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Church Joins Diocese of Uganda

A South Riding Episcopal church leaves the Diocese of Virginia in protest of the appointment of a gay bishop.

It has taken the Rev. Phil Ashey and his small South Riding church two years to severe ties with the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, after the national church appointed an openly gay bishop in 2003.

"For two years we have worked with the diocese. It has taken us two years to reach the conclusion that our differences at this time are irreconcilable," Ashey said.

The members of the church voted to break away from the Virginia diocese several weeks ago.

"The situation is getting worse in terms of the spiritual disarray in leadership," Ashey said. "It is a real distraction to our mission."

THE REVEREND HAS only one concern, which is to find a place to worship.

"We are walking away from property the diocese held for us," Ashey said. "It is hard to find a place to build, but we are trusting God for that."

The South Riding Church currently worships Sunday mornings at Little River Elementary School in South Riding. The congregation is made up of 90 adults and 60 children.

"We started off with about two dozen adults," Ashey said. "We have been growing ever since."

Ashey’s office is located in his home in Chantilly, but he spends a lot of time doing work at the local Starbucks.

Ashey said the church’s decision to severe ties with the diocese has little effect on a day-to-day basis.

"We are moving ahead in our mission and things are going well. It has not impacted us that much," he said.

THE SOUTH RIDING Church has joined the Diocese of Ruwenzori, Anglican Province of Uganda.

"We had relationships with missionaries before 2003. We had a visit from a Ugandan priest studying at a Virginia seminary. We took signs that we should affiliate with the Anglican community," Ashey said. "Uganda found us."

The decision to break away from the Diocese of Virginia has had a positive impact on the church, Ashey said.

"There is a greater sense of joy and it has allowed us to focus on our mission," Ashey said. "We are excited about our new partnership."

The Diocese of Virginia’s communications officer Peter Getlein was not able to be reached for comment.