Dissidents who have split with the Episcopalian Church over the ordination of women priests and modernization of the liturgy face a serious split among themselves as they try to establish a new church.
The Diocese of the Holy Trinity, by far the largest of five dioceses expected to make up the new Anglican Church in North America, is divided about whether to become part of the schismatic denomination.
The Standing Committee of the diocese met last week in Kansas City, and voted overwhelming disapproval of consecration of any bishops for the new church, including the man chosen last September as the diocese's own bishop, the Rev. James O. Mote of Denver.
Through a spokesman, Mote said he will disregard the action and proceed with the consecrations Saturday in Denver as scheduled.
In addition to Mote, the Rev. Robert Morse of San Francisco, the Rev. Peter Watterson of West Palm Beach, Fla., and the Rev. Dale Doren of Pittsburgh are scheduled to be consecrated bishops of the new church.
Mote was the first priest to break formally his ties with the Epsicopal Church after that church voted in its 1976 General Convention to ordain women and gave tentative approval to a controversial revision of the Book of Common Prayer.
The dispute within the Diocese of the Holy Trinity, a nongeographical jurisdiction formed to link dissident parishes throughout the country, centers on its ties with the emerging schismatic denomination.
"The position of the diocese of the Holy Trinity ever since it was founded is that we do not intend to become another denomination," said Phil Mayfield of Los Angeles, a member of the Standing Committee.
According to Mayfield, Holy Trinity intended to seek affiliation as a diocese with another Christian church. "We are looking for intercommunion with one of the major patriarchal sees within a catholic tradition," such as one of the Orthodox churches, the Old Catholic or Polish National Catholic Church or possibly even under Roman Catholic Church, Mayfield said.
Delegations from the dissident Episcopalians, he said, "have gotten encouragement from several of the bodies." He declined to be more specific.
A spokesman for Archbishop Jean Jadot, the Catholic Church's apostolic delegate to the United States acknowledge that representatives of the breakaway movement called at the delegation's office here last fall but said that the archbishop did not encourage further conversation.
Others in the Diocese of the Holy Trinity disagree with Mayfield's understanding of the diocese's goals.
Mayfield's viewpoint is held by "a very small minority," according to Lawrence Scofield a member of Mote's Denver parish who fields telephone calls to Mote from the press.
Scofield said the diocese plans a Synod (convention) in Denver today and predicted the diocese would disregard the action of the Standing Committee last week and formally authorize the consecrations.
Mayfield said that "we have not been nottified" of the synod session, as required by diocesan provisional canons, and that therefore "we would have to contest it."
Statistics on the size of the breakaway church are vague. Formal membership of the Diocese of the Holy Trinity, the largest of the Anglican Church in North America's five dioceses, includes "probably 21 or 22 parishes," Mayfield said, although he acknowledged that some of these probably had left Holy Trinity to link up with newer, geographically based dioceses in Midwest and Southern states.
Indications now are that only one bishop, the Rt. Rev. Albert Chambers, retired bishop of Springfield, I11., will be present for the Saturday consecrations.
Retired Bishop Ernest F. Boynton, formerly of New York, and Korean Bishop Mark Pae, who earlier ahd agreed to participate have withdrawn.
Mayfield said a delegation of a dissident Episcopalians visited the center of world Anglicanism in Great Britain last year and came away convinced that "Canterbury would never recognize another Episcopal Church in the United States."
That conviction and the unsuccessful history of Episcopal schismatic groups in the past, he indicated, was central in Holy Trinity's determination not to link with the Anglican Church in North America.
"We fear they are going to become the 28th or 29th splinter group in this country that says: 'We are the true Episcopal Church,'" Mayfield said.