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By Dawn Wolfe Gutterman
FLINT – An Episcopal priest claims he was not ousted from the church over homosexuality despite news reports to the contrary.
According to an Aug. 5 Flint Journal report, the Rev. Eugene Geromel, Vicar of St. Bartholomew’s Church in Clayton Township, was removed as an Episcopal priest by Bishop Edwin Leidel “largely because of his opposition to the church’s acceptance of homosexuals.”
Not so, according to the people on both sides of the controversy.
Geromel’s congregation, St. Bartholomew’s Church, voted to leave the Episcopal church in 2000, according to both Geromel and the Rev. J. Thomas Downs, a spokesperson for the Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Michigan.
“When priests are deposed it can be a thousand different things. In [Geromel’s] case – this action on his part reflected many years of dissatisfaction with the Episcopal Church,” Downs said.
“For us, the issue is the authority of Scripture and how a church makes its decisions,” Geromel said. “One of the things I found frustrating about dealing with reporters was that they wanted to make this an issue over homosexuality.”
Geromel expressed frustration with an organization that has been supporting him, Forward in Faith, over their portrayal of the deposition as being caused by a disagreement between Geromel and Leidel over acceptance of homosexuality.
Forward in Faith, an organization of traditionalist Episcopals, was originally formed in part due to traditionalistsÕ disagreement with the church over the ordination of women, according to both Geromel and documents on the Forward in Faith Web site. Geromel is a past president of the organization.
For Geromel, the disagreement that led to the split is about “how we make decisions as a body of Christ, and it has to be based on the tradition of the church and holy Scripture.”
“There is another overriding issue and that is that those of us who are traditionalists are being pushed out of the church. For over fifteen years canons have been changed to deny us a place in the church, to deny traditionalists a place to go to seminary, to enter into parishes – because we believe the things that were demanded to be believed thirty years ago in terms of the order of the church, the faith of the church and the ordained ministry of the church,” he added.
While Geromel’s disagreements with Leidel involve acceptance of gays, that issue is merely fraction of an overall controversy that includes the ordination of women and how decisions are made not only in the Episcopal Church, but in the Anglican communion as a whole.