MASSACHUSETTS: Some parishioners ready to return to Attleboro parish after others' departure

January 25, 2007

The leadership of All Saints Episcopal Church in Attleboro, Massachusetts, has been ordered by Diocese of Massachusetts Bishop Thomas Shaw to vacate the church property by January 31 because of their September 2006 decision to separate from the Episcopal Church and to align with the Province of Rwanda and join its Anglican Mission in America.

The Rev. Lance Giuffrida, rector of All Saints, said the departing parishioners will abide by the order and hold their last service at the church on January 28, then meet to decide where they will worship in the future. Meanwhile, longtime members who left long ago are waiting to return. "It's my church," Attleboro resident Ellen Parker, a lifelong member who had not been going to All Saints because of its growing conservatism under Giuffrida's leadership, told the Attleboro Sun Chronicle newspaper. Massachusetts Bishop Suffragan Gayle Elizabeth Harris said in a statement January 25 that "while this is a difficult and painful time for all involved, as Christians we are called to be witnesses of the Resurrection in all circumstances." "We, the bishops and Standing Committee of this diocese, hold it as our pastoral, spiritual, moral, fiduciary and canonical responsibility to care for those who are and wish to be within the Episcopal Church and the family of All Saints' Episcopal Church," Harris said. "We also recognize those responsibilities in relation to the assets of All Saints' Episcopal Church. All our sisters and brothers in Christ of All Saints' Church, Attleboro, those who are leaving and those who choose to stay, remain in the hearts and prayers of the bishops and the entire Diocese of Massachusetts." Harris said that a new priest will be assigned to All Saints, and that a service will be held there February 4. The Rev. Gregory Jacobs, diocesan staff officer for Urban Ministry Development, and retired Bishop Suffragan Barbara C. Harris will be present for worship that day. Last month, Shaw warned Giuffrida that the actions taken by himself and the All Saints vestry on September 18, 2006, violated church laws and covenants and his vows as a priest, and also placed the property and assets of All Saints in jeopardy. In a subsequent letter to All Saints made public this week, Shaw said the actions constituted an abandonment of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and ordered Giuffrida to turn over the keys, property and assets to the diocese next week. Giuffrida plans to abide by the order, the newspaper reported. He said about 55 of the parish's 120 member families have already signed up to be part of a new Anglican parish, and he is hoping for more. Parker said that although the controversy is being portrayed as All Saints leaving its parish building, it's really this priest and his followers who are leaving. Other longtime parishioners will be returning. "All Saints is not gone," she said. The Diocese of Massachusetts comprises about 72,300 Episcopalians worshipping in 185 congregations.