Parish rector leaves Episcopal Church ELLICOTT CITY/ELKRIDGE

January 18, 1993|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Staff Writer

The rector of an Ellicott City Episcopal church has left his denomination because of what he says are irreconcilable religious differences.

"I can no longer see myself in communion with the church," said the Rev. Gary Mathewes-Green, who presided over his last Sunday service yesterday at St. Peter's Episcopal Church.

The 46-year-old rector plans to enter the Orthodox priesthood on Jan. 31 and begin establishing a mission in Catonsville.

A replacement for Father Mathewes-Green has not been found yet, Mr. Hand said. The congregation will use different priests until an interim rector can be hired in six to nine months.

In a Dec. 30 letter to his parishioners, Father Mathewes-Green wrote that "I cannot, in good conscience, serve that ministry in a denomination that, to my reading, is no longer serious about obedience to Christ."

Father Mathewes-Green said he has grown increasingly disenchanted with the Episcopal Church because he feels the denomination's leaders have abandoned the tradition and authority of the church.

He said some church leaders no longer believe in such basic tenets as the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and have even condoned homosexual marriages.

"No longer believing in the Resurrection -- that's the cornerstone of Christian belief," Father Mathewes-Green said.

"I have to belong to a church that is still in the line of the apostles," he said. "There's certain basic, non-negotiable elements to the faith."

Father Mathewes-Green, an eighth-generation Episcopalian, emphasized that his differences are not with the parish, but with the church as a whole.

"Leaving the Episcopal Church is by no means easy," said Father Mathewes-Green, who has spent three years at St. Peter's. "They were great years. We were growing in numbers, we were increasing in spirituality. My reasons for leaving have nothing to do with the parish."

But the congregation has mixed reactions to his departure, said Oliver Hand, senior warden of Saint Peter's.

"I think we're surprised and disappointed," Mr. Hand said. "He's been a very good rector to us. Obviously, we'll miss him."

Bishop Theodore Eastman of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland praised the departing rector for his service.

"He's been a good priest in the Episcopal church, he's served St. Peter's credibly," Bishop Eastman said. "I'm sorry to see him go, but I respect his decision to leave the church."

But the bishop said he did not share the priest's views of the church's direction.

"He's very pessimistic about the state of the Episcopal Church, but I wouldn't share his views of the church," Bishop Eastman said.

At the invitation of the Rev. Sudduth Cummings, Father Mathewes-Green will establish his mission in the parish hall of St. Timothy's Episcopal Church on Ingleside Avenue.

Father Cummings stressed that his invitation is not an indication that he is unhappy with the Episcopal Church.

"We extended the invitation to Gary because he's a friend and we respect him," Father Cummings said. "We're not making a political statement. We're not saying we're endorsing what he's doing."

St. Timothy's has opened its doors to other faiths before, Father Cummings said. "St. Timothy's has tried to be a good friend and neighbor."

Father Mathewes-Green will use St. Timothy's Parish Hall until he finds a permanent home in a "matter of months," Father Cummings said.

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