A group of conservative bishops met on Wednesday at the Resurrection Anglican Church in West Chicago, Ill. Image Credit: Sally Ryan for The New York Times
Tradition-Based Episcopal Church Moves On
Ok, so it is out with the new and in with the old.
The Episcopal Church, in this new century, has had to endure many assaults to its traditions and teachings from very liberal quarters. These forces sought to redefine many of the tenants of what a tradition based Christian faith church should be to the people it served.
Even though the majority of members in the Episcopalian community here in North America (as well as the rest of the world) believe in the centuries old traditions and teaching interpretations found in the Holy Bible, the leadership in North America has seen fit to hijack a once proud derivative of the Catholic Church and take it to an unrecognizable form of itself.
Gender, sexual definition, and right-to-life (abortion) issues lead the changes the new leadership have chosen to tackle and these moves threaten to break this pursuit of Christian tradition apart.
The liberal leadership feel it is more important to affect these traditions while the balance of the Episcopal teaching community chooses to defect from this leadership in order to hold on to what they believe defines the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.
This from the New York Times -
Episcopal Split as Conservatives Form New Group
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN, New York Times - Published: December 3, 2008
WHEATON, Ill. — Conservatives alienated from the Episcopal Church announced on Wednesday that they were founding their own rival denomination, the biggest challenge yet to the authority of the Episcopal Church since it ordained an openly gay bishop five years ago.
The move threatens the fragile unity of the Anglican Communion, the world’s third-largest Christian body, made up of 38 provinces around the world that trace their roots to the Church of England and its spiritual leader, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The conservatives intend to seek the approval of leaders in the global Anglican Communion for the province they plan to form. If they should receive broad approval, their effort could lead to new defections from the Episcopal Church, the American branch of Anglicanism.
In the last few years, Episcopalians who wanted to leave the church but remain in the Anglican Communion put themselves under the authority of bishops in Africa and Latin America. A new American province would give them a homegrown alternative.
It would also result in two competing provinces on the same soil, each claiming the mantle of historical Anglican Christianity. The conservatives have named theirs the Anglican Church in North America. And for the first time, a province would be defined not by geography, but by theological orientation.
“We’re going through Reformation times, and in Reformation times things aren’t neat and clean,” Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, a conservative who led his diocese out of the Episcopal Church in October, said in an interview. “In Reformation times, new structures are emerging.”
Bishop Duncan will be named the archbishop and primate of the North American church, which says it would have 100,000 members, compared with 2.3 million in the Episcopal Church.
The conservatives contend that the American and Canadian churches have broken with traditional Christianity in many ways, but their resolve to form a unified breakaway church was precipitated by the decision to ordain an openly gay bishop and to bless gay unions.
The Rev. Charles Robertson, canon for the Episcopal Church’s presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, said Wednesday, “There is room within the Episcopal Church for people of different views, and we regret that some have felt the need to depart from the diversity of our common life in Christ.”
He added that the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada and La Iglesia Anglicana de Mexico will continue to be “the official, recognized presence of the Anglican Communion in North America.”
The proposed new province would unite nine groups that have left the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada over the years. This includes four Episcopal dioceses and umbrella groups for dozens of individual parishes in the United States and Canada.
The new province would also absorb a handful of other groups that had left the Episcopal Church decades earlier over issues like the ordination of women or revisions to the Book of Common Prayer. One of the groups, the Reformed Episcopal Church, broke away from the forerunner of the Episcopal Church in 1873.
Conservative leaders in North America say they expect to win approval for their new province from at least seven like-minded primates, who lead provinces primarily in Africa, Australia, Latin America and Asia.
Bishop Duncan and other conservative leaders in North America say they may not seek approval for their new province from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, or from the Anglican Consultative Council, the leadership group of bishops, clergy and laity that until now was largely responsible for blessing new jurisdictions.
Bishop Martyn Minns, a leading figure in the formation of the new province, said of the Archbishop of Canterbury: “It’s desirable that he get behind this. It’s something that would bring a little more coherence to the life of the Communion. But if he doesn’t, so be it.”
Jim Naughton, canon for communications and advancement in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, and a liberal who frequently blogs on Anglican affairs, said he doubted that a rival Anglican province could grow much larger.
“I think this organization does not have much of a future because there are already a lot of churches in the United States for people who don’t want to worship with gays and lesbians,” he said. “That’s not a market niche that is underserved.”
Since the Episcopal Church ordained Bishop Gene Robinson, an openly gay man who lives with his partner, in the Diocese of New Hampshire in 2003, the parallel rifts in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion have widened.
If the conservatives try to take their church properties with them, they are likely to face lawsuits from the Episcopal Church. The church is already suing breakaway parishes and dioceses in several states to retain church property.
Bishop Duncan said members of the proposed province would spend the next six months discussing the constitution, and would meet to ratify the document next summer at a “provincial assembly.” He said it would probably be held at the Episcopal Cathedral in Fort Worth.
Bishop Duncan, whose theological orientation is more evangelical, has ordained women in the diocese of Pittsburgh. Bishops of other breakaway dioceses, like Jack Iker in Fort Worth and John-David Schofield in San Joaquin, are more “Anglo-Catholic” in orientation, modeling some elements of the Roman Catholic Church, and are opposed to ordaining women as priests or bishops.
Under their new constitution, each of the nine constituent dioceses or groups that would make up the new province could follow its own teachings on women’s ordination. Each congregation would also keep its own property.
Told of this new Anglican entity, David C. Steinmetz, Amos Ragan Kearns professor of the history of Christianity at the Divinity School at Duke University, said in a phone interview, “It’s really an unprecedented and momentous event,” that all of these dissident groups had agreed to bury their differences.
“It’s certainly going to be deplored by one part of the Communion and hailed by another,” Professor Steinmetz said. “Are we going to end up with two families of Anglicans, and if so, are they in communion with each other in any way? There are so many possibilities and geopolitical differences, it’s really hard to predict where this will go.”