke away from the much larger Episcopal Church of America about a year ago, mainly over the election of an openly gay bishop. All Saints will be the center for the church's 16 parishes across New England.

"This building right over here is a former convent," said Brian Barry, a 26-year-old, newly ordained priest, as he walks around All Saints Church.

"It's not being set up as a protest against anything, but rather just as a way of reorganizing ourselves and getting back to the work that we as a church been called to for 2,000 years."
-- Father Brian Barry

"Our campus has four buildings actually, and this entire building was purchased from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese. Right here is a former school building," Barry said.

The controversy that bore Barry's church was the election of Gene Robinson, an out gay man who lives with his partner, to the post of bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire.

Members of the new church say Robinson's election broke with 2,000 years of belief. Leaders also say the mainstream Episcopal church was drifting too far away from core values.

Earlier this week, Barry sat down in the side room of All Saints — along with more than 100 delegates of the Anglican Church in North America from all over the country. They were gathered for the new church's very first national convention since it was first formed in Texas.

"It's not being set up as a protest against anything, but rather just as a way of reorganizing ourselves and getting back to the work that we as a church been called to for 2,000 years," Barry said.

Barry added that he's aware of the controversy surrounding the new church.

"We can empathize with that pain largely because many of our people have gone through a lot of pain in the last several years," Barry explained.

He said it wasn't easy for the members of the new church to lead their old communities behind.

"They have had to make really difficult decisions to sometimes walk away from places where they were married, and where they've spent decades and decades of life. But they made that decision because of they thought it was the best way of remaining faithful," Barry said.

Still, Barry and other members of the Anglican Church in North America say they hope to reconcile with their Episcopalian brethren one day.

This program aired on June 10, 2010.

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