By Jeffrey Walton
Juicy Ecumenism

A once-leading conservative Episcopal parish has called a man in a same-sex marriage as its new rector.

The Falls Church Episcopal in Falls Church, Virginia, outside of Washington, DC, announced May 11 that the historic parish will welcome Fr. Walter Burley Stattmann “Burl” Salmon as its new rector in July. He is married to another man.

The church, established in 1732, famously split in late 2006 after more than 90 percent of members voted to depart the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, citing theological disagreements with the Episcopal Church. It had been the largest congregation measured by weekly attendance in the diocese and counted U.S. President George Washington among its past vestry members.

A congregation remaining within the Episcopal Church reorganized at a neighboring Presbyterian church in 2007 and assumed occupancy of the historic church campus in 2012 after a Virginia district court awarded ownership to the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. The Falls Church Anglican worships at a newly constructed church building one mile away from the historic church.

The pre-split Falls Church was prominent in opposing the consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire in 2003. Robinson was the first openly partnered gay man to be elected and consecrated a bishop in the Episcopal Church and worldwide Anglican Communion. Robinson’s election by the New Hampshire Diocese and subsequent consent process by the denomination’s House of Bishops escalated an ongoing fight around the authority of scripture within the worldwide family of churches descended from the Church of England.

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