A request by presiding Bishop John M. Allin of the American Episcopal Church to address a nationwide gathering of dissident Episcopalians next week in St. Louis was turned down.
The first national meeting of the Fellowship of Concerned Churchmen will bring together several hundred Episcopalians who are threatening a split from the 2.9-million-member church in protest against women priests and changes in the Book of Common Prayer.
Last month Bishop Allin met at his invitation, with five priests active in the dissident movement, in an effort to head off schism. The conversations were "marked by cordiality and an open exchange of views," according to a formal statement issued at the end of the day-long talks.
But Bishop Allin, who himself opposed women priests prior to last year's church-wide vote to ordain women, was rebuffed in his efforts to address the St. Louis meeting.
In a special statement issued before the St. Louis meeting Bishop Allin expressed the hope that "no one will decide to leave" the church, despite disagreement with some actions of the national body.
According to the Associated Press, 16 congregations across the country have already withdrawn from the Episcopal Church. More are expected to do so once an alternative national structure to which they can relate is created.
Other equally adamant opponents of opening the priesthood to women are resolved to stay in the church and work to reverse the decision to ordain women.
At least eight priests nationwide face disciplinary actions growing out of their resistance to the national church policy on women priests.
A group of dissident parishes and priests have fored a provisional "diocese of the Holy trinity," headed by the retired bishop of Springfield, Ill., Bishop A. Chambers.