On Saturday 27 March 2004, moderate and liberal Episcopalians from dioceses that oppose an openly gay bishop called for church members to find common ground and tolerate differing viewpoints so the church can remain whole. The delegates from 11 conservative dioceses said at the conclusion of a three-day meeting in Atlanta they are trying to move past a debate that has caused divisions in the church. “There is a place for everybody in this church,” said the Rev. Michael Russell, rector of All Souls’ Episcopal Church in San Diego. “Because a vote was taken that a group doesn’t like isn’t a reason to leave the church. It’s a reason to stay together in conversation.” The meeting was attended by liberal and moderate Episcopalian clergy and laypeople from conservative dioceses in California, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, New York, Illinois, Texas, South Carolina and Florida. They are members of organizations known as “via media” groups formed mainly to support unity in the national church.
Conservatives have heavily criticized leaders who consecrated openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire in November. They have created a national organization called the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes. The network opposes same-sex unions and the ordination of gay clergy. Members have said they plan to defy church leaders and contend for control of parishes and dioceses, which could lead to a schism in the national church.