Plano, Texas Dissident Episcopalians upset about the consecration of a gay bishop formed an unprecedented national protest group Tuesday -- a network of conservatives who pledged to work with one another and oppose church leadership.
Yet the creation of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes stopped short of a schism with the Episcopal Church, raising the prospect of church-by-church fights for authority and control.
"This has been, for us, a glorious and historic day," said Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan, who was elected to head the network.
A church spokesman countered that the movement, which can claim to represent roughly a 10th of the denomination's 2.3 million members, would be more worrisome if it had greater support.
The network's founding charter, approved unanimously by about 100 delegates from 12 dioceses and other parts of the nation, said decisions by the Episcopal Church "have departed from the historic faith and order and have brought immense harm."
The group said it "shall operate in good faith within the constitution of the Episcopal Church," and it would "constitute a true and legitimate expression of the worldwide Anglican Communion."
The Anglican Communion is the global federation of churches that trace their roots back to the Church of England -- the Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch. The majority of overseas Anglican leaders oppose ordaining gays, but traditionalists are a minority in the United States.
Network leaders contend they're not leaving the Episcopal Church but the church left them when it began allowing gay clergy and blessings for same-sex couples. November's consecration of openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson escalated the issue.
Robinson was traveling and could not be reached for comment, his spokesman Mike Barwell said.
The network's diocesan representatives must now return home and get formal approval from local church leaders before their areas officially join the network.
The dioceses that sent delegates to Plano are based in Salina, Kan.; Albany, N.Y.; Pittsburgh; Charleston, S.C.; Jacksonville and Orlando, Fla.; Peoria and Springfield, Ill.; Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas; Albuquerque, N.M.; and Fresno, Calif.