Potomac Falls Episcopal Church is the third Loudoun County Episcopal church to break ties with the American Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia.
The Rev. Jack Grubbs, leader of the Sterling church, proposed the idea to split from the American Episcopal Church in fall 2006. Grubbs said he made the decision when he noticed other Episcopal church leaders around the country moving farther and farther away from the Bible as the "ultimate authority."
The decision to split came three-and-a-half years after the American Episcopal Church appointed an openly gay man bishop, Gene Robinson, to its New Hampshire diocese.
"Our church is in a different place," he said.
GRUBBS SPENT many days, and nights, praying for the answer as to whether his congregation should break ties with the Virginia Diocese, he said.
Potomac Falls Episcopal Church wasn’t the only congregation searching for answers.
The Falls Church in Falls Church and Truro Church in Fairfax put together a pamphlet entitled "40 Days of Discernment, a Congregational Program for Choosing a Way Forward." The information package is a way for churches to explore the idea of breaking away from the American Episcopal Church.
Grubbs led his congregation in group discussions and read from materials from the package.
"It was a long process, not a hasty decision," Grubbs said. "It was a decision that included a lot of prayer and discussion."
The Potomac Falls congregation, made up of approximately 100 members, voted over one week in December on whether to keep ties or break away from the American Episcopal Church.
"We wanted to make sure everyone got a chance to vote," Grubbs said.
The vote to disaffiliate from the American Episcopal Church passed, with 91 percent of voters in favor of the decision. Fifty-nine people voted.
Tom Donnelly helped launch Potomac Falls Episcopal Church in September 2001.
Donnelly said the decision to break away from the American Episcopal Church was "a long time coming."
"It’s not all about the situation in New Hampshire," he said.
Donnelly said he participated in the vote.
"It was incredibly fair," he said. "No pressure one way or another."
POTOMAC FALLS Episcopal Church still plans to worship at Horizon Elementary School, at 10 a.m., Sundays.
The church is now affiliated with Concocation of Anglicans in Northern America (CANA), under the leadership of U.S.-based Bishop Martyn Minns.
"CANA is still connected with the world-wide Episcopal church," Grubbs said.
Both The Falls Church and Truro Church are members of CANA.
The Church of the Holy Spirit joined the Anglican Church of Uganda in February 2006 and South Riding Church left the Virginia Diocese in November 2005, in protest of the diocese’s appointment of an openly gay bishop in 2003.