Episcopalians throughout the six-county Southern California region open a yearlong observance this weekend of the 100th anniversary of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.
Leading the celebration at the diocese's annual convention in Riverside will be the Rt. Rev. Fredrick H. Borsch, bishop of the Los Angeles diocese, and the Most Rev. Edmund Lee Browning, presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church in the United States.
The Episcopal Church is one of 28 self-governing churches affiliated with the worldwide, 70-million-member Anglican Communion, whose spiritual head is the Archbishop of Canterbury of the Church of England. The archbishop, the Most Rev. George Carey, is scheduled to be in Los Angeles next May to join in the local diocese's centennial observances.
Like the national Episcopal Church, the local diocese has been buffeted by controversies over the ordination of women and gays to the priesthood, and tensions between evangelical and Anglo-Catholic Episcopalians.
The centennial celebration is intended, in part, to build a sense of unity among the diverse and at times contentious factions among both clergy and lay members, said diocesan spokesman Bob Williams.
Borsch, who has emphasized youth outreach and a multicultural ministry and supports the ordination of women and gays, said he believes the diocese is up to the task.
"To do these priority ministries. . . we . . . [cannot] be caught up in culture wars or debilitating church struggles," Borsch told the diocesan convention on Friday. "It is this faith which takes us beyond any divisions of ethnicity, gender, culture, orientation sexually, class or politics which might otherwise divide us."
At its founding Dec. 3, 1895, there were 8,000 baptized members and 16 parishes. The diocese has grown to 85,000 members in 148 parishes in Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
Today, the local diocese has 450 priests, 40 schools, the Good Samaritan Hospital, a variety of multicultural and youth ministries, outreaches to the homeless and poor, and AIDS ministries.