The tiny white clapboard Barcroft Chapel in Arlington became the new home Sunday of a little group of Eposcopalians who have left the recognized churches of their demonination in order, they say to "preserve the faith."
The congregation which is related to a small Episcipal splinter group called the United Eposcopal Church moved into the chapel Sunday after three years of gathering in motel meeting rooms and rented offices.
"The Lord has given us this church; what it will become depends on we ourselves," the Rt. Rev. Thomas J. Kleppinger, told Sunday's congregation of 25 persons.
The congregation calls itself St. Paul's Church and is, according to Kleppinger, "a traditionalist-Episcopal church, organized as a haven for those who reject the new theologies, new moralitities and new Liturgies of the present age, and wish to stand for the Biblical Anglican-Eposcopal heritage of the English Reformation."
The 33-year-old bishop who said he was consecrated by a bishop of the "Free Protestant Episcopal Church of England" said the Diocese of the interest in these splinter churches on addition to St. Pauls, a parish in Anaheim, Calif. and two chapels in Milwaukee.
Kleppinger's grouesentative of several small groups that have splintered off from the Episcopal Church in the last two decades over questions of theology.
The decision of the Episcopal Church last year to permit ordination of women and to adopt an updated version of the prayer book has stirred interest in these splinter churches on the part of those who disagree with the changes.
Ron Pearson said he and his family had moved from Christ Church in Alexandria to St. Paul's because "we didn't care for the changes that are being made in the Episcopal Church." In addition to objections to the new prayer book and women priests, he complained that the Episcopal Church was "too involved in social action and not enough in spreading the Gospel."
Wytzo Van Cammingha, who serves St. Paul's as deacon, said the church has "15 bona fide members" but that others come "who haven't made the leap of faith."
The church has a budget of "$3,000 or $4,000," Kleppinger said, which goes entirely for congregational expenses. Asked about support for mission or service work, Kleppinger said no such program exists at the present, adding with a smile: "We are our own mission."
Kleppinger said he has an independent income and draws no salary from the church.
Van Cammingha said that in addition to the prayer book and women priest issues, St. Paul's is at odds with the Episcopal Church because "we object strongly to the ordination of homosexuals. We wouldn't even allow a homosexual to be a Sunday School teacher," he said.
The Episcopal Church has taken no formal stand for or against the ordination of homosexuals, pending outcome of a study on human sexuality.
In his sermon, Kleppinger admonished the small flock to follow the Bible. "Everything we do as a church must be Bible-based," he said. "The evidence is all around us of 'labor that is in vain' because it is conducted without this authority."
Neither St. Paul's nor the Diocese of the United Episcopal Church is in communion with the mainstream of the worldwide Anglican communion as represented by the archbishop of Canterbury, Kleppinger said the diocese does belong to the larger Anglican Episcopal Council of Churches, a national body of dissenters which he said includes about 300 members in 24 parishes and missions.
The bishop expressed hope that his association would attract some of those Episcopalians distressed by present-day trends in the church.
"Hopefully," he said "we will have an outreach to those who have left the church."