Lipscomb announces retirement, diocese extends withholding option

October 18, 2004

Bishop John Lipscomb of Southwest Florida announced at Diocesan Convention Oct. 9 he plans to retire by May 2009 and called for the election of his successor by January 2006.

Convention delegates also extended for another year the option for congregations still upset by actions of the 2003 General Convention to withhold financial support to the national church.

The call for a coadjutor came near the end of his address to convention at St. Stephen's Episcopal School in Bradenton, saying he would like to schedule a consecration before the General Convention in June 2006 in Columbus, Ohio. Lipscomb plans to have his coadjutor serve as an assistant for a full 36 months, the maximum limit allowed by national church canons, before he retires. "I fully intend to take the entire allotted time that I can have a coadjutor," Bishop Lipscomb told diocesan staff in a meeting two days before convention.

The timing would also allow Lipscomb and his coadjutor to have voice and vote at the 2008 Lambeth Conference. The conference, a meeting of the bishops of the Anglican Communion, is held once every 10 years at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The financial protest option was an extension of a resolution hammered out in 2003, which allows congregations and individuals who do not wish to support the national church to ask the diocese to redirect their money to other missionary work.

Currently, less than three cents of every dollar from a collection plate in Southwest Florida goes to the national church. Redirected funds will be split evenly between the dioceses of the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

On another matter, delegates were unable to find common ground on two similar resolutions defining the sacrament of marriage as a lifelong union between a man and a woman and that single people should practice abstinence.

Debate centered on the wording of the resolutions. The sponsor of one of the resolutions, the Rev. Sharon Lewis, said the statement simply reflected the position of the church. "It's been the position of the church for centuries," she said.

But others who disagreed with those definitions saw it as politically divisive. Deacon Denise Healy said she was speaking for many senior citizens who choose not to marry for financial reasons. "I wonder is this amendment would not disenfranchise them further than they already are."

"We don't have to alienate people," echoed the Rev. Al Chapman, "but we have to love them," to draw them back to the church. "We can't do that with condemnation."

"Pain is not all bad," the Rev. Ed Rich argued. "Just because it's hard to live up to the ideal, it does not cause us to change the ideal."

Worn down by either the long debate or the heat -- the air conditioning in the gymnasium at St. Stephen's School had broken down earlier in the day -- both resolutions were tabled indefinitely.